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15 linkbait techniques for SEO and social media  Linkbaiting is sometimes perceived in a negative light, perhaps because some linkbaiting techniques intentionally polarise opinion. But mainly linkbait is simply a case of creating great content. Hardly controversial.

At Econsultancy we try to create compelling content in order to drive traffic, recommendations and links.

Broadly speaking, the more links you attract, the higher your Google positions are going to be, though nowadays there’s a little bit more to linkbait than SEO.

Back in the day people would blog about your article, whereas today they may choose to share the link on Twitter. And that's not quite the same thing... 

The social media factor

The rise of social platforms means that your linkbait is more powerful than ever, though it works slightly differently. When this article hits Twitter it will benefit from the network effect as people (hopefully) retweet it. But if this article is retweeted 500 times then I’m effectively getting a lot of links from the same domain (twitter.com), which isn’t as powerful as having 500 individual bloggers link to this page from their own blogs. 

The ideal scenario is that this awareness spreads beyond the virtual walls of Twitter onto other social media sites and blogs, thus attracting new links from other domains. To do that you need to build up your network of followers, know your audience, and write specifically for them.

So what kind of linkbait techniques can you use to drive retweets on Twitter, shares on Facebook, and links from blogs and other sites?

Here are 15 linkbaiting tactics that can work very well indeed…

1. Lists

People cannot get enough of the easy-to-digest, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin list format. Lists often fall into one of two camps: educational or amusing. As such they’re perfect linkbait fodder. 

2. Create an infographic

Like lists, the world cannot get enough of infographics. We regularly aggregate infographics into list-based posts… the best of both worlds!

3. Have an argument

Hunt around for a target. Lock on. Attack! Make sure you wear a thick coat.

4. Say something controversial or stupid

We have established a few rules for the Econsultancy blog over the years. One is: “Never link to John Dvorak”. Dvorak is a veteran tech journalist who regularly posts nonsense about SEO, thereby attracting links and scorn from the outraged SEO community. Intentional linkbait or not, it works, as word spreads. We’re now wise to it…

5. Be a contrarian

This isn’t the same thing as having an argument or saying something controversial. It is about taking a position that might be seen as counterintuitive, or against the grain, or plain ridiculous. I rather like people who go against the grain, whether I agree with them or not. Like Perry Farrell says, “ain’t no right, ain’t no wrong”.

6. Build tools

Oh boy, does the world love a useful tool. Keep your eyes on this space folks!

7. Launch a competition

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Competitions can create lots of interest, and tons of links. Consider the Best Job In The World competition. It attracted tons of links, a vast amount of earned media (online and offline), 36,000 applicants and an estimated $100m in tourism.

8. Get an exclusive

It goes without saying that being first to a story can drive lots of links. Don’t think of exclusives in purely ‘news’ terms. 

9. Release a whitepaper

Thought leadership works. Informative whitepapers can spread around the network like wildfire, and bloggers will often write about them. 

10. Be helpful 

The Econsultancy business is pretty much entirely based on helping people, via practical and time-saving research, training, events and consulting. Educational blog posts help us raise awareness of what we do more broadly as a business, and they attract lots of links.

11. Amuse and entertain

Creating compelling content that brightens up somebody’s day is always a good idea. 

12. Involve the crowd

Crowdsourcing content automatically provides you with a bunch of people who has some kind of vested interest in your article / research / content. As such they’ll be more likely to make a noise about it, as and when you publish.

13. Say something bad about Apple

Honestly, it never fails. 

14. Write killer headlines

The first step to creating linkbait is thinking about the headline, not least because you want people to use your headline text in order to link to you. If you're doing the linkbait thing properly you should have a Google goal in mind. I’m going after ‘linkbait techniques’ here, as we’re not on the first five pages of Google for that term. Let’s see how I get on!

15. Do something new 

Harder than it sounds, I know. We live in a world of me-too. Being original is more difficult than ever. I mean, there are hundreds of linkbait articles out there already, but I bet none of them have ever signed off with a Link Wray video… 

Good luck, baiters!

Chris Lake

Published 23 July, 2010 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

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Anonymous

Great linkbait information in a linkbait friendly format. Exactly the kind of things people will link to!

about 6 years ago

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jwmwright

Well you're now 5th on Google for 'linkbait techniques' so good technique! It also helps that the website is one of the most followed for blog content :)

about 6 years ago

Andrew Lloyd Gordon

Andrew Lloyd Gordon, Digital Marketing Expert, Speaker and Trainer at New Terrain Limited

Great article. Really interesting to think about this and what it means to generate 'linkbait'. 

