In certain circles, link bait has garnered a bad rap.
When most people think about link bait, they instinctively think about bog post with curious titles and useless content.
And the main objection to link bait is that only a sleazy marketer would try to use ‘bait’ to get someone to link to or visit a website.
But this isn’t the case at all.
It is incredibly useful in driving traffic and isn’t the gimmick many people think it is. Link bait could be really valuable information that the reader simply couldn’t resist sharing. Or it could be a controversial opinion other people want to link to and share.
In this post, we’ll explore what link bait is, its advantages, and how to create effective link bait.
What is Link Bait?
In his article, ‘SEO advice: link bait and link baiting”, ex-Googler Matt Cutts defines link bait as:
“something interesting enough to catch people’s attention, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”
He goes on to say that…
“There are a lot of ways to do that, including putting in sweat-of-the-brow work to generate data or insights, or it can be as simple as being creative. You can also say something controversial to generate discussion (this last one gets tired if you overuse it, though). Sometimes even a little bit of work can generate a reason for people to link to you.”
Linkbait is content that is so valuable or interesting that people can’t resist linking to it.
The logic behind link bait is creating content that is so good it attracts links.
Types of linkbait that actually work include:
- Evergreen content. “Ultimate guides” being a classic example. These only work if you’ve become the trusted authority on the topic.
- Breaking news. Scoops can attract links like mad.
- Controversial content. An example is this post from Copyblogger: “Why James Chartrand wears female underpants”
- Fun, entertaining posts. If something makes folks laugh out loud, it’ll attract links.
- List posts – sometimes these work if the lists are good and/or images are in demand.
- Infographics – these are hit and miss. Some attract links like an NIB magnet.
- Research and statistics – this is pure gold as long as you present it attractively in tables and/or charts.
The main benefit of link bait is that it sells itself—so to speak, and people (other webmasters and bloggers) link to it because it’s perceived value without being asked.
About link bait’s bad rep, Matt Cutts says…
“Linkbaiting sounds like a bad thing, but especially if it’s interesting information or fun, it doesn’t have to have negative connotations. I hereby claim that content can be both white-hat and yet still be wonderful “bait” for links””
In his book, “Contagious”, Jonah Berger, marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania, talks about share triggers—psychological triggers that make people want to share content..
According to him, people tend to share things that:
- Make them feel some kind of emotion. It could be anger, awe, love, etc.
- Offer practical value/utility. It has to be something genuinely useful, something that can serve as a reference on a topic; case studies and white papers being good examples.
- Have already been shared or linked to by many others. Yes, people generally follow the crowd.
- Attach themselves to “top of mind” stories and current events. An example of how this works is “Newsjacking”
- Makes them look good backs up their own point of view. Original research and statistics are a typical example.
Link bait VS Click bait
Link bait is, however, different from click bait.
Unlike link bait that other people want to link to, people only want to click on clickbait.
Click bait usually carries a more negative connotation and is usually used to describe lighter, more entertaining content like Buzzfeed’s content.
Some examples of click bait include:
- These 6 Questions Will Reveal If You’re Obsessed With TikTok
- Everyone Has A Deadly Animal Lurking Inside
- Can You Solve This Puzzle For 6-Year-Olds In 20 Seconds?
- These 11 DadBods Are Too Hot To Handle
Click bait also has its uses and is not always a bad thing. It is however labeled as spam in the SEO world.
As we’ve established, the overall aim of Link Bait is to improve or better your site’s position on the list of results that the search engines return to users.
It is designed to get people to share and link to your content on their social platforms and websites.
Right about now, you’re probably wondering what the features of link bait are and how to create link bait for your own uses.
We’ll get to those soon. But first, let’s look at some of the benefits of link bait.
Increased traffic and search rankings
Link bait is usually interesting, valuable or emotive, and this is why it is so effective at generating backlinks.
It is called link bait for a reason.
And as people link back to your content in a frenzy, this boosts your SEO efforts.
This is because despite the Penguin and Rankbrain updates, links still count as ranking factors.
There is no doubt that backlinks help to boost SEO and as such, you should optimize your link bait content with the keywords you want to rank for. This will help you leverage your link bait content to rank for your desired keywords.
Link bait has an element of virality to it.
And since it is so ‘useful’, people can’t resist linking to it over and over again. Consequently, link bait is a powerful traffic driver. The more traffic you get, the higher the conversions you may have.
