How To Make Use Of Link Baiting And Viral Marketing

One efficient way of generating backlinks is using link bait; coming up with an idea that gets people talking about your site and linking your way. Pandia picked the brains of link baiting experts at the Search Engine Strategies conference.

The moderator of the link baiting session, Jeffrey Rohrs, President of Optiem, made a few comments about the importance of link building and link baiting.

If you need to build 2000 to 3000 links very quickly, link bait is the way to go, Rohrs said, and it has the greatest chance for high impact.

The linkerati

However, you need content that is worthy of being shared. Viral-worthy content will attract the link-savvy audience, "the linkerati" as he called them, that is bloggers, web researchers and journalists that publish online.

He argued that a link to one page will have an effect on the whole domain: "The rising tide (of a link), lifts all ships (the domain)". If the New York Times is linking to one page of your site, that is helping the trust metrics, topical popularity and so on.

Important factors

There are several factors that have to be taken into consideration:

  • Global authority
  • Trust metrics
  • Temporal influence
  • Pagerank
  • Anchor text
  • Topical relevance
  • Topical popularity
  • and more…

Wikiepdia is successful because the domain is so trusted, he said. That is why all Wikipedia pages rank very well.

Some examples

He gave some examples of link baiting schemes he had been involved in.

An article on the "worst college mascot” on had generated some 128,000 page views, 2000+ referring domains, and a number 4 position for "college mascot."

A post on "21 tactics to increase blog traffic" on seomoz generated some 75000 page views, and some 250+ referring domains.

Link baiting strategies

He then listed a large number of link baiting strategies:

  • Lists of best of or worst of
  • Lists of how to dos
  • Teaching resource
  • Humor and irony
  • Controversy
  • Interviews
  • Breaking news
  • Product reviews
  • Poll results data
  • Aesthetic beauty
  • Tools
  • Comprehensive reviews etc.

Important social media portals

There are portals with large traffic and high visibility that sends big traffic, However it has to be the right traffic (i.e. from people who have blogs) for the story to go viral.

There are a few of the portals that have this kind of readers.

Digg generates some 2 mill visits daily. You need 50 — 100 votes to get on the first page. That will generate some 10 — 30000 visits to your page on average, and some 1000 links in three weeks. generates some 500,000 visits daily. It is broader in scope than Digg. A front page listing requires some 20 — 40 votes . That will generate some 4-10K visitors and some 600+ links. is a more news centric site. It generates some 250K visits daily. 20-40 votes are required to get on the front page. That will generate some 4-8K visits on average and 300 or more inbound links. is very popular and web developer centric social site. Some 20 to 30 people have to bookmark your page to get it to the front page.

Stumble Upon has some 3 mill users. Success here may generate some 500 -- 50000 visits and 25-250 links.

Getting banned

The social media sites are aware of the spam problem and will ban you if they think you are manipulating results. They make use of IP tracking, geography, group identification, profile identification, spam submissions etc.

For instance: If 100 new users submit the same article to digg on the same day, they will all be banned.

Popular blogs

You should also try to get your stuff mentioned by relevant blogs and news sites. Fishkin mentioned:

  • Techcrunch
  • Boingboing
  • Slashdot
  • Engadget
  • Lifehacker
  • Scobleizer
  • Daily Kos
  • The Huffington Post
  • Techmeme

Link bait categories

Cameron Olthuis of Advantage Consulting Services about sorted link baiting into three categories:

  • Content (text and video games)
  • Widgets (tools that can be installed in any browser)
  • Mashups (websites that combines content from several sources)

Mybloglog is a site that has had success based on widgets.

Reputation management

The other side to link baiting is reputation management, Olthuis said. You must contain the negative buzz before it goes viral. Comcast has for instance some negative links in the top results of search engine.

Media monitoring

Where to monitor:

  • Social media sites
  • Blog search engines like technorati and Blog Search

You should monitor:

  • URLs
  • Company name
  • Product names
  • Public facing figures
  • Keywords
  • Competitors

Participate in online discussions to keep the good buzz going or to turn negative to positive.

The difference between link building and viral marketing

Jennifer Laycock, Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Guide, argued that link building is mostly about getting the links, not branding or selling. It is a great technique for new site launches.

Viral marketing, on the other hand, is all about marketing, building brand and driving conversions.

The cost is in the idea

The cost is in the idea, she said. There are no placement costs. You are not paying for ads, you are relying on the worth of mouth.

"Create brand evangelists!" she said. Get people to talk about you on your own terms. This increases your credibility.

She pointed out the rapid response rate. Email, blogs and social media let you go global as soon as you want.

Create viral ideas

"In order to create a viral idea, you must ask yourself what sparks passion in your customers; it must have a benefit for them" she said. "And you must do something that hasn't been done before.

Ideas spread because they are important to the spreader, not the originator. This is why you must look at it as a viral product from the start.

Furthermore, a good viral marketing idea builds and works through relationships. You can launch the campaign via opinion leaders. You must identify who are the thought leaders. Who are the people people visit to find that information.

Make it easy to spread

The "virus" must be easy to spread. She used Cafepress' "send to a friend" feature as an example. Bloggers adding icons for bookmarking services is another.

You should exploit motivators she said. The cool factor is important. Invitation only Gmail policy made an account attractive. Gmail accounts were actually sold on eBay.

The Lactivist adventure

She then told the amazing story about her hobby site The Lactivist, a site for breast feeding mothers, a site that is also selling T-shirts.

The American National Pork Board sent her a cease and desist letter, complaining about one of her T-shirts. The T-shirt had the words "The other white milk" printed in friendly letters over the bosom. The phrase “the other white milk” apparently violated their trademark on the phrase “the other white meat.” They were also indicating that she was promoting an adult breastfeeding fetish.

"The cease and desist letter was a match made in social media heaven," Laycock said. “It had all the good ingredients: David vs. Goliath, work at home mom, out of control lawyers, breast and pork” And she immediately grabbed the opportunity.

She wrote an article in her blog and asked other bloggers to blog away.

She included the addresses of the National Pork Board to make sure that they would get mails and links. She added quick button links to some of her favorite social media sites, and she emailed the story to people in the search marketing and mom scenes. Then she added links to all sites linking to her story, encouraging even more blogs and sites to link to her.

The National Pork Board was now facing a PR disaster, and Laycock had gotten more good publicity than she could ever wish for.

The results were:

  • A traffic spike of 400%
  • A branding spike: people now search for her blog using the name
  • A topical blog spike (blogpulse)
  • A sales pike (700% in sales of the t shirt)
  • Community spike (now she didn't have to spread the word)

She made a compromise with the board agreeing to replace the T-shirt with another version. The C&D was revoked, and the board made a donation to the milk bank.

The role of communities

Chris Boggs of Avenue A | Razorfish talked about the role of communities in driving traffic. He used Search Engine Watch Forums as an example. This site is linking to other search engine forums on all pages.

Another example is Carton Barry's search engine Resource Desk where he links to a large number of search related sites. [At Pandia we do the same with our Search Detective ]

Link baiting will include some link building effects to get started, Boggs argued. You may seed popular forums and areas.

Note: This is text only archive article first published on April 13 2007. Written by Per and Susanne Koch.