“Inkbait”: A Case Study In Linkability

Debra Mastaler on
  • Categories: Channel: SEO, Link Week Column
  • In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), the tactic known as “linkbait” is one of the few link building tactics the search engines embrace, encourage and algorithmically reward. The reason for this is simple, linkbait generates editorial links which the search engines love. Knowing this and understanding the influence of universal search, the bounty placed on paid links and the need to build brand on an increasingly cluttered Web, creating and launching successful linkbait may be more important than ever before.

    I recently came across a couple of linkbait campaigns, they’re from different companies in the same industry. Both used an info graphic to convey their message but one is better in terms of creativity, marketing and linkability. It’s this “linkability” which is the essence needed to attract links and take your content viral. Since the two pieces targeted the same audience but took different approaches, I thought they’d make a great comparison study on what you should and shouldn’t do when creating linkbait.  (Note:  I have permission from the owner of the less stellar linkbait to use it here.) Before we get started, a quick definition of linkbait.

    What is linkbaiting?

    Linkbaiting is a link building tactic which uses dynamic content to attract attention and links. The term and technique gained prominence in 2005/2006  when controversial blog posts and articles were used  to “flame” and/or humor people into linking. It’s quietly morphed into a more mainstream “content generation” method using elements such as puzzles, contests, widgets, infographics and inspirational content to attract attention and links.

    Good and not-so-good linkbait

    Both companies in our comparison study are in the ink cartridge industry which is a busy and competitive space.  Each created an infographic to show how many pieces of paper it would take to print every tweet sent. Great tie-in for an ink cartridge company but the similarity between the two linkbaits stops there. To help with the comparison process, I’ve listed three important components of a linkbait campaign and compared the two pieces to each.

    Component #1: emotion

    Whether you make them laugh or cry, your visitors will remember what they see if your linkbait stirs an emotion.  Both pieces provided impressive statistics, but Company A didn’t make me work to find them, their information was presented in short, easy-to-read captions.

    Company A Intro:

    Company B:

    Company B used too much verbiage and not enough graphics so I started skimming and skipping over segments to get through it. Long sentences and lots of text can be a killer with linkbait, keep your initial call to action and body content short and sweet.

    Component #2: information

    Linkbait should have something new or eye-opening as part of its content so the message sticks long after you’ve left it. Both campaigns did this by showing the amount of  paper needed  to print every tweet sent but Company A’s linkbait made it easy for me to understand and be impressed by what I was reading. Seven billion tweets printed = 3.5 million pounds of paper, that’s a lot of dead trees.

    Company A, Part 2:

    Component #3: viral

    The goal of any linkbait is simple… get as many people to see and link to it as possible. In order for this to happen, the bait needs to be  promoted heavily through social and traditional media for a better chance at going viral. The viral element is highly desirable for many reasons but reach and cost are the two biggest. People passing linkbait costs you nothing, nets views from a wide audience and hopefully more media attention down the road.

    Company A’s linkbait was highlighted on Mashable, the article had over 1100 retweets and 18 comments. Comments are important to help with the next piece of linkbait, check out some of the advice left for Company A. According to Yahoo! Site Explorer, Company A’s linkbait was linked to by over 940 sources while Company B’s had substantially fewer inbound links. Since Company B was second to launch,  their data was old news and ignored in traditional and social media. Sometimes, being first is all you need.

    Linkbait takeaways

    1. Keep the linkbait short and sweet and be sure to include an “embed this image” option for easy reprint.  Include Twitter, Facebook and Stumble share buttons.
    2. Keep an eye on the social media sites and what’s going hot in your industry, try to create linkbait around topics people are reading and talking about. (Both companies used Twitter  in their titles which was smart!)
    3. Launch your linkbait to a specific group of people before going public, tap the associations and social media communities you belong to for feedback and a jumpstart.
    4. Don’t be afraid to use bright colors, bold graphics and slogans. You want to be remembered and passed around, not filed away under “cute”.

    This post is focused on using linkbait as a SEO link attraction method but not everyone uses linkbait for links, some want to build brand or promote charitable causes. Take a look at what the Special Olympics is doing, I think it’s awesome and one of the best examples of linkbait I’ve seen outside of SEO. Here’s the full linkbait piece from  Company A and Company B.


    About The Author

    Debra Mastaler
    Debra Mastaler is an internationally recognized authority on link building and is an OMCP Certified Link Building Trainer. Based in Washington DC, Debra is also a columnist for Search Engine Land, has written for or been featured in numerous tech publications and is active on the search marketing conference circuit as a speaker and trainer. Debra serves as a judge for the Landy Awards and is the President of Alliance-Link.com. Connect with Debra on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay in touch.