What is Link Bait? How to Create Content That Attracts Backlinks

Understanding Backlink-worthy Content
Published on 
May 2, 2024
Updated on 
May 2, 2024

Link bait (sometimes written “linkbait”) is content deliberately created to acquire backlinks. Some of the most common link bait tactics include data, guides, controversial content, surveys, and newsworthy articles. 

We’ve put together the below article to help you better understand this useful link building and content approach and how you can employ it yourself. 

First things first, why create link bait?

What makes link bait effective?

Link bait is a worthwhile tactic because its entire purpose is to build links and backlinks are a critically important part of ranking and organic traffic. 

Consider this. Almost all content on the web will attract precisely…zero links. None. Not a single backlink. Even so-called high-quality content (stuff you spend a lot of time and money creating). 

Back in 2015, SEO companies MOZ and Buzzsumo analyzed 1,000,000 pieces of content and found that some three-quarters of everything they looked at had zero backlinks. 

To quote the article: 

“50% of the 100,000 randomly selected pots had 2 or less Twitter shares, 2 or less Facebook interactions, 1 or less Google+ shares and zero Linkedin shares. 75% of the posts had zero external links and one or less referring domains. 

This is why it is so SO important to make content with link building in mind (i.e., link bait). If you want backlinks, then you need to build link bait content, pure and simple. 

Best practices for designing effective link bait

Here are some of the best practices when it comes to creating good link bait content:

  • Focus on the visual aspect
  • Focus on comprehensiveness
  • Don’t be afraid to make it controversial
  • Use data, surveys and studies
  • Understand “ego bait”
  • Emotional hooks
  • Utility

Focus on the visual aspect

There’s no denying it: visual content outperforms purely text-based content across virtually every metric, from engagement to shares to time on page. 

Making your content highly visual greatly increases the odds that people are going to want to link to that content. 

It also creates a richer user experience and, depending on the topic and the niche, does a much better job of satisfying search intent, which means Google is more likely to rank it higher up in the SERP. 

Higher ranking means more organic search visibility, means more organic traffic, means higher odds that people are going to discover, like, share and link to your content. 

Programs like Canva are great for this because they have a large list of ready-made templates that you can plug your content into. 

There’s no need to make your content purely visual (you need text to explain and expand on things), but when it comes to link bait, there should never been any huge walls of text. 

Visual storytelling is important, especially if you’re trying to create link bait and get websites interested in your content. 

Focus on comprehensiveness

Another good way to have your content standout above the competition’s and attract those backlinks is to make it more comprehensive than anything else out there. 

Not only does this make you the go-to resource, but, again, as with using a lot of compelling visuals, it makes it more likely that your content will be the best at satisfying search intent, which Google loves and will reward with a higher ranking on the search engine results page. 

This means more visibility, and a higher chance of attracting backlinks organically.

If you want to build or attract high authority backlinks, you need to offer something that is a cut above everything else that’s out there. 

Let’s face it, the internet is full of a lot of the same stuff ad nauseum. Algorithms have, for the longest time, rewarded following a formula and imitation. The result has been the homogenization of what you are shown by search engines. 

If you really want to make an impact, you have to make your content the most authoritative and complete resource on a topic there is. 

This requires a lot of work–research, writing, publishing–but the end result can be a massive amount of links. It almost seems dismissive to refer to biggest, most comprehensive resource pages as link bait because of how thorough and valuable so many of them are. 

This is really one of the best link acquisition and link building strategies out there. Focus on quality, comprehensive content (whether it’s a blog post or a massive service page), promote it well (we’ll get into promotion a bit further down), and the links will come. 

Don’t be afraid to make it controversial

Done correctly, controversial content can attract a ton of visitors and potentially a lot of backlinks to your site. 

You don’t need to say things that are going to get you in trouble or that are going to seriously harm or offend anyone. 

All you really need to do, in most industries, is to go against the grain a bit. Create a small controversy. 

Anyone with a lot of time and experience in a niche or industry that takes their job seriously is going to have an opinion on things like recent developments, sacred cows, conventional wisdom, best practices, etc. 

If you can make a compelling case as to why a way of doing something is incorrect (i.e., essentially implying that a lot of people are wrong), it’s usually a surefire way to have a bunch of people rushing in to argue with you. 

Even if you don’t end up being objectively right, if you can make a plausible case and back it up with facts and figures, there will almost certainly be a bunch of people out there willing to push back and provide counterarguments. 

Use data, surveys and studies

Data-driven content and surveys are two of the best ways to get people to notice your content, which means they can be fantastic sources of link bait. 

A blog post that illustrates a point with numbers and social proof (e.g., surveys) carries a lot of weight and you can cause quite a stir in an industry or niche if you publish a piece of data-backed content. 

Data, surveys and studies are some of the best ways to attract inbound links because, at the end of the day, link baiting is about creating content that is demonstrative. That is to say, content that doesn’t just make statements but backs them up in some way. 

Anyone can create content. If you want more links that you’re used to getting, however, then you need to show other websites something that is uniquely valuable. 

Data, surveys and studies are highly shareable and, what’s more, they are great prompts for additional content, so a website can take your link bait and structure a blog post around it–either agreeing with, disagreeing with, or expanding upon what you’ve written. 

Understand “ego bait”

Ego bait is another great way to attract links. 

