One of the most frustrating parts of content marketing is publishing high-value, long-form blog content and not earning any links.
Quality backlinks are critical in SEO because they represent "votes of confidence" from one website to another. Essentially, links to your site send Google a signal that other websites (preferably high-authority domains) vouch for your content. Unfortunately, with numerous competitors vying for the same links, establishing a solid backlink profile is far from easy.
And yet, what if I were to tell you that there's a specific kind of content that's guaranteed to be engaging, link-worthy, and turbocharge your organic visibility and SEO efforts? Content that takes less work to promote because it sells itself? Sounds too good to be true? It isn't!
I'm talking about link bait.
For this piece, I'll lift the veil on link bait and introduce you to its benefits, characteristics, best practices, and some examples.
What is Link Bait?
Link bait (also commonly written as “linkbait”) is an entertaining, sensational, helpful, or extraordinary piece of content written specifically with the goal of attracting inbound links. In other words, it's content made to earn backlinks from other sites and domains.
The idea is to create pieces of content that are so unique, informative, and relevant that everyone from bloggers to journalists to content publishers will want to link to them. I'm not just talking about getting a link or two; top-notch link baits can potentially attract hundreds, if not thousands of links.
Link bait can be any type of content, but it typically it takes the form of one of the following assets:
- Evergreen blog posts
- Breaking news
- Definitive guides
- Viral video content, images, memes
- Interactive content (online tools, game apps, quiz apps, etc.)
When done right, a piece of link bait can earn high-authority links at scale and significantly impact your organic search visibility.
Benefits of Link Bait
As I've mentioned earlier, one primary benefit of link bait is that it gets you inbound links. When you consider the fact that around 66% of web pages don't even have a single backlink (as per Ahrefs), this is a huge competitive advantage.
However, the benefits of the link bait process go far beyond link building:
Effective link building isn't simply an exercise in accumulating links, it has more to do with the quality and equity of the links you acquire. Fortunately, link bait is one of the best strategies for getting coveted backlinks from trusted and reputable sources (i.e., high-authority domains).
When high-authority sources link to your post, this suggests a nod of approval to you as a source of credible information. As a result, they become powerful expressions of approval that boost your own website authority and credibility.
Drives Organic Traffic
Link bait content is usually unique, fascinating, informative, and sometimes even controversial - that's why it's so effective in generating quality backlinks.
There was once a time when Google evaluated websites by their total number of links - the more backlinks, the higher the rank.
However, Google realized that not all backlinks are created equal and that many people were simply using paid links and link schemes to manipulate their link equity. As a result, Google decided to incorporate link quality into their SEO algorithms, consequently affecting how we acquire and measure link juice.
Link baiting helps you acquire more quality links, making it easier to rank in Google and drive organic traffic to your website.
Hiring other people to build your backlinks requires a significant financial investment. On the other hand, link bait content only requires your time and effort (or a minimal financial investment if you decide to hire a content writing service).
And, I've previously noted, link bait posts are likely to receive contextual backlinks from high-authority domains. When you stop and think about how much those types of backlinks cost, you'll realize just how much money you're saving.
Exposure to New Audiences
Shareability is a prominent feature of link bait content. Although it's not easy, on the off chance that your link bait content goes viral, it can boost your business' visibility and brand awareness in ways you could never imagine.
With increased online visibility, you can grow the top of your sales funnel, expand your reach, and attract more visitors who could potentially become paying customers. Even if they don't end up purchasing your product or service, increased visibility and greater brand awareness are rewards by themselves.
What Makes a Great Piece of Link Bait?
Link bait has several qualities that distinguish it from all other content types. Let's look at some hallmark characteristics of link bait and how to make this type of content as effective as possible.
1. Provides Tangible Value
Too many people misconstrue the concept of “valuable” content. They look at arbitrary aspects (e.g., word count, depth, lexicon, etc.) to measure the value of a content piece. Don't get me wrong, these attributes are critical, but you need to keep in mind that value is relative, and it can vary from one person to the next. What you need to do is study and understand your audience.
Most readers tend to prefer long-form content (e.g., white papers, case studies, definitive guides, exhaustive lists, etc.) as it informs them in a thorough and comprehensive manner. Link bait provides a good opportunity to convey value as it is typically long-form and chock full of interesting data, statistics and facts that are relevant to your readership.
2. Stimulates an Emotional Reaction
According to the Journal of Marketing Research, a content's virality is partially driven by certain emotions.
True enough, people are more likely to share something if it stimulates an emotional response.. Like sharing a funny joke in real life, for example, you are more likely to acquire social shares for a piece of content if your audience finds humor in it, or feels awe, excitement, surprise, or anger.
The best link bait content is designed to push these emotional buttons. A piece that can elicit an emotional response increases its chances of going viral and getting tons of links.
