TopRank Online Marketing
Lee Odden

Viral Marketing or Linkbaiting?

By Lee Odden     Blog Marketing, Link Building, Marketing Industry News, Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media

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SEO is constantly changing, but at the same time, the more things change the more they seem to stay the same.¬† Yesterday’s viral marketing becomes today’s linkbaiting. Despite changes in SEO tactics and nomenclature, the fundamentals stay the same: content and links. In order to keep up with these kinds of changes, smart online marketers are continuously revising tactics and execution to provide companies with a competitive advantage.

One of those tactics focuses on both content and links by promoting unique content that propagates virally through social news, blogs and network sites. This viral online marketing tactic is more commonly called “linkbaiting”. Regardless of what you call it, companies are starting to allocate marketing dollars to these tactics and search marketers are responding with new services.

The latest SEO to enter the linkbait game is old school mac daddy link master Eric Ward with a new linkbaiting service that¬† compliments the link building services he’s offered for years. Just in case you’re very new to the SEO business or you’ve been under a rock the past 10 years, Eric has been been doing content publicity and link building since 1994, and has worked on many high-profile sites like Amazon, ABC and PBS.

What do you get when you hire a consultant that offers linkbait services?¬† Here a breakdown of Eric’s new service at $2,000:

  • A proprietary “Link Opportunity Audit” for your site
  • Creation of a strategic link bait strategy for your site
  • Two hours of private phone discussion with Eric Ward
  • Training on promotion and link building for the new content

Linkbaiting at its simplest form is creating compelling content that encourages people share that content and also link to it.  With viral marketing, it had more to do with the sharing of the content Рvia word of mouth and email mostly.   Links drive traffic and can also affect link popularity Рa significant influence on search engine rankings. Linkbait can come in virtually any creative form, including (but not limited to): tools, contests, awards, lists, polls, controversy, and any other form of content that encourages linking.

Eric Ward is by no means the first to offer this type of online promotion. Well known link expert Andy Hagans offers a linkbaiting service ($5,000) as does Todd Malicoat (aka Stuntdubl) with Todd’ service focusing on written articles. Text Link Ads launched two plans priced at $5,000 and $10,000. The linkbait master, Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz also offers linkbaiting services, ranging from $5,000-$50,000.

SEOmoz’s services include linkbait development, design, promotion, or a combination of all three with a particular emphasis on creating interactive content like videos, maps, mashups and other cutting-edge media. Of the services above, SEOmoz gives the most information about their offering, while the others tuck the “secret sauce” away until you contact them. This is pretty consistent with SEOMoz overall though.

Rather than offer stand alone viral marketing services, TopRank incorporates elements of link generation via unique content and distribution through social media as part of its standard online marketing services.

The important thing to remember about linkbait services is that, like most SEO programs, there are no specific guarantees for outcomes. There is no way of predicting how compelling someone may find your link bait, nor how many times it will be linked to. However, the consultants above that offer linkbaiting services have performed extensive testing on their own to detect somewhat predictable cause and effect characteristics prior to launching their services.

What I would like to see are more case studies from companies that offer such services. I realize people don’t want to give away any trade secrets, but there are plenty of ways to explain a problem/solution case study without getting into the details. Perhaps this is something TopRank can undertake in the coming weeks.
Additional resources on linkbaiting:

Nick Wilson’s classic post, “The Art of Linkbaiting
Darren Rowse, “Introduction to Linkbaiting
Google’s Matt Cutts: “SEO Advice Linkbait and Linkbaiting


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