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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Most content should be link bait...

Let's start with a few facts...

1. People follow links. They see a link to something from a site they frequent regularly and they follow it. If you track your own traffic (coming and/or going) you understand this.

2. Link sharing is growing. Social bookmarking and networking sites are increasing the direct traffic value of links and providing smart marketeres with a way of increasing traffic without search engine reliance. Users are telling one another where to go and are following one another's leads.

3. Search engines like links. The search engines still subscribe to the basic theory that every inbound link to a site is akin to a "vote of confidence." The more favorable nods a site receives, the more likely the search engine is to view it as an authority worthy of high search engine result placement.

4. People add links voluntarily. Every day, millions of new links are built without so much as a dime (or even a reciprocal link) involved. People link to things they find valuable, interesting or cool.

Long story short... Links are very good for your website and they don't necessarily have to be part of an orchestrated swapping campaign or buying spree. If you can offer something interesting, you will earn your links and reap the rewards.

We used to call that "good content." Now people like to call it "link bait." Link bait is content that encourages non-reciprocal, voluntary linking by others. In other words, link bait is the kind of thing people want to see and share.

Many webmasters and SEO people talk about link bait (or the practice of linkbaiting) as if it is some kind of shocking new development. It's not. It's really a return to roots. Put up great material, get people excited and the links pop up without any arm twisting.

Nonetheless, people are drawing some kind of arbitrary distinction between link bait and other forms of content. It's a false distinction and an incredibly limiting one.

If you're approaching content (in general terms) and link bait as two separate entities, it's time to recalibrate your thinking. Yes, there are certain content necessities that don't have real link potential no matter how well-written they are. The bulk of content, however, can be written with link acquisition in mind.

How? By using exciting, fun-to-read, interesting, thought-provoking materials.

If you are operating a site designed to get folks to purchase their credit reports, you have a choice. You can use variations on the same dull articles everyone else in your niche uses or you can decide to fill your pages with something that will actually get people motivated and interested. If it's good enough, it's going to spur natural linkages.

Even if you don't get the kind of link buzz that subservient chicken might inspire, you are still going to grab the other proven benefits of quality content (longer stays, more page views, repeat visitors, etc.).

If you can't write the good stuff, don't have time to do it, or just feel like your hours would be better spent doing something else, contact a professional to get the job done.