This type of link bait works by getting the attention of influencers. There are several different ego-based link baiting tactics:

  • What I learned posts
  • Favourite blogs or influencers posts
  • Interviews
  • Featuring someone’s advice or content and then letting them know about it

What I learned posts

This is a form of link bait where you choose someone–either someone you’re already following or someone influential in the industry that you hope will take notice–and then create a piece of content listing the various things this person has taught you or helped you do. 

People like this kind of recognition for its own sake, but it tends to be great link bait because influencers also want to share this kind of recognition with their followers. Nothing bolsters credibility among your target audience like social proof. 

Favourite blogs or influencers' posts

Similar to the above style of link bait, you can often get the attention of people with large followings by including them in listicle articles where you discuss your favourite blogs and blog posts. 

Here’s an article from Outside Magazine on their top ten rock climbing blogs: 

It’s very likely that bloggers whose sites were featured were very eager to share this post with their followers (Outside is a well-respected outdoor magazine), which means more exposure for this article, Outside’s website and perhaps even some backlinks. 

This is great link bait if you already have a little bit of clout and notoriety in the industry, a bit of a following on social media, because people are more likely to take note of these kinds of roundups and feel “seen” when you mention them. 

Emotional hooks

A 2012 American Marketing Association article looked into how emotion shapes virality and found that content that “evokes high-arousal positive (awe) or negative (anger or anxiety) emotions is more viral.”

Good link bait is very often emotional in the above ways. 

Awe (as in, incredible! I need to share this with my followers on social media). Surprise (as in, wow! I had no idea). Anger (as in, I can’t believe this is true! I need to tell others about it). Anxiety (as in, this is scary!). Interesting (as in, Cool! I know people who would find this really interesting). 

You are unlikely to hit every single emotional note in a piece of content, but the more virality-friendly emotions you are able to harness, the higher the odds of people sharing your stuff. 


Writing content to maximize utility is another great link bait tactic and one that is highly correlated with virality

Utility is a fancier way of saying “usefulness,” is something useful? 

If it is–if it helps people make an important decision, or avoid a mistake, or learn something that might help them in the future–then it’s useful and they are quite likely to share it with people they know or their audience. 

If you are uncomfortable with trying to get an emotional response from people with your content, then you might feel better just creating highly useful link bait. 

Take this article from our blog, for example: 

These are 18 link building tactics that you can use to build links like the pros. 

Anyone who is trying to build backlinks is going to find something like this useful. 

It’s link bait, but it’s not deceptive or emotionally manipulative. It’s just a huge amount of useful information. 

Promoting your link bait content

It’s one thing to create the link worthy content, now you have to go out and promote it so that people actually link to it. 

Yes, if it’s good enough and you just let it sit on your site, people will probably eventually stumble upon it, and it may very well generate some decent link juice. 

But if you really want to generate serious links to a web page, you’ve got to promote the content. 

Below are the main ways that content marketers get their newest link bait out there. 

Social media

This is pretty straightforward (providing you’ve got the necessary social profiles in place) and a community you can promote ot. 

Once you’ve got your new link bait, post it all over the place–Facebook, Linked, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube.

You can’t control who else posts your content on their social media profiles, but you can exploit your own. If you’ve got the budget for it, it’s always a good idea to boost your Facebook and Twitter posts for additional reach. 

Press releases

You might be thinking “why would I be putting together or paying for a press release for a piece of link bait?”

To a certain extent, you’re right, a press release is really only for when you’ve published something that is legitimately newsworthy (like an original industry study or data that confirms a conclusion that no one else has published). 

If you have created content that fits this criteria, a press release can be a great way to get it in front of journalists and bloggers who can really amplify it. 

Email outreach

If you haven’t cultivated a sizeable audience on social media or developed a big email list, then blogger outreach is going to be your best bet for promoting link bait. The kicker is that you have to actually find people who are going to be interested in what you’ve published and have an audience that will be interested as well. 

There are plenty of ways to go about this. 

You could perform a search of people on social media who have recently shared content related to your link bait. 

Or, you could use Google search to prospect in much the same way you would for link building opportunities (i.e., using search modifiers).

Or, you could use a “best blogs in x industry approach.” Remember the climbing example we use above?

Well, if you were a website owner in the climbing industry (eCommerce, blog, affiliate, magazine), you might consider reaching out to a bunch of the top-performing websites and blogs in your niche. 

This turns up aggregator pages like:

Go through the blogs, evaluate them for relevance and quality (traffic, content quality, domain rating, etc.) and then put together your outreach list. 

Why link baiting is not a dirty word 

Link baiting is an effective link building tactic, not because it tricks people (or baits them) into paying attention to something that is actually not worthwhile. It’s not a bait and switch but an attempt to provide actual value. 

To make link bait work, you need to invest time and effort. If you’re “baiting” in the traditional sense of the word (i.e., trying to dupe people), you will quickly be found out and ignored (potentially even irreparably damage your reputation). 

High authority links are acquired on the back of quality content. 

Once you’ve got the content, however, this is when the hard work begins: building links. That’s where a reputable link building service comes into the picture. 

Get in touch with dofollow today and schedule an exploratory call to see whether our contract-free, user-centric link building is right for you and your website. 

Why Trust Us On SEO

Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.

Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.

While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.

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