Can You Compete with Industrial Strength Linkbaiting? (or, Why My Site Will Outrank Yours for [mortgage])

If you read Tropical SEO regularly, you know I’m a big fan of link bait. Why? Well, simply because it’s the highest ROI activity that I know of. Spend a day making a piece of remarkable content, and (provided you have a base of contacts and relatively trusted social media accounts), that piece of content is going to bring in a few dozen trusted links. You can spend eight hours link ninja-ing or tweaking PPC arbitrage or writing crappy blog posts, and that ROI (usually) isn’t going to touch that of a decent link bait effort.

While there’s a lot of long tail traffic out there, the current (correct) stress on authority (trusted links) makes organic traffic a winner-take-most, Filthy Link Rich game. And link baiting is the fast, cheap, and bulletproof shortcut to those trusted links. (Not to mention that, as opposed to many other SEO tactics, link baiting is highly defensible in that it gets you a ton of bookmarks, RSS and newsletter subscribers, and direct referrals.)

Well, somewhere in between going independent, vowing to be a CEO instead of an SEO, and being slapped in the face with the DIFN manifesto, I realized that I was being a giant chump.

This is the Golden Age of Link Baiting. It may never be easier or more profitable than it is right now. And here I was, putting out 2 or 3 of them a week and feeling great about myself.

When in reality, as soon as I tasted the aftermath’s juicy links, I should have immediately hired several quality writers, and had them working on this stuff fulltime, and put out 3 or 4 feature pieces of content per day.

Well, since that time, the social media atmosphere has gotten more sensitive to anything that even has the whiff of spam–so you have to be respectful, smart, and put out really good stuff–but producing feature content (i.e., link baiting) is still an incredibly high-ROI activity. And believe me, I’m not making that mistake anymore. Each of my sites in hypercompetitive markets (not [mortage], but that type of ante) now has a fulltime feature content writer. I don’t even have time to check my stats anymore, I’m getting pinged every half hour with a “hey, it’s up.”

Personal message to old-school affiliate competitors:
You may have great, relevant content. You may have 3 link ninjas working fulltime buying permanent links on trusted pages. You may have an authority domain from ‘99. You may have ranked for [mortgage] for the last 3 years and picked up a ton of ‘Filthy Linking Rich’ links just for being there.

But in the long run, you can’t compete with a solid link bait coming out every single waking day, 5 days a week, 51 weeks a year. Some baits flop. Many make the Reddit homepage or Delicious/Popular. One in 20 really hits it out of the ballpark and brings in 1,000+ links.

Which is why I will be slowly–but defensibly–climbing over your site for terms like [mortgage] over the next year.

But don’t worry–in a few years, once I’m ranking number #3 for [mortgage], I’ll sell you my site for 7 figures. That’s a lot cheaper than hiring a fulltime writer and brainstorming some link bait ideas, right?

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#1 Dugdale on 02.25.07 at 10:22 pm

I would love to see a case study in link baiting for a brand new site.

Show the links from each link bait article and the sources of the links and how it affects the search results over so many months.

That would make for good reading.

#2 Copy King on 02.26.07 at 10:41 am

Shush fool! ;)

#3 danny9 on 02.27.07 at 7:19 am

i suppose - but a few points of consideration:
1. link bait tends to be ’sensational’ in nature. if you build your strategy on always being sensational, you also risk being cast into a niche. sure - the headlines of the supermarket tabloids are interesting - but will i count on a tabloid for real practical advise about my [mortgage]?

2. ‘google knows’ quality. in the end, the giant robot brain is only getting smarter. will the today’s link baiting go the way of yesterdays reciprocal links page?

… granted - link bait postings tend to be very thoughtful - but i think the main point here is that - it will be detectable which sites are following a ‘hit’ based strategy of building links (and thus might be suspected of attempting to manipulate search rankings).

3. the baiter and the ninja are not mutally exclusive - the world holds a place for both strategies. the ninja is definitely less explosive - but also definitely less detectable.

#4 Copy King on 02.27.07 at 7:56 am

>>link bait tends to be ’sensational’ in nature.

That’s not true at all. Link bait of the type you would use to promote an affiliate site is *resource* content. Sensationalism gets you nowhere.

It’s amazing to me that in 2007 people still don’t get this.

>>google knows’ quality.

And that’s what Andy is talking about. It’s not a *trick* — it’s just producing strategically better content than just about everyone else. And it works.

>>but also definitely less detectable.

Again, link baiting is not a *trick* that you need to hope goes undetected. You can do it right out in the open, because it’s exactly what Google wants you to do.

#5 on 02.27.07 at 1:43 pm

Link baiting is not a dirty word or a fad.

This isn’t reciprocal linking pages. Everyone knew that was bullshit when it was going down. It felt dirty and it was.

Link baiting is simply writing content that is so good that when people see it, they link to it. This is business as usual in the real world. RW business men have known forever you want to provide a service (aka content) that’s so good someone will tell someone else about it (aka link to it).

The best advertising you can get is word of mouth, it always has been and always will be. Nothing’s changed on this front, it’s just been slapped with a buzz word everyone’s tired of and/or doesn’t understand.

#6 tyshcr on 02.27.07 at 5:39 pm

I’ve been hearing a lot about Link Baiting, I am going to have read some more of your articles. I feel like I haven’t been putting up much quality content lately, should probably focus on that a bit more.

#7 mblair on 03.02.07 at 6:21 am

I think that the biggest source of confusion with the term linkbait is that it connotes something deceptive — as in baiting a hook or a mousetrap. According the the American Heritage dictionary the top two meanings of “to bait” are 1) To place a lure in a trap. or 2)To entice especially by trickery or strategy.

It is a great term as marketing slang, as in linkbait marketing always involves an ulterior motive. However, a term with more positive connotations would be something that would make it less likely to draw a conclusion that when somebody is taken in by linkbait they are getting victimized.

#8 aw on 03.05.07 at 2:24 am

Link Baiting … I just know this term -_- … sounds well but …. em ..

#9 MattK on 04.17.07 at 5:12 am

I agree with mblair as link baiting isn’t a nasty phrase. Instead, it means that people are spending quality time writing interesting articles, including quality links therein, and working diligently to add comments on successful blogs. It seems to work well with you, I hope to one day say the same for me!

#10 villa on 05.13.07 at 10:29 pm

Well, if you plan to rank in the top for the word mortgage, you can use your blog as journal as to how you did it thru link baiting. Good luck ;-)

#11 shortbus on 05.30.07 at 4:25 am

So I have been involved for about 8 months now in the SEO world so tell me what you think about my observation here.

My thought is that Link Baiting is like fishing you use different kinds of bait for the fish you want to catch. But you still are going just hoping that your going to catch the big bass and not the bottom feeders. While you may get a good return of links the quality of those likes are going to be random and the anchor text may not be helping you get to the neiborhood that you want to be in. So I do linkbait, as it is a good ROI.

On the other hand Link ninjas target relevent links that are optimised to provide the most juice possible. They are relevent, the anchor text is good, they appear in the body of the text, and they come from sites with trust. So i do targeted links also. They are harder to get but i think they provide alot of juice to the site.

Might be a contest in here to see what works best. I would think that in the short term that the Link Bait would generate more links and traffic but long term Link ninja would end up higher in the rankings.


#12 admin on 05.30.07 at 7:07 am

> but long term Link ninja would end up higher in the rankings.

Could be. Long term a link ninja also spends more money I think. I think ideally you link bait to gain a ton of trust and PageRank and then link ninja for the anchor text you need.