Link bait is defined by wikipedia as '... any content or feature, within a website, designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website' - the power of link bait cannot be underestimated. Some people view link bait as a negative thing - spam emails depend on link baiting to get people to click on the links in the email, sometimes this will be to malware or infected websites. Matt Cutts views link baiting as a potentially positive strategy in that link bait can incite discussion, can be entertaining, or can allow people to make points of view more public if they don't have the popular viewpoint.
To be successful, good link bait has to fulfil two tasks - the first to attract attention of the reader on a sometimes crowded link space, and secondly it will be intersting or enticing enough to make the reader click on the link.
Some of the more effective strategies for link bait are listed below:
- Amusing link bait - eg a couple of links on a London politics website saying 'Boris Johnson says we should kill the poor' (linking to a story about how his favourite band is The Dead Kennedys) followed by a link which says 'Ken Livingstone says we should eat the rich' (linking to a story about his favourite band - Motorhead) would be quite effective.
- Controversial link bait - claiming something outragious such as 'Mother Teresa was a Lesbian' or 'Hitler was right' would attract attention. (note, I don't believe either of these are true, but it does make the point that controversial link bait attracts attention)
- Questions - These are the links that are like:
Whats happening to MySpace?
How long does SEO last?
How much does an ecom website cost?
all answer a question that the reader might be interested in.
- Lists - Email marketeers love lists. You'll often see things like '30 Grey hat SEO techniques you should know'. Site visitors like lists too because they can quickly find the relevent information that they are interested in without having to read paragraphs of text.
- Topical links - Links which relate to a current hot topic are very effective. Make a link about the upcoming Facebook Floatation and you will see a fluffy of hits to your page.
The best way to create link bait is to think about the sorts of things that you yourself click on, and why you clicked on it. This is usually and unconscious split-second decision and the best link bait is the link that you click on without even thinking too much about it.