Link Bait: Is the Catch Well Worth the Sweats?

Link bait is a Web marketing technique used by those who defy well-greased, traditional ways of propelling a website and try to come up with a fresh, original idea instead. Besides, in some cases, using non-standard marketing approach becomes the only way to beat your competition, especially in highly competitive industries (a point also made by Seth Godin in “Purple Cow”).

What is link bait anyway? It is a blasting, can’t-miss piece of content on your website that inspires users to link to it and share it with the rest of the Web community, thus getting you floods of juicy one-way links. It can be a hilarious video or a jaw-dropping piece of news that creates enough buzz on the Web. Opposed to link bait are traditional link-building techniques, such as trading links with other websites or buying backlinks.

The huge advantage of link bait is that, besides getting you swarms of natural backlinks that benefit your SEO, it also attracts a great deal of direct Internet traffic to your site, helping your Web marketing campaign in general. Moreover, a link bait piece sitting on your website may keep on bringing you “catch” long after it was created. However, some SEOs deem link bait an uncertain Web marketing technique that’s not always worth the effort or may even land you in trouble. But before estimating the risks, let’s consider some link bait examples first.

8 Most Used Link Bait Hooks

What makes a solid link bait piece? Well, there is no ready-made recipe that one can just grab and implement, because link bait is usually a unique concoction. However, most successful link bait is based on certain psychological “hooks”, knowing which helps you create a gripping piece of content on your website. Ready? Let’s spill some advice.

1. Make Your Audiences ROFL

Humorous content is probably the most “contagious” and often goes “viral” in the blink of an eye. Hilarious videos, humorous stories spread on the Web like wild fire and often get shared not only among friends, but also among colleagues and even distant acquaintances. So, creating something fun on your site, like a collection of jokes or a fun quiz is a sure way to trigger a chain reaction on the Web. For instance, my friend has recently shared a collection of side-splitting Irish jokes, which nearly made me choke on my coffee – a good idea to promote an Irish pub, for example.

2. Provide How-to Tips

Just as you are reading this post (and, hopefully, enjoying it), people are always eager to hear some tips from the master. So, put together a list of “how-to” or “how NOT to” things. Make sure it is really helpful and offers only battle-tested, proven techniques. For example, explain how to avoid common mistakes, share some cool tricks or put together a “newbie’s guide” to something. Just think what users would be interested in learning from you.

3. Keep Online Folks Informed

People constantly crave for new information, so, you can attract visitors to your website by being the first to break the news in your industry. In addition, you can spice your news piece up with some in-depth analysis, gripping videos or pictures. Don’t let the slightest detail skip your attention – make your coverage the fullest one on the Web. May sound like a challenge, but that’s what makes link bait different from an ordinary news story. Besides – just think about it – next time Internet folks will come to your site to learn what’s new!

4. Discover Thing Together

Human curiosity knows no limit. Some people even claim that it’s stronger than fear and some other powerful feelings. You can keep your audiences on the edge of their seats by providing some Discovery Channel sort of tests that involve your product or services.

For instance, that’s what the Blendtec company did in their “Will it Blend” series of short films. In each video, they choose a perfectly bizarre object – an iPad, for example – to blend in their “Total Blender” machine. Well, it normally blends, but the intrigue is still there – you never know whether it will blend after all.

5. Start a Storm in a Glass of Water

Find a controversial subject to write on. Be careful not to overdo, though. You could voice an unpopular point of view just to stir discussion, but that doesn’t mean disagreeing with everybody and everything all the time. This would get your audiences disinterested fairly quickly. So, it’s best to combine being constructive with being a bit destructive.

6. Eyes on the Prize

Ever wondered what was the driving force behind the first Olympic Games and modern-day big sports? That’s right, people love to compete. They also love to win and get rewarded, be it just a prestigious title or a material prize.

Running a competition on your website is a sure way to make it popular with quite a large number of Web users. The beauty of online competitions is that participants normally urge their friends and acquaintances to go to your site and cast a vote for them, which attracts a lot of traffic to your site without much effort on your part. Don’t forget about the prize either, it’s an indispensible ingredient that should be present in any competition, even if it’s run online.

7. Make a Top Things List

I’m sure you have come across articles like “top 10 most expensive Xmas presents in history”, or “10 fastest growing US cities“, etc. No matter how old this hook may be, it seems to be working very well. People still want to know how tall the world’s tallest person is and learn other equally surprising facts. This is the hook that worked for the Guinness brand back in 1955, when its Managing Director Hugh Beaver decided to compile a “fact book” to be distributed in Irish and British pubs. No need to say what came out of it)

8. Prepare a Give Away

In some situations, giving away free stuff works the best. For example, a lot of websites that sell software would offer a free application that users can download or use online. Or it could be a collection of free screen-savers, background images, a free online test and what not. Most importantly, it should be something useful AND free.

Basic Link Bait Rules to Help You Stay Out of Trouble

But let us not forget that every coin has a flip side. Are there possible disadvantages that link bait holds? Well, if you adhere to simple link bait rules it is very unlikely to do your site any harm. Here is what I’m talking about:

  • Relate the truth
  • Under no circumstances should you make up stories for the sake of link bait. This may ruin your site’s reputation, if word goes out on the Web that you provide bogus or misleading content on your website. And, trust me, bad rumors travel real fast.

  • Stick to good taste
  • Also, avoid using offensive, discriminating, unintelligent content as your link bait piece. Scandalous is not always good, which is, probably, quite obvious, but still some people are tempted to create a sensation just for the sake of making the news. Again, your brand and your site’s reputation are much more important than temporary link-building success.

    Besides, some marketers say that sometimes link bait is not worth the effort, because it attracts a lot of ill-targeted traffic to your site. However, there is a way to attract just the right kind of audiences with your link bait. Just consider who you are aiming at while creating your link bait piece and you will be just fine.

    All in all, link bait can be a powerful Web marketing technique or a waste of time – depends on how you implement it. But, hopefully, the tips and tricks provided in this post will help you use it to your advantage and level the negative effects.

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    • Jessy198
      April 26, 2011

      excellent post, couldn’t agree more – humor is definitely the best hook, and give-aways always work. Thanx for sharing it!

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