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Are You Linkbaiting The Right Audience
Last summer, I was asked for my personal definition of the term "linkbait." In
a column titled
Link Bait Kool-Aid, I
wrote that linkbait was "more or less anything you create anywhere on the
web that inspires other people to link to it." The link to your bait can come
from another web page, from a blog, from a
social media sharing
site (bookmarks, news, videos or whatever), from a tagging site or even from
an email newsletter. In a nutshell, anywhere you are with a mouse and a
clickable link can be viewed as a potential target venue for link seeking via
There are several motivations for seeking links via linkbait creation. The
most obvious motivation is improved search rank. Get a bunch of links, and your
site’s search rank will improve. Not every time, but often enough to inspire a
micro-niche in what was already a
After search rank, another key motivation for seeking links via linkbait is
increased click traffic. Get your link on the front page at
Technorati or for that matter, any of the sources you find at
and the result can be traffic spikes that cause headaches like
these and this for
For some sites, there
can also be a residual linking effect. Some of the people visiting
will learn about your site for the first time, and they might like it so much
they link to it from their own site or blog or wherever. Call it
trickle-down-linking. Links beget links. The
linking rich get filthy linking richer.
There are several rarely discussed fundamental flaws to practice of
linkbaiting. The most obvious flaw is that the most valuable IBLs (inbound
links) for any given piece of content are completely different. Most linkbait
strategies I see ignore this fundamental concept.
An example I’ve mentioned before is the Diet
Coke/Mentos fountain video. Sure it’s funny. It’s clever, it’s fascinating.
I’ve watched it many times. And then I go back to my day. I didn’t buy anything,
didn’t click an ad. I didn’t subscribe to anything. I came, I saw. I left.
On the other hand, the flurry of popularity and links the video sparked did
actually result in some links that have some residual benefit, as nearly
500 .edu based sites mention or link to it. But not every video goes viral
with a scientific angle that inspires links from teachers, and
copycats dilute the power of the original.
Whatever your linkbait is, it will appeal to a certain segment of the online
population. The rest of us will never see it unless by pure chance. In this
regard, there really is no difference between linkbait and other type of
online content. You can only expect linkbait to travel so far on its own or via
the big buzz venues mentioned earlier. And no matter what steps you take to help
ease the sharing of the content, it may never reach the most relevant audience
most inclined to link to it.
Some types of content engender links from a wide variety of targets. For me
one of the single best example of this is The Weather Channel’s
Weather On Your Site. Here’s
my announcement of it, nearly four years ago. We didn’t call it linkbait
back then, we called it "useful content." The Weather Channel example is also a
rarity. After all, anyone with a web site and a zip code can add a weather
forecast. The web helped The Weather Channel connect forecasts and zip codes and
HTML code, and the rest is linking history. The odds are your linkbait doesn’t
have the universal appeal and potential of The Weather Channel or Diet Coke /
Mentos. What do you do then?
If you are considering implementing a linkbait strategy, do some homework
before you spend money creating the bait. What is the goal? Who is the most
likely person to link to your content, and where can those people be found? Can
they be found online at all? (Hint: if your content is geared towards an
librarian audience, Digg is nearly pointless). What types of content will
they link to it from? How do you properly
reach out to them when seeking a link? What will the effect of any obtained
The answers to these questions is likely to be as different as the content
itself. When I was seeking links for the first
Times Square Web Cam (what we now call linkbait), I approached the process
in a far different way than I did for the
Children’s Hospital Boston Virtual Stem Cell Laboratory.
The universe of potential linkers to your content often cannot be found
hanging out at Digg, Newsvine, Netscape, Reddit, Technorati or any other online
popularity contest oriented site. I’m not saying ignore these venues. I’m
saying you need to take into consideration that the most useful links of all
will come from an online audience that doesn’t depend on the collective wisdom
of others. These folks must be identified and reached in ways that the
linkbaiter usually ignores or misses.
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 this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.