Live Blogging: SMX Social Media – Linkbait: Chumming For Traffic On Social Media Sites

The second session at SMX Social Media is all about links. Kim is once again live blogging for Search Engine Roundtable, and Eric’s back for Search Engine Journal, and Marty is here from aimClear, so I’ve got to step up my game. This panel includes Rebecca Kelley of SEOmoz, Brent Csutoras of, and Cameron […]

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The second session at SMX Social Media is all about links. Kim is once again live blogging for Search Engine Roundtable, and Eric’s back for Search Engine Journal, and Marty is here from aimClear, so I’ve got to step up my game. This panel includes Rebecca Kelley of SEOmoz, Brent Csutoras of, and Cameron Olthuis of Factive Media.

Rebecca is up first. She’s jumping right into linkbaiting. The big benefit is to get lots of links to help you rank well in search results. No mention of traffic. Hmm… Apparently it’s all about the PageRank.

She says it’s a domino effect. You get a ton of links, which makes your page seem relevant, particularly if you’ve got the right anchor text. Also, links to one page can strengthen the rank of your site overall. You get global link juice for your overall site, not just that one specific page.

Then there’s traffic stickiness. Apparently it’s about traffic after all. There’s residual traffic even after the big viral push. You get a huge spike which then goes away, but the overall traffic rises to levels above what it was before.

Who should you target with link bait campaigns? Aha. The linkerati. These aren’t your regular users, but are more likely to link to you. First you need to know why people link. They like sharing things with their friends and they like knowing things on the cutting edge.

Do your homework on where to submit your content. Research your niche by going onto the various social networking sites and see how well your topic does on them. Target the ones that seem to like your niche. And look at other link baiting campaigns on these sites and see what might not have worked and how you can learn from the mistakes of others and make your campaign better.

You can take a look at Internet trends. What’s popular this week? Lots of sites list what’s currently popular. Tie your link bait into what everyone’s interested in. Can you put a new spin on it?

Don’t ignore your community. Find blogs and forums about your industry and make connections. Do a Google Blogsearch, for instance, and then engage bloggers you find. Make people feel involved and they’re more likely to link. Keep in mind that those in your industry are more likely to convert and will be stickier.


Link bait can be as simple or complex as you want. It doesn’t have to be huge and complicated. It can be as simple as a picture with a caption.

Be aware of the potential negatives of link baiting. If you’re being controversial, then you might do some mud slinging since it may get you links, but it also may harm your brand.

Look before you leap. Contact people in your industry before you launch to get feedback and to get them involved so they want to write about you once it does launch. If people feel like they contributed (even if they didn’t), they’re pretty vain and are likely to talk about it. Not you. You’re not vain. Just all those other bloggers.

Make sure your server can handle the load in case your campaign is super successful. Also, take advantage of the additional traffic by saving up some super interesting content to post soon after the link bait campaign.

Remember that link bait campaigns don’t always work. It’s like gambling. Keep trying! I bet Vegas loves Rebecca. You also need other strategies in addition to link bait. Don’t rely on it as your own search marketing method.

Try to keep your link bait relevant as not to annoy your key audience and as not to appear spammy.

Next up is Brent. He told me earlier today that he was ready to give up all his tips, so I can’t wait. He said that what we all want is links, branding, and reach.

First up is top 10 lists. He says that they’re still really effective. He also says that he mostly focuses on Digg because it can drive the traffic. Sure, unless they like to bury you. But enough about me. Back to lists. Mix up the number. You don’t always have to go with 10. And do negative lists too.

Next, how to guides. They have to actually be helpful. You can’t just call it a “how to” and expect it to work. Don’t just have paragraphs of text like this live blogging post. Break it up with pictures, video, bullets, and headings.

Take advantage of current events. Act fast on this and make sure you’re accurate. Don’t just copy the news story — add some value.

Do something offbeat or extreme. It’s hard to get clients and companies to approve this though, as there can be dangers with this. You don’t want to hurt your brand just to get a few links. And you don’t want to violate terms of service of the social networking sites with your content. Keep in mind that even if you don’t submit your own content, someone else might.

Image campaigns tend to work well. Embed the image into a post and put some content around it, then submit the post URL (rather than the image URL). People are less likely to steal it that way.

Do some research before you start. Set up alerts about your topics. Search the social networking sites and see what has been effective in your niche.

Craft your title and description carefully. The title should be clear and focused. The description should back up that title and tell the whole story. That way, even if someone doesn’t visit your site, they may vote up your story on a social networking site. Even using initial caps in a title makes a big difference in grabbing people’s attention.

