When use of the phrase “linkbait” first started to achieve critical mass, some dismissed it as nothing more than a fad that would be dead in a year. Some truly understood linkbait and tried to explain it while some of those who grasped it ran with it and went on to profit from it (and still do). Below, what linkbait really is and where its value lies.
What Linkbait Is
“Linkbait” isn’t some internet fad or “new” way to “game the Google algorithm”. It is simply the name for the online version of what has been going on offline for years. If magazines perfected the linkbait title, then politicians perfected linkbait promotion. In fact, politicians are guiltier of “linkbait” than even the most talented social media exploiters. Let me to show you what I mean:
Why Create Linkbait
You’ll find some who will say that any linkbait engineered to be linkbait is a bad thing. And to them, I say you’re wrong. Linkbait done correctly often takes over a week to research, write and format and receives a ton of traditional online marketing along with the social media plays.
The point of linkbait is not to gain some backlinks from Digg, Mixx, Reddit or any other social media site. Whether or not Sphinn, Propeller or StumbleUpon nofollows their links has absolutely zero bearing on our desire to reach their homepages. Linkbait is all about visibility. Visibility to the masses via social media (and a hope that they will write about our content on their blog as individuals) and visibility to a targeted niche by writing a piece that promotes many of the medium and higher trafficked sites within it and then letting them know about it and hoping they promote you back.
You often hear a lot about “gaming Digg” [Digg is the example here, but insert the name of any social media website] and the opinion some have about the atrocity of asking friends for votes… but the reality is, it doesn’t matter how a story gets to the homepage. Whether the votes were all natural or done by the same person utilizing 100 Digg accounts in a way that avoids throwing a red flag up to the Digg algorithm or mods (and no, I’m not recommending that) – if the story doesn’t belong on the homepage, you better believe that the community will bury it within a matter of minutes.
Social media is only one part of the linkbait promotional pie. If you think linkbait is all about hitting the Digg homepage and profiting from those who click through when they click on your ads that day, then you don’t get it. As a matter of fact, one of the most successful pieces of engineered linkbait I personally have even done was buried on Digg and did poorly on almost all of the social media websites. But it gained 900 links, is the most trafficked page on our website and even though it ranks number one for the commercial term the linkbait was about, the page still gets more direct traffic through links than it does search engine referrals month after month after month. Now that’s what I call linkbait.
What Linkbait Isn’t
The big story this week has been the possibility of Google penalizing “fake Linkbait”. But, a fake story on a reputable website, to me, isn’t “linkbait”. It’s a fake story on a reputable website that pulled a con on the media. Money.co.uk will pay for it in their own way as those who were duped in the ruse are likely to hold that grudge, and withhold future publicity over it, for a long time. The niche media in our own industry may want to think twice about calling a con “linkbait”. There is enough ignorance in the mainstream media on the topic without further adding to the confusion.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.