2007 Guide To Linkbaiting: The Year Of Widgetbait?

Way back in 2005 we started talking about linkbait, a term that was coined on Threadwatch which I owned and ran at the time. Linkbait was used to describe viral, linkable content designed to attract thousands of links.

Shortly after that, I wrote The Art of Linkbaiting. It has been much cited over the last year or so. Today, though a few laggards are still blinking and looking confused whenever they hear the term, linkbaiting is recognized as the most effective way to build links for a site.

As linkbaiting enters its third year, it makes sense to revisit the topic and discuss how to succeed in 2007. The linkbait landscape of 2007 is different than two years ago, requiring some rethink and reassessment of strategies. Linkbait is the smart move everyone needs to be doing. However, the linkbait of 2005 may not cut it with today’s more desensitized audiences. The smart linkbaiters will pursue the holy grail of widgetbait.

The Linkbait Mindset

Linkbaiting is hard but rewarding work. If you’re prepared to make the leap, or already have done and want to improve your linkbaiting strategy for 2007, read on. If it all sounds a bit too difficult, it most likely is. Consider instead breaking out that email begging software that was soooooo cool in 2002.

The linkbait way of link building is a mindset. To do it well, you need to put thoughts of manipulating the system to one side and focus entirely on providing value to your clients users and making that value easy to link to.

Good linkbait is remarkable.

There are many components to good linkbait, and infinite strategies and hooks, but at the end of the day, it boils down to this one thing. Your content needs to be amazing. If you can hit that sweet spot for your audience then the links will roll in, and in, and in, and in.

Linkbait Risk & Reward: Time Versus Success

By this point, I hope there’s no doubt in your mind as to the amount of effort required to develop great linkbaiting strategies. The good news is, if you got this far, you’re in good company.

In 2007, the third year of linkbaiting, people need to start thinking about it in slightly more sophisticated terms.

If you’re going to market linkbaiting services to clients, then you certainly have a responsibility to educate your client on the risk versus reward aspects and structure your pricing accordingly.

What am I talking about when I say risk?

Well, not the spammy, search engine penalties kind of risk that’s for sure. Google’s Matt Cutts talked about linkbaiting here. As you can see, he has a pretty good opinion of it as a marketing tool.

The risk I’m talking about is cost versus probability of success. It’s not an exact science, and many factors can make or break a social media marketing campaign that utilizes viral linkbaiting techniques to generate links and traffic. Let’s run through a few examples.

Textual Linkbait: Low To Medium Risk

By textual linkbait, I mean posts or any other kind of page content that takes no more technical skill than being able to type. This kind of linkbait is very accessible as the only real cost is time. With good imagination and research into a client’s business, you can quickly devise a series of posts designed to attract links.

In general terms, the reward you get back from writing good textual linkbait is proportional to the effort you put in. Whereas it usually takes me a day to write a great linkbait post, it can take as much as a week or as little as a few hours.

The results, more often than not, mirror that effort in terms of links gained.

Textual linkbait often, but not always, has a limited shelf life as well, particularly when you’re working with time sensitive content such as breaking news or news reaction.

Site Based Tools & Software: Medium To High Risk

By site-based linkbait, I mean functional scripts that run on your client’s website. These vary widely in nature depending on the site. A good example in the search marketing world might be a link analysis tool or spider simulator. (neither of which, by the way, would make good linkbait today.)

Again the risk is proportional to time and effort. Coming up with awesome ideas for tools and widgets is one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of linkbaiting. If you can get someone to code your ideas up cheaply, then you could well be on a winner.

The shelf life of such tools varies. Needless to say, the best kind of on-page tools, like all link assets on your site, need to be regularly updated and maintained.

Widgetbait: High Risk, High Reward

The holy grail of linkbaiting in 2007 will be the widget.

In late 2005 and early 2006, I came up with a linkbaiting concept to put my previous company, Performancing, on the social media map. That idea was the Performancing Blog Editor Firefox extension that has achieved nearly half a million downloads on Mozilla alone.

It was a high risk, high reward strategy that not only worked but worked so well that it went beyond mere “linkbait” and is about to become a standalone brand in its own right.

Widgets are small pieces of software that can be ported easily. This would include plugins for blog software such as WordPress or Drupal, modules that can be plugged into popular “start pages” such as Netvibes, PageFlakes or Live.com, desktop widgets such as Yahoo Widgets or Mac dashboard widgets and, as demonstrated above, browser extensions.

The whole concept of widgets is on a snowball right now. In late 2006, the World Wide Web Consortium drafted a specification for widgets. Why they did this is anybody’s guess, but they did.

There are also several specialist companies and websites competing for your widget focused attention as well as two or more conferences on the subject, such as Widgets Live.

As for the risk of widget building, it’s most often high. Abhilash Patel talked last week about how "widget bait" is an incredible form of link building but also how most site owners might not be able to pull it off on their own but rather may need to ride on the coattails of others. The New York Times also has an article about widgettailing out today.