Once you submit an article, get your network to vote and comment. Respond to comments and keep people interested. Get your friends to vote up good comments and vote down bad ones.

And now for the lighting round of social media tips!

  • Research communities to find out which ones are relevant. Don’t submit to unrelated sites.
  • Use images.
  • Minimize ads, or perhaps don’t show ads to those coming from Digg.
  • Offer a summary to help those who want to link to you.
  • Make sure you don’t have spelling errors, jargon mistakes, or other errors that the haters can fixate on.
  • Don’t submit duplicate information. Well, not recent duplicate information. Older stuff might work.
  • Look at what worked and what didn’t before. Check to see what’s been buried before.
  • Can your server really handle the Digg effect? Test everything, cache things, make sure things don’t load really slowly.
  • Be link worthy. Your content should have actual value.
  • Submit at the right time. Friday night isn’t the best time. Apparently everyone hangs out on social networking sites when they’re supposed to be working. Stick with weekdays.

Digg users don’t like poker, self-promotion, or announcements. So, how did Bodog use Digg? They turned the self promotion into a mocking of Bodog and put all the description in the Digg submission so that Diggers wouldn’t even click through to the actual page. And they got lots of Diggs.

Be social. Treat it like a social event — talk to people and be involved.

Now Cameron is up. He’s got case studies. He reminds us that link bait includes information, controversy, humor, news, and tools (like calculators and quizzes). Link bait is way faster and cheaper than traditional link building. And if you’ve done some shady linking, link bait can provide link camouflage. (Yes, I just made up that term. You heard it here first. Pass it on.) The media pays attention to viral marketing, so you could potentially parlay your link bait into media exposure.

Now the case studies. The first example is a drug rehab center. He searched social news sites to see what related content has been popular before. He found that pro-drug articles were popular but would harm the brand, so he avoided those, even though they would bring links. He wrote an article on identifying drugs and what their effects are. He suggests keeping the post simple — use lists and pictures. Pay attention to which topic you submit to. Obviously more people will see things listed in popular topics.

It helps to submit via a power account, as power submitters have lots of friends and people pay attention to what they submit. Cameron reiterates what Rebecca and Brent mentioned — that you should use good titles and descriptions and submit to relevant sites.

His second example is a game – Search Engine Smackdown! I totally remember this game. You answer SEO questions and can beat up Larry and Sergey. He said they made Danny Sullivan the referee, hoping that by making him a character in the game, he might link to it. He is moderating the panel and claims that ploy was entirely ineffective, but Cameron shows us Danny’s link. Ha. Busted.

His next example is to a life insurance site. How do you get Diggers interested in that? How about 19 Things You Didn’t Know About Death? Morbid, but effective.

And what’s link baity about laptop batteries? Well, 20 tips for getting more juice from your laptop battery might be. I would sure like that article right about now, as I’m tethered to a wall so I can stay plugged into power and get this post going. See the lengths I go to for you?


What about video content? Are there legal issues? Particularly with using hidden cameras to get funny stuff. They are calling these “discrete” cameras. Sounds more professional that way. The panelists suggesting asking a lawyer. You might need a signed waiver.

What about a blog post vs. a page on the site? Diggers are anti-commercial, so blog content is easier to get dugg up than a company site page.

If you’re getting the Digg-effect, can you just pull your CSS file and serve up text only to keep the server up? Well, mostly the problem is the number of connections that the server can handle, although you can serve up a cached page to reduce slowness problems.

How do you test your server? Ask the server admin who handles these things. Or use something like Apache Benchmark. The panelists aren’t sure the best ways to test. Ask someone who knows about servers and let them know. I see a potential top 10 link bait article. Danny says Search Engine Land’s host, Tiger Tech, does a great job at keeping them up when they get Dugg.

What about contests? Those are hard to promote through Digg. Better would be to engage with the forums and bloggers for your niche.

What about reusing content? Resubmit good stuff that didn’t do well originally, but don’t resubmit stuff that’s been submitted previously by top Diggers, because they have networks of people who might not like it much.

And with closing words that you shouldn’t let your server crash, we’re all off to build better link bait.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Vanessa Fox
Vanessa Fox is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. She built Google Webmaster Central and went on to found software and consulting company Nine By Blue and create Blueprint Search Analytics< which she later sold. Her book, Marketing in the Age of Google, (updated edition, May 2012) provides a foundation for incorporating search strategy into organizations of all levels. Follow her on Twitter at @vanessafox.

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