Link Bait: Content created specifically in a manner to grab a person's attention with the hope that they will share it with others.
I'd like to take a moment to discuss link bait. Though the aforementioned is a very basic definition of link bait, it's something that stands to provide immense SEO (Search Engine Optimization) value. As I've noted previously, link-building is one of the most important aspects of SEO. If you happen to recall from previous articles of mine, the more links you have pointing to your site from other sites, the more important your site appears to be to search engines (there are many more factors to take into consideration here, but that's the basic gist of it). That very facet plays a large role in how well you rank on the Web.
With that in mind, one of the fastest ways to naturally get links pointing to your site is to garner a lot of attention through creating content that others will find interesting/entertaining and endeavor to share with others. The concept of link bait borrows from a core function of marketing: Generating buzz. That's all it boils down to. Think of the latest commercial you saw that made you laugh. Right there, the very thing that -- at the end of the day -- is an advertisement through-and-through, has managed to win you over through laughter. Old Spice, anyone? Their latest campaign was nothing short of genius (though I personally feel it has run its course by now)! It went viral (meaning that it spread around to a *lot* of people *very* quickly) and instantly had people running around mimicking this guy.
Anyway, it's not the exact technique I'm pointing out here; just the type of reaction you should be shooting for when link baiting. Now I'd like to ask you why you decided to read this post. What made you decide to click on it? Maybe the title of this post snagged your attention or maybe it didn't. Maybe you just subscribe to the RSS feed and you saw the description and figured, "okay, I'll click." Maybe you're in a rough financial position and a mild sense of hope took hold; or perhaps you're just money-hungry and ran out and bought some clay pots and filled them with soil in preparation for what this article might contain. Whatever the case may be, I tried to coax you into clicking this link regardless of whether you actually wanted to or not. With that said, I want to go over 5 methods to take into consideration if you're planning a link bait campaign.
5 Things to Consider With Link Bait
1 - Mindset, Ideation, and Goal: Three very important steps to take into consideration are mindset, ideation, and goal. Think about what you're shooting for and think about what type of reaction you want to garner from other people. Remember, the goal is to get people to WANT to share your content, but what is the catalyst you're going to use to deliver the content and how are you going to make it accessible? What is your goal if/when the masses *do* come and your link bait goes viral? Which emotional context do you want to place your viewership in to get them to share your content: Humor? Horror? Amazement? You have a vast playground where that's concerned, so let the creativity flow.
2 - Written Content: This is perhaps the most accessible option to use as a catalyst for your link bait campaign. Put simply, this option involves good old fashioned pen/pencil-pushing (or keyboard clackity-clack-clacking). If your content is strong enough, make sure you also make it engaging. You can have the most interesting story in the world, but if you don't capture the attention of your audience from an early point in the article, you may lose out on a great opportunity. Right now, the most popular type of content-based link bait is the "X number of ways to do Y" posts. For example: "20 of the Funniest Spam Comments Ever" But you don't have to use that formula by any means. Just make sure your content is compelling, engaging, and entertaining.
3 - Images: This can be one of the most fun and instantaneously rewarding types of link bait! The idea is to cast your message via a photo. How you go about it is completely up to you, but one of the greatest I've seen in recent times is the hoax where the girl quits her job on a dry erase board. Sheer genius and the true essence of link bait! Another good example is the image below from a very popular Internet meme called "lolcats," which is essentially when you take a picture of a cat and interpret it in your own way to try to make it funny.
4 - Video: Two words: DOUBLE RAINBOW! If you have no idea what I'm referring to, then I want to welcome you to my site after your long slumber underneath the rock you just crawled out from beneath. Only kidding. :) The double rainbow guy (click here to see the video) is a prime example of success with video link bait (even though he didn't set out to get the attention he ended up getting). He originally shared his video because he wanted to share with the world the marvel that was a double rainbow. The reason I'm using him as an example is because it goes to show just how simplistic in nature your content can be. You can put all the production value you can afford into a video (and it may very well work!), but being real is absolutely an adequate means to getting the job done. Use your imagination and keep in mind that you don't have to worry about shooting for the stars production-wise. Maybe you have a talent you can share or maybe you can do something amazing with a program that people will enjoy watching. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you consider where you post your video and what your goal is. What do you want people to do after they watch your video (if anything)? If you want them to click through to somewhere, YouTube has functionality which allows you to place hyper-linked annotations right on top of your video. Something to consider.
