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An Introduction to Linkbaiting

Posted By Darren Rowse 19th of September 2006 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Linkbaiting (link baiting, linkbait, link bait etc) is a term that has increasingly being used around the blogosphere.

You can see in the following technorati graph the increase in its use (this one is for the term ‘link bait’) in the blogs that they track over the past 360 days (source)

Link-Bait

As the term is used more and more I’ve also noticed an interesting debate emerge among bloggers (and search engine optimization types) over the idea of ‘link baiting’ and whether it’s a good thing or not. Some SEO companies have started to offer link baiting services while others are against the idea and believe that the benefits of link baiting are the same benefits of good web practices.

As the term’s crept into blogging more and more over the past months I thought it might be a good topic for a series.

Over the next few days I’ll be writing a series of posts covering:

  • What is Link Baiting?
  • Is Link Bait bad?
  • What are the Benefits of Linkbaiting?
  • What types of Linkbait are there?
  • Techniques and strategies for Good link baiting

I’m sure I’ll cover more ground as we go along – but lets start with the first couple.

‘What is Link Baiting?’

A lot could (and has been) said about it. So I’ll make just a few basic points to keep things simple.

The term linkbaiting is a one that seems to have surfaced over the past 12 or so months and that is used by webmasters to describe a variety of practices – all of which seek to generate incoming links to a website or blog from other sites.

It is actually a difficult term to be definative about as it covers a lot of different practices ranging from running awards or competitions, through to writing attacking posts on high profile bloggers in the hope of them biting back and linking to you, through to providing other bloggers or site owners with tools (with embedded links back to your own site) that they can put on their blogs (we’ll run through more linkbaiting techniques in one of my next posts in this series).

In reality the term ‘linkbaiting’ is a new term for something that webmasters have been doing for many years. From my earliest days of blogging four years ago I know I saw people doing lots of things to get links (even though the term was never used).

Is Linkbaiting Good or Bad?

Linkbaiting is often written about in negative terms. I regularly see people writing off a post that others have written or a comment others have left as ‘just being linkbait’.

I personally don’t like the term ‘linkbaiting’ on some levels as it does seem to have negative connotations. ‘Baiting’ has a sense of trying to trick or trap an unsuspecting person or thing into doing something that they don’t really want to do. While this is accurate with some forms of linkbaiting it is not true with others.

There is a lot of debate around both the term ‘linkbaiting’ and some of the practices that people talk about it incorporating. Some argue strongly that it is just a by-product of quality content, others argue that many linkbaiting strategies border on spam, others seem to talk about linkbait as being the answer to all web promotional problems (increasingly SEO companies are offering linkbaiting services).

My own opinion on whether link bait is good or bad is that it depends upon the type of link baiting that you’re talking about. I think some techniques that people use are just good standard blogging techniques – while other things that people do in the pursuit of links are destructive to the blogging community and I’d argue against them.

Like almost anything online, people use linkbaiting strategies for good and healthy purposes but also for dubious and ‘evil’. I guess in part we each need to think about our priorities, values and even ethics as we go about our blogging and explore this topic.

Have Your Say

  • How would you define link baiting?
  • What has been your experience of it?
  • Would you consider it to be good, bad or some combination of each?

Read the rest of this series as it’s written at:

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

  • I don’t think that linkbaiting can be anywhere near as evil as spam because of the difference in the expectations of blogs from email. I believe that the majority of bloggers out there are looking to be connected to many people through their blog and welcome people dropping occasional comments with a link back to their site or blog. This is somewhat expected by the nature of blogging. People want to be interconnected and they want traffic when they blog. Sort of like having a garage sale. You want everyone to know about your sale and you want traffic.

    When it comes to email, I believe that people take it a little more personal, almost like their physical mailbox. They don’t really want a bunch of stuff piling up in their inbox, its more of a private communication tool. It does not do much good to have alot of “stuff” come to your physical mailbox or email inbox unless its something you where expecting or its a private way of communication.

  • Link Baiting is just another way of saying clever marketing. It has a hook that tries to catch the reader fish, we all do it every day, even if 99% of the time the fish might swim past.

  • Having read the “What is linkbaiting” section twice now, I am no closer to understanding what, exactly, we are talking about than I was at the start of the article.

    (Although I do feel a strange urge to link to this……..)

