What is Link Bait?

Apr 18th, 2010 | By Allison | Category: Freelance Writing, Writing Tips

When you’re searching for jobs or reading advice about blogging, you’re going to come across the term “link bait” often. Clients want to hire you to write link bait. Experts recommend writing link bait. But do you even know what link bait is or how to write it? It certainly isn’t something they teach you in college, because, frankly, it isn’t relevant for journalism. Yet another way your journalism professor sucks, sadly.

Yet, link bait is a concept that magazines use, but it just doesn’t have the potential that an article has online. Link bait in the world of print is designed to get people to pick up and buy the magazine when they’re standing in line at the grocery store. But link bait online? It is so much more.

So let’s cut to the chase: Link bait is an article you write specifically to go viral.

This is one of my college roommates, as a zombie. You want your content to look like her, as odd as that sounds!

Most of you probably already understand the concept of “viral,” but if you don’t - that’s ok. Think of viral content like a virus. I like zombies better than…hepatitis or something…so let’s use that as an example. One zombie bites three people, who each bite three people, who each bite three people, and soon the whole world is walking around craving brains. Viral content is the same - one person reads the link bait you’ve created and shows three people, who each show three people, who each show three people…and so on.

Only, online, it is easier to share cool content than it is to attack someone for their tasty flesh in the real world. Instead of biting…er…contacting three people, someone who reads your content will share it on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and other social media sites, as well as IM’ing it to some of their friends, so with each person, your content reaches hundreds more.

If it is cool enough, that is.

Not every article you write will be link bait, and that’s ok. These are articles that go above and beyond what you’d normally read online and appeal to a very wide audience. If you write your own blog, the purpose is to reach as many people as possible with the hopes that a percentage will like the rest of content on your website enough to stick around. If you’re writing link bait for a client, that’s typically their goal as well. But you usually can’t actually sell a product to all of the people who love the link bait you’ve created…you need more specialized content that hits a certain target market for that. So it’s a good thing for most of your or a client’s website to be filled with niche articles, using a few link-bait pieces to bring in the numbers.

So how do you create link bait?

Basically, you want to either write something that requires so much research that other people haven’t done it themselves or write something totally original that can’t be found elsewhere online. Now, the latter is very difficult. Sure, there are topics that aren’t covered online, but they usually aren’t relevant to a large audience. However, an example of such an article would be an exclusive review of a new movie that you got to preview before it was released to the general public or a how-to guide for a popular gadget that just hit the market.

Since being first at something is difficult, concentrate link bait on the former point - writing something that requires a lot of research. This could be a large list of resources, an investigative piece that shocks readers with findings, an interview with someone famous or an expert in your niche, etc. The key here is to do something that others haven’t done and that will be linked on other blogs and passed around social media networks.

Unfortunately, there’s a negative side to link bait as well. Some people write a link bait title, but don’t actually deliver on content. This is a very negative way to bring people to a website, and it actually doesn’t give the website owner good results. If you write “101 Sports Blogs You Should Read” and then leave off most of the major bloggers in this niche and provide a list where half of the links don’t work, your link bait won’t actually go viral. You might see traffic numbers from search engines and your own promotion of the link, but it isn’t a good way to get readers.

Clients know this too, so if you’re hired to create link bait, make sure that the articles are as high-quality as possible, or you’ll have some unhappy clients on hand. You may want to consider charging more for link bait articles than for typical articles, since they usually take longer to write.

Ok, I hope this article introduced you into the world of link bait. While some people put a negative connotation on the phrase, these articles can actually be very valuable resources for others, or at least provide a lot of entertainment.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

One comment
Leave a comment »

  1. great post as usual!

Leave Comment