A successful piece of linkbait is what every SEO dreams of. The popularity, brand exposure and SEO benefits can have long lasting effects on a site. However, there is a 99% failure rate. Ok, I just made that number up, but my point being that its a difficult task. Its hard to even know what will and will not go viral. It could be something as simple as a meme or something that could take months of time, a large group of people and a ton of money to get off the ground.
So, what Is Linkbait?
First, I should explain exactly what linkbait is. Call it what you will — linkbait, real company shit, great content — but what it comes down to is something cool. It is a piece of content that is shareworthy, useful and/or entertaining that will amount to new links and exposure for your site.
When analyzing what made these pieces of content so successful, I judged them based on five different factors.
Creative - Was it something that took thought? I know that sounds like a stupid question, but its the reason Google implemented the Panda algorthim. There is so much useless shit on the Internet and the reason we have such a hard time finding information we need or want. Its something that takes thought and effort to really appeal to the masses.
Funny – Was it funny? This is definitely not a deciding factor in becoming viral, but it helps. Humor is hard and not everyone can be funny. That’s why we really appreciate those that are and when they stop making us laugh they quickly disappear **cough, cough Dane Cook**.
Target Audience – Was the piece directed at their target audience? While its not necessary to gear linkbait to your target audience, its smart. Your established audience are the ones who are most likely to see your content. They are the ones who are going to share and link back to your site.
Timely – Was the content timely? Content that is timely is always more likely to be shared. The presidential election is one of those events that bloggers and journalists are itching to get their hands on new material and a great way to get links from high ranking news outlets (and we’ll see a great example of that below).
Money – Did the piece of content take money to produce? This is the thing SEOs are always bitching about. It takes money to make great content. FALSE. True, it helps if you have money to buy better equipment, hire the right personnel and promote your work, but all the money in the world isn’t necessarily going to guarantee content goes viral.
Now here are five examples of some of my favorite recent linkbait successes.
QB’s Talking on Facebook
During the week leading up to the Denver Broncos game against the New England Patriots, they decided to have a little fun with an old rivalry between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
After missing all last season with a neck injury, this would be the first time in two years that the four time MVP would face the three time Super Bowl champion.
Every game between the two is must see TV and instead of writing another 500 word article, they decided to take the conversation to Facebook.
Using FakeConvos.com, they created a hilarious debate between some of the best quarterbacks in the league. They gave each QB their own unique personality and used their play on the field as ammo for the humor.
Why was it successful? First of all, it was clever. They used a new medium to create something original instead of just writing another fake news article.
Most importantly though, it was funny as shit (in a good way). They nailed every QB’s personality dead on IMO. Nowadays it seems as if we have to make up our own in our heads because agents, coaches and the league put a short leash on what they can and cannot say on camera.
We never get to see their real personality because agents are afraid of how it may affect their image and pocketbook. Coaches dont want players giving up anything that may give the other team an edge or something to put up in the locker room. And it seems like one false move and you are paying a hefty fine to the league office.
The fake QB conversation also was a perfect piece of linkbait for their target audience. It doesn’t give any type of NFL fan a reason not to read. Whether you’re hardcore and follow the NFL as a whole or just watch your favorite team every Sunday. On top of that the QB position are usually the most popular players on the field.
The success of the first conversation gave them the opportunity to continue to bring in new readers each and every week. All they needed to do was watch the games on Sunday, be quick witted (in order to produce one per week) and keep up the high level of quality their readers expect.
Total cost = $0
Binders Full of Women (Tumblr)
We just went through one of the most painful tasks we have to endure as citizens, the presidential election. It’s about six months of horrible news coverage, millions of dollars worth of attack ads and debates full of empty promises and the runaround.
In the second debate, presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, had a case of diarrhea of the mouth when he made this comment.
Immediately after the comment was made, people around the country made their way to social media with all different types of references to ‘binders full of women’.
What started out as a few simple, clever images turned into a colossal amount of user submissions and traffic.
Why it worked? It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Romney had put his foot in his mouth when he made that statement. However, being quick enough to turn away from the meltdown that was occurring to jump on tumblr and register the domain was smart thinking.
After that, it only took a few hours I’m sure to think of some clever sayings, images to match and some average paint skillz to get this piece of linkbait off the ground.
Every image wasn’t a winner, but people found the humor in what they stood for and the fact she accepted user submissions made it even more shareable and linkworthy.
