• Is link bait dying as a search engine optimization technique?

    by  • April 2, 2007 • Blogging, Google, Linking, Search Engine Optimization • 12 Comments

    Whether you love it or hate it, link bait has been going strong for about a year now, with webmasters and bloggers carefully crafting titles and articles for the maximum amount of link baiting goodness. But like all SEO techniques that webmasters run wild with until it is done to death, is link bait due to be exterminated as a usable technique?

    Link bait has two primary uses for webmasters looking to promote a site. First is the initial wave of traffic that a hot link baited article can bring. When people start linking and talking about your article, the traffic comes albeit through linkage from other blogs, through social media such as Digg and through blog search engines such as Technorati. However, within a day or two, this traffic trickles off to next to nothing.

    Then comes the true SEO aspect of a successful link bait article… the boost that all those deep links give to the page and the site overall. This helps the blog rank higher in the search engines and contributes to increasing PageRank. It is an extremely useful technique… in fact, there are search engine optimization companies that only take on clients who have good link bait-ability.

    But like any hot SEO technique, as soon as it starts getting done to death – as arguably link bait is now – the powers that be at Google simply turn one of those many shiny knobs and suddenly the technique starts to count less and less in the serps until those link bait links don’t seem to add anything at all. Or worse, sites utilizing it to an extreme level get penalized.

    So is link bait as an SEO technique at the end of its days? Definitely. And the writing has been on the wall for several months now.

    Remember the whole miserable failure Google bombing? With Google bombing, a large number of bloggers link to the same page with the identical anchor text so that the destination page will (hopefully) rank for their chosen phrase. Well, Google tweaked their algo so that Google bombing would no longer impact the search results (although Google bombing is ironically alive and well in Yahoo & MSN).

    So if Google can combat Google bombing, which is a lot of bloggers linking to the same page within a short time frame, who is to say that they won’t apply the same thing to trip a filter or penalty when a blog has a large number of deep links coming into a single page in a short period of time? Link bait would still work well for the social aspect of it, but for Google at least, the ranking boost would no longer factor into it.

    If link bait stopped working as a SEO technique, would people still do it? You bet. There is definitely the ego boost and the stardust factor people get when everyone is linking to them and talking about what they wrote. There will still be those who get their kicks from seeing how many times they can make the front page of Digg in a week or if they can be the first to blog about some exploit in Google or Yahoo that gets everyone saying how great they are. So from that perspective, link baiting will be around for a long time to come.

    And my gut feeling? It is only a matter of time – if it hasn’t started already, that is. It could be a sudden thing that gets all the bloggers screaming at once, but I suspect it would be more of a gradual dampening, something that could easily be attributed to one of the few dozen other algo components that make up the Google secret sauce. But my guess is this time next year, link baiting will be dead as a search engine optimization technique.

    But have no fear, this time next year there will be some new technique everyone will be using, and we will all be thinking how 2006 link bait is 😛


    Jennifer Slegg is a longtime member of the SEO community and is an expert on social media, content marketing, Google AdSense and search engines.

    12 Responses to Is link bait dying as a search engine optimization technique?

    1. April 3, 2007 at 12:38 pm

      The only problem with that kind of dampening is that it would drag down items that are legitimately buzzworthy and in turn make the Google results less relevant.

      I suspect what they’ll do to counter this is to establish trust levels for various blogs, possibly based upon popularity within their thematic area and proximity to trusted blogs based upon the link patterns.

      With these trust levels established, they can use a sliding scale of trust to dampen the least trustworthy results.

    2. Jeff Martin
      April 3, 2007 at 1:55 pm

      Maybe Im missing something here. Are you saying that an informative piece of original work or some neat tool is released that grows in popularity quickly and is linked to because of its quality will not have an affect on search rankings? I dont see the logic in that. We are talking about editorial links as Matt Cutts links to describe them which he also says are the best links to get (since they are given and not asked for).

    3. Jenstar
      April 3, 2007 at 8:27 pm

      Nope, not at all. With link baiting, it is generally a high number of links within an extremely short period of time, and after that time period, very few if incoming links get placed to the page. So it could be used as a signal, especially if there is a repeated pattern of it.

      If it is an informative piece or tool, those things generally gain links after the initial rush, if they get that rush at all. But a mass of incoming links all on the same date to a particular page, and then none after that day could definitely be a signal.

      They are also using that kind of thing on new sites as well, where a mass of incoming links cqan be a spam signal. That is why most linking experts recommend gradual link building, not a mass of links within a few days, dependent on the site size.

    4. April 4, 2007 at 3:20 am

      IMO link bait will never die, think about it. The content must be great to get peoples attention and the links generated from them are completely organic and not gamed (usually).

      Link bait is your friend :)

    5. April 4, 2007 at 8:32 am

      Gradual Link building will be a good idea.I saw some posts few days back that linked heavily to each other with almost 80% of the content same. That will affect them a lot. though they try link bating but then google will check everything at the end

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    7. April 5, 2007 at 6:07 am

      I can follow the argument that if a technique becomes over used google and others might take steps to reduce its importance and I can see the argument that there is no reason google would want to discount link bait if the content is good.

      Doesn’t the anti-google bombing one work in a slightly different way though. I assumed it was triggered if a page recieved a large number of links in a short period of time with anchor text that wasn’t contained on the page…

      I might be wrong though.

    8. April 20, 2007 at 12:47 am

      I hear people arguing about the spam issues with the rate of incoming links regulary, does anyone have any proof that it gets marked as spam? My site only has 50 pages, but gets ~250 new links per day and I rank bloody well.

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    10. April 20, 2007 at 5:40 am

      That’s a scary thought – I sincerely hope Google doesn’t do away with the effects link baiting has on their SERP. It’s a perfectly legitimate way to not only build content for your site, but get natural back links as well.

      And I know some people would argue that link bait doesn’t produce natural links, but I think that’s all semantics – when it comes down to it, you put something cool up on your site and people linked to it b/c of that. I just can’t see how that is a bad thing. And I have to agree with mblair that it would definitely make Google’s SERP less relevant in many cases.

      Damn I hope Google doesn’t get too high handed with all this!

      Great post Jennifer, gave me some things to think about!

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    12. May 22, 2007 at 5:52 pm

      I don’t think Jen is suggesting that the SE’s will do away with link baiting, but are adjusting to possible abuses by pattern matching and discounting abnormal timing on link building.

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