Link Baiting: Which Hook Attracts the Right Fish?

31 Oct

It is, like Lisa Barone mentioned earlier, time to let your link baiting campaign grow up. This starts with focLet's try a different hookusing your link bait campaigns the right way, by using the right hook and by dropping your bait in the right place. And what type of hook to use and where to drop your bait, depends on the goals you’ve set.

This post will give some guidance in how to choose the right hook to reach those goals you’ve set.

Defining your goals
Just like with any other marketing activity, you’ll have to set yourself a clear goal first. Do you simply need lot a lot of traffic? Are you looking for lots of bookmarks? Or do you only want to improve your search engine rankings, no matter what strategy it takes? You’ll need to have a clear goal in mind. When you’re shooting with a shotgun while you’re being blindfolded, you will certainly hit something, but were you aiming for it?

There are numerous types of goals you can set for your self, but every possible goal will include one or more of the following factors:

  • Links (are you looking for lots of, or quality links)
  • Traffic (do you want lots of, or qualified visitors)
  • Buzz (are you only aiming at buzz/ branding)
  • Bookmarks (are you mainly looking for bookmarks)
  • Durability (do you want your campaign to have a long shelf life)

Choosing your hook
There are several types of hooks (or content creation approaches, or types of link magnets, or whatever you want to call them) you can choose from. The most important ones and the ones with the biggest potential are being mentioned below, together with the possible potential of each hook. This way it’s easier to see which hook can help you best in reaching your goals.

The news hook either needs commitment, or just dumb luck. If you really want to get that piece of valuable breaking news, you’ll probably need to do loads of research, networking and investigation first. And even then, you really have to be the first one that mentions it and let others know that you’ve found something new. Or, if you’re lucky, it just drops at your feet. But I wouldn’t count on the last thing to happen ;)
If you use this hook over and over again, you’ll be able to attract lots of loyal visitors, but this usually also needs dedication and lots of time to achieve.

– Be the first to find out about a PageRank update (no, really)
– Write something about B-52’s flying over the US (seriously)

Amount of traffic ****
Amount of links ***
Quality of traffic ***
Quality of links ****
Buzz potential ****
Bookmark potential **
Durability **

  Education & Information
Using the Education & Information hook is probably one of the best ways to attract targeted, quality links. If you educate people about a subject you know a lot about, that will lead to relevant and high quality links for sure. It’s also a great way to show what you’re capable of, and build yourself a solid brand this way. If you are able to update your piece of content once (or regularly), you’ll end up with a page that’s capable of generating links until eternity. The con of this hook, however is that it takes a lot of effort and time to build a good piece of information. But this is usually being outweighed by the amount of links.

– Aaron Wall’s 101 Ways to attract links (over 2K links)
– How to build a tin can waveguide WiFi antenna (no, I’m not kidding)

Amount of traffic ***
Amount of links ***
Quality of traffic ****
Quality of links ****
Buzz potential **
Bookmark potential ****
Durability ****

This type of hook is for fun purposes only, and fun (most often) doesn’t convert very well. A great way to get your brand out there, to create some buzz and to attract loads of visitors. In some cases, entertainment hooks can even lead to lots of links, but usually not to a lot of quality links. If you repeat this strategy, however, you might be able to build a powerful RSS subscriber base.

– Did someone say LOLCUTTS? (yes, including Matt)
Celebrity/ dog look alikes or weird place names (great stuff, Jane)

Amount of traffic ****
Amount of links ****
Quality of traffic ****
Quality of links ***
Buzz potential *****
Bookmark potential **
Durability **

Using the resource hook is like luring someones cursor to the bookmark button. Instant success. Resources include tools, top lists and link lists, because of their summarizing character. My favorite one in this category is Jim Boykin’s Neat-O tool (yes Jim, I was aiming at your Google alert. When can we use that sweet tool again? :) ) I have linked to this tool several times and continue to do this until I’ve found a better one (which I probably won’t).
Link lists are, besides the fact that these things are bookmark magnets as well, also a great way to attract loads of links. Simply include the website you want to get a link from in your list, and you may receive that link within a split second…

StumbleUpon, anyone? (links okay, but check out these stumbles)
– Have you Dug your PageRank today? (that’s 5K for a simple tool)

Amount of traffic ***
Amount of links ****
Quality of traffic ****
Quality of links ****
Buzz potential ***
Bookmark potential ****
Durability ****

This hook also includes rants, attacks and outings. Make sure you either have a very strong brand, or a disposable one if you’re really planning on using this strategy. You might get away with a rant, but publicly attacking someone can really backfire. Thank God that Google isn’t able to check the nature of a link (positive/ negative vote), so this strategy still works if attracting links is your only goal.
This is, however, one of the easiest types of link bait. Copy one of Calacanis’ articles and Ctrl+H SEO with Linux, Ron Paul, Playstation or something other that might offend a large group of people. Using a hidden whois is advisable, though.

SEO sucks! (quite a large amount, but how many are being nofollowed)?
I hate Linux (mainly because of the title only)

Amount of traffic ***
Amount of links ****
Quality of traffic ****
Quality of links ***
Buzz potential ****
Bookmark potential *
Durability **

  Eye Candy
This type of hook deserves a category of it’s own. Amazing images, sleek web site designs, or pictures of beautiful women (really, works like a charm!) are part of this hook category. If your website is attracting and appealing enough, you might get over that 1.5 pv/v barrier, but this hook usually attracts one-pageview-visitors only. If these visitors have seen your website more than once, however, you might be able to build a brand with this strategy only.