Even if you don’t code your linkbaiting widgets yourself, it takes time and money to do so, and time and money for you, the ideas person, to come up with a concept that will gain links and targeted traffic for your client over a good period of time.

The rewards can be amazing though.

Pricing Linkbaiting Services

At the time of writing, there are only a very small handful of forward thinking SEOs and online marketers that are offering linkbait services. With genuine respect to the two friends who know I’m talking about them, they’ve got it all wrong.

As you’ve seen above, there is a risk of failure when creating viral, linkable content, be it textual or code based. This needs to be factored into the way you structure your pricing so that clients get the best possible deal.

Put your fixed cost price tags aside for a moment and let’s think in terms of risk and reward again.

If you spend a few days creating a great textual linkbaiting campaign for your client, but you fail to deliver the links you hoped to gain, should they pay?

Yes and no.

Your time is worth money, and after all, with the kind of pricing model I propose, there is a risk for both sides.

The Win-Win Way Of Pricing Linkbaiting Services

  1. Sit down with your client and work out what exactly they want to achieve from a viral content campaign. Pay particular attention to what they mean, as we all know clients often say they want traffic, but the real goal is most likely increased sales.
  2. Work out what that is worth to the client and what an appropriate fee for achieving that goal would be, including your costs of course.
  3. Educate your client on the risk of the solution you propose, to both parties. Based on your assessment of your costs, work out a fair compensation for your time if your campaign turns out to be a dud (and it happens to the best of us, that’s the nature of the game.)

Linkbait is about creativity, imagination and skill. When pricing your services, don’t be afraid to put your money where your mouth is and share some of the risk with your client.

Equally so though, share in the reward. With this kind of pricing model you can, and should, charge a great deal more for your services than the flat fee or (shudder) hourly rate.

SEO Means Getting Links

There’s a raging debate about whether on-page SEO even works. Sure, there’s a need for that. Content management systems are still catching up on search friendly page construction, so there’ll still be plenty of work needed to put client sites in the right gear.

But few if any will disagree that links are where it’s at. You need links to really succeed with search engine optimization. That means link building. Or don’t we mean link begging?

Sheesh, rather you than me squire. I can’t think of anything more mind numbingly tedious, not to mention soul destroying, than sending out hundreds or thousands of link requests. Whether you do this by hand, or (heaven spare us) automatically, it’s just shit. Plain and simple.

Oh, and if the word "reciprocal" made an appearance as you read that last paragraph, then when you get to the end of this article, read it again and then once more just for luck. Seriously.

Why Linkbaiting Beats Link Building

Linkbaiting beats link building firstly as a much better use of your time. SEOs on the whole are a resourceful, creative and clever bunch. Rather than doing the digital equivalent of flipping burgers, you should be putting your creativity to good use and devising smart, viral content ideas that will gain your clients thousands of incoming links with good anchor text.

Sound good?

Let’s make it even clearer. Take these common SEO tasks:

  • Writing link requests
  • Responding to sent link requests
  • Worrying about linking patterns and neighborhoods
  • Doing searches to find potential link partners
  • Building auto-submit tools for 3rd rate directories and other such horrors

And let’s replace them with these more enjoyable items:

  • Having a beer and a jolly good think
  • Going for a long walk and thinking about your clients business and how you can help it
  • Writing really excellent posts that people will love
  • Creating or designing really cool widgets that people will love
  • Watching your idea spread in real time

Doesn’t that sound better? So with the creation of cool, linkable content — linkbait – you get anything from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of incoming links from a huge variety of sources. The result of which, if done right, equals targeted traffic, greatly improved search engine rankings and a healthier, less fragile linking profile for the site in question.

A Final Word On The Linkbait Mindset

In future articles, I’ll walk you through some of the best techniques for creating killer linkbait strategies. But I wanted to end today talking about ensuring that linkbaiting doesn’t get a bad reputation.

Recently a couple of good folks in the SEO field have had their sites hacked. One such victim said that other SEOs where wondering if it was all a big linkbaiting tactic.

This way of thinking about a highly skilled, highly valuable client service needs to stop.

You as an SEO have the power to make 2007 the year that SEO gets its mojo back, the year the industry puts its shady image to one side and starts becoming the respected, valued member of the social media scene it deserves to be.

Those of you already working on linkbaiting services are the rockstars of the industry, the pioneers of change, and you have a responsibility to yourselves and the industry as a whole to not let a wonderful win-win service gain an undeserved, shady reputation.

Nick Wilson is a contributing writer for Search Engine Land and the CEO and senior strategist for Clickinfluence, a dedicated social media marketing agency.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building: Linkbait


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  • http://www.redcardinal.ie RedCardinal

    100% spot on with this post.

