Hooked on the Idea of Link Bait?

Natural search engine optimization (define) can often require an investment of time and money that many online businesses aren’t prepared to make. In its most elemental form, SEO consists of three components: technical optimization to ensure content can be crawled by the engines, content optimization to help get indexed for targeted words and phrases that convert, and link building, which generally speaks for itself. What most folks fail to understand is all three elements are bound to each other.

You’ll only get a so-so performance from link-building efforts if you invest in creating phenomenal content that is hidden behind an uncrawlable online destination within an unindexable content management system (CMS). To make your content seen, it must be visible to both search engine spiders and humans, as well as located at an unappended, static URL, to be considered optimal.

Similarly, link building is predominantly about creating link bait, but link bait only works with great content that can be promoted through old and new marketing venues alike. You have to invest in content creation. You also need to promote the heck out of it.

Before you jump straight into link building, understand just how ready your site is for serving up some link bait. To do that, we need to agree what link bait is.

Eric Ward, also known as Link Moses, describes link bait best: “What many people call linkbait or Link Bait, I call content.” Essentially, link bait can be just about any content you create anywhere on the Web that inspires other people to link to it. Inbound links can be aggregated to a page within a site, a blog, a forum, an archived e-mail newsletter, a photo journal, a product review, an all-Flash for fun page, or something similar.

The ultimate result of link bait is to bring higher traffic to your site and, consequently, improve your search engine positioning for targeted keywords or keyword phrases. The real question is: are you really ready for creating some link bait?

Let’s look at some obvious possibilities for creating link bait. Baiting the hook with link-worthy content usually centers around six different constructs. On the upside, there are news items, helpful resources, humor, and entertainment. On the downside, there are controversial opinions, confrontational attacks, and fear mongering.

News items can be leveraged to produce link bait by just about anyone for nearly anything. News items and newsworthy events work well for garnering global, regional, and especially local links. So you first have to ask if your site can be a reliable source for serving up current news and events.

You can grow a solid readership that turns to you when they want to know what’s happening in the neighborhood, community, city, state, country, or world. But first, an area of your site has to be able to serve up the content in a technically optimal manner.

You can’t just set up a news and information section within your site and expect your first link-bait expedition to be a winner. That’s why incorporating blog software like WordPress or Moveable Type into your site might be a necessary prerequisite if your CMS can’t handle building out an optimal article archival process. As I said earlier, link building can require an investment of time and money before you ever start to figure out what type of content will be created for link bait.

Remember, creating link bait isn’t always about having an article make it to Digg‘s home page. If every time you post notable news items on your site you gain 1, 2, 5, or 10 prominent links, then the articles did their job. Don’t underestimate small increases in legitimate link-building initiatives. In many cases earning just a few high-quality links can help you attain your link-building goals more efficiently than trying to hit an article out of the link-bait park every time you send an article up to bat.

If the news or event-based link bait works on pages within your site, don’t hesitate to bring the content to the forefront of the site, even if it’s a storefront, especially if the links you’re earning help build anchor text links for highly coveted keywords and phrases.

Providing news or event notices to a virtual community is a great way for you and your business to become an active member in actual communities. Annual events, in particular, can be the focus of link bait year after year. It’s just a matter of recognizing the opportunity to meld one occasion with another to channel your hard-earned links to an optimal online destination. That’s the great thing about link bait: when you figure out what works, you can readily recycle the process again and again.

Next time, we’ll look at a few link-bait campaigns that worked and discuss some of the trappings of producing controversial content. Until then, think about how news and events or how-to content could be a part of your overall link-building strategy to determine if you are really ready to create some link bait.

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