  • Sorry to call you on this Darren, but this is an awfully written post. This sentence, in particular, is utterly devoid of content: “The term linkbaiting is a term that seems to have surfaced over the past 12 or so months and that is used by webmasters to describe a variety of practices…”

    I just read the entire thing twice and I still don’t have the faintest clue what your series is going to discuss. I assume that it’s a term to describe the creation of content that people will be unable to resist linking to, hence the “bait?”

  • Darren, please don’t read my criticism harshly. I absolutely love your site, but I suspect “advanced parental exhaustion” may have set while crafting this piece. :)

  • Like a lot of things in life, I think it all comes down to the intention of the person doing the “linkbaiting.” I’ve seen folks refer to someone as linkbaiting just for writing a good post, on a hot topic. If I find a post offering some good info, or an entertaining read, I really don’t care whether it was linkbaiting or not. I found value in the post, so there was a benefit to clicking on the link and reading the post.

    Just like spam blogs, there are those who are just looking to get something for nothing. Gaining clicks, without offering anything in return (except for maybe stolen content). That to me is the difference – a post that draws traffic, but offers something of value, versus a post with the sole purpose of getting traffic, without the value.

    To me, it’s all in the intention.

  • Seems fair enough to me. If you write quality content, then people will link to it.

  • James – how so? you mean the content or did I mess up the spelling somewhere obvious or something?

    I\’m definately tired (rough night) but am not sure what you\’re getting at.

    Tony – yeah I agree. I think it\’s a lot about intentions too. Good point.

    update – didn\’t see your first comment James – it went in for approval for some reason. Will make a few tweaks.

  • Yup, I’m with just about everyone else here. Linkbaiting is nothing more than a new name for what we’ve all been doing all along. Write good, interesting content, and you hope to generate links. That’s about as simple as it gets – someone along the way just decided to give it a fancy name.

  • David – if you want to link to this then you might just have got it :-)

    I’ve added a few examples above – but in the coming days will give a lot more.

    Perhaps the confusion over this post shows two things:

    1. I didn’t write too well
    2. The term is used extensively in some circles – but outside of those circles its a completely foreign term to the majority.

  • Hey Darren,
    can i thank you for introducing the ‘link bait’ term to me.

    i have been striving to create compelling content on my blog for the past 3 months and yeah, my content has been backlinked a couple of times, but not as much as i’d liked.

    link baiting seems like an interesting strategy to consider.

    to the other respondents, may i suggest you could try googling for ‘link bait’ or looking up the Wiki.

    The mildy negative feedback aside, i’m not sure what your expectations are. We all are human after all…

    Some of the perceptions of ‘link baiting’ seems a little off the beaten path. perhaps there’re misperceptions in the market, or a lack of a common definitely.

    To get more out of the blogs I read, I’d normally do my homework and check through various sources so i can strive to have an intelligent and more in-depth conversation.

    for example, in three mins of research i’ve discovered that:
    1) among the first references to “link bait” was from Aaron Wall in the SEO Book. It mentioned a post on his SEO blog back in August of 2005
    2) there are 62 posts tagged link bait in technorati at the moment and the associated keywords are: SEO, phishing, steven rubel, web traffic, spam
    3) there are 53,300 google results for ‘link bait’
    4) there are about 20 forms of link baiting. (you might also be subconsciously already be using one or two of them. They all look ‘white hat’ to me and applying a couple more could easily increase your web traffic by a good 50% or more.)

    in summary, there’s a whole bunch of other fascinating material that i believe if applied will bring your blogging to a whole new level.

    i don’t want to pre-empt darren’s series because i know there’ll be interesting stuff coming out in the next couple of days.

    but what i am saying is that doing a bit of research (not much, even 5mins worth) will put you ahead in the game).

    You will also gain much more from the forthcoming posts.

    If I’ve been blunt, my apologies, my intent is to help elevate the level of discussion.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Wee
    http://www.WhoIsAndrewWee.com

  • I’m still a bit confused as well. I’ve heard the term “fishing”, which is throwing a link at somebody and hoping they’ll come and comment on your site, but this sounds different.

    I give button codes to bloggers that participate in Pass the Torch Tuesday, and that code contains a link back to the meme guidelines on my site. By your definition, it sounds like that would be link baiting, but I sure don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. The bloggers are choosing to put it on their sites.

    Maybe I’m missing something here, though. (wouldn’t be the first time;)

    Kelly, Pass the Torch

  • Pass the Torch – yep and I guess that is what I’m saying.

    The term linkbaiting is used for so many things, some valid and positive and some questionable and negative.

