Link Bait 101: Going Viral With SEO March 12, 2011

In the SEO industry, the term “link bait” has historically carried a stigma and dismissive connotation. Link building crafted for the purposes of gaining mass attention and encouraging people to link to a website have raised flags over the years if strategies utilized were rogue or deceptive in nature.

Link bait may be one of the most sophisticated, creative, and fun techniques to build links from authoritative websites. When search engine executives claim that content can be both “White Hat” and yet remain wonderful when used as bait for links, the practice holds merit. Link bait strategies are here to stay!

Piggybacking a trend that already has some traction is the best way to go if you’re looking to receive attention without breaking your budget. Link bait campaigns are usually content driven so selecting a domain name that will be the focal point of your efforts is key.

It shouldn’t matter if you’re using a new domain name that pertains to a targeted search term or an existing website that contains keywords in titles, tags or URL’s. It’s all relative to your vision and goals when “taking the show on the road”. The amount of exposure that you’re seeking should dictate future actions and methods of promotion.

Most successful viral campaigns that contain elements of link bait are branded. Branding your headlines, images, keyword sets, and domains will help influence others to link to your content with “branded” anchor text.

Having trouble with branding your link bait campaign? In language, alliteration refers to the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of a series or words. Alliteration is commonly used in headlines, business names, expressions, phrases, and within anchor text for link bait campaigns. Use alliteration and the power of suggestion to your advantage.

Creating Controversy

Most great viral campaigns become the topic of conversation at the office water cooler, on popular websites, and traditional media outlets. That nature of most successful viral and link bait campaigns (local, national, or International) should put your audience in a state of prolonged debate where there is no right or wrong answer to what’s being presented, just opinion.

When writing viral content, always show both sides of the story while remaining consistent with the facts that you’re presenting. Creatively sharing what’s “already known” (while citing and linking to other sources of content) and alluding to the possibilities of future outcomes works well. This tactic builds credibility and gives audiences the feeling that the writing is not biased. Always make sure that your content is factual or holds ground, within legal boundaries, and fueled with substance and emotion to win the trust of readers.

Asking readers for their opinion or for their “help”, can take your next link bait campaign to the next level. It’s human nature to share compelling content with others and participate in online discussions when called to action. Direct your audience to “spread the word”, and you’ll be surprised how many readers will follow your instructions.

Create Sparks With Content Distribution

The best way to scale your link bait campaign is to get your content in front of influencers that are privileged to publish content on authoritative websites. Depending on the circumstances or subject matter of your campaign, contact media sources directly to accelerate distribution.

This process can become hit or miss if you haven’t already established relationships with media sources willing to break your story. Many well-known news sites receive “tips” and editorial requests daily. Additionally, respected websites have a responsibility to provide accurate content to their readers from reliable sources.

Most media sites are savvy about link bait and aware that their medium provides a significant source of traffic and influence. However, if a media outlet decides that your story is interesting enough to share with their readers, they will most likely give it a run by placing their own outlook on the topic while citing your target URL as the source. Jackpot.

By positioning your content as the “breaking source”, media outlets will have no choice but to seek information, commentary, and content from the publisher. As most authoritative blogs and media sites monetize on a CPM basis, driving impressions from a hot story is in their best interest.

Should your campaign enter a phase of public interest, it will usually become a race against time to respond to e-mails from other blogs, journalists, news correspondents, and radio shows accordingly. The biggest mistake that you can make prior to entering this phase is not having a hosting package or server that can tolerate thousands (sometimes millions!) of users simultaneously trying to access your content.

If your website is not live when an author is looking to cite your URL as a source, anchor text and content distribution cannot be realized as your credibility and reputation are now in question.

Monetization And Exit Strategies

If your campaign URL is on a new domain, hold off on monetizing in the early stages. Simply put, authoritative websites will view your intentions to obtain coverage as a basis to put money in your own pocket. Not good. While this may be the case, it’s best to gain credibility before cluttering your website up with ads or affiliate offers from third parties. In this case; the more novice you look, the better. Playing the role of a “concerned citizen” never fails.

Are you looking to retain value and continuity from your readers? Create a newsletter where users can subscribe to receive “breaking news and updates”. During traffic surges, it’s common to receive thousands of new subscribers eager to learn more. Integrating RSS, Twitter, and Facebook should go without saying as social sharing should happen naturally.

Depending on how much traffic is generated; and what niche the campaign is in, the opportunity to monetize traffic will present itself. Depending on the number of authoritative links you’ve obtained from link baiting, additional SEO value can be used to promote other websites.

As far as exit strategies are concerned; most people will sell the web property to another Internet marketer, turn the concept into a “big business”, or sit back and collect passive income while occasionally positing new content.

Link bait campaigns give Internet marketers the ability to generate a significant amount of traffic quickly with minimal costs, and boost long-term SEO value while creating new revenue streams. People tend to see resistance when promoting viral campaigns when their focus is on monetizing out of the gate. When performed intentionally, link bait is an art that still remains one of the most powerful, effective, and under appreciated forms of link building.

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Nick Cuttonaro

Nicholas Cuttonaro is an Internet Marketing professional specializing in search engine optimization, lead generation, and online reputation management.

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  1. Eldad Sotnick-Yogev • March 14, 2011

    Nice take on the different tactics to produce linkbait. - and the whys behind them. It's difficult to produce consistent content and try to get top resources to share them with their readers. You point this out nicely where you speak about newspapers and such.

    Thanks for sharing the tips Reply

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