How We Got a Link from The New York Times


Link baiting case study, linkbait campaign example, best linkbait companies, case study social linkbaitRecently at WordStream, we launched our first link bait campaign. By our standards, the campaign was successful, and we thought we'd share the details on how to build a linkbait campaign.

How to Get Links from New York Times: A Case Study

In a nutshell, we attribute the campaign's success to setting clear objectives, creating killer content and aggressive marketing. What resulted from our hard work, planning and execution was a link from one of the most trusted sources on the planet: The New York Times.

Case Study Contents:

How did we do it? Read on and find out how to get a link from the New York Times.

Link Bait Campaign Intro: Before You Start, Have a Plan!

You may be wondering how to start link baiting, and in ultimately, great linkbaiting is all about planning. In my mind, much of link baiting fails because it lacks planning. Bloggers and link builders think that if they throw up a piece of content it will magically go viral...on its own...eventually...because it’s just "so damn good" that people will be compelled to share it with others. This rarely happens. To succeed at link baiting, like any other marketing activity, you must follow a plan.

Before embarking on our link bait campaign, we developed a detailed plan, which included:

  • Establish goals: What are our objectives? How do we define success?
  • Create content: Pick a hook and create a killer piece of content
  • Promote aggressively: Pick targets and conduct an all-out media and social networking blitz
  • Track progress: Use tools to measure external coverage, link acquisition, traffic, leads, all Web activity tied directly to the campaign
  • Evaluate results: Did we achieve our goals? If not, then why?

Link bait planning is key to having a winning link-bait campaign, so be sure to spend a solid chunk of time on brainstorming and planning. All link bait strategies need a good plan.

Setting Goals for a Linkbait: Goals of Our Link Bait Campaign

So like I said, it’s critical to create a plan ahead of time, which includes clearly defined goals. By establishing your goals, you give your link-bait campaign structure and direction. Also, having goals helps determine which type of link bait "hook" to create, be it content, a puzzle, contests, widgets, humor or news, etc.

Now, the obvious goal of link baiting is to get links...copious amounts of links with a few gems (high trust, high authority links). But, in my opinion, your goal targeting shouldn't end there. The perfect linkbait campaigns result in a trifecta of increased:

  1. Links
  2. Traffic
  3. Leads/Sales

Now, you don't need to hit all three targets for your campaign to succeed. In fact, if your goal is simply to get one high value link, that's fine. But what IS important is that you establish this ahead of time, so you can judge success, evaluate your efforts to measure ROI and to inform future efforts.

We spent some time assessing the goals of our link bait campaign. For our campaign, the primary success metric was links, with the prize being one link from a national publication. We also hoped to drive traffic, more referred and organic. The traffic is essential to producing the links. If nobody sees your bait, nobody shares it. With regard to leads and sales, our link bait wasn't relevant to our products, so we doubted we'd generate many sales from the traffic. But our objectives were links and traffic. So if we produced leads, that would be a nice bonus.

Creating the Link Bait

Okay, so let's establish another point: the content is the most important element of link baiting. It's the "bait" in the link bait. Don't waste time trying to figure out what the latest new type of linkbait is or use cheap tricks - it's all about content. Poor content does not get shared, does not go viral, does not attract links. So given how important content is to your campaign's success, it's critical you devote the bulk of your time, energy and resources to developing your "bait."

Great link bait can come in many different forms, but here are some link bait ideas to get you started:

  • Infographic
  • News Piece
  • Video
  • Controversial Topic
  • Quiz
  • Poll
  • Interview

While these are some great link bait examples, feel free to think outside the box.

Since our primary goal was to earn a link from a national publication, we created link bait with a “news hook,” i.e. content that would leverage hot and trending topics and tap into public passion. Larry Kim created an article that claimed Scott Brown would win the Senate race based on social media popularity metrics. This was a stroke of genius because the nation was buzzing about the upcoming Senate race and we felt we could ride that wave of media frenzy. In addition, Larry leveraged "social media," another trendy topic, perfect for link baiting social news. This combination of two hot topics was the perfect storm, as it appealed to both fans of the impending Senate race and social media enthusiasts too.

Link Bait Promotion

For your link baiting to be effective, you must be willing to promote the living crap out of it. Even great content and the best link bait doesn't go viral on its own. It often needs help. For our marketing campaign, we knew we'd have to employ a super-aggressive promotional strategy to propel our content to viral status, so we devoted three hours to an all out media blitz that included:

Press Release for Linkbait: $140 through Marketwire

  • Within minutes of launching the press release, it ranked #1 for the query “Scott Brown” and an array of other Brown-related queries in the Universal Search Engine Results (SERP). Even better, the press release remained #1 in the Universal SERPs for eight hours.

