Recently we have been hearing from top SEO’s throughout the country something along the lines of “don’t build links, let them build you” or something of that nature. For SEO’s with entire departments dedicated to building links, this can come as somewhat of a surprise. For many years we as SEOs, have studied basic causation principles that basically came down to “building links = higher rankings” however the last few years, Google has adjusted their algorithm to not just detect spammy links, but links built intentionally.
When performing SEO on a website, it is a good idea to always “think” like an algorithm. Let’s take a basic example of a regional/statewide entertainment company. This company has a booming Facebook page and does parties several times a week for a variety of different occasions. What type of links do you think will organically point to this site, over the course of time? Here are a few guesses:
Again – you won’t see 300 social bookmarks with the same anchor text made on the same day in a natural link portfolio. The goal here is to harvest great links from relevant sources in a completely organic manner.
To understand link bait, first you must understand the consumer and the individual. You must completely step out of “SEO mode” and step into consumer mode. Take a few moments and look at some personal blogs of your friends (that no nothing about this world we live in), look at your Facebook news feed and your Twitter. Take note of what is being “shared” and linked to. Linkbait is generally described as some sort of viral content (photos, video, an article etc) that is strategically positioned so that well known bloggers and webmasters (who hopefully run powerful websites) will WANT to link to, or reference (link) to your content. Distilled did a great job of creating some great link bait, by creating a “guide” on link bait itself. This is an extremely well researched guide that took weeks of planning and design from probably a dozen different individuals on a team. They created such an authoritative guide that it is referenced hundreds of times daily by internet marketers across the globe.
I’ll give you one hint of what is not going to be shared or link bait: poorly written content with stock imagery. Users do not want to see this garbage, most users have been online now for over a decade and can tell a quality post/page from a spammy one.
Now that you have an idea of what content is being shared, that is your mission – create quality content and position it where normal users will find & link – as well as re-share.
There are a number of different crafty approaches to link baiting that can be carried out using a number of different techniques.
1. The forum drop. There are millions of users logged onto forums at any given minute. Forum users are smart and savvy. Some of them can sniff out link bait a mile a way, so be careful. The forum drop link bait maneuver involves finding forums that are relevant to your interests and dropping the link you want promoted carefully crafted within a response to an existing discussion. This can take hours or even days in some cases to really execute properly, but the results can bring you thousands of links, as well as a steady traffic stream
2. The social nudge. Lets get real here: whatever the topic, whatever the social network, unless you have a huge fan/follower base, you are not going to see any results. For instance, I have 280 Facebook friends, most of them personal friends/family. What do you think would happen if I shared an SEO article? Probably nothing. That share would float to the bottom faster than a cashew in a cappuccino. The goal here is to integrate yourself into a social community and to share when the time is right.
3. The image. Take memes for example. They are funny, cute and sometimes can be culturally or politically relevant depending on the community that you are in. We’ve seen meme’s go around the globe and back and get over a million shares in under a minute. The key here is that they are funny and they make you stop for a minute and share to the next person.
4. Just provide value. Adobe Reader didn’t get to be a PR10 by not providing value. Just the contrary, almost every kind of website out there needs Adobe Reader for some reason or another, and is being promoted by developers and other users throughout the world every day all day.
So that is kind of an extreme example. Take a WordPress Plugin for instance, the Google XML Sitemaps plugin. That plugin gets lots of link love because it provides a tremendous value to web developers. It allows them to eliminate several time consuming steps in WordPress site creation and is shared by many different people on many different mediums.
Recently there has been a ton of negative banter about infographics throughout the SEO community. They started out as being cute and informative but are now being mass produced and just kind of lame. On the flip side, there are infographics out there that are just SO good, that one can’t help themselves from sharing all over the place.
I hope this helped some of you gain some more insight into link bait. By no means is it meant to be comprehensive or even introductory. We hoped that we could give some solid examples and an general overview of this topic for those that have heard this term and are wanting to learn more.
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Part 1 - An SEO's Guide to Tumblr
Part 3 - The value of Tumblr links revisited