WM: How would you define linkbaiting?
TM: To me, linkbaiting is creating great content for the express purpose of attracting links for search rankings. Viral marketing for links, that’s been a traditional definition too and certainly that applies, but take it a step further — create the idea to the right audience for those links.
WM: The whole idea of SEO is “natural.” Do you consider linkbaiting a part of SEO or is that a conflicting idea?
TM: It’s [linkbaiting] a good way to drive traffic. It’s not the same quality traffic that we’re used to with SEO. The traffic itself is not all that valuable most of the time, but it is good exposure and good branding.
WM: What’s the greatest benefit of linkbaiting, of creating that content that will end up attracting links?
TM: The real benefit is getting your best content in front of the people that can distribute it. You have 100 percent of your site content and, maybe 10 percent is really the killer content that you put some thought and effort into. But before you do that research, come up with an idea that will target that audience, that you can distribute to them and ideally get them to link to that special content.
WM: What, in your opinion is considered tailoring to that crowd? What differentiates that crowd and what is a good way to get “in” with them?
TM: Ideally, it’s Webmasters — those that are publishing their own content. And that’s why Digg is so popular. A large portion of people that read and contribute there are publishing their own content. And when I say Webmasters, there are some in every field. Doctors or lawyers...everyone has a blog these days. You really have to contribute to the community. You can’t just login to Digg and do a “drive-by posting,” and expect that others are going to contribute. I think you have to be non-promotional. Create the content with altruistic motives in mind — contributing to the knowledge base of whatever community they are a part of. Most communities are going to sniff out a self-promotional sell.
WM: How much of linkbaiting is really just copywriting?
TM: I would say a large portion. But the traditional mindset of marketers and copywriters to just write a great article and gain exposure — that alone, I don’t think is enough anymore. It’s really about attracting that certain crowd republishing on the Web and putting their own thoughts and opinions behind it. It’s about opening up that conversation to people online.
WM: Even with good intentions, do you think that the practice of linkbaiting can be misleading at times, and what are some of the dangers of producing misleading content to produce links?
TM: I think the old adage, “You can fool some people sometime, but you can’t fool all the people all the time” comes into play. You might fool “Diggers” once and get your site listed for an article that’s not that great, but the next time it’s not going to make it through their filters. I think it is misleading that anyone can submit any piece of content to Digg and, if it’s “baity,” it’s going to make the home page. Which definitely isn’t the case — Delicious, Digg, StumbleUpon, all of them have become good communities because of the quality of content and filtering of that content.
WM: What style of linkbaiting “hooks” work best?
TM: For me, the information hook is above and beyond the best for most sites. Being a resource is the best thing you can do. It lends that credibility when providing future information.
WM: Where should the smaller website operators concentrate their efforts?
TM: Mom-and-Pop websites generally miss the local nature of search. And that approach should be taken with linkbaiting too. Creating content for links through a local community — that’s an opportunity that’s being missed.
WM: How much do you think website owners should concentrate on linkbaiting, in comparison to other tactics?
TM: It’s pretty important. And it bleeds over into other components — applying the mindset of linkbaiting and naturally attracting links in any way possible. If you’re doing something to make content viral, why not turn it into something that’s going to be useful for attracting links or make it easier for people to link to you?
About the Interviewee:
Todd Malicoat has been creating websites since 1997, and started practicing SEO and Internet marketing in early 2001. His website, www.stuntdubl.com offers many SEO tips and services, including linkbaiting. He also offers hands-on SEO training sessions with four other well-respected marketers at SEOClass.com.