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The Link Baiting Playbook: Hooks Revisited

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 14 years and 121 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

Linkbaiting is all about the bait. In the same way that you can’t catch a giant tuna with a bag of doritos – you’re not going to get the attention of important bloggers, journalists, or other folks with some garbage content or news. Do YOU really like reading press releases anymore? Wouldn’t you rather spend that time reading something fun, entertaining, insightful, interesting, or informational? Let’s take a look at the different hooks available to linkbaiters (or viral marketer’s if you prefer that school of thought), and hope that you can find an angle to approach link acquisition for YOUR business.

In the original post that coined the term linkbaiting, Nick Wilson mentions 5 linkbaiting “hooks”:

  • News hook
  • Contrary Hook
  • Attack Hook
  • Resource Hook
  • Humour Hook

I’d like to add a few new hooks to Mr. Wilson’s fine original observations – the "ego hook", and the "incentive hook", which I’ll gladly review and exemplify below. The common thread with linkbaiting is that you MUST be remarkable ala Seth Godin’s Purple Cow – if you can’t bait with stuff that people will talk about, then go back to link begging. Make that top 10 list a top 100 list. Spend a few extra hours on research. Go the extra mile on something extraordinary, instead of just something good.

Introduction – A note on titles, target audience, and school of thought.

The importance of good titles cannot be underestimated. For folks take linkbaiting seriously take titlebaiting seriously as well, and understand that a great title is half the battle of a successful linkbait campaign. I suggest several reads and references to CopyBlogger’s headline formulas from his magnetic headlines series. Studying direct marketing headlines, as well as sales letters by Dan Kennedy will probably help as well. Create your own headline swipe file. Please don’t forget to include some quality anchor text if possible, since the goal is to have it linked to often, the title will be used as the link in many cases. Understanding your audience is critical to knowing what will succeed as well, but if you can’t figure that out, I would suggest you search for a different career path.

Linkbaiting IS NOT Viral Marketing

Linkbaiting and Viral Marketing have a lot in common, but I’m gonna let you in on a little secret – they’re NOT the same. The goal of viral marketing is exposure and branding. The goal of linkbaiting is links! The process may be very similar but the measurement of success is quite different. Exposure is great, branding is grand – but without successfully obtaining a quantity and quality of backlinks from a campaign linkbait is a failure. We MEASURE with technorati and yahoo, and an understanding of link value. The indirect value of these links for search rankings and targeted traffic from search engines is what linkbaiters crave. For more on the disconnects between marketing and SEO please see the stunt train seo marketing manifesto

Linkbaiting Hooks Revisited – with NEW Additions!


Fast, up to date news on breaking topics with expert commentary on the topic.

Pros of this hook: It’s generally pretty easy to aggregate news and offer commentary. Doing so frequently and with dedication will establish you as an expert.

Cons of this hook: It can be quite time consuming and redundant. You can’t reinvent CNN without getting Doc Brown to help you invent time travel first. If you go too broad you won’t succeed. If you go too niche, you will have a hard time finding a substantial audience.

Ideas for this hook: Go niche. Don’t start another SEO news blog. Jen did it with contextual, Brian Mark is becoming the Oneboxer. Pick a small piece of growing real estate, and make it big by covering every piece of relevant news and nothing else (except your value add commentary). Be the first to report anything.

Examples of the resource hook in action:



The contrary hook is generally in the spirit of traditional debate in a public forum. Smart folks can achieve success with the contrary hook debating with friends or associates without taking it to the level of the attack hook

Pros of this hook: People who respect your opinion, but disagree with you are very likely to link to you. People who find the debate interesting or insightful are likely to link to you.

Cons of this hook: You had better be right, or you’re going to take a public thrashing. Check your facts, or you’re going to get whipped like a red-headed stepchild, and have some serious reputation management issues to deal with.

Ideas for this hook: Read throughout your blogosphere, and make sure to have an opinion on everything. Take someone’s post, and become the counterpoint. It generally turns out better if you approach it in a respectful fashion – otherwise you risk running into attack hook territory.

