How Easy Is It To Actually Bait for Links?

Ann SmartyI asked Ann Smarty if she’d be kind enough to give me her thoughts on link bait:

Link baiting is an effective technique that should still be thoroughly explored:

  • The effectiveness of the link bait depends on too many (sometimes uncontrolled) factors:
    • social media connections (even not-so-great pieces can hit the front page and gather links if you have many friends);
    • total luck (some pieces are just picked and pushed up for no evident reason; all in all, the result is often hard to predict and that’s the beauty of it by the way);
    • link baiter’s experience (there are few people who can guarantee a killer campaign);
    • link baiter’s creativity and niche expertise (there are few people who feel what is to go hot in some definite niche);
    • campaign topicality (at some point any (untrue) scandal related to Britney Spears resulted in numerous backlinks and huge attention).
  • Link baiting ethics is repeatedly discussed: we do remember the brilliant linkbaiter Lyndon Antcliff‘s fake story that ended up being mentioned on Fox News and the discussion that followed;
  • Google’s take still remains unclear: can a (sudden) rise in backlinks result in any sort of penalty? Does Google view it as manipulating (i.e. content created for the sake of being linked to)? We do hear Googlers say that it is ok “as far as it is relevant” but that same “fake story” linked above also made it clear that link bait should be also “ethical” / “true”, etc:


Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known websites)… There’s not much more deceptive or misleading than a fake story without any disclosure that the story is hoax

I am no link baiting expert myself but eagerly research the subject and run multiple experiments. A large thread at SEOrefugee forums inspired me to create a more-or-less organized overview of link baiting tactics with recent examples and some notes on the effectiveness of each one:

Technique Example Effectiveness (my personal take)
Be the first (to report news, invent something completely new, etc) Be one of the first to start anti-Google campaign Highly effective
Create a free useful tool All SEO tools in my recent overview Highly effective
Create entertaining content (make funny games, comics, buttons, pictures, videos, etc) Link building via catchy images Effective (the Internet is flooded with entertaining content, so it’s difficult to surprise anyone now)
Create useful content (special reports, useful tips, history of, how to, pretty graphs, lists, reports, research, “how to”, history of, “top 10s”). E.g. play off well known mistakes in your industry. See which types of “How tos” and “Top 10s” rocked at Digg. Effective (the content should really be useful; lists, “how tos”, “top 10s” were too overused and abused)
Create sensational / controversial content (lie, create catchy titles, make any type of false claims (e.g. false accusations about people in high places), rant, invent ( “the truth about … “, gossip). Rebecca’s rant on why she’ll never make digg popular or the discussion on Lyndon Antcliff’s fake story Effective (you should have the feeling for such things and talent to create this type of content)
Get others to participate( battles, contests) SEO Generations Battle Effective (your voice should be strong in the industry if you want others to actively participate)


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8 Responses

  1. Shaun says:

    Hi Anne Many thanks for a great post :)

  2. Plugin Steve says:

    Very good post, I personally think free giveaways and tools are the best way for a long term effect. While controversial stuff on hot topics works great, free is more reliable and doesn’t get old and stale. Takes longer to grow and isn’t good for the instant big bang, but people will add links, even after years.

  3. Ann Smarty says:

    My pleasure! ;)

  4. Market Segmentation says:

    Hi Ann, Thanks for this great information on link baiting. I have what I believe to be the first automatic site to provide target market characteristics for marketing. So it’s a first and a tool. But I really haven’t started marketing it. Should I write an article about it and submit it to social sites? Warmly, Linda P. Morton

  5. George says:

    The thing I’ve always questioned about linkbaiting: is the traffic really converting? A spike in traffic is great, but unless it’s helping your SERP, if it’s always a high bounce rate, what is really being accomplished?

  6. Ann Smarty says:

    @George, the main thing is not the spike in traffic but the spike in backlinks – that’s what matters and influences the SERPs.

  7. Gregor says:

    Thanks for breaking out the different types of link bait. I haven’t had much success with my attempts at it but I have found that it takes time and effort to get a good result. It’s not easy to be the first to break a news story but it is easy to write a useful tool and get links that way. I would be too wary of being controversial – if you genuinely hold a specific viewpoint then that’d fine but if you’re just trying to get links then you run the risk of alienating your readership. Cheers, Gregor

  8. Ivan | SEO Consultan says:

    ‘The spike in back links…’ Is there a happier day in the online marketers day, than the one where it is not only that StumbleUpon have sent traffic that killed your poor shared hosting server, but there is also a trace left in the form of newly generated backlinks? How life all of the sudden looks nice, you notice the sun outside,… birds… happiness… :)

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