Just make sure that your blog is optimized for conversions. Use calls-to-action for your top offers and also don’t forget to use your blog’s top/sidebar(s) to ‘capture’ users.
One added advantage of using link bait is that it continuously generates traffic long after you’ve published it since users will continue to find it. And continue to link to it.
Exposure to new audiences
Shareability is one of the features of link bait.
You business will experience a lot more visibility and have a higher brand awareness if your link bait goes viral.
Increased visibility also helps you grow the top of your funnel, expand your reach and attract mew blog readers, who like we said above, could potentially become customers.
Even if they don’t end up buying from you, increased brand awareness and greater brand visibility are rewards by themselves.
Some features of good Link Bait
Link bait has some characteristics that distinguish it from all the other types of content, and we’ll explore what some of these features are and how they make link bait effective.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” seems like a good moral principle.
But did you ever consider that the SOLE purpose of a book cover is to help you judge its contents?
The point of Link Bait is to capture your viewer’s attention on their first click and so it must be visually pleasing and should catch their attention quickly.
No matter how enthusiastic a reader is about a subject matter, you can make it really easy or really hard for them to consume your content.
And users these days like it easy.
When creating link bait, carefully consider the visual elements as well as the text elements. Use charts, graphs that have a cohesive look. You don’t want your content to look like it has fairy dust all over it, with fifteen different vibrant colors.
To put this in perspective, Hubspot found that
“articles that included infographics generated an average of 178% more inbound links and 72% more views than all other posts”
And infographics are just one type of visual element you can use in your content. You can be creative and use GIFs and illustrations.
The best part? The content doesn’t have to be 100% yours. You can leverage other people’s content to bolster your own efforts. Just remember to link to the original owners.
You don’t want a never-ending court case on your hands.
There are two ways to think about timely content.
The first is that timely content addresses current trendy topics.
Right now, everyone is talking about the pandemic and how it affects us.
Furniture companies like Autonomous are talking about how the pandemic affects work and the role of furniture in the big picture.
Popular publications talk about how the pandemic affects economics and finances. When it comes to timeliness, you either get on the wagon or get outpaced by your competitors.
The other way to look at timeliness as regards content creation is having content that appears at the right time, dealing with trends This content may complement a current or trendy topic. It doesn’t necessarily have to address the topic matter but it could be related to it.
Remember, timely content is one that features a story while it is still hot.
Controversial content always elicits a strong emotional response and you can always use it to generate some buzz around your content.
But as amazing as the results can be, relentlessly putting out controversial content is very tricky and could turn out to do the exact opposite it was meant to do.
Your content doesn’t have to create a ruckus to work. You can create some controversy simply by going against popular opinion.
An example is this article from SocialTriggers. “The ‘content is king’ myth debunked”.
If you’re into marketing, you’ve probably heard the phrase “content is king” many times…And this post just goes for the jugular and calls this popilar belief a myth.
The person seeing this title immediately wants to know why the writer thinks “Content is king” is a myth.
That desire to know, that induced curiosity is why link bait is so effective at generating inbound links.
A word of caution…
Ex-Googler, Matt Cutts warns against excessive use of link bait and says that he leans towards
“producing interesting data or having a creative idea rather than spouting really controversial ideas 100% of the time.”
His argument is that too much controversial content can end up diluting one’s credibility in the long haul.
As we’ve pointed out earlier, the definition of link bait is going to differ from business to business, audience to audience and niche to niche.
The key to success is to experiment with what you suspect will work for your blog and audience. Setting out to create something viral is unrealistic. And you never really know what will work.
You can only try.
The best you can do is to look at what has worked in the past for your own blog in addition to checking out what has worked for other bloggers.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Ingenuity is after all undetected plagiarism.
You can only measure the ‘success’ of link bait is the metrics after you’ve posted it. You can only create, cross your fingers to see what happens next.
Below are some ideas that will serve as an inspiration to help you create stuff that others will love and want to link to
- Original research
- Controversial content
- Comprehensive resources
- Visual content
- Creative entertaining fun content
This is one way you can win with content.
Granted, creating original research is labor and capital intensive. But if you have the resources, you have potentially great link bait fodder on your hands.
It’s a no-brainer.
Bloggers and other freelance writers are always looking for statistics to back up their claims. So if you publish data carried out by a credible third party like Ahrefs or BuzzSumo, you could have an insane number of backlinks pointing back to your site simply because everyone wants to link to accurate data.
Backlinko is a classic example.
Who wouldn’t want to link to blog posts like these?
