“I hereby claim that content can be both white-hat and yet still be wonderful “bait” for links.” ~ Matt Cutts, Google <tweet this>
Linkbait, while the name may sound bad or may even have some negative connotation in your mind, doesn’t have to be negative at all. In fact, Matt Cutts goes on to say that linkbait is “something interesting enough to catch people’s attention, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.” So if Linkbait can be a positive aspect of a website and a productive part of our content marketing strategy, it must certainly warrant a closer look.
What is Linkbait?
So Linkbait, technically, is any content that is interesting or informative enough to encourage people to click and link to it of it’s own value – they didn’t have to be asked to do it. The clicks and links that we’re referring to can be both links on other websites, like people’s blog posts, or clicks from search engine results.
“Linkbait is just a sexy term for high-quality content that benefits the reader.” ~ Brian Clark, Copyblogger <tweet this>
Linkbait can be blog posts or pages or articles – pretty much any content within your site that is indexable and can be linked to. PDF files, video files or other multimedia would typically not fall into this category though if it’s embedded onto a page with text and can be viewed or clicked from there, then it certainly becomes an integral part of the linkbait content.
Why Create Linkbait?
In case it’s not obvious, the whole point of linkbait is to have content that continues to generate interest and activity due to the clicks and links. But there’s a couple of very specific benefits.
If you have content that other people naturally want to reference and link to, that helps generate direct traffic in the form of referrals, but it also helps your overall brand and reputation. When other bloggers choose to quote me or my articles, they’re helping to introduce me to their readers and helping me tremendously (which is why it’s so important to thank people who help you in that way!).
“Linkbait creates opportunities to increase reach and authority, leading to more traffic, leads & sales.” ~ Mike Allton, <tweet this>
Additionally, these additional links and text that reference you or your site (citations) are indexed by Google and can help your site’s ranking within search results. If a popular blog in your industry talks about you or your website in a post that’s on topic, Google refers to that as a co-citation and it helps improve the perceived authority of your site on that topic.
Which leads to the other benefit, clicks. Creating content that is extremely interesting and informative creates opportunities for more and more people to find your articles and website through organic search results. And if more and more people are linking to that content on their own websites in points of reference, that only serves to help your content rank higher and garner even more clicks and visits.
How Do I Determine How Much Linkbait I need?
How much content and linkbait you need is a bit of a loaded question. For most businesses, it’s not really a question of “how much” as it is a question of “how often.” As in, how often should you blog and create new content? That’s because, generally, we all probably want more traffic and more leads and more sales.
Businesses should then start by determining what kinds of content and posts are needed, how quickly they want to begin to see a massive increase in organic traffic, as compared to how much time they can afford to devote to creating new content, and then come up with a content marketing schedule.
For instance, a business that wants to dramatically improve their search results and traffic within the next year may want to commit to a weekly publishing schedule, and an outline of 45 – 50 pieces of content that address specific customer questions and information needs. (This is based on HubSpot’s data that points to the exponential benefits in search results and traffic that businesses begin to receive once they’ve accumulated more than 50 pieces of quality content in their archive.)
How Do You Define Linkbait?
How you define linkbait really depends on your goals and needs at that moment. HubSpot defined linkbait for themselves as any post they’d published which received more than 50 inbound links. While that may have worked for them, to me that kind of definition is pure hindsight. While a post may have resulted in many inbound links, was that the original intent of the article? What about articles that simply weren’t very good?
Instead, I prefer to define linkbait as content that I’ve deliberately created to serve as a long-term resource and lead generation tool for my business. Does that seem too general? Perhaps. But when I’m writing blog posts, not every post falls within this category. Some posts are really for fun, while others may not have any real long-term value.
What Are Some Examples of Great Linkbait?
OK, so you know what Linkbait is, and you know you need to create at least one new article a week that’s specifically geared toward this linkbait strategy. But what exactly does linkbait look like?
First, while I continue to be a huge fan of newsjacking as part of a successful content marketing strategy, through careful analysis of my past content and search engine results, I noted that newsjacking articles specifically have little long-term value, and therefore need to play a smaller role in my own marketing strategy. Post about the latest breaking news do really well initially, but as the story unfolds, they get relegated to the archive and cannot even be reshared to social media. And almost never get search engine traffic as no one is searching on the topics addressed within the post.
Instead, I need to focus on more and more articles and blog posts that answer specific questions and provide specific information.
Similarly, controversial or polarizing content can sometimes serve as really great linkbait, but again, the longterm value of the content and technique is questionable. If you create something that’s controversial once in a while, that may be very compelling. If you strive to do it all the time, your readers may get bored with it (or you), or turned off. And generally speaking, controversial content is not as likely to serve your business very well.
So some examples of linkbait content that can help a business in a number of ways include:
1. How To articles
2. Stories that provide a lesson
3. Interviews of industry experts
4. Reviews of industry resources, like books or other websites
5. Lists of resources and information
6. Statistics and data and findings from your industry
7. Visual content like embedded infographs or video
But here’s the catch.
Your Content Must Be HIGH QUALITY.
You can create hundreds of How To articles and reviews, but if you’re not providing real value in your content and material, no one will link to it.
Just as when we were talking in an earlier article about creating a steady volume of content, it’s still important to have quality in mind. Does that mean more work? ABSOLUTELY. No one said this would be easy. But, at the same time, realize that there’s a cost-benefit analysis to be made here. What is the value of your time, and how much time would it take you to write a single 500 – 1000 word article that helps a potential customer understand a topic related to your business? Consider that such an article will receive attention from hundreds, if not thousands of readers and potential clients over time, compare that then to a traditional marketing medium. What does it cost to send a mailer to 2000 homes or businesses? And we’re just barely scratching the surface of such a comparison, as a successful content marketing strategy also includes concepts like developing authority, the use of content to establish social media activity and interest and followers, and the ability to leverage content in other ways, such as providing links as resources for existing clients in other communications.
So it’s worth it to invest in strong, helpful content. But also keep in mind that list of linkbait examples I mentioned earlier. Not every article you write has to be an in depth analysis of your industry. Sometimes the simplest articles and How To guides are extremely valuable, like this post I shared on How To Link To A Google+ Post:
This was a relatively simple and straightforward tip, and I simply took the time to document it and explain it thoroughly. And within a couple hours of sharing it, it was on the What’s Hot list and garnering all kinds of comments and shares and click-throughs.
I wrote this article based on keyword research and analysis of my own site traffic. I have a similar article from last year on how to link to a Facebook post, and I’ve seen that it consistently gets traffic and attention from people who are wondering how to get that link. I expect this latest post for Google+ to perform similarly over time.
So make sure that you’re including an adequate number of great, informative articles in your content marketing strategy and blog publishing schedule. Write about topics and share information that’s interesting enough to get people’s attention. And don’t be afraid to refer to these pieces as linkbait. It’s not the evil, black-hat term you thought it was.
Viper Image Courtesy of Chrysler Group, Flickr.