The Art of Creating Successful ‘Linkbait’

Linkbait is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the world of SEO and much like anything else, it’s a term that is often abused. It’s also a term that is often misunderstood. So what exactly is linkbait?

Essentially, it’s nothing more than a piece of content that is specifically designed to attract links and attention. Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, says that linkbait is “something interesting enough to catch people’s attention”. There really is nothing more to it than that.

Although the concept of linkbait is pretty straightforward and simple, creating something that actually fulfils the end-goal is quite difficult. In the good ol’ days, you probably didn’t have to do much to create a piece of linkbait that would attract a significant amount of attention. Many people created “top 10” lists or bog-standard infographics and saw the links come flooding in.

These days though, things are a little different and creating a good piece of linkbait takes a lot more time, effort and more importantly, creativity. So how exactly do you create successful linkbait?

The Basic Equation

Although you can never be sure that a piece of linkbait will be successful (sometimes they just aren’t, no matter how much time and effort you put into them), there is a basic equation that you can follow to increase your chance of success.

This is essentially: Creation of something people are likely to care about and find interesting + high-quality outreach = linkbait.

Quite simply, that’s it. The important thing you really need to focus on is creating something that people actually care about. Just because you’re creating an infographic or a top 10 list doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be a successful piece of linkbait, especially not if you’ve done nothing more than re-hash old information in a dull manner. You need to create something exceptional that is actually interesting. That’s the key.

You should also create your linkbait in the most appropriate format. Infographics aren’t always the best format for linkbait; sometimes it can be better as a “how to” guide or perhaps even just a standard blog post. You need to just the best way to present your information based on your idea.

Here’s a few examples of types of linkbait that often tend to do quite well and can increase your chances of success:

Infographics

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Infographics are perhaps the most widely used form of linkbait but the thing is, they’re starting to get a bit overused. Most webmasters receive infographic outreach email s every single day and because of this, it’s getting harder to get your infographics featured on high quality websites, especially if the design and/or topic isn’t good enough.

Having said this, if you create a good looking infographic that presents information in a visually appealing and unique way, you’ll likely have success with it.

The infographic pictured above from Search Engine Journal has attracted links from almost 300 referring domains, including the Huffington Post, The Next Web and many other extremely authoritative sites.

The reason for this is quite simple; it looks great.

Design is a big part of the process when it comes to creating successful infographic linkbait, so make sure to hire a good designer. Don’t go for the $5 an hour designer who doesn’t know what he/she is doing.

Lists

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Lists are probably the oldest form of linkbait and also, the easiest and cheapest to produce most of the time. Once again though, it’s important that your list actually has a purpose and that people are likely to be interested in it. Don’t create a list for the sake of it just because it’s classed as ‘linkbait’; it isn’t linkbait if it doesn’t attract any links!

Top 10 lists still do quite well, but they usually have to be exceptional and/or cover a topic that hasn’t been covered before. Longer lists will often do better as they tend to become a resource that get’s linked out to from third-party websites.

Take the “101 ways to build link popularity” list from SEOBook.com for example. This worked because it’s such a good resource that the SEO community found extremely useful. It’s so good that you could bookmark it and use it time and time again.

Creating an ultimate resource list containing high-quality information is almost always a great linkbait idea.

Controversial Content

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Another widely used formula for attracting links and attention is to create content that is somewhat controversial. This works because people that agree with your point-of-view will want to share it and also, people that really disagree will want to share it and give their thoughts on it too. The result: lots of links.

When we say controversial, it doesn’t have to be anything too crazy, but creating a piece of content in which people are going to be divided in their option (or that differs from popular belief) is a great way to get links.

Take the blog post from Hubspot pictured above for example. This piece of content was titled “63% of B2B companies don’t generate leads from social media”.

The reason this gained a lot of attention and links is because it showed that although companies are pumping money and effort into social media marketing, they weren’t actually producing leads which rendered their efforts somewhat pointless.

The blog post was backed up with unique survey data that proved the claim. It was a little controversial as it essentially divided B2B companies into two sections; those that were generating leads and those that weren’t. People also enjoying giving their opinions on what businesses might be doing wrong and/or how they could improve.

Conclusion

Creating successful linkbait doesn’t have to be difficult, the formula is actually quite simple. You need to come up with a good idea, create your content in a visually appealing (and appropriate) format and perform your outreach. It’s as simple as that.

The hard part is coming up with a good idea for linkbait. You can do this by brainstorming ideas and then seeing if similar content has also done well online. For example, if you had the idea of creating an infographic entitled “Why Going To The Gym Won’t Cause Weight Loss”, you need to check if similar gym or weight loss related content also gained attention. If it didn’t, it may not be such a great idea.

You also need to check that there are enough related sites for you to perform outreach to. If you wrote a blog post entitled “101 ways to iron your clothes”, it’s doubtful there would be enough blogs related to your niche to outreach to.

Creating successful linkbait is certainly an art form and requires a lot of creative thinking. If you follow the tips above though, you should be well on your way.