5 - Music: A much lesser-utilized function of link bait is music. This can take a bit more talent than the other methods above, but if you're a musician (shameless plug here), one of the most popular forms of link bait for you to consider these days is to take a viral video and make a song out of it. Someone did that with the incredibly entertaining Antoine Dodson video (the entertaining part starts at 1:00) and made a small fortune for Antoine (you can hear the song here). From there, other awesome musicians covered that song and the cycle continues. One of my absolute favorites of all time is what someone did with the "dog malfunction" viral video where they created a "jazz version." It's absolutely hilarious (I think) and you can click here to watch it. Anyway, the point here is that there are very viable opportunities to capitalize on for link bait through music. It can be anything ranging from completely original material to something provoked from an already-viral source (in most cases, the latter will be the quickest way to instant gratification).
Promoting Your Link Bait
Unless you're already a major influencer who has a lot of eyeballs fixated on everything you do, it's rarely ever enough for you to post your content and just wait for it to be found. These days, you have to put in a bit of effort to get your content out into the faces of people. If you're not using Twitter or Facebook yet, you should set up accounts immediately and begin to leverage them in correlation with the content you create and/or share. You want to make your content as easily accessible and share-able as possible! The key is to be proactive.
For *all* of your content, try posting to sites like Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Delicious, and more. Use pictures where applicable when posting to social bookmarking sites, because they are HUGE "attention-getters." You know how profiles that contain pictures on Internet dating sites supposedly get something like 70-80% MORE views? The same applies here (though I'm not sure what the percentage is when taking the concept off of internet dating sites). I mean, think back to all the times you've seen an ad or an article with a picture posted of an attractive woman or some old guy busting a move on the dance floor -- but said ad or article had absolutely nothing to do with the image posted. Even if you have to find a picture that has nothing to do with your content, use it to post in correlation with your link on social bookmarking sites. They work.
Also, every major social media and social bookmarking site has its own internal system to share content. But if your content is good enough, people will happily spread it beyond the boundaries of their social media/bookmarking findings.
Try reaching out to the authors of such influential sites as Mashable and see if they think their readers might be interested in your content. Take this idea and run with it across other influential sites you can find. One way to extrapolate who is influential at any given moment with a certain topic is to search Google and see which sites pop up on the first page for whatever the subject matter of your intended link bait is! Maybe you leave a comment linking to your content instead of trying to contact the writer of an article. It's completely up to you.
Post images to sites like Flickr and be sure to make use of tags (using terms that are relevant to your content) so that when people search for content related to your picture(s), what you post will show in the results! Where video is concerned, post to sites like YouTube and Vimeo and be sure to use utilize tag functionality there as well. Likewise, you want to be sure to name your image(s) and video(s) the most relevant keyword that has to do with its content. Since video and image sites have their own internal "search engine," you can think of naming your photos and videos after a keyword, utilizing tags, and creating titles that are keyword-rich as SEO! After all, you *are* optimizing for their search engine, right?
Utilize sites that ping blog networks to inform them of your fresh content. The two I utilize the most are Pingomatic and Pingoat. Make sure you have a social bookmarking widget integrated into your your blog so that people can easily click a button and share your content for you on any given social media/bookmarking site. Something else you may want to consider is integrating functionality that will convert your content to PDF and allow people to share it that way. Another little trick I like to do is take my content that has been made into a PDF and post it to popular document-sharing sites like SlideShare!
Here again, name the document the most relevant keyword, utilize the site's tag functionality, and post! I mean, just let your imagination run wild with ideas as to how you can share your content. As you share your content more and more, you will become an efficient and well-oiled content-sharing machine! In the near future, I will do a post that details some relatively unorthodox ways to share and promote your content, so keep an eye out for that.
See how I've just happily shared all the content that I have with you in this post? Obviously, I'm a fan of humor but this post is in so many ways exemplary of link bait -- from its subject to its central focus to its content to everything I am linking you, the reader, out to. Though there are more avenues to consider (and I do encourage you to contribute to the post if you have advice to offer!), the aforementioned 5 steps and miscellaneous methods of promotion should give you a great place to start your link baiting endeavors. Please feel free to leave a comment below and let me know if you have any questions or feedback to offer as I would certainly love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and good luck!