As much as you may hate the click bait strategy, there’s no denying that it works.
When reads increase based on the number of clicks generated, earnings increase… So clickbait is here to stay!
But what about link bait? What is it? And should we be using it?
Link bait or link baiting itself isn’t overly negative, although it has negative associations. Link baiting simply involves creating a piece of content with a highly clickable or “linkable” element. This usually contains a controversial comment, piece of data, conclusion or any other curated content piece that if mentioned on another site, would need to link back for reference. Image source.
An example of a link bait piece (despite probably not meaning to be) was Ahref’s million site analysis. As Ahrefs has this big data already it was relatively easy for them to build this data out into a content piece that can generate links and mentions for the business.
In essence the article talks about how on-page is over valued by the SEO community and there’s a lower correlation to on-page and keywords on a page by page basis and the rankings of those pages. You can read the full study here.
Although creating data pieces does attract links very well, link-baiting is taking this a step further. Ahref’s example is a very tame version of this and it’s something everyone should be implementing into their marketing strategy. As we all know, good PR generates great links, so if you can build something that is link worthy and add a click-bait element, you have… link bait.
As you can see this one post by Ahrefs generated 700+ links and almost 350 links from unique referring domains. That’s a pretty successful link building campaign. And although there were a lot of SEO’s who didn’t like the study, they would still link to the piece as reference. Hence why link-baiting pieces don’t always have to be positive.
One of the reasons it worked so well was unlike an infographic or a content piece, this was actually interactive. Meaning users had to come to the site to use it. This meant all sources that referenced this had to link otherwise it sounds very bizarre, mentioning something but just saying it’s here (which a lot of editors and journalists do). This led to a lower number of unlinked mentions and some awesome links as well.
30,000 backlinks and over 1,600 referring domains later, this was a link bait and content marketing piece of epic proportion. Getting links from multiple news sites, charities and ironically SEO and link building blogs that would mention the post as a how-to-do-it-right type reference…. Which is of course what we did here.
Building a controversial angle in your link building (especially in some niches *politics*) can result in an insane number of powerful links. This is due to 2 obvious psychological factors when someone is considered an “underdog”.
The first is they want to be seen as being everywhere, so they’ll syndicate your content and opinions usually regardless of their validity. Secondly, because the controversial piece is usually focusing on a positive of the underdog or a negative of the favourite, the piece has the potential to go viral being supported by the (more active) fans or supporters of the other side.
And if you can add some kind of data into this, then the story has the potential to go viral and generate hundreds of links very quickly. The example that springs to mind for this type was the US presidential race & Donald Trump.
Without getting into details as I’m sure the importance of content in political races is pretty clear nowadays, this quote below by scripted shows how valuable this free press was for him.
Regardless what you think about the individual candidates and companies involved in these strategies, it’s clear they work incredibly well for generating links, mentions and exposure for their brand.
At Ghost Marketing we use a simple three stage process to implement these campaigns.
We’re going to break down each point below.
Everything starts with having something of value.
95% of the time this is going to be a content piece designed by either our agency or the client we’re working with. But in other cases we may be able to leverage an influencer inside the company to use as the value element. For example a company founder that can leverage their knowledge and authority to implement a podcast or expert round-up style strategy. But for 95% of companies this is not the case, so we have to stick with content curation.
There are multiple types of content that work incredibly well for this process, but some work better than others. Below is a small list of types of content that tend to work best for link baiting campaigns.
There are dozens of types of content that work for this method but the ones that aren’t extremely resource heavy to build are: articles, data, infographics and polls/quizzes.
As we’re targeting very large broad link prospects here (high authority sites) we’ll have to keep the content relatively concise and easy for the semi-educated user to understand. The reason why Ahrefs case study mentioned above didn’t generate more links from press is simply because it’s not something that the average non-SEO person would find interesting, although us link building nerds loved it.
This stage isn’t actually necessary if the content is good enough to go straight to stage 3, but in most cases we’ll want to build a relationship with influencers in their market before saying “can you link to our stuff.” To increase conversions.
We also want to add as much value as possible upfront. If we can help journalists and busy editors upfront stating errors or helping them in some way. When we come with an offer that actually helps them sell more AND allows us to leverage the reciprocation rule, it’s a win-win, and we get those sweet links too.
This involves leveraging multiple PR based tools but instead of using them as journalists or business owners do, we simply want to build the relationship upfront. It’s as easy as that.
In terms of who to prospect for your specific piece of content, you can again find different softwares that can help but honestly there’s 3 techniques that will give you more than enough high level prospects.
Stage 3 involves the promotion of the piece of link bait content.
This (if you’ve done stage 2 well) should be relatively straight forward. You simply approach influencers and journalists in your niche that would find your content interesting and act if they’d like to mention it or write about it.
Alongside this I’d also recommend writing multiple guest posts manually to improve your chances of the content naturally getting picked up by press and journalists. But of course the best content ever made has no chance without manual promotion.
There’s a number of other techniques you can leverage if you have a budget. One would be a press release for the piece of content, others include leverage twitter and other social networks and contacted the most relevant potential influencers for your content.
There are also multiple more important elements to ensuring the campaign is successful, one of these is timing and news-worthiness. Timing isn’t essential for all industries, but if you are looking to generate links around a specific event or some type of time focused occurrence then this must be made extremely newsworthy and specific to that one event.
The obvious metric to look at initially once a content marketing or digital PR campaigns is complete is to look at the number of live links created and the quality of those links. The more high quality links, the better. But there’s also a number of other extremely important KPI’s to measure.
Referral Traffic – Are these links driving actual clicks (and potentially sign-ups if this is in the correct vertical for your business’s offering).
Social Proof Elements – Once you generated links from extremely high powered authority sources, you can leverage the “as seen in” feature that many new start-ups and softwares utilise to increase credibility of the business and also increase trust of the overall user.
Journalist & Influencer Connections – The number of new journalist and influencer connections that were developed. This is advantageous to both our agency and the client. These can be called on again in the future if a new content promotion campaign is developed and can also can leverage for other clients in other niches too.
Link baiting is an incredibly effective way to increase the number of links you’ll generate on both your normal outreach and digital PR marketing campaigns. Remember the keys mentioned above and think long term with these strategies. Just because campaign 1 may have only generated 1 or 2 links, that doesn’t mean the next one won’t generate dozens if not hundreds and double your organic traffic overnight.
If you have any questions about link bait or would like to get in touch about running a digital PR campaign, feel free to get in touch.