Link bait creation — are you really getting a return on your investment?

Guest Author, Angie Nikoleychuk

What’s on your list of successful link baiting techniques? Contests? Infographics? Widgets?

If so, you’re not alone. You’ve probably used a few of them yourself. And they may have done their job and generated a ton of traffic. But do these types of content really give you the results you’re looking for?

Failure Disguised as Success

A friend of mine once gathered a bunch of icons and published them together in series of posts. (Each post featured icons, representing a particular social network or action.) After a bit of promotion, each post generated a ton of traffic.

Sure, he got a few bookmarks, saves, and shares, but that’s about it. When people arrived on the site through these connections, they came purely for the icons and nothing else. Most of them probably didn’t even know what my friend did for a living, or what he had to offer.

The traffic he got through people linking to his posts wasn’t much use either. In fact, the only thing he really got out of it was using more of his bandwidth.

He’s not alone. Most infographics and other link bait pieces created today give similar results. Why? People keep repeating the same process, without looking at how to get the best results from their content.

Measuring With the Wrong Metrics

Site owners often see the traffic and attention they get from their link bait and automatically assume they’ve been a success. But what good is traffic if it doesn’t bring anything else?

”But it brought visibility,” you say. Yes, it probably did. But was it with the right crowd? And was it worth the $1000 or however much you spent on it?

Before you answer “Yes”, think back to the last list post, contest, or infographic you visited. Do you remember the site it was on, and what it was actually selling?

So what does matter?

  • Links — But not just the same old crappy links. You want the good ones, from authority sites and sites that are already attracting your target audience.
  • Interaction/Engagement — Are people commenting? Sharing? Interacting with you?
  • Branding/Authority — Did your link bait reflect your brand and help build some sort of authority (or at least made you look good)?
  • Conversions – Did you generate sales, inquiries, or even clicks to your main ‘money’ pages?

Getting in With the Wrong Crowd

Who do you write for? Clients? Or others in your industry? Copywriters and content marketers have been debating this for years, and the debate won’t be ending any time soon.

I have a slightly different view on the matter than most. Who I write for depends solely on my goal for the piece.

Let’s say I’m trying to generate links. I know my clients generally don’t link back to copywriters and copywriting companies, so they likely won’t link back to me. But, others in my industry (and in related industries) do link back. As an added bonus, these people also attract a wealth of companies and individuals who may need copywriting at some point.

These are the people I’ll write for, if I need links. On the other hand, if I’m after sales, recommendations or buzz, I’ll write to clients and potential clients.

The side effect is you get people from both your target audience and a number of different companies and industries all coming to your site. The result? A rich mix of people who together create a well-rounded community of knowledge and insight.

Lack of Research

Forget your competition; assumptions are your worst enemy. Thinking your audience will like a piece of content simply because you did is setting yourself up for failure. It doesn’t mean it won’t get any attention, or won’t be a smash hit, but it significantly lowers your chances.

Besides, if you’re investing a ton of time and/or money into your link bait, shouldn’t you at least do a little homework first? You know… make sure it’s something your target readers want to see?

Lack of Effort (Failure to Think Things Through)

Ever heard the saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is”? Or how about, “Anything worth having is worth working for”? I truly believe link bait is the same.

Contests, awards, and other quick ideas at link bait often fail because the people who’d normally link back aren’t interested — there’s nothing there for them.

Think about it:

  • Contests — As soon as someone has won whatever’s on offer, everyone forgets about it. And unless you’re willing to give away some serious prizes, people aren’t likely to write about it either.
  • Awards — Who cares about some image they “won” from a site most of their clients haven’t heard about? Unless you’re a huge industry leader, leave this one alone.
  • Infographics — Sure they’re cute to look at for a minute or two, but they’ve been overdone. Present some fresh information that will grab attention from the right sources, or combine your infographic with an in-depth write up, or forget it.
  • Widgets or Tools — No one will regularly use (or write about) a gadget that’s been done before. Even if it’s really funny, it’s not something that will lead to lots of conversions or helpful links. You need to either fill an actual gap in the market (not just make another version of the same old thing), or…

Never mind. You have to fill an actual gap in the market and make something people would actually use.

The only way to get the right attention is to create something that actually solves a problem or issue. Or, you could try mimicking bad link bait — doing something so completely different and unique people can’t help but comment and interact (but in a good way).

When it comes to creating successful link bait, there are no shortcuts — you have to do your homework if you want to succeed. Not even lying to yourself and covering up your failure with traffic numbers can save you.

Start researching your audience. Find out who’ll give you what you want, and what they’re looking for. Then, create and market your content so it gets their attention — and the kinds of conversions you’re looking for.

A Canadian currently located in the UK, Angie Nikoleychuk is the owner, senior copywriter, and strategist at Angie’s Copywriting. She’s an active blogger and author (The first ebook of her Copywriting Master Class series on creating link bait is set to be released in the very near future). Contact her on Twitter or email her at @angiescopywriting.com