– Top 15 best SEO website designs (even without including the big ones)
– Check out these animal mating habits (that’s nearly 1K links to an animal sex page)

Amount of traffic ****
Amount of links ***
Quality of traffic ***
Quality of links **
Buzz potential ***
Bookmark potential ***
Durability ***

This year was supposed to be the year of the widget. If you check out the results of the most popular ones, you’ll notice that it actually is a pretty effective link baiting hook. However, it takes a lot of technical knowledge and development time, which apparently is quite a big barrier for most companies.

If you’re able to use this strategy successfully, you’ll not only build enormous amounts of links, but you’ll build your brand and attract direct, interested visitors at the same time as well.

– The blogrush widget (compare the web site’s age with this)
– Display your unborn child in 3D (that’s over 400K links!)

Amount of traffic ***
Amount of links *****
Quality of traffic ***
Quality of links ***
Buzz potential ***
Bookmark potential **
Durability ****

Please note that these ratings don’t work for everybody or for every campaign, nor are they a guarantee to success. Also keep in mind that it’s also possible to mix hooks up, for example by creating Information with the look and feel of Eye Candy.

So, if you want to have a successful link baiting campaign, set a goal first. If you’re mainly aiming at getting lots of bookmarks, using the humor hook probably isn’t the way to go. If you want to have a campaign that’s able to last forever, you probably shouldn’t focus on creating controversial content. Matching your goal with the right hook is key in the start of the process.

32 Responses to “Link Baiting: Which Hook Attracts the Right Fish?”

  1. Tim Nash October 31, 2007 at 5:39 pm #

    I’m not sure what to say I never considered Link condoms to be controversial, though its a great way to get some more interesting traffic :)

    Nice round up though perhaps debate should be one its amazing how presenting a balanced view can bring in as many comments as a controversial one sided rant.

  2. Tad Chef October 31, 2007 at 5:47 pm #

    First I have to congratulate you on this resource! It will end up in the popular pantheon for ages!

    As you have taken an article of mine as an example, I want to tell a little more about it. In fact you’re completely right that it was very targeted and a bait. You’re assessment as to the number and quality of links is not as accurate though. It must be the other way around. Not many links but very high quality!

    I targeted SEO companies for several reasons, but not the sheer number of links. I did not expect many. I got some very powerful authority links with this post thouh.

    Moreover it was the first post on Sphinn that got on the front page. Since then I am an accepted authority there. Before I was a nobody. Now Sphinn is the starting point of any social media “campaign” for myself. So it was the starting point of acceptance for my completely new SEO blog.

  3. Wiep October 31, 2007 at 6:36 pm #

    Tim; Your post wasn’t controversial, but that was a great place to fit in a link to your post. And you’re right, debate actually would be an interesting hook.

    Tad; Yeah, you actually managed to attract some high quality links. In your case, you managed to build a piece of really targeted content, which helped the process a lot. Unfortunately, not everybody will be that successful with an Eye Candy post. I guess your success story is one of those exceptions ;)

  4. Steven Snell November 1, 2007 at 12:26 am #

    Some great examples here. Link bait definitely requires some planning and thought. The rewards are obviously worth the time.

  5. Megan November 4, 2007 at 11:26 am #

    Great article on Link baiting. Wonderful points made. I have seen the controversial baiting used with great success and then with some bad publicity. There was a post that came out scum bag marketers. For marketers that went up against the competition. Some were wonderful people I knew. That simply had in there website this is not the competition “and company name”. However this controversial website went all over the internet slamming their intergrity. Since the beginning of time controversy increased traffic. I think the website scum bag marketers is getting reconized but I seriously wonder if people can take direct slams well from the writer. May be a seriously good experiement to see if this controversy will really bring exposure. Be careful when using this it may not get the desired results if done to harshly


  6. Wiep November 6, 2007 at 9:47 am #

    Megan; thanks for your comment. The controversial hook is a very challenging one indeed. While it’s tricky to use it, you can get lots of attention if you manage to do this properly.

  7. jack August 2, 2008 at 5:29 am #

    Search engine encourage webmasters to optimized their site with users in mind and make it easy for the search engine spider or crawler. This means ensuring content is targeted towards users and the site is technically optimizes for the search engine.

  8. RedBalloon October 30, 2008 at 12:32 am #

    Great resource – thanks so much for sharing. It can be overwhelming when you’re new to the link baiting game. But whatever path you choose, it’s clear that there needs to be true value in whatever it is being created. There may be all good intentions building a razzle dazzle widget, but without an idea that resonates with the right hook, it will have little value as link bait and unfortunately the only person who may value it is the developer who built it. ;-)

  9. Rockstar January 7, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    Some great examples here. Link bait definitely requires some planning and thought. The rewards are obviously worth the time.

  10. Fish House January 15, 2009 at 9:52 pm #

    Good tips to help build links. These are all great ways to start and enhance link building. Thanks for sharing.

  11. callie May 15, 2009 at 3:56 am #

    one of the best resources for link baiting I have seen! You wrote this in a very amusing way. Usually my short attention span cannot handle the pressure or so much text.

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