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May 22, 2012

Link Bait: A Synonym for Stellar Content from Infographics to Articles

As with most SEO practices, link bait can be viewed in two very different lights depending on how it is employed. I tend to agree with Google’s Matt Cutts who described it as, “something interesting enough to catch people’s attention, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”

Even so, the name itself has negative connotations since bait is commonly used to lure people in and surprise them with an unexpected, and often unpleasant, result. If you can leave those preconceptions behind and operate in good faith, however, it can become an integral part of your white hat SEO strategy.

The truth is any type of content can be considered link bait if it is compelling. An engaging blog post or video that captures the right people’s attention can go viral and entice others to click on through to your site. While we all understand that creating excellent content is the key to online success, it is a broad directive that is far more difficult to implement than it is to understand. If you are purposefully trying to increase links (and who isn’t), there are some principles and practices that can guide your efforts and encourage these behaviors. Articulating them in more concrete terms will help you transform the abstract into action.

Link bait entertains, informs, or incites. When it is done really well, it may even accomplish all three. It can take the form of text, graphics, or multimedia. Again, some of the more ambitious and effective attempts integrate all three.

It is not smart, however, to try to run before you walk. First, you must formulate a simple concept you want to communicate. As you explore how to most effectively share your ideas, start small and then introduce additional layers. By the end of your process, you may find that you want to discard several elements, perhaps even your original one.

Remember that the foundation of any great content is thoughtfulness and the ability to recognize what serves your goals best. Creativity is not something that can be taught, but it can be cultivated. Draw from your strengths and amazing things will follow. All of that said, here are five of the most popular forms of link bait. If you can execute them with flair, they will take on a life of their own.

1. Videos

Last year’s Pew Research study indicated that 71% of adult users have visited a video sharing site and one in four Americans watches an online video every day.

It is safe to surmise that number has only grown since that study was released this past summer. One only needs to look at the initial success of the Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video to understand how powerful multimedia content can be. It is fair to say that the intention of that video was both to inform and incite people to act by making contributions and increasing awareness. It accomplished this, but it also was controversial because some people took issue with the information presented and Invisible Children itself. While the controversy was not good for the cause, it increased the video’s visibility and linkability.

Similarly, think of all the cute, clever, and funny videos that have penetrated our collective consciousness. While not every video will reach the same infamy as Keyboard Cat or inspire memes like “Shit White Girls Say,” most have the potential to be powerful link bait. If your video can evoke strong emotions, such as eliciting laughter or tears, compel people to think and, most importantly, to share your content, it will have done its job.

2. Infographics

The best infographics are brimming with information and are visually appealing. The most important thing is that your information is accurate and comprehensive. Once your primary material is compiled, you will need to present it in a visually compelling way.

Some people assume that the tone of an infographic must be serious and relatively dry, but nothing could be further from the truth. As long as you actually have the facts, you can articulate them in your own voice which, at times, could be funny, sarcastic or full of personality. Also, keep in mind that while an infographic usually is intended to be a resource, sometimes they are used to make a point in an entertaining and editorial fashion.

3. News, Tips, Studies, and Interviews

Original reporting seems to be a dying art, but that is what makes it so valuable. Sure, Pulitzer Prize winning sites like The Huffington Post tend to aggregate and opine about the day’s news and current events, but if you can score a fascinating interview, receive a fascinating tip, compile your own study, or pursue your own news stories, you will have people linking back to you all over the place.

While unique content that no one else has is preferable, you can still aggregate and editorialize about other people’s content. In fact, you undoubtedly will have to do so to bolster your own content. After all, original reporting is time consuming and often requires some degree of luck.

When you are supplementing your original reporting by commenting on the work of others, be sure to attribute and link back to your sources, provide a distinct perspective, and, if possible, build upon what is already there by folding in additional information. If you are not initiating the conversation, you want to be adding to it in a respectful, ethical, and interesting manner.

4. Controversial or Contrary Content

This is incredibly tricky, and while it may operate very successfully as link bait, it should be implemented sparingly and thoughtfully. There is nothing wrong with providing an opposing perspective or promoting a controversial stance, but be prepared to stand by your content and not cringe if you are associated with it indefinitely.

Remember that the internet is forever, and if you present something particularly incendiary, people will conflate who you are with that one lone statement. Dissenting voices do not always behave appropriately on the internet, so be prepared for contentious comment sections, hate mail, and other people posting not so nice things about not just the content but also you as an individual.

Keeping all of that in mind, do not be afraid to remain true to your convictions or explore other sides of an issue. If you are making a meaningful contribution, whether people agree with you or not, they will still respect you.

5. Lists, Reviews, and Surveys

Year in Review, Favorite Things, and Top 10 lists are incredibly popular. They are not only easy to write, but also ripe for discussion because people love to share and debate their opinions as well as yours. Likewise, reviews encourage dialogue and can genuinely help people make decisions. Surveys, of course, are about taking the pulse of your readership and, generally speaking, people want to be heard. They also want to see if there are like-minded folks out there. Surveys have the added benefit of providing valuable insight about your audience.

All three of these things provide a structure that is helpful in both the creating and the digesting of your content. Also, since they revolve around your thoughts and opinions, they usually flow quite easily. Make no mistake, however, they still require thought and research. If you are reviewing a product or service, you need to be honest and comprehensive. If you are identifying something as significant or a favorite, you need to be well informed and comfortable with what each item says about who you are. Surveys actually have to engage the reader and provide interesting information. If you take the time to do these right, your audience will be clicking up a storm.

These are just a few forms of link bait and some ideas about how to approach each one. Hopefully, they will inspire you to generate some wonderful content that will connect with your current audience and foster your site’s growth. At the end of the day, it is about sharing your voice and perspective in ways that entertain, inform, or incite your audience. You want to catch people’s attention in a positive and meaningful manner. If you accomplish this, link bait will just be a synonym for your stellar content that captures our interest and our clicks.


Article by John V. Link bait is merely a synonym for stellar content that entertains, informs, or incites. Capture interest and clicks with infographics, articles, and more. To learn more visit: http://www.wpromote.com

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