  • chris boggs

    Wow Nick very nice article! I will quote you in a presentation today. :)

  • http://www.semconsultancy.com/blog/ semanjoe

    This truly is an excellent and inspiring piece. I too think this is the direction that SEO and attaining links should be heading and I like your way of thinking about how to package this as a SEO service.

  • http://seo-space.blogspot.com Jody Nimetz

    Nick this is an excellent post. You are the rockstar of link baiting.

    “Those of you already working on linkbaiting services are the rockstars of the industry, the pioneers of change, and you have a responsibility to yourselves and the industry as a whole to not let a wonderful win-win service gain an undeserved, shady reputation.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. This post in itself is a tremendous piece of link bait as it is interesting, somewhat unique and extremely useful. Great job.

  • Nick Wilson

    Thanks everyone, it’s taken me this long to get my damn passwored mailed by typepad :)

    If anyone has questions, feel free to comment or email me at nick@communicontent.com

    Im hoping ot continue the linkbait theme next week.

    Lastly, thanks to Danny for the opportunity to post here at SEL!

  • http://www.pronetadvertising.com Cameron Olthuis


    Great article! I don’t really care for the term “widgetbait” though. “Widget(s)” alone works just fine and already describes exactly what you’re defining. The problem is that most widgets are built to be SE friendly.

  • http://www.emergence-media.com DanielR


    Great article. While I think Widgets are a great SEO Linkbait tool, I think its greatest value is more on the branding side of things.

    I would imagine that more people will be “branded” by the Widget than moved to write about it in blogs and other media outlets.

    Keep up the great work Nick.



  • Nick Wilson

    Cameron, you can blame the editor for the term widgetbait :)

    Daniel, branding is indeed a big plus when talking about widgets. People will link though. They’ll link to the download page most often – which is why it’s nice to tie that page into other content and combine goals, but dont forget that with some types of widgets you can also encourage people to link to you or build the link right into the widget itself.

    We did it with the firefox tool, do a search for powered by performancing firefox” – we didn’t do that for seo purposes but the principle is the same..

  • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

    Absolutely, I take the heat for shoving widgetbait in there :)

  • http://www.pronetadvertising.com Cameron Olthuis

    No harm, no foul.

    BTW – I meant to say that most widgets AREN’T built to be SE friendly.

  • http://360.yahoo.com/lauralippay lauralippay

    It is SOOO the year of Widgetbait! Just thinking about it makes me….happy. Web widgets (aka badges, download code, APIs) are popping up all over the place – check uot any MySpace page & they’re loaded with them. Surprisingly, you’re right, SO many people and even companies putting out widgets dont know about the potential SEO benefits. (Surprising that they dont know, not that you’re right) :)

    I wasn’t going to say anything, but now that the cat’s out of the bag…. I’ll add an important reminder:

    Web widgets can be made in Flash, in iFrames, as image links, as dynamically called data, etc etc. So when you or your developres are putting out web widgets with SEO linkbait swirlies in your eyes, remember that no matter how you create your web widget, the widget needs to link back to your site and the link needs to live on the external site’s page (not hidden in Flash, AJAX, remote XML files, etc).

    On top of that, optimize the text, link to deep pages, even change up the links when people get the download code to provide links to multiple places in your site.

    Happy widgetbaiting. :)

  • http://www.w3-edge.com/ Frederick Townes

    Very informative! I still do see once challenge on the horizon for widgest as a viral marketing vehicle – accessibility. Most of the popular tools I’ve seen (many pointed to in Abhilash’s post last week), as successful as they are, could prove even more fruitful if made fully accessible to the SE. We’ll see what happens there.

  • http://mediavidea.blogspot.com/2007/01/widgets-good-or-bad.html Pramit

    Imagine a world with 100 million blogs with 100 million widgets.

  • http://www.myTriggers.com Sonia Pahwa

    Great post with a lot of clear ideas – look forward to reading more.

  • http://www.blumenthals.com/blog mblumenthal

    To a very large extent language defines perception and perhaps reality.

    As you note, we need to “focus entirely on providing value to your client’s users and making that value easy to link to.” and “the industry [needs to] put its shady image to one side and starts becoming the respected, valued member of the social media scene it deserves to be”.

    I would suggest that we might start by using a term other than “linkbaiting” as a description of our activity . Its intrinsic implication is that of exploitation and it hardly describes the act of creating amazing content. It can do nothing but create the perception of shady characters.

  • http://www.pleroforea.com Kostis

    Nick, this is an excellent post. In other words: spend your time to produce something of value.

  • http://seocrazy.blogspot.com Manish Chauhan

    Nice to read a very new concept of link baiting from you…I would like to see some more posts from your end for better link baiting understanding..
    Thanks again for this gr8 post…

  • http://seocrazy.blogspot.com Manish Chauhan

    Nice to read a very new concept of link baiting from you…I would like to see some more posts from your end for better link baiting understanding..
    Thanks again for this gr8 post…

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