    It’s impossible to answer ‘is it good?’ with a sweeping yes or no.

    Overall I’d say there’s nothing wrong with doing things that bring links to your site – it’s the way you do it, the impact it has on you and others and the intent that you do it with that in my mind is sometimes questionable.

  • Thanks Darren – I always learn something here.

  • Bob

    “I personally don’t like the term ‘linkbaiting’ on some levels as it does seem to have negative connotations.”

    I completely agree. The whole point of blogging is to gain an audience; therefore, all good blogging could technically be defined as “link-baiting.”

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  • I don’t understand how this form of linking deserves a special term. Now what I really want to see a write up on are the stupid bots that post ads into forums. Those are a PITA.

  • I look forward to reading the next part of this Darren, I thought “linkbait” was just a term for everything you should be doing anyway. That is, providing good quality content that is worthy of links.

    Why did I think this? As we all know now, content is king on the internet and if you aren’t producing something that other people will find interesting/useful/funny/whatever then no-one will link to you. If that isn’t your aim then it isn’t a problem, but if you want other people to see what you have to say (as most of us surely do in the blogosphere) then the understanding is that you need to provide content that is worth reading.

    If you put the bait out there then people will take it, if you don’t they won’t, thus link bait = quality content. I can’t think of any way to encourage people to read rubbish content anyway.

    (And where did the negative connotations come from? Is it just because SEO companies have started using the term?)

    So anyway, I look forward to further clarification :-)

  • My first blog (not counting a Livejournal) before I ever recall hearing the term was started specifically to draw traffic and links to a business website. My second one was a rebirth of an existing politics website initially setup using forum software (phpBB) with the intention of making something more readable and more linkworthy, hoping to draw traffic and links. So, I’d have to say I was linkbaiting from the very beginning. But if it’s such a bad thing maybe I better rethink that contest idea I had….

  • David, I wouldn’t worry, you are already doing it very well on your strobist blog. To give you an example, calling me out to take up your challenge – how could I *not* link to that? :O)

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  • If I were to give a definition for link baiting, I would say it is either writting great content that people are willing to link to or having a tool that is so useful that people link to it. Some examples of useful tools would be a list of free directories to submit your site to. 1,000s of people would be willing to link to that web page if they were SEO minded. Another tool would be Digital Point’s keyword suggestion tool, also an SEO tool . I use that thing quite frequently. I link to it quite frequently when I’m blogging.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with having great content that people want to link to or having a great tool that people want to link to. This is the most “natural” way to get links and I think this is what Google had in mind to be done. A link to your site is a vote for your site. Now days so many people do link trades with worthless sites that have 6 pages of links to try to get ranked high in the serps, what a waste. I’m beginning to get away from this thinking and get more balanced out with just quality content and tools.

  • Darren, why don’t you just link out to Rand at SEOMoz.org? He is the master baiter, after all! Share the love, brutha!

    Zed

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  • It really depends on how you define linkbaiting… but writing negative, harsh posts to simply get a more popular blog to link to yours is a short term strategy at best that will certainly back fire in the long run.

    Using sound, ethical seo, linking strategies will do more good in the long run and ultimately save you and your site problems down the road.

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  • I’m learning more and more. All good stuff.
    -kak

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  • I think this is an awesome process. It is generally a whitehat technique. I wonder how many websites have gotten into this deal.

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  • Steven

    I started this comment by saying linkbaiting is nothing new. Half way through the comment I changed my mind. Linkbaiting is new. Linkbaiting is just that. throwing out the baited hook, waiting for someone to bite in the way of a link. Although it has happened in the past, I believe it is now a determined method of getting a link to your site.

    Writing good content is not linkbaiting which was my original thought. But that isn’t bait in the true use of the term. It is merely doing a good job and getting rewarded for it with recognition. Same goes with other methods of providing useful content like top ten lists and the like.

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  • I’ve got this blog networking project for the sole purpose of bringing viewers to our intentional/targeted site. We’re going about this in a real non malicious way. I want to find the most appropriate way and like link baiting is protraying…it can be viewed either or…good or bad.

    but here’s the thing…i want .edu’s and .gov’s and even other related sites to link to us. we’re willing to pay of course because we’re not reciprocating linking…but rather just having them link to us. it’s a legit blog/targeted site…we’re an educational institute, not big, but not small either.

    so how can i enable this tactic in helping me with this? i didn’t get that from reading this article other than the mere explanation of what link baiting is.

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