Link Baiting: Do you control the link flow or do you 301 it all?

29 Nov

Yesterday, when I was doing some research on Digg, I spotted a page that I had seen before and wanted to check it out once more. This page in question managed to get to the front page about three months ago, but when I tried to visit it today through Digg, it wouldn’t load anymore. It was 301’ed.
After digging in a bit deeper, I noticed that this website made it to the front page five times. Four of these submitted pages disappeared and were replaced by a 301 to heavily optimized pages on the same domain. Three out of five pages were submitted by the same top Digg user, who had submitted the same pages to Reddit as well.

I used to have the opinion that you can either try to redirect as much link bait strength to your most important pages by designing your page optimally (or changing it later), or you can try to catch all strength by 301ing the link bait page to one of your important pages. This example completely changed my mind.

Using a 301 on a page that has been generating links in the past is -in my opinion- not the way to go (and can even be dangerous) because:

  • It’s not user friendly. Visitors that are looking for specific content and find something that doesn’t correlate with the link that directed them to your website, will be disappointed.
  • You’re deleting great pieces of content. Why would you remove stuff that made it to the front page of Digg, Reddit or any other social media website?
  • You prevent the page from attracting even more links in the future. Good content will remain to attract links in the future as well. Content that is 301’ed to a heavily optimized page probably won’t.
  • You get a wrong incoming anchor text/ page content relationship. Especially when your link bait page isn’t 100% related to the products you sell, your anchor text/ page content relationship will be completely off.
  • This can even backfire in terms of bad publicity (gaming the system). What if a few Diggers found out that your website is 301ing several posts that made it to “their” front page. Can you imagine what that might cause?
  • You might lose that top Digger. I don’t know how this website managed to let the same top Digger submit several of their posts, but if his Digg reputation is in danger, he probably will refrain himself from submitting more stories.

And the reasons mentioned above aren’t even all reasons. For example, imagine what Google would do if more and more people would use this strategy. Do you think they will remain to handle 301s exactly the same way they do today?

So what can you do to let as much link strength and link relevance flow to the most important pages on your website?

  • Make sure to get a relevant link bait title.
  • Use in-content links to other important pages on your website (or add these links after the first link bump is over)
  • Nofollow pages that aren’t that important, or remove some navigational links on your link bait page
  • Provide an RSS feed in your “link bait section”. People who liked your link bait might like (and link to) your future campaigns as well.

Of course, there are some exceptions (off-domain 301s, for example). In some cases it might be better to 301 a link bait page, but I don’t think this is the way to go in most cases. Especially in this case, where it were blog posts and an html page that got redirected, I believe that other solutions might have been better. I can imagine that you don’t share the same opinion (or perhaps you do), so my question is:

do you use 301 redirects on your link bait pages? Why, or why not?

4 Responses to “Link Baiting: Do you control the link flow or do you 301 it all?”

  1. Patrick Altoft November 29, 2007 at 9:48 am #

    Sometimes digg bans sites and if you want to get a banned site dugg the only way is to set up a dummy url and 301 it afterwards.

  2. Wiep November 29, 2007 at 3:57 pm #

    In that case, I completely agree with you Patrick ;)
    In the example I mentioned in this post, however, it was an on-site 301. From page to domainxyz/optimized.html.
    Should have mentioned this…

  3. Shari Thurow December 1, 2007 at 1:04 am #

    Hi there-

    It was a great relief to read this article, as I wrote about this topic in July in Search Engine Land:

    Seriously, SEO professionals think they understand the user experience, and then they go gonzo with 301 redirects.

    Thanks for the article. I can refer to it now that there is an objective 3rd party who came to the same conclusion.

  4. Yura December 11, 2008 at 7:14 am #

    Actually, I had recommended 301ing all the content, too, once, only to realize the mistakes you have outlined. It is truly gruesome user experience and bad marketing, too.

    One thing one might do is to add relevant links not only from the body of the post, but also from the sidebar to other linkbaits. Though such links get low traffic (1-3%), you might get loyal visitors and links out of it (untested, though). What do you think about this?