Link baiting is currently the Cinderella concept regarding how to build links. The concept is simple, the execution can be tricky, and the results are not always 100% what you hoped for. With that said, Matt Cutts of Google is still high on link baiting and touts it as one of the best ways to climb to a strong Google PR quickly. What is link baiting and what are the pros and cons of going for broke with it?
Link baiting is basically viral link building under a different name. The idea is that you create something new and unique that with a small amount of circulation will grab enough attention to circulate the web and draw in piles of one-way links. The mass influx of links naturally excites the search spiders which in addition to the traffic the new piece of content has drawn leads to accelerating an increased page rank. It sounds easy, but the reality is that going viral is not so easy.
The problem many people creating new content face is that they fall just short of going viral. They may get 10,000 views in an hour and then die out. They may get 50,000 views overnight but very few one-way links back to the content which allows the piece to peter out and never fully realize the intended goal. It takes a perfect storm of circumstances to create truly viral content. By some standards, either of those examples would count as viral, but they hardly make a dent in really improving your site. Viral content is loosely considered as:
1 – Amassing massive traffic in a short period of time
2 – Being highly spread able
3 – Drawing in a high percentage of one-way links
4 – Drawing in higher than average traffic even after the viral period has ended.
Examples of this kind of content would be the Numa Numa video and Kobe jumps a car ad. They came on strong and continue to draw high traffic stats even though they are well beyond their born on date. Videos tend to go viral at a much higher rate than printed content which is something to consider should you actually concentrate efforts toward this end.
Textual content does at times go viral as well. Usually this is in relation to breaking news – the more scandalous and sensational the better. The problem is that when you go this route you have to be sure whatever you put out there you can stand by long term. This is where going viral can actually hurt your reputation long term even though it provided you with the traffic you wanted.
Helium, a notorious content farm, ran an article on their homepage for over one week concerning the BP Gulf oil spill. It generated viral type traffic, but the article was wholly inaccurate with manipulated data created by a layman, not wholly original and intentionally misleading and inflammatory. None-the-less, an executive decision was made to promote that content because the feeling was “our site is in dire straits and any traffic is good traffic.” The end result was that even after the content was exposed as inaccurate by other sites and it was added to a collegiate course as an example of irresponsible citizen journalism. The site of origin stuck by it to try to save face (possibly because they employ idiots). As a result, the initial traffic they loved wound up leading to people discovering not just the one piece of bad content but thousands of pieces of bad content which damaged the reputation of the site.
The lesson being that link baiting is exceptional and it is something every webmaster should strive for. What you need to keep in mind however is that with increased visibility comes increased scrutiny. If your site is sub-par in some way, it behooves you to have your ducks in a row before you begin a concerted link baiting campaign.