Linkbaiting, the Art of Mass Link Building

Link building is a core value of SEO. The art of linkbaiting is a key tactic for harvesting lasting value from social media activity by generating relevant high quality links with remarkable content. This series of presenters offered practical and priceless real-world tips and anecdotes for linkbaiting success.

Rebecca Kelley, Search Marketing Consultant at SEOmoz, spoke about the benefits of “healthy and vigorous master-baiting links and visibility.” Successful link bait creates a domino effect which results in a “ton” of links – links are votes – and the more relevant Google sees your site the higher your keywords rank.

One page can strengthen your entire domain. It also can get your site some traffic stickiness in ripples over time. Rebecca recommends doing your homework by researching your sector’s link worthiness in sites like Digg and current net trends in sites like Technorati, eBay pulse, IQ, Lycos Top50, AOL Search Hot Searches, Flickr, Yahoo Buzz, GoogleTrends and Explore/Tags.

“Don’t neglect your industry.” Seek links from related blogs and sites to gain “votes” from sites that have relevance, authority, and better stickiness. Check out Google Blog Search and micro sites like Sphinn as part of the research process.

“Good ol’ fashioned brainstorming works too.” Ask “what would I find interesting”, ask coworkers and friends, and write everything down. She used the expression “verbal diarrhea” to describe the link-baiting brainstorming process.

Be Careful About Going Negative.
It’s important to be aware of negative linkbait cons. “Are you brave or just being an asshole; will this affect your brand; do the ends justify the means?” In order to receive ongoing value from linkbait, look before you leap by doing some pre-launch PR – and keep an eye on your traffic.

Don’t forget that linkbait is not always successful nor does it always target your typical audience. Linkbait isn’t necessarily a solution but it is a “kick ass strategy.” It’s “kind of like gambling”. You always have to be willing to go out there and try it again.

Brent Csutoras is a self described “avid social media junky” who “does it all day long”. He overviewed basic linkbait techniques in the context of digg which he sees as exponentially valuable.Top 10 lists are still extremely effective including negative lists. You want to make sure you mix it up by using different numbers and going negative (“13 Things to Never say to Police Officer”). How-to baits should offer value by being helpful and easy to read (“How Sleep Works”).

Current events are an outstanding link-bait method for success but you have to act fast, do your research, and be accurate. You have 15 to 30 minutes max to get it posted. Find ways to add value and perspective to current events. You can’t put false information out there to succeed.

Offbeat or extreme linkbait like “biggest, amazing, smallest, and longest” often wins. (“Woman Finds Boyfriends Porn Stash-KILLS HIM” and “Woman had bullet in head for 64 years”) can be very successful though clients could be wary. It’s very important not to damage your brand or violate a site’s TOS.

Crafting Social Linkbait
First and foremost is due diligence and research. Study RSS feeds, search engines, communities. Search in communities to find out what has been successful in the past. Title and descriptions come next. Be simple, strong, focused, capitalize and use numeric numbers. Craft your title and description to tell the whole story by “giving the juice up front”: (“Secret Apartment in Mall Parking Garage Discovered”). Focus on what the true story is – which has viral potential – and highlight that.

Interact and share by contacting your buddies and interacting in the comments threads. Up-vote comments because Digg is a “bandwagon” community. Send submissions to your friends in the provided mechanisms. Also share in your “real” networks by hitting up your friends by AIM or email and offer the same services back.

Social Media Tips
Relate to the community, use images, limit ads to Digg referrals, offer a cut and paste summary for linking. Avoid spelling errors, jargon mistakes, bad information, and duplicate content. Check what worked before, be link worthy, and submit at the right time. Do not submit in evenings, weekends, or holidays. The highest percentage for success at the highest usage time…when people are at work. That’s when there is the highest chance of success. Digg users dislike online poker subjects, self-promotion, and announcement pages.

Can your server handle 500 hits per second?
The Digg effect is not something to be trifled with so make sure you have caching enabled and test it ahead of time. Cameron shared that he has been kicked off of six different servers. Test and retest to make sure you’re ready.

“A lot of people miss out on what social media is.” You can’t go be an online marketing-minded person when you’re doing social media.” Treat it like a real social event. Lurk, get to know people, share, engage and THEN exploit. It’s “social” media and you need to be social.

Cameron Olthuis, CEO, Factive Media was the final speaker.

Cameron stressed the need to have the website ready. Like the other speakers he shared anecdotes of horribly broken servers which resulted in missed opportunities for links. Remarkable content on your website is king. Informational, controversial, humorous, news, and tools are common successful linkbait topics.

Linkbaiting is massive link building. Traffic, branding your site as “expert”, people who bookmark your site on other social media sites, growing an enhanced link profile, and media publicity are the key benefits.

Look for additional SMX coverage @ Search Engine Land, and SEORoundTable, and Search Engine Journal.

[NOTE: This is one of a series of posts Marty is blogging live from SMX Social Media New York. They are packed with information and taken on-the-fly and include short comments and quick notes instead of more thorough descriptions. Watch for follow-on posts that expand on these ideas.]

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