In part one of this post series – introduction to the linkbait concept, I explained the concept of link bait was a derivative of Viral marketing. While link bait campaigns aren’t as resource intensive as viral campaigns; they do still require a creative process of planning, creation and distribution. In part two of link bait your way to backlinks nirvana, we are going to explore the various elements that make up the framework to a great link bait. Each element is an important factor that contributes to the success or failure of your linkbait piece.
The link bait host and format
Link bait content should be hosted on the website you are trying to optimize for, often on a page of its own or a company blog. This is one of the key differences between viral content versus link bait content, by hosting the link bait on your website – you are utilizing all of the possible benefits from the links generated to the domain. ( Hosting the content on a new domain than using a 301 afterwards can work, however this technique can take more time and effort and is more closely related to full viral campaigns )
What format will your link bait be presented in? Is it a video, text, photos or a multimedia flash? When developing video content, remember videos and other content hosted on websites such as youtube will not get you the backlinks you want in a linkbait campaign, even if you use the embed function on your website. Why? simply because people are used to and prefer sharing URLS from youtube.com. So if at all possible, host the video on the your own website.
Youtube videos – If you must host video content on 3rd party provider websites, make sure you include some sort of call to action to visit your website on the video. Youtube now lets you add caption overlays, a call to action would be something like “Find out how we made this video – click here” or “To comment on or share this video, click here”. There’s no guarantee the user will click on the caption, but its your best bet to redirect the traffic back to your website. Bare in mind these caption links carry no weight for your search engine optimization efforts as they are embedded links.
The link bait title / headline
Arguably the most important factor, the title needs to grab the attention of the potential reader / linker within the first few precious seconds, enticing them to read the article. The title should trigger some type of strong emotional response based on your content. In link baiting there are two types of headlines to consider, both should be as similar as possible .
The onpage title / headline – On the website where the linkbait is hosted. The page title should contain keywords that you want to SEO for, most SEOs also agree your H1 should also contain the keyword. When it comes to sharing and linking to your link bait; often people will use the onpage headline as the links anchor text, thus by having a keyword rich headline will generate maximum SEO results. Now what if your linkbait is not directly related to your keyword? Thats OK, make the title and headline as natural as possible because if it does feel un-natural smart surfers will call you out on the social networks, and your linkbait may fail as a result.
The distribution headline – It is also important to create 2 or 3 variations of your title for the different social media distribution channels, based on their reader demographic. Spend some time researching the popular titles on Digg, reddit etc, and soon you should see some sort of pattern emerging. It might be some common adjective words such as cool, biggest, or awesome for example.
If your link bait is based around a list, your distribution headline could read ‘ The top 10 most luxuries private jets in the world ‘ or for a more controversial headline try; ‘ 10 luxury private jets you can never afford ‘.
The URL should be in human readable format EG http://www.interbent.com/star-wars-street-art-humor/ – preferably the same as the onpage title and hopefully include your SEO keyword. If you are using a content management system that does not generate friendly URLS, it will be worth the extra effort to setup URL rewrites to get a friendly URL. Why? because people trust URLS that tells them about the content which makes it more shareable and having a friendly URL also increases your SEO efforts if the URL contains your SEO Keyword.
Shortened URLs – Shortened URLs let users share your link bait via micro blogging services such as Twitter. Make sure you choose a URL shortening service that uses 301 redirection such as Bit.Ly, that way links will pass the link juice. Its also important to track how these shortened URLS are performing, Bit.ly offers pretty good data analytics, which you can research where your links are coming from. Read our guide on using Bit.LY for data research.
Link bait web page design
Understand that people visiting and linking to your link bait most likely won’t know about your business or website. So if your site template includes a lot of navigation / product menus, or any other elements that could be distracting to the potential link mob it might be worth considering a no-frills template / special landing page for the link bait. What you want is a fast loading page where the headline and part of your link bait ( images, videos, text ) is above the fold. By doing this you won’t scare off any potential linkers by thinking they have landed on some corporate website or shopping site.
Remember: the link bait is all about making the user feel comfortable enough to link to content, it is not about brand recognition or plastering the page with ads.
Make it easy to share
People are lazy, so make it easy for them to share your linkbait. If you are expecting the majority of traffic to come from Digg or Twitter than putting the Digg and tweetmeme icons above the fold is a good idea, otherwise just below the main content above the comments or in a sidebar will work fine.
Also adding some simple call to action such as the example seen below can also work great, its pretty obvious stuff but helps to catch that extra one or two links.
Enabling comments is often a good way to generate more interest to your linkbait, if you are already using a blog this should be an easy process. If you not using a blog platform, there are some very good and cheap comment scripts available to download, just Google it.
Maximizing the linkbait benefits
The point of the link-bait is to generate links, but the links to the linkbait page itself is not going to do much in terms of targeting your keyword. So a little bit of clever sculpting is required to take in the full benefit. Remember Google discounts the links contained in menus and footers so the optimal strategy is to include an honest disclaimer / message either before or in the middle of the content. Be upfront and honest, something like this will work:
” This hilarious post was brought to you by the good people at website.com, we make keyword 1 and Keyword 2 – which we think is a pretty cool product because ( insert content related to your keyword ) “
Setting up links from a related posts or articles table is often a good option as well.
Link the keywords to the homepage or whichever page you are trying to optimize the keyword for. Never use hidden text or super small text to try and hide this and remember the more outbound links you place on the page, the less powerful it becomes, there is no need to link to everypage on your website, pick the top 2 – 5 pages you have already done the SEO work on to link to.
Step 1 – Put on your best social media marketing hat and distribute your linkbait through the usual social bookmark channels, if you are planning to produce linkbait on a regular basis, there are plenty of online services that can help you distribute your linkbait to save you time. It’s important to understand the link herd mentality on social media sites, a fresh account with no reputation will not get much attention, even if the content is great. So it is important to distribute your piece through a well established account. If this is not possible, you can always find people / companies that will distribute the piece for you for a monetary return.
Step 2 How to get the real juicy links – Put on your creative hat and hunt down websites and blogs manually that are related to your linkbait and contact them directly, in particular if the piece has educational value, make sure to contact authority figures and educators directly. For example if your topic is about astronomy, email the professors and tutors directly, don’t bother emailing generic addresses such as “info@”, these will be flagged as spam and deleted. Also don’t forget to also contact your local journalists, often they are looking for interesting / off-beat topics to fill in the gaps, you might just land yourself a great link from a authority news site.
Link building is one of the hardest and most valued service in search engine optimization today, using link bait can give you an edge when it comes to negotiating and generating links for you and your client.
If you are an SEO, remember your clients business may not be glamorous or interesting enough to generate viral links, so using your creative skills to come up with a linkbait idea and following the tips above can work very well, often a client may not be comfortable with the idea of linkbait at first, but if you have done your research there are always good examples to present to them, even better if you can find a linkbait example by their competitors.
If you are a webmaster or website owner thinking about linkbait link building, you are in a good position to test and trial these techniques. Linkbait, like viral marketing can sometimes be hit and miss, don’t get discouraged if your first few attempts don’t work out. With practice you will get better at building link-baits and coming up with link-bait ideas.
Which leads me to the final chapter of our guide – Developing the perfect linkbait idea / topic. Please subscribe to our RSS feed or follow us on twitter @little_engine to be notified when the final part of our guide is online.