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 😛