Link bait press release, how to comment on the new york times with your web link

Organic Ranking: With little effort, the link bait blog post itself ranked first page for numerous "Scott Brown," "Massachusetts Senate Race," and "Martha Coakley" related queries, driving a bunch of organic traffic, which helped drive awareness and additional coverage

Real Time Search: Google's Real Time Search generates fresh and continuous feeds from video, news, blogs, forums and Twitter, making it a great "live listening tool." I can't stress how beneficial real time feeds were to our campaign strategy. Because of the Massachusetts Senate Race "hotness of topic," the real time search results were buzzing with activity. This gave us the ability to monitor a live feed for Scott Brown news and discussion, which was key to discovering fresh content to target for outreach and "strategic commenting" (discussed next).

Using Google real time search for link baiting, how to track link baits, link bait hypothetical case study, linkbait stats roi

Strategic Seeding: So I mentioned how Google's Real Time Search was integral to our promotion. That's because it fed us a constant stream of new content for strategic seeding opportunities. We used Real Time to target popular, heavily trafficked, online publications, where we dropped in compelling comments with a link back to our "bait." To ensure our comments wouldn't get buried/paginated, we had to comment within minutes of the target content being published. That's why real time search was key to our efforts. In the first few hours of our campaign, these strategic comment links drove thousands of visits and created more awareness for our link bait.

Social Media: How to Gain Strong Referral Traffic from Social Websites - a Simple Linkbait Tactic

Twitter was also instrumental for us, allowing our content to reach people instantly and increase share-ability. Our strategies for Twitter included:

  • Target key players: We tweeted @ the Scott Brown campaign, his daughter’s, and other rabid supporters found using Twitter Search.
  • Reach out to media: We tweeted @ influential journalists from this list: Tweeting Journalists. In hindsight, this "spray and pray" approach may have been too spammy. It could have been more effective if we’d made the extra effort to reach out to journalists individually, with personal tweets. But this was an experiment, so it’s good intelligence for our next campaign.
  • Hashtags: We incorporated the trending Senate Race hashtags (like #41st and #masen) in our Tweets for additional awareness.
  • Twitter bots: These profiles scraped and tweeted the press release and our link bait tweets, producing a flood of Twitter activity and traffic to our website.
  • Retweets multiplier effect: A lot of ardent Brown fans retweeted our bait to support their paradigm that Brown would win, while Coakley supporters retweeted criticisms of the post. Either way, bad or good, it contributed to the viral component.

Using Twitter to promote link bait, new york times case study strategy, success examples of link baiting

In addition to link baiting social news with Twitter, we hit other popular social media platforms, including:

  • Facebook
  • YouTube: Dropping comments in new Scott Brown and Martha Coakley videos
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Simultaneouslyblasting additional social sites

Rippling Coverage: The combination of blog comment dropping, social media buzz and media activity produced a ripple effect of coverage from others in the blogosphere we hadn't targeted directly, who referenced our social media poll (polls as link bait work great) in their articles, leading to even more interest, traffic and links.

Follow Ups: We reached out to journalists and bloggers who covered our article and thanked them. Now, this wasn't part of the campaign, per say, but more of a courtesy and common sense, as it aids in future outreach and relationship building with these influencers.

While promoting your link bait campaign may seem like a lot of work, it's absolutely essential. Even the best linkbait articles of all time used heavy promotion to make their link bait campaign a success.

Link Bait Campaign Results

So our link bait campaign was a success. We achieved our goal and got an editorial link in the New York Times.

New York Times link bait, how to get a link from nytimes, link bait generator

We also scored a bonus editorial link from Politico. So that's two links from major online news publications, doubling our goal expectations for the link bait. The full-on media blitz we embarked on also spawned mentions and links from across the Web and world, like here in Sweden. In addition, people dropped unsolicited comments and links to our social media poll in message boards, forums and media posts as the viral nature of our campaign caught fire. The link bait also sparked a number of copycat Senate Race social polls too, which was flattering.

Goal Breakdown

  • Links: 236 total links, including references in high profile, major trust sites New York Times and Politico
  • Referral traffic: Referred traffic quadrupled on our site, with thousands of pageviews in hours

Link bait traffic spike

  • Leads/Sales: 3 leads

Now, the traffic the link bait drove wasn't relevant to our core product (we're a search marketing software provider), so we only converted a handful of people. However, we did achieve our primary objective by getting a link from a highly trusted media outlet. In the future, we’ll use the same approach but try to tailor our "hook" to a more relevant audience.

