What is link baiting, you ask? It’s when you develop content on your website that is intended to get other people to link to it, therefore boosting the number of inbound links pointing at your website, which will boost your website’s rankings in the search engines.
Generally the best link baiting comes naturally. I wouldn’t be surprised if my friend Cameron Moll isn’t familiar with the term link baiting, but he’s got over 1,500 incoming links, nonetheless. He wasn’t out looking to get all those links, he just happens to write content on his blog that is quite interesting to a certain audience. So interesting that a lot of people linked to him several years ago, which led to more people finding out about his website through those links as well as through his improved rankings in search engines, which then resulted in even more people linking to him, and so on and so forth. Although Cameron never set out to create link bait, he’s done an excellent job at it.
But let’s say you just started a new blog or have a website that isn’t ranking well and has virtually no incoming links, and you have search engine optimization as a critical part of your marketing plan. You’ve done all the easy SEO stuff like modifying your title tags, sprucing up your content, etc., now what do you do to get the traffic coming and get those inbound links like Cameron has done? You could write hundreds of pages of content about something you’re passionate about and which consumes your entire life, or you could jumpstart things by creating some well-thought-out link bait.
For example, I recently started a blog focused on politics called Clearly Departed. Be forewarned if you visit–it may make you angry. That’s ok, just vent your frustrations by leaving some comments. I started the blog because I like writing about things I care about, but at the same time I’d like to get as much traffic as possible. So a few weeks ago I thought “What’s being search for a lot right now when it comes to politics?” Obviously, Obama was wildly popular. But simply creating a post about Obama wasn’t going to cut it because there’s too much competition. So I put my Photoshop skills to work and modified some Chinese propaganda featuring Chairman Mao to instead include Obama in what became what I think is a rather humorous anti-Obama computer wallpaper/background.
I created the post referenced by the above link, did a search for “obama computer wallpaper” and “obama computer background”, and posted links to my post on several blogs and forums. I didn’t track things scientifically to see what links I may have picked up other than those I created myself, but either way it has led to an increase in traffic to the site, as evidenced by the following three reports:
The post was made on October 24th. On the same day I posted it on the various blogs and forums, and then I did nothing after that. As you can see from the Overview report traffic went from virtually zero on October 22nd to 47 visitors on the 24th. There was then a slight dip, although it never got as low as the highest point during the previous month, and then started building again on November 1st, peaking on the 5th with 165 visitors. Comparing the period Oct 18-Nov 17 with the previous 30 days there was an almost 1400% increase in traffic to Clearly Departed.
By examining the Keywords report it’s obvious that the majority of that traffic was coming due to the Obama wallpaper. This was further confirmed by the Referring Sites report when I actually went and looked at each of the top sites.
But why did traffic peak on the 5th? From examining the reports, it would appear there were simply more people searching for relevant keywords on that day than the days before and after it. I would have expected traffic to peak on the 3rd rather than the 5th, but go figure.
While it’s obvious the Obama wallpaper led to an increase in traffic, did it actually do anything to generate links beyond those I created myself? Time will tell (Google isn’t recognizing any inbound links yet), but there are a few ways to get an idea of whether it’s working or not. Of the top 10 referring sites for the period since posting the wallpaper, 2 of them (including Digg) are not sites where I created links. That’s a good thing. Looking through the other referring sites there are a few others I also don’t recognize. However, analytics tools only measure actual traffic, so there may be other inbound links that could have some value in Google but which aren’t driving any traffic (although if they aren’t driving any traffic it’s doubtful how much value Google would be giving them).
What can I expect from this one bit of link baiting? Probably not much, by itself. But if I were to do one of these per month within a year I’d probably be to the point where I wouldn’t have to promote the site in any way other than just posting on it. That is, I wouldn’t have to go out and proactively get traffic for it. If I were willing to put the effort into creating link bait five days a week I might be able to get to the same point within a month. But every situation is different and unique and there’s no accurate way to predict the results. Perhaps an editor at the Wall Street Journal will see the Obama wallpaper, then browse to another post on the site, find it interesting, and link to me from WSJ.com and all of a sudden the site could go from 10 visitors per day to 1,000. You can’t predict such fortuitous events, but what you can do is increase the chance such events will happen through frequent and clever link baiting.