When drawing out people's feelings, a good strategy is to go down the controversial route. Controversial link bait doesn't have to tackle sensitive topics, but it can be a contrarian stance to a popular opinion within your industry.
Whether it's out of anger or surprise, those who see a controversial piece are typically compelled to share it with others.
If you want big news websites and journalists to link to your blog, consider incorporating "newsworthy" content into your content pipeline.
The key element of newsworthy link bait is timeliness. Immediate, current information and events are newsworthy because they're "new.” People love to talk about current events and read other's opinions on them, especially on social media.
Writing a compelling, newsworthy article is about combining the latest news with what your brand already focuses on. It's a delicate balance, but when done right, your timely and well-written content can catch on and garner lots of clicks, shares, and links.
4. Visually Compelling
According to the findings of Brain Rules, if you hear a piece of information, you're likely to only remember 10% of it. And yet, add visuals, and your brain will retain 65%.
The very essence of link bait is to capture the attention of your readers. As such, it must be visually compelling. Adding visual elements to your article makes it more digestible, helping the reader consume the content quicker and easier. This increases their chances of enjoying the content, which could lead to a social share or a quick backlink.
One of the best examples of visually compelling link bait is an infographic. You can also use video content, charts, graphs, etc.; make sure that your article has a cohesive look. Visuals excel in explaining complex subjects, presenting facts and figures elegantly, or simply breaking up the monotony of reading walls of texts and paragraphs.
4 Link Bait Best Practices
Want to create some link bait but don't know where to start? Here are a couple of link bait best practices that can help guide you:
1. Develop Original Guides and In-Depth Resources
Although link bait can take many forms, its effectiveness is driven by writing the most comprehensive resource ever on a topic. Creating original guides and exhaustive resources is time, labor, and capital intensive, but the potential results make it more than a worthwhile pursuit.
When you produce thorough and comprehensive pages, readers get tremendous value from your piece that they can't resist sharing or linking back to them. Ultimate Guides and How-To posts are some of the best examples of comprehensive content.
If there are no thorough guides or only poorly-written resources in your industry, seize the opportunity and write something original and complete.
Successful original content doesn't even have to be a guide, but it needs to be detailed, comprehensive, and well-written, so people will be incentivized to share or link to it.
2. Focus on Data
Another technique that guarantees link-worthy content is to write informative articles that focus on data - think of original research, surveys, reports, studies, and stats.
If there's one thing readers love, it's hard-hitting data and stats. As a content creator, I always find myself wanting to include a stat or some compelling data in my blogs.
If you create a page dedicated to aggregating some of the most compelling numbers and stats on a particular topic, people aren't just going to find your content; they'll cite it as a credible resource and link back to it.
My best advice for creating a successful data-rich piece is to target an evergreen topic. Hubspot's Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics is an excellent example of a data-rich blog post with a whopping 59k+ backlinks.
3. Study What People Are Linking To
To help you gain insights into what makes link bait successful, you should look into what people are linking to in your industry. Find out why people are linking to your competitors, see precisely what they're doing, and copy their approach while creating something better.
Because if you see a piece of linkbait that works for a particular website, there's a good chance that it will also work for you, provided that you do something similar and promote the piece (people can't link to your article if they don't see it!).
In this respect, I highly recommend getting hold of an SEO tool (e.g., SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc.) that can help you research your competitors, including the keywords that they're ranking for. Expand on the things that work for your competition, and avoid or improve on their less successful results.
4. Get Controversial
As I've touched on the section about emotions, everyone loves some heated online debate.
Effective link baiting can start with something controversial that goes against conventional wisdom. If you have a hot take or unpopular opinion on a topic, turning it into a link bait page can garner a lot of attention and links. However, be careful not to be needlessly inflammatory or resort to slandering because you still need to be likable.
In fact, your link bait doesn't even have to be wild or radical. Present a well-reasoned and well-researched viewpoint that contradicts a popular opinion. The last thing you want is to be a contrarian just because you can.
You'll find that your controversial pieces will get more shares and generate more links than your usual blog post.
Strategies for Promoting Link Bait
Just because you wrote a killer piece meant to attract links doesn't mean that links will magically attach to your link bait page. Like any other content, you need to promote your link bait too. Here are some techniques to help you get started.
Promote with Your Existing Audience
The simplest way to promote your new link bait is through your already existing audience, with social media acting as one of the go-to channels for advertising your new killer content.
Share your content across a diverse range of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Keep in mind that every social network is different, and each may need a different approach.
For example, video content is suited to platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Graphics and images with snappy captions are more at home on social networks like Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.
The more you put your link bait out there, the more it becomes visible to a broader audience.
Focus on Paid Media
If you don't mind shelling out some dough, consider promoting your link bait via a paid media marketing strategy.