The timing of the site was everything. The site appealed to every voter one way or another. Visitors may have been there because they were a passionate democrat looking to bash the republican candidate, a republican who wanted to fight back against the ridicule, or there for comedy sake alone.
Again, the cost for all the the links, shares and traffic $0
This example is the crem de la crem of link bait for a boring niche. And it all came about after Richard Neill, who I’m sure had seen one too many tampon commercials during the Bad Girls Club marathon he was watching on Oxygen and decided to be a funny guy and explain that Bodyform commercials were a bunch of white lies.
Clever Richard. What he didn’t know was there are plenty of people who are much smarter and funnier than he is and came up with this amazing response video about the unfortunate truths of a woman’s period.
Before that video was made Richard must have felt on top of the world. His clever little post on Bodyform’s Facebook wall had received almost 85,000 likes. Of course until he was completely ousted by a group of marketers who realized the benefits of his little post and decided to run with it.
Counting the 3 million+ views on YouTube, that video has had over 14 million impressions! Now the only thing that Richard is saying is, “Touche Bodyform”.
What made it such a great piece of linkbait? Well, it was brilliant. I’m sure whoever pitched the idea may have had a hard time convincing the people in the room it would work on top of actually getting the CEO to star in the video, however I bet they have a new job title now.
It was incredibly funny while still informing people about a woman’s period. The script may have not looked like a winner but the way it was delivered along with all the other subtle jokes made it a home run.
Women enjoyed the video as a big slap in the face to all males who will never understand what a woman goes through during that time of the month and for the men who get the unfortunate task of picking up tampons at the drug store definitely remember the Bodyform brand.
Amount of money spent for 14 million impressions = priceless
REI’s 13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak
REI’s 13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak Infographic is more of your typical linkbait. Infographics have become more and more popular since Panda/Penguin, but like everything that works in SEO, the tactic gets used and abused. Infographics and guest blogging have been on the rise, while the quality has sunk. However, it doesnt mean when done right it still doesnt work.
Jonathon Colman and the rest of the REI team put this infographic together (which you can check out here) in a creative way to raise awareness on which products you would need to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
There are many reasons why REI continues to succeed in organic search. First and foremost, they never half ass anything. Every piece on content on their site is well thought out, informative and useful to their customer base. This is why they are the world’s leader in outdoor education.
This infographic was just another creative way to reach potential customers because zombies have become such a cultural phenomenon. Resident Evil, Zombieland, the Walking Dead and many others including REI now are raising awareness of how to deal with the eventual fall of mankind.
SIDENOTE: There is a couple I work with that actually collects lint in anticipation of this date. Dead serious (no pun intended). They claim it will act as kindle to build fires when we all have no where else to go and are all living in the woods. To me it just sounds like an incredibly dangerous fire hazard to a couple of delusional people.
With all good things, competitors are bound to come up with something similar. Jonathon pointed out that the Internet eCommerce powerhouse Amazon, took their idea and ran with it. This piece of linkbait wasn’t anything new of revolutionary, but it goes to show that when done right, infographics can still be a success.
Cost = time, thought and a good artist
Old Spice Man Music Maker
Old Spice has plenty of terrific linkbait out there. Isaiah Mustafa, Terry Crews, Fabio, the Sea Captain and Greg Jennings all have done a terrific job delivering Old Spice’s message in the same extremely out there voice. Even their social media manager plays off the same persona. While I dont necessarily get the appeal of these ads (and actually buy the product for the product itself, good smelling and the ability to eliminate odor) I must give kudos to those who thought of it because, frankly, its worked better than anyone could have ever imagined.
The reason I picked this video was because they made it interactive. After watching the 1:15 video, users get the opportunity to mess around and create they own music video.
Why has been played 8.1 million times? Like our first example, they put a new twist on what already has made them successful. Making it interactive encourages people to stay on page longer, replay and share their work with others.
They stayed true to their outrageous form of advertising, funny in a weird, why am I laughing type of way. Anyone who has liked their previous videos in the past, would be likely to jump all over the opportunity to put their own stamp on the Old Spice Brand.
Want to embed the video on your own site? The code they provide automatically credits and links to the original site (pretty cool). The only downfall for someone like me is this is something I could never duplicate. This is where big brands and money win. While I have no idea how much it would cost to make, I’m sure it cost more than free, which is what I’m looking to spend for my next big idea.