This linkbait buzz is starting to wear a little. Please don’t get the wrong idea. I’m very much pro-linkbait. I’m a fan. Guys like Nick Wilson, Rand Fishkin, Todd Malicoat, Andy Hagans and Aaron Wall are geniuses in how they hook links. But while linkbaiting may be glamorous, what about the links that can’t be baited?
I know it’s fun and exciting to see your shiny new content get on the front page of Digg. Seeing a video go viral is a thrill. Yes, doing the linkbait thing on behalf of a client and having success is a rush. I get it. I’ve even done it inadvertently, unintentionally. LinkMoses Linking Commandments – Part I was not created to attract links. It was done as a joke to get back at those who made fun of my lengthy tenure in this profession. But I’ll take the 3,000 new links, thank you very much.
Still, there are links that can’t be baited — or are extremely unlikely to happen despite your success with the social media sites like Digg or StumbleUpon. These unbaitable links are those that won’t appear unless a human with real knowledge of a subject (and a desire to evaluate and aggregate links) determines your content to be relevant, worthy, and useful enough that they edit the HTML of their site to include a link to it.
Examples are not very exciting, but they are at the heart of the link building challenge. Take the page called Libraries in South Dakota. Yes, I agree, snooze. But that page earned a link right here. It may be the only link the page will ever get, but there it is. Try baiting that link through Digg. It will never happen. OK, almost certainly never happen!
Links that can’t be baited exist in every possible subject area, not just for South Dakota libraries. The unsung heroes of the web are the people who take the time to do sincere content evaluation, selection, and organization with no real motivation other than to help other web users find those great sites and pages that might otherwise never be found.
The Scout Report is a great example. It’s been around as long as I have. If you’ve never heard of it, you just proved my point. Google sure as heck knows about The Scout Report. I have a hunch that the Google link quality algorithm knows about it as well. Susan Calcari is a name you should know. She’s gone now, but not forgotten.
How about a regional example? See San Diego’s Monthly Best of The Web. I suppose you could bait that one if you really wanted to. If your site is related to San Diego. And travel. And oh yeah, is useful….
Some venues represent that unique combination of being heavily human edited, huge traffic funnels and also open to linkbait. The classic example is Yahoo Picks of The Week. They took this bait last June. But for every Yahoo Picks of The Week, there’s a thousand links pages run by people with no search engine affiliation, no SEO motivation, no idea about linkbait and no knowledge of Digg, much less what’s on the Digg home page.
- Links about grease and lubricants
- Links about the cartoon series The Simpson’s
- Links about the long-tongued fruit bat
How about a links page for those of you who are deaf, play basketball, and live in the Southwest? Bingo. Bait that, pal.
I’m not making fun, just the opposite. I’m zealously passionate about the link building process. I’ve spent more time at it than any other person in the world, and I’m proud that I can say it, since few people get to be that focused and intense. I love the purity of real link building for real content for the long haul. Every piece of content has its "rightful" links. Links that last. Not very glamorous, but real.
Such links will come from people with an editorial passion that can’t be bought or baited. And they’ll often come because you roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of reaching out to them one-by-one. More time consuming than linkbait? Sure. Less glamorous. Sure. Important? Absolutely, especially if the algorithms learn to distinguish between links that were baited and links that were netted in, one at a time.
Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers, The Ward Report. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.