Link Baiting

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Link Baiting

Link baiting is the craft of writing an article that stirs up so much discussion that readers converse around it and post links to that article in forums, on Twitter and on Facebook, and other members of the industry write articles themselves about what you have said, with a link back to the initial article that sparked the controversy.

It’s one of the most effective methods of getting natural backlinks. If done correctly you should accumulate links from all types of sites, but all of them should be authoritative. And best of all, most link baiting is within Google’s guidelines and terms of service.

It is actually quite hard to write an effective link bait article. By definition, link bait articles have to be original, provocative and have a new twist that makes their readers want to share them. One thing you can’t do when link-baiting is simply re-write articles that already exist, as there is no incentive for readers to share stale information.

Some link-bait articles are simply informative – they present brand new information that your industry hasn’t seen before, and hence the article is eagerly shared by everyone because the readers want to keep up with the trends. Infographics, if done well, fall into this category, as do well presented surveys or studies.

Some link-bait articles simply go viral because they are written so remarkably, they touch a nerve – one such example was Clay Shirky’s 5000 page blog post on the reasons why the newspaper industry was dying. He got links from newspapers across the world, together with invitations to appear on television. Not bad for an academic who no-one had heard of previously.

Other link-bait articles are deliberately controversial to the extent that they could be accused of “trolling”. Lots of newspapers do this, partly to generate argument amongst their readers, but partly because they know rival newspapers who disagree with them will immediately put out articles themselves rebutting what the first newspaper said, with a handy link back so their readers can see what the fuss was all about.

One extreme version of the “controversy strategy” was practiced by a webmaster that was expelled in the New York Times because he wrote bad reviews about rival websites, knowing that they’d rebut his articles and in the process link back to him. All the links he was gathering made him rise to the top of the search results. Even the New York Times linked to him in their expose piece, till the SEO community pointed out they were helping him even further!

He obviously went too far – once the New York Times exposed him, Google gave his site a manual penalty (their algorithm wasn’t able to deal with him). But his case illustrates both the effectiveness of link baiting and the dangers of doing it wrong.

To avoid crossing the line, it is best to hire a professional company that knows how to keep within the bounds of good taste, and still produce a link bait article that generates a response that will help your website rise in the search rankings. This is why we recommend you let us handle the link baiting for you.

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21 Feb 2014

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