Examples of the contrary hook in action:

Top 10 reasons PPC is better than SEO vs.
Top 11 reasons SEO is better than PPC

11 Rising Barriers To Entry for Small Businesses on the Web vs.
Barriers…or Opportunities?

Nofollow – the leper of blogging vs.
5 Reasons I like the nofollow tag



Pros of this hook:Lots of links are given from controversy. The cliche "there’s no such thing as bad press" can certainly be applied to links as well – there’s no such thing as a bad link (okay – for this discussion anyhow wiseguys)

Cons of this hook:It’s not generally fun to make enemies – I don’t really want to sleep with one eye open for some extra links (unless it’s a helluva LOT of links:)

Ideas for this hook: Generally dishonoring some type of closely held belief system works pretty well. You’re on your own here – If you really want to piss people off – I’m sure you can find a way – just make sure you have some good anchor text in your title if you’re gonna sell your soul.

Examples of the attack hook in action:



This is my favorite hook. There are plenty of ways you can truly be a resource. In any industry there is a lot of opportunity for conducting ground breaking research, aggregating important information, filtering important information, increasing productivity, creating widgets, creating tools, and a variety of other things that can establish you as an expert and attract a whole bunch of links at the same time.

Pros of this hook- You can build something useful that you will be referenced for often.

Cons of this hook-
– It can be very time consuming and monotonous aggregating information into a single source.
Someone may figure out a better way to do it
whil you are in the process. Gaining critical mass and acceptance as the expert may be difficult. It can take a lot of work to do something truly resourceful.

Ideas for this hook: Eric Enge agreed to conduct research based on Rand’s idea for creating a web analytics comparison – and is currently working on it. You can bet it will be one of the most well linked marketing documents of 2007. Eric also did a nice job creating a SEO search, based on Google custom search, which is a great way to approach the resource hook.
Write an extensive guide to anything, and spend some time on the research, and delivery format of your research. There’s opportunity for this everywhere.

Examples of the resource hook in action:



Write something funny about your industry or the people in it.

Pros of this hook: It’s fun to be the class clown. Everybody needs a good laugh now and then. A little self deprecation is great to show people you don’t really take yourself too seriously.

Cons of this hook: Sometimes a hard sell with higher ups. The likelihood to have a sense of humor is inversely proportional to the size of a company. Everyone may not share your sense of humor.

Ideas for this hook:

  • Poke fun at yourself or your company
  • Poke fun at the industry
  • Jokes about industry slang
  • Jokes about common problems in the industry

Examples of the humor hook in action:



Everyone loves to talk about themself or read about themself. I think the old saying goes “the sweetest word in any language is the sound of your own name”. I certainly like hearing when people say nice things about me. Offering people significant exposure to express their ideas (IE – giving them a soapbox where people might listen) is a common component of the ego hook. Letting people talk about themselves, their ideas, or their company with your assistance.

Pros of this hook: You can sometimes get links and exposure from big bloggers. Everyone likes to talk about themselves.

Cons of this hook: Some folks have been baited one too many times, and may just ignore you. Nobody really likes a brown noser.

Ideas for this hook: Awards, interviews, sucking up.

Examples of this hook:



Pros of this hook: If you give people a motive to talk about you they likely will. Contests have worked for ages.

Cons of this hook: Getting the idea past the legal team. Bloggers sometimes don’t like to be bought (or so they say). Folks on the web are pretty good at sniffing out ulterior motives, and then it turns into trouble.

Ideas for this hook: Scholarships, contests, awards Examples of this hook:

Closing Notes

  • Categorize your content into readable well chunked content that folks that skim can read and decide to re-read.
  • I can assure you that not very much great bait is written in just a few hours.
  • Descriptive pictures certainly help to emphasize the points made in your content.
  • TIME your launch effectively with social media submissions

More baity goodness:

Shameless self promotion: linkbaiting service

More information about Todd Malicoat aka stuntdubl.

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