But do you think that a problems is that, like much else in digital marketing, that once people realise what they should be doing it becomes ever harder to achieve the same level of impact as before? 

Or, to put it another way, if everyone follows the 'Linkbait Formula' then the web starts to fill up with ever more 'cookie cutter' linkbait? Which means, by default, each piece of linkbait generates fewer, erm...links?

As you point out in your piece, a new problem is that what we can end up getting is not good quality links but social media chatter? Still useful but not, perhaps, as useful in the longer term (from an SEO perspective).

What do you think?

about 6 years ago

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Bangalow Accommodation

Really interesting article. I like that you have linked (sorry about the pun) SEO and Social Media. We are new to Social Media and I guess over time, more exposure on SM can only help with SEO. Gone are the days of only SEO, both SEO and SM go hand in hand now.

about 6 years ago

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Keir Harness

Hi Chris, thanks for the discussion on link baiting. Working a series of Wordpress Blogs currently. lots of seemingly automated comments and links are posted. Mostly these are not published. 

Do you haqve an opinion on allowing some of these comments to show activity on a blog?

about 6 years ago

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Teena

Great article and I say really proven advice, because I myself get hooked in this kind of strategies...list, tools, killer headlines, something new...like yours, now I have to tweet it..thanks.

about 6 years ago

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Online Auctions

The days of doing SEO alone used to be powerful in getting good rankings and traffic. However, about 3 years ago that all changed when Facebook opened up to the whole world.

Great article on the power of SEO and SM in getting website rankings and authority on the Web.

about 6 years ago

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Mike

A good article and some food for thought.  Nice to see you being contrary with the Jane's Addiction lyrics!

about 6 years ago

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Gabriel

Nice one.

Lets bait :D

about 6 years ago

Claire Thatcher

Claire Thatcher, Marketing Consultant at Loud & Clear Marketing

You're now third :0) 

about 6 years ago

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Raza

Promoting link bait isn't as easy as it seems. We created a truly cool app (at least we think so) that deals with 2 things people love: weight loss/fitness and coffee. We think it could go viral. We've gotten good links from big sites like AllTop and About.com, but we haven't seen the viral spread that we expected. I mean the tool deals with 2 things people are crazy about: coffee and their body image. Still sending personalized emails to relevant linkers/bloggers, but I would have expected this to grow a bit faster than it has. What gives? PS Is there a way to subscribe to comments here?

about 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Keir - spam comments in all forms are hateful things. They waste time and do nothing for a blog, unless you consider a brief spam-based refreshing of your page to be a good thing for Google (frequency of updates being some kind of ranking factor).

Ultimately I don't think they have any merit whatsoever.

@Raza - creating an app as linkbait is a great idea. As to the promotion challenges, you sound as if you're doing the right thing but one issue is blogger email overload.

I run a popular celebrity blog and receive 200-300 emails every day, with around two thirds being press releases (news, articles, virals, games, apps, trailers, etc). So there's no question that it can be tough to get on the radar. I won't pretend that I read everything I receive (more like 20%, tops).

Try engaging with people via other channels (Twitter, Facebook), being a more active / visible member of their network, and remember to build a relationship, and preferably a mutually beneficial one (otherwise you're looking for all the favours, and that doesn't do much for the blogger).

Good luck.

about 6 years ago

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Frank Strong

#4 and #13 -- "Say something controversial or stupid" and "Say something bad about Apple" respectively seen to go well together. I'd post a link to the aforementioned published on 7/13/10 but that would risk violating your rule; at current count: 180 Diggs, 135 ReTweets and 15 Likes. Your point is well made!

about 6 years ago

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Alexei Lee

Great article - as you say it's always about content...just wish you wouldn't call it 'linkbait' - takes all the fun out of things!