With around 7.5 million blog posts being published daily, capturing the attention of your target audience becomes increasingly difficult by the day. Paid media marketing is one of the most effective tools for promoting link bait blogs and driving traffic to them, essentially placing your content in front of your target users.
Many advertising platforms such as Google, Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, OutBrain, etc., empower you to promote your content to a very niche audience, attract qualified traffic and leads, and widen your customer base.
Facebook, one of the most popular paid content promotion platforms, can help your link bait reach a broader audience through its sophisticated targeting parameters. For example, you can format your ads to target users by demographics, interest, behavior, connections, and so on.
Engage in Outreach Campaigns
Engaging in an outreach campaign is the perfect alternative promotional tool if you don't have a big audience or a massive social media following.
Outreach (i.e., earned media) is the process of reaching out to industry peers or fellow content creators who may be legitimately interested in your content and informing them about your new blog posts, case studies, articles, etc. If people like your linkbait, there's a good chance that they'll link to it, or at the very least, share it.
If your goal is to build links, ensure that you're reaching out to users who have the ability to post your links. They don't need to have their own website or blog, but they should be at least active in social media or blogging for another website, or both. Also, try to contact people who have linked to your content before and inform them about your newest piece.
5 Examples of Effective Link Bait
The best way to learn about the impact of linkbait and understand why this type of content is so successful is by looking at some of the absolute best link bait examples online.
1. Search Engine Ranking Factors by Moz
Talk about tremendous value!
Moz's Search Engine Ranking Factors is a deep dive guide into the factors affecting a website's search engine rankings. With roughly 20 pages of content from 132 different contributors, this linkbait guide is a must-read for SEO experts and career marketers.
Its success is due to a combination of content depth, visual elements, the authority of the contributors, and the site where it's hosted (Moz is a household SEO name). Interestingly, Moz itself didn't promote the piece, but all the contributors did. Unfortunately, Moz doesn't seem to have any plans to update the study.
2. The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2021 by Hubspot
Earlier, I talked about how focusing on stats can make your content more link-worthy. The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2021 by Hubspot is a great link bait blog post rich in data and stats.
As a fellow content creator, I always find myself linking to this asset because it's a comprehensive collection of digital marketing stats - from SEO to content marketing to social media trends. Hubspot also periodically updates the post to ensure the accuracy and relevancy of the web page, turning it into long-form evergreen content.
It's hard to go wrong with presenting cold, hard facts and stats to back up your claims.
3. Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule
Content that provides utility makes for a powerful linkbait. If you have something that can help readers solve a particular problem, links will start pouring in.
The Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule is a highly beneficial tool for article writers and marketers looking to create strong topic headlines. With more than 29k links to it, the main reason why it's a linkbait success is that it provides a niche utility.
However, this type of linkbait method has a high barrier of entry since you need to hire a coder, designer, etc. But then again, with proper market research and activation, this type of link bait provides a significant boost to ROI.
4. 13 Reasons Your Brain Craves Infographics by NeoNam Studios
An infographic explaining why online users enjoy infographics so much? Sign me up!
Seriously, 13 Reasons Your Brain Craves Infographics by NeoNam Studios is a shining example of a very well-made infographic. With more than 11k links under its belt, numerous factors made this infographic a successful piece of link bait.
For starters, it's an eye-catching graphic that takes up the whole page. Plus, unlike most infographics, it's not just a static image but an interactive asset which was uncommon back then. Lastly, it's a well-researched piece with stats and references; it might as well be a guide on how to make an infographic.
5. Millennials and Homebuying: Myths and Reality by NerdWallet
Linkbait and controversy go hand in hand. When done right, going against the grain can set you up for success. Just take, for example, NerdWallet's controversial post, Millennials and Homebuying: Myths and Reality.
This particular post shot up in popularity for one reason: debunking something popular that the majority of us have believed in. NerdWallet debunked a prevalent myth that millennials aren't interested in home buying because they're only renting, living with their parents, and knee-deep in student debt.
NerdWallet's study has proven that it's not the case by using authoritative sources and giving a wealth of information. It's controversial because it challenged conventional wisdom, making people want to cover, share, and link to it.
As a result, this study has received links from popular news sites and industry domains, the likes of CNBC, Money.com, Bloomberg, SFGate, to name a few - that's plenty of juicy contextual links.
Supercharge Your Link Building Efforts With Link Bait
Link bait can turbocharge your link building strategies by putting you in a position to receive high-authority links at scale.
However, to achieve the best results, you need a combination of high-quality content, a well-defined audience, and a sound promotional plan. It doesn't matter if you regularly create hundreds of pieces of killer content; you're not getting any links if people don't know they exist.
Do you have any other ideas that can take link bait development to the next level? Or perhaps, you have some killer steps for promoting viral content? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!