Link bait is the practice of creating useful or compelling content that will lure links naturally to a website. It’s fun, it’s trendy, and it can produce very big search-engine-optimization results.
Contrary to most interactive marketing goals, link bait’s primary goal is increasing the quantity of external links rather than visits and sales. These links will improve the site’s search-engine rankings and result in increased organic search visits and sales over time. Any direct click through visits or sales driven by the link bait are icing on the cake. And the percentage of visitors that convert to linkers depends on how compelling the audience finds the link bait.
Link baiting is an indirect form of building links. Some percentage of visitors will feel compelled to link to the bait from their own website. If the content is the link bait and the link is what you hope to the catch, what are the hooks?
Resource Link Bait
A resource is truly useful content or tools that visitors link to for their own future use as well as their readers’ benefit. Successful resources tend to incorporate at least one visual, a video, or some form of interactivity. Resources tend to attract target customers that can convert to traffic and sales as well as links, and tend to strengthen brand recognition. However, creating a great resource requires more research, audience analysis, planning and development than simple hooks.
Widgets as Link Bait
Widgets are one of the hottest resource types, because they have a “cool factor.” And, when they provide eye candy and/or value, bloggers love to add them to their navigation channels. Widgets made for bloggers’ use can contain an HTML wrapper with a crawlable link back to the ecommerce site and optimized anchor text. For example, geo-reviews site Yelp offers an excellent widget for bloggers that capitalizes on a user’s inherent desire to share their reviews with others.
Incentive Link Bait
In link bait terms, incentives are a promise to deliver something special beyond the content on the page, typically in exchange for personal information or promotion of some type. Contests, secret sales, promotional offers, scholarships and awards all work as incentives. The chance of winning something (even something very small) is typically enough to entice a blogger or social network user to link or spread the word for you. For example, household products service Alice.com works small contests and promotions brilliantly via its blog and social profiles. Small campaigns like these can be quickly and easily thrown together or repackaged from other marketing channels.
Humor Link Bait
People love to laugh and make others laugh. This hook is deceptively simple, just be funny or give others a forum in which to be funny on your site. Keep in mind, however, that humor varies widely with personal tastes. In addition, management, legal and other internal teams may find humor undignified or too risky for an ecommerce site or a company’s brand.
News Link Bait
News is another easy link bait strategy. It simply refers to being the first to report on breaking topics with expert commentary. For ecommerce sites, this hook could take advantage of a senior executive’s ties into the industry and desire to tell others about the latest trends in a blog format. The news hook tends to attract other industry participants rather than customers, however, so direct click-through traffic and sales will likely be lower with this hook than others. The news hook also requires commitment and consistency to develop a reputation for being the go-to source for news on a topic.
Debate and Attack Link Bait
Similar to a political debate, the debate hook offers respectful discussion of the pros and cons around an issue. An attack hook offers the same opinions without the respectful tone or balanced viewpoint of the debate hook. The appeal of these hooks lies in the strength of the response they tend to generate in the audience. The stronger the agreement or disagreement each individual visitor feels, the more links this hook is likely to generate.
Few ecommerce sites are likely to risk tarnishing their brand with the attack hook, as effective as it can be from a pure link-building standpoint. Even the debate hook may feel too risky for management, legal and other internal teams. But, for those companies that do back an ideology strongly, this hook can be very effective.
Baiting the Hook and Casting the Line
Choose the hook most consistent with your site’s goals, branding, and business processes. Brainstorm link bait campaign ideas, and develop the best with as much visual or interactive appeal as possible.
Link bait, like all content, requires promotion to meet its goals. Target link bait promotion to the areas most likely to convert to links, such as:
Blogging. Promote the link bait on your company’s own blog, and network with other topically relevant sites. The blog can specialize in humor or contests and sales, or can be focused on the industry your site sells in.
Social Networks. Social networking sites can be excellent promotional vehicles. Consider Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, YouTube, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Yahoo! Answers and others, depending on the targeted demographic.
Other Online and Offline Media. Be sure to also include link bait on the ecommerce site itself, as well as in press relations, email marketing, pay-per-click ad campaigns, and other forms of advertising.