Just to further what Andrew said above - it doesn't really matter how you package it, whether you generate 1 link or 1000 links there needs to be something interesting there in the first place for it to be valuable to anyone.

about 6 years ago

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paul martin

#i   As they say in the US check the bottom line and you have said that the last thing you want to do is say something new - is that not the priority - who cares

#ii   Have you tried iwl.me

about 6 years ago

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Andrew Nattan

Am I a minority of one when I say that I despise the word "infographic"? Linkbait or not, it's a horrible word.

about 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Andrew - no you're not. As our head of research says: "Aren't infographics just graphics?"

about 6 years ago

Claire Thatcher

Claire Thatcher, Marketing Consultant at Loud & Clear Marketing

... I have to say I agree too!

about 6 years ago

Claire Thatcher

Claire Thatcher, Marketing Consultant at Loud & Clear Marketing

... I have to say I agree too!

about 6 years ago

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Ryan Tracey

I do Tactic #4 quite well - the second half.

almost 6 years ago

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Arturas Kvederis

Thanks for a list of great tips, when you read it, it sounds so easy :), but in the real world it is very challenging to build up an effective link building strategy that actually works, everyone knows that they need to do it, most are doing it, but few succeed at it. 

almost 6 years ago

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Andrew Marshall, SEM Manager at s1

I'm sure this list is great for blogs and marketing sites like this but a lot of it is irrelevant for retailers (the people who actually pay money to come to econsultancy events). Retailers can't really do 3,4,6,8,9 and 13, well, they can but to a much more limited amount.

almost 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Andrew - Not all of the above will be relevant to all companies but most should work. It all depends on your brand, your priorities, and how much effort you put into content creation / blogging / social media.

3 + 4) Ryanair is very good at being controversial and having arguments. I'm not saying that you should copy them (please don't), or that it is right for your brand, but it definitely generates PR, links and WOM. 

6) I'm sure there are plenty of tools that you could create for shoppers and shoe lovers. Do you have an iPhone app as yet? Done anything with augmented reality? 

8) Can you not create exclusive content and events? I'd be all over that if I was in your shoes. 

9) Whitepapers aren't relevant for Schuh, but consumer surveys and research often underpin press releases. Journalists and bloggers love nothing more than spinning facts and figures. 

13) Tricky.

almost 6 years ago

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buyer beware

A word of caution. Once the general reader not working in marketing has the suspicion that content is in order to acquire links which are somehow connected with gaming Google, they stop trusting that content altogether. Eventually they stop trusting Google. I read an article recently about a controversial so called flash sale that was very critical of the company running the flash sale. I also read tweets between the publisher and several of the companies featured which were all about 'thanks for the link' not thanks for the article. Even the company that was the butt of criticsm was envied for the link by people writing Facebook status updates on its page. All the behind the scenes chatter was about who got links and who didn't. it seemed the actual story was beside the point. I wonder if this is how people in online marketing are reading articles, not actually reading them for their meaning but just to see who has links. Link bait is to Google what PR is to editorial. They both end up killing the thing they set out to exploit.

almost 6 years ago

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Gerard

I want to detail some things. We must distinguish two types of posts: news and opinion. News must be objective, without killer headlines, just real headlines and 1 way to say the news. Opionion posts must be subjective, your opinion about something is the most important in this post, so in this case you don't need exclusive news, you need here the killer headline!

Well, we know that is easier to write news, or an exclusive. We only need the information and write the new with order: from most important to least. You need to be rigorous and have based information. So you must be very objective.

For an opinion post you must be you, you must be subjective (sorry for the redundancy). But the people who read you know that you are only a writer, with an opinion, with subjectivity, so you need to attract the reader. In fact, the first thing you need is the killer headline; in that case! The reader takes 4 seconds or so to read other post. So be charming, write an attractive headline. And remember that here the ideas have no order, but the most important idea is the last idea: let the reader ponders.

I love value-added information!

Sorry for my English, I hope you follow me and twitter.

Regards,
Gerard

almost 6 years ago

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Gerard

Oh, and another thing: Please, don't make paragraphs too long. 100 words is enough. Paragraphs must be easy to read. Don't make sentences with more than 25 words. You can use the Robert Gunning Formula tu calculate the readibility of a text ("The Technique of Clear Writing," rev. ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1973).

Regards.

almost 6 years ago

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Courtney Ramirez

This was a great article - and it got even better when you referenced Perry Farrell. Kudos to you sir!

I hate the word infographic too - but I eat them up with a spoon. Go figure.

almost 6 years ago

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PranavJosem

i really like 5 technique

over 5 years ago

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Andrew Taran

Chris, great list!

In some cases serious approach is less effective than easy one. Especially when getting engaged into social sphere like seo-communities and etc.

Yet, infographics is suitable not for all - works well for reading audience, but fails with 'scanning' visitors that are used to receive ideas from the first glance

about 5 years ago

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