Linkbait is wrong
One of the most effective ways to get to the top of search results
is to have many links from other websites back to your site. Now,
and this is very important, you shouldn't have just any old links.
The search engines are looking for quality links from reputable
sites that are added over a course of time. Links from link farms,
and links that you pay for are usually detected by the search engines'
algorithms and are given less or even zero credence, making them
virtually worthless. So, many webmasters are trying out what they
think is linkbaiting.
What is linkbaiting?
Linkbaiting has been described as the action of trying to get other
people to link to your site of their own accord because of something
special on your site.
That something special could be great content, a nice little app,
a very useful (and usually free) software or, more contentiously,
Why is linkbait wrong?
Linkbait itself is not wrong per se, merely the semantics.
By connotation, in the world of Search Engine Optimization, "bait"
is a bad word - more associated with fishing for unsuspecting victims
to trap them and reel them in. Those webmasters who do have
great content or data on their sites, or great software or apps,
absolutely deserve to be linked to for the right reasons. This is
called organic linking and is a good thing™.
Even some sites which use controversy, such as rotten.com
are interesting and can keep being controversial to maintain
the reason for the link.
Linkbaiting could then best be described as webmasters using
a one-off stunt to get others into organically linking to them for
the wrong reasons (i.e. getting links to one interesting page while
the rest of the site is very different, they want to sell something
but want it to seem like they're not, or the site changes down the
As search engines place more emphasis on getting organic links,
linkbaiting will become more popular for unscrupulous webmasters.
Akin to the "publicity stunts" which still dazzle naive
and lazy media outlets, making them add the "story" to
their newspaper, magazine or TV show, some people will be tempted
to add links from websites who try their own "publicity
One such example of a linkbaiting stunt is The
Million Dollar Homepage, the original pixel ad site. The promotion
campaign for the page was a runaway success with even non-web media
covering the stunt. The site now has over 28,500 backlinks
according to Yahoo, for basically a link farm page with images.
(I would not advise any reputable site to advertise on a pixel ad
site or to directly link to a pixel site by the way).
Alex Tew has stated he will keep the ads up for 5 years,
but here comes the rub. Once some webmasters have got the links,
they can change the site. While I'm not suggesting that Alex will
turn his page into a spam site or scraper site, there are other
sites out there that will. That's what I would call linkbaiting.
In the end you have to make sure the pages and sites you link to
are reputable. Lots of people have been caught linking to so-called
Phew! What's a bad neighborhood?
This is definitely something all web masters need to know
about. Some sites engage in very questionable linking practices
- I suppose we have all seen them.
Remember at the top of the page I said that the search engines
are looking for quality links from reputable sites that are
added over a course of time? Some people think the opposite - that
search engines want to see more links to your site meaning you are
very popular. This makes some webmasters get links wherever they
- Swapping links with any website that will take it,
- Adding their links to every single directory on the planet,
- Adding posts to irrelevant forums just to include their link,
- Starting up dummy websites just to carry their link.
Of course, the search engines know about these types of
links and rate them close to zero if they are not relevant to
your site. So, adding those irrelevant links is useless. But,
the search engines also keep a record of sites that do this type
of thing on a large scale. If you link to one of these sites (and
that can be easy as they usually ask for a reciprocal link) you
are deemed to be part of their network of sites, or bad neighborhood,
and can be penalized for that! You will go down in the search engine
rankings or in severe cases be banned from the search engine altogether!
Don't get involved in link swap schemes or link farm type operations,
and only swap links with quality websites related to yours.
The best way to get quality links from other sites is to
have good quality content or data - be it articles, news, humor,
photos, software or whatever - something useful that your visitors
can recommend to their friends, colleagues or visitors to their
site. You will receive natural organic links over time. Time is
something that search engines need to recognize that your site is
as good as it is and deserves to rank highly in the search engines.
Be patient for a year or two, keep building content on your site
and watch what you have sown grow.
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I encourage your comments on this story,
with your thoughts.
This article was inspired by Matt Cutts blog entry entitled SEO
Advice: linkbait and linkbaiting
which is a good example of quality relevant content, even if it
uses the wrong terminology!
An example of good organic linking:
What is v7ndotcom elursrebmem
- See how you can use your site to help kids with cancer.