Buzz Marketing Link Bait Ideas

I’ve been trying to come up with a formula for success in creating link bait for our clients. The best thing to do for me has been to read the book “Buzz Marketing” by Mark Hughes. Mark was the former Marketing Director at Half.com, who had the town of Halfway Oregon rename itself to “Half.com” as part of the buzz marketing/link bait campaign.

Although Mark didn’t set out with creating a “link bait formula” when he wrote his book, the principles involved can be used very easily to create link bait.

Principle 1: Be Outrageous

Remember when Al Gore invented the Internet? That’s probably as much as I need to say on that principle. But I’m a small to medium sized business, you say, and I can’t think of anything outrageous about my sock puppets; you’re wrong. You just have to be willing to put up with the negative effects that might ride on the coat tails of some outrageous story.

Principle 2: Use a Celebrity

Britney Spears is a prime example of using celebrity status to further your agenda. But you are a small business, and you’re not famous. What if that sock puppet you make was used by Kid Rock’s nanny when he was growing up? Or maybe that fax service you provide was used to facilitate the negotiations between Russia and Germany in World War 2? (a stretch I know, but you get the idea)

Principle 3: Be Funny

This is the hardest but most profitable as far as risk vs. reward is concerned. The idea is to create a story that is so funny, people will just automatically start telling the story at the water cooler at work, or in the lunch room or on breaks. Like I said, this one is hard, but if you can pull it off, it’s pure gold. Sometimes making fun of yourself is the easiest way to be the funniest.

Principle 4: Do Something No One Else Has Done

This is where you’ve got the most leeway, because there are always lists, widgets, contests, prizes, and much more that no one else has done quite like you could. However, this principle doesn’t pack as much of a punch as you might expect from the other principles, just because you may have created a super de duper list of some kind, but there are already millions of lists, so yours has really got to stand out. I know you can do it though!

Principle 5: Be Controversial

Did TuPac really die, or is he holed up in his L.A. studio creating records still? Does Area 51 really exist? Does Scrapbooking paper really cure Alzheimer’s? (No it doesn’t by the way) Having a good team of lawyers will increase your likelihood of being safe with this one. That guerilla marketing campaign in Boston with the electronic bomb looking thing flipping the bird; Controversial. Your latest product release with New and Improved flavor; Not Controversial.

Principle 6: Be The Underdog

ClearPlay wins the award for best Underdog. The DGA and studios filed a lawsuit in 2002 against ClearPlay and a Colorado video rental store, CleanFlicks, which uses its own software to decode a DVD, alter it for content, then burn a new, edited version, back onto a DVD for rental.

The lawsuit is still pending. ClearPlay contends its software is not illegal because it does not alter the original DVD. But the amount of press that ClearPlay got from that lawsuit couldn’t have been bought in 100 years. They took on one of the biggest entities in their industry and stuck it out and got huge publicity.

Overall, you’ll be the most successful with a linkbait idea that genuinely entertains, inspires, offers something brand new, or gets people talking. If you can combine one or more of the major principles above into your campaign, you are on the road to a successful link bait strategy.

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9 Comments

  1. Rahul says

    You told point 5 to be Controversial. By being controversial are we not going to ban our website from the search engines. Can you please explain how does it work if we be controversial.

  2. Jeffrey L. Smith says

    You present a very interesting dichotomy. The need to advertise, keep the content crisp and appealing while having enough flavor to be ingested by the target audience.

    Social media and link / think bait is a perplexing double edged sword. On one hand, yes it does get exposure and could lead to conversion if leveraged properly. On another, the high bounce rates on the server logs can also send a red flag to Google as it could be interpreted as lack of quality when considering that one hot post that gets thousands of impressions (is great if they have backlinks and can supplement your SERP positions). However on the other, just imagine if you spent months developing on topic engaging content to increase the user engagement time on your site, only to have a footprint of social media folly undo all of your hard work.

    At this juncture, the importance of engagement time is one metric the search algorithms use to determine relevance. It will be interested to see if any long term side effects develop as a result of the negative affects of “the digg effect” or other social media sites.

    Just food for thought, I enjoyed your post tremendously, I don’t wish to infer this as a knock in any way shape of form.

  3. says

    Hey Rahul,
    Thanks for the concern. I’m not suggesting you get yourself banned at all. Controversy is something that goes against mainstream thoughts and opinions, and has nothing to do with how Google will see your site. They don’t rank you based on your political views.

    Jeff,
    I hadn’t considered your point about the bounce rate and server logs. You are right that google takes those things into account, but I think the amount of natural links and the potential customers far outweighs the bounce rate calculation. I really appreciate your feedback, and hope you have good luck in Chicago SEO.

  4. Tom - says

    Just saying thanks.

    Your celebrity comment got me thinking.

    I made case studies for one of my clients and optimized for their basic keywords and a celebrity they did work for. They got surprising results and conversions, but I still think it is not that relevent for the search. =)

  5. Mike says

    Hey guys thanks for the reference book. I need to track it down in Oz, or maybe best to order online at Amazon. Thanks agian. Mike (Sydney Oz).

  6. Sharla says

    Creating buzz online is much like creating buzz in the offline space. At the end of the day, what should be the starting point is an awesome creative concept that resonates. And your thought starters are a great place to start! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Brian says

    All points are certainly great ways to grab attention but I don’t think these link baiting techniques can be fruitful for any website promotion. By using these we can get huge traffic but not relevant traffic so could it be great idea to increase bounce rate?

  8. David Lee says

    I loved reading this.!!
    The celebrity idea was fantastic. i am going to try that.

    Thank You,

    David Lee

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