I first heard of the term "link bait" from Aaron Wall at SEO Book when he mentioned it back in a post on his SEO blog back in August of 2005. He says in his post that if "you are in a field that can't build links naturally create linkbait". What really is link bait? It's something on your web site that causes someone to link to you. Aaron gives some examples in his post, but a classic example of link bait would be the Subservient Chicken web site by Burger King. So many people ended up talking about that web site that they linked to it—it currently enjoys about 29,300 links according to Yahoo!, and ranks number one on Google for the word chicken. By creating something on your web site that's funny, controversial, informative, or creative, it will gain natural links—which is the key to top search engine rankings.
You don't have to be a big brand or have a lot of money to create link bait. Many people have created link bait on purpose—and many have created link bait without even knowing it. It doesn't have to cost that much to create something that people will link to. For example, it's sometimes difficult—if not impossible—to get your competitors to link to you. But, consider this—take, for example, the case of Andrew. He works for a high tech company with a lot of competition. Andrew recently took his digital camera to an industry convention where he took photos of many of the attendees, the booths, and some of the after-hours events. He posted the photos on his web site after the convention, sent out a few emails to his colleagues and other industry insiders he met at the convention. Before he knew it, most of Andrew's competitors were linking to his web site and the photos he took.
One way to create link bait is to get ranked well for phrases that will become popular in the future. As I sit here writing this article, the term "link bait" might be a good target if you're in the search engine marketing industry. By searching Google for the following: allintitle:"link bait" you can determine about how many web pages on the internet are targeting that search phrase. Right now, as I write this, Google returns 25 results. Since that's not very many, writing content about link bait would be a good thing for your web site. By informing the search engine marketing industry about link bait—and because the term is new, there's a chance that others will search for it as it becomes a more popular phrase. As that phrase becomes more popular, others will need something to link to—and by ranking well for that phrase there's a good chance that your web page about link bait will get links from other web sites. This is a phenomenon that I've been following since 1996 when I created my first "link bait" type of web site. If you're a search term innovator, people will link to you—and links from other web sites mean better search engine rankings.
One of my 'pet projects' over the years (since I started doing search engine optimization in 1996) has been to follow the news—and if there's a topic that I am passionate about I usually create a web page or a web site about the subject within minutes of the 'breaking news'. In the cases where I have a web site about a particular topic and there's breaking news about that subject, I immediately post it on my web site. Since I'm one of the first to have information about that subject, I end up ranking well fairly quickly—sometimes within 24 hours. Other people follow suit and post information on their web sites about that topic—but since my site is already ranking well for that search phrase, they end up linking to me. What they don't realize is that they've fallen for my "link bait" which catches them—they're actually helping me by linking to me and I end up ranking well in the search engines for a very long time, sometimes even many years. How can you take advantage of this? If there's news in your industry, be the first to post it on your web site (or add a new page to your site). Be the first to get it to show up in the search engines and other people will link to it naturally.
Create an entirely new web site on a new topic. The new site could be funny, controversial, or just informative. Take, for example, Paul English's IVR Cheat Sheet that he recently created (http://paulenglish.com/ivr/). Mr. English is now enjoying thousands of links to his web site because he created a web page that's helpful to all of us. Not only that, because of his cheat sheet that he's posted on his site, companies are now seeing a backlash according to an article posted on Yahoo! (http://news.yahoo.com/s/nf/20060118/tc_nf/40949). "Companies that rely on automated call centers have been weathering a consumer backlash in recent weeks…" reports the article. I don't have access to the number of visits to Mr. English's web site, but I would suspect that he's getting a lot of traffic based on all the high-quality links that he has—and I would suspect that he hasn't requested any of them.
Although the term "link bait" is fairly new, the entire concept of link bait has been around as long as the internet itself. People have been creating controversial, funny, and informative web sites and web site content that others naturally link to. And with the ever-increasing popularity of blogs nowadays, the bloggers need something to link to and talk about—why not create some link bait on your web site so it too, can enjoy better search engine rankings—just reel them in.
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Bill Hartzer currently runs a Strategic Online Marketing Consultancy that includes services such as search engine optimization, social media marketing, and online reputation management.
Bill Hartzer formerly managed the Search Engine Marketing division of Vizion Interactive and MarketNet, leading interactive marketing and website design firms in the Dallas, Texas area.
Hartzer is a successful writer, blogger, search engine marketing, and social media marketing expert. During the past fifteen years, some of his many accomplishments include: Search Engine Marketing Manager, Vizion Interactive, Search Engine Marketing Manager, MarketNet, Search Engine Optimization Strategist, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Webmaster, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Founder, Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association, Owner/Author, Corporate Web Site Marketing, Administrator, Search Engine Forums, Frequent Speaker, Search Engine Strategies Conferences, Frequent Speaker, WebmasterWorld's PubCon Search Engine and Internet Marketing Conference.
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