Digital marketing is not an industry for the faint hearted. Forever evolving, the methods of getting your clients’ name out there can go from the benign to the mind boggling. I suppose that’s what you get in an industry run by creatives.
I’m here to talk to you about one of the more ‘out there’ ways of gaining publicity for your clients. Linkbait.
Linkbait – Noun: “Content designed to attract attention and encourage those viewing it to create links to the site.”
It’s viral marketing’s SEO relation. It’s a simple concept at heart; create something so absurd that people can’t help but talk about it. Even Matt Cutts, Google’s head of web spam (and a man whose holiday leave is more than enviable) has championed the technique as a good source of link building.
So, a simple legitimate technique… perhaps it’s not so ‘out there’ after all.
Well, not yet at least! It’s not in the method where the madness lays, it’s the ideas thought up to get people talking where things get interesting.
You may have encountered linkbait without even knowing it. Ever seen an article discussing a strange product or announcement from your favourite brand? Was that product something unnecessarily expensive or topical perhaps?
An example of linkbait, which I recently worked on, was for car dealer Jennings Ford Direct. We created a listing on their website for a diamond encrusted Ford Kuga, proclaiming the automobile was all yours for a cool £1 million.
The combination of this vulgar showcase of wealth and the absurdity of placing this grandiose paint job on a Ford Kuga was a hit with motoring fans and publications alike.
After pushing the piece out on social media and pulling together a press release, we were able to obtain a number of top placements including links from Yahoo, The Sun and Top Gear.
A success! Not only did the client receive a lot of great link equity, but also in terms of brand awareness this got the company’s name in front of thousands, if not millions, of motoring enthusiasts.
So how can you create a perfect piece of linkbait yourself?
Over at Zazzle Media, we have produced this handy diagram explaining the key components necessary to create and carry out a successful linkbait campaign…
For linkbait to truly work, you need to have a lot of faith in your creatives.
It needs to be loud, it needs to grab attention and it needs to say to editors ‘my readers would love to hear about this’.
It’s also important to understand why people feel obliged to share content. Research from the New York Times’ consumer insight group found that there are five main reasons why we share content with our peers.
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to others.
- To define ourselves to others.
- To grow and nourish our relationships.
- Self-fulfillment (to feel more involved in the world).
- To get the word out about causes or brands.
This type of content can come in many forms, it can be funny, it can be awe-inspiring, and it can even be controversial. The trick is to produce something unique, which requires an awful lot of thinking outside the box.
Remember, nothing is off the table.
In the past, companies have even made it appear that they’ve made a marketing blunder to grab attention. Just take a look at when clearance resellers, Wholesale Clearance UK, ‘accidentally’ used a picture of President Obama instead of Chris Smalling for a series of England World Cup mugs. A little push about the ‘error’ in the media and it was consequently featured on the Daily Mail.
Coming up with an amazing concept can be difficult. At Zazzle Media we follow our ideation process, which features techniques such as brainstorming, researching trending content, competitor analysis and identifying seasonal and evergreen opportunities.
To do this we use a variety of tools and resources available on the web. You can take a look at the full list in the ideation process presentation linked to above, but I’ve listed a few of my personal favourites below…
- Google Trends – A great tool for finding out exactly what people are searching for right now as well as revealing the top search queries for previous years. Dig through the big news stories of the year and there are tons of evergreen content ideas to be adapted and harnessed.
- Buzzsumo: Identifies the most shared content relating to a keyword in the past year. It contains a variety of filters and is a great showcase of ideas that are tried and tested.
- Facebook Graph Search – Probably the ultimate tool in any marketer’s arsenal for finding exactly what your audience are interested in. Once you’ve found the interests, you can start to explore great ideas within that niche.
You can read our guide to Facebook graph search by clicking here.
No one likes sharing something that doesn’t look the part.
The only caveat to that statement is if something is designed NOT to look good. Incredibly poor design can go viral. Remember the elderly women who destroyed the 19th century painting of Jesus? Or take the work of ‘Chris (simpsons artist)’ for example.
His work is deliberately childlike, because people find it funny. He’s become so popular with this technique, The Guardian even asked him to contribute a piece for their election coverage.
Hubspot’s Liz Alton has written a piece on the importance of design, which includes some great insight into the need to spend a sufficient amount of time on the design aspect of a campaign…
“Many people fail to appreciate how psychologically compelling design is. Good design can take a masterfully crafted pitch or concept and add gasoline to its ability to drive conversions.”
It’s even more imperative to get this right when you understand how quick we are as a species to cast judgment. Research by Google carried out in 2012 found that it takes only 50 milliseconds for an individual to make a first impression about the design of your content, so it needs to make an impact!
Given enough time, an awesome concept explained to your design and development team through a clear and concise brief will reap the rewards in terms of quality.
Once you’ve got your piece of linkbait primed and ready to go, it’s time to unleash it into the world. Linkbait works best through a combination of social media and digital PR activity.
Supporting the campaign from the beginning is a must on your client’s social channels. Ideally, you’d have a budget set aside for Facebook ads in order to reach the maximum amount of eyeballs. But as you can see in the image below, even a standard post can garner significant engagement when the content is out of the ordinary.
With this type of content, it’s also worth investigating paid content discovery platforms such as Taboola and Outbrain. These platforms will place adverts for your linkbait on major publications under their editorial output.
As you can see, these platforms reward users with a strong thumbnail image and an enticing headline. These services can provide a nice boost to traffic figures, which in turn should hopefully generate further social shares
Media outlets are always looking for the weird and wonderful to share with their audience. With linkbait you will have not only created something worth sharing, but an angle for journalists to use, saving them time and effort.
If you’re putting together a press release for a particularly strange campaign, remember to play it completely straight. Journalists will be more than happy to add jokes about it afterwards for you.
I’ve included a segment of our diamond car press release below as an example…
Hard wearing and easy to keep clean, the diamond paint-job won’t rust or tarnish and is scratch resistant. Each diamond is painstakingly applied by hand by a dedicated team of workers, and will take more than two months to complete.
David Walker, sales manager behind the creation had this to say about the project…
"Who says Fords aren't glamorous? Bringing more glitz to the North East has always been an ambition of mine, and with this ultra-glamorous optional extra, now I can!
“Let us help you compete with the rich and famous. Have your car showered in diamonds for only £22,000 per month!”
Get the tone of the piece right, send it to the right connections and you might just find you’ve created a maelstrom of publicity!
You can find more tips on constructing the perfect digital PR campaign by clicking here.
After your initial sell-in to the media, be sure to check up on any organic coverage that comes off the back of it. From the diamond car campaigns publication in the UK media, international motoring sites picked up on it as well.
Taking a client global is always worth shouting about!
So there you have it - a few words on linkbait and why, when you put time, creativity and faith into an idea, it can do wonders for your link profile and brand awareness.
If I have missed something, leave a comment below and showcase your own achievements in the world of linkbait.
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