I mean the staggering numbers just make you want to read those posts and learn what the experts know.
As proof of the success of these blog posts, the first post has had 14,000+! shares on social media alone, while the second post has had over 5,000 shares on social media alone.
These figures speak for themselves.
And yes, I just linked to those two posts.
Closely linked to original research is comprehensive resources.
When you create thorough and in-depth resources, readers get so much value from the content that they can’t resist linking back to them
Classic examples are these are ultimate guides to blog post writing from Smarblogger…
And this one from CoSchedule….
These guides are comprehensive and they cover all aspects of writing blog posts. These resources are considered link bait because they provide ‘value’ to the reader.
If there are no thorough guides in your industry, or there are poorly written guides, seize the opportunity and write something thorough and it will surely be linked to.
For example, Brain Dean’s “Google’s 200 ranking factors: The complete list (2020)” was so successful it generated 43,000+ shares on social media and 1,000+ comments.
No matter what your niche is, you can always create thorough ultimate guides that people want to link to.
As we’ve established in previous sections, everyone loves some heated debate.
And if you have any unpopular opinions or ideas, chances are that you can garner a lot of attention online if you publish your opinions.
Your content doesn’t even have to be so radical. You could simply present information that outrightly contradicts popular opinion.
But you also don’t want to go overboard with this too. You still want to be likable, no?
Just make sure you use credible sources and logical arguments to back up your claims so you don’t end up being roasted.
Visual content is popular these days especially when it comes to social media marketing.
Just like we cited earlier, Hubspot found that
“blog articles that included infographics generated an average of 178% more inbound links and 72% more views than all other posts.”
Infographics make content much more shareable. This is because they helo make information much easier to digest.
When you’re writing that next blog post, try to get some infographics in there. You never know. It just might go viral.
Creative entertaining fun content
This type of link bait works simply because it’s light-hearted, fun, and easy to consume. It’s also easy to read, requires very little thought (on your readers part), and is, of course, fun!
Think about content that makes use of pop culture references or mainstream trends.
Just like original data research, free tools are labor and capital intensive. But they are effective at generating links.
If you can, create free tools that others will find useful and link to.
Neil Patel is famous for his tool Ubersuggest
Coschedule is famous for their Headline analyzer tool. This tool by CoSchedule was so successful that it has over 4,000 referring domains to it.
And tools like these are always mentioned in the resource posts of other bloggers.
If you have the resources, create a free tool that your target audience will find valuable and you have a chance of generating tons of backlinks.
How to promote your content
Wait….You thought links were just going to magically attach to your link bait content?
They can. I don’t bother promoting much stuff, but if you do publish link bait, you can get a lot more promotion and links by promoting it.
Just like with all your other content, you’re going to have to do some promotion yourself and/or do some form of outreach.
In a 2018 study, BuzzSumo concluded that there are as many as 70 million new posts every month.
And the only direction that number goes is up.
There are so many ways that you can go about promoting your content, but we’ll only examine these three for the purposes of this blog post.
This is one way to get your content in front of the people that really care about it in the first place.
Share your content across as many social platforms as you can including FaceBook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Just remember that every platform is different and requires a different approach. Carefully consider each platform and the best format for each platform.
You don’t have as many words when you use Twitter; You’d do well to use captivating images and snappy captions for Instagram. Pinterest is image-based.
You get the point.
The more you put your content out there, the more chances it will be seen by more people.
This is only applicable if you publish something newsworthy that journalists would love to mention. If you published something like a case study, news people will likely link back to it.
And although the links you’ll get from the press releases have no SEO value, the story may end up being picked by other bloggers and writers which may lead to real links.
This is arguably the most effective means of content promotion and is one of the ways that bloggers like Jon Morrow and Neil Patel have used to grow their readership and audience.
The key to your success with this strategy is relevance.
Reach out to people who you think would be genuinely interested in your content and let them know about your post.
Another thing you can do is to reach out to people who have linked to your content before, telling them about the new post you put out. If they like it and they think it would be relevant to their audience, they’d link to it.
It’s that simple.
Link bait is effective at driving traffic and if you are conscious about how you go about creating content, you can substantially increase your traffic, brand visibility and your site’s authority
Jon Dykstra is a six figure niche site creator with 10+ years of experience. His willingness to openly share his wins and losses in the email newsletter he publishes has made him a go-to source of guidance and motivation for many. His popular “Niche site profits” course has helped thousands follow his footsteps in creating simple niche sites that earn big.