So Why Was Our Campaign a Success?

Establishing a clear and detailed plan from the outset and executing it effectively was critical to success. Marketing our content aggressively was also paramount. But without the linkability of the content, our campaign would've fallen flat on its face.

So what was it about our content that made it so darn linkable?

  • Playing on emotion: Our social media survey caught fire because people nationwide had strong opinions about the Massachusetts Senate Race. This was a high-stakes event that meant a great deal to both parties. GOPs loved it because it reinforced their position. Dems panned it as utter nonsense. Either way, it was a winner for us.
  • Timing: The national spotlight on the Massachusetts Senate Race (and Scott Brown) peaked around the time of link bait piece, so timing was everything. The bait wouldn't have gotten nearly the amount of coverage had we released it any earlier. We hit the sweet spot, which was huge.
  • Hot and trendy: Scott Brown emerged into a political phenomenon leading up to election. The media was looking for anything they could get their hands on about Brown, so our link bait enjoyed the benefits of a hungry audience.
  • Creative thinking: This post would never have gone viral were it not for the unique angle of the link bait. Had Larry written an article about how Scott Brown should win because Dems are destroying the country with their Socialist agenda, etc, it wouldn't have had the same appeal. But by combining two hot topics: social media and Scott Brown, we struck gold. So creativity and originality were key as well.

Keep this in mind for future link bait ideas. Controversy that plays on emotion, a well-timed piece, trendy news, and a creative piece are all perfect linkbait examples. Even better if you can combine all of them.

Congratulations! You now know how to create a linkbait campaign - and an awesome one at that! As newly inducted linkbait campaign experts, we wish you the best of luck. Now go forth and linkbait - we got a link from New York Times and you can too.

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Lori Richardson
Feb 18, 2010

This is a great post, and one which I am glad to point others towards because you are explaining how to make something happen rather than just shouting that you did it. It also makes me think about how I will plan ahead on getting word out on a project I'm working on. Thanks, Ken!

Lori Richardson (@scoremoresales)

Ken Lyons
Feb 18, 2010

Hey, Lori.
Glad you liked the post. Thanks for commenting and thanks for sharing.
Yeah, the whole campaign was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun too.
Good luck w/ your own project.

Barry Dewar
Jun 01, 2010

Wow! I had absolutely no idea! I can't tell you just how much this post has opened my eyes. Not really about link-bait at all but about all the methods for boosting the visibility of web content.


Feb 20, 2010

I was pleasantly surprised by your article when I searched "link baiting" in Google. Your article was refreshingly written without any sales pitch. Just an honest and insightful case study.

Thanks and congratulations! Look forward to many more great things from you.

Feb 21, 2010

We did a similar one for our translation website

We have written a statistics based prediction for the Oscar winner. You can see it on

Feb 21, 2010

Have not yet seen this kind of authoritative yet simple article detailing various aspects of a successful link-bait. Thanks guys - u did a brilliant job.

Debra Mastaler
Feb 22, 2010

Great write up :) I'm curious to know how much time was involved from brainstorming the idea to data collection and if there were any costs involved. Also, did anyone from the NYT contact you to verify your content before dropping the link?

Feb 22, 2010

It's a great post Cheers Sane personal assistant

Steve Logan
Feb 22, 2010

Congratulations on achieving the Holy Grail of link bait. One great article can certainly provide numerous benefits, long-term (link strength) and short (traffic), but I just wondered how you balance the time you take to write and research the articles and then market them effectively.

I think this is the thing that most bloggers find difficult; not just getting the right story, but presenting it in such a way that it will engage with readers and then go that extra mile when spreading the word. As you say, there's no point assuming that a post, great or otherwise, is going to get picked up without at least a gentle nudge. Getting everything working in harmony, as with your post, can't be easy. Time is probably your greatest enemy, but if there's something that is worth sharing, you have to invest in it I guess.

Interesting read, many thanks.

Ronnie Jones
Feb 23, 2010

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Feb 25, 2010

Hey guys, great analysis. Here's playing devil's advocate on linking from high profile sources like the NY Times.

Helpful Tools to Generate Link Bait Ideas | PiggyBankPie
Mar 12, 2010

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Mar 19, 2010

I find it highly amusing how you describe this in a tone suggesting you could care less about Scott Brown :D. Eyes on the Prize! Yeah baby :).

Mar 26, 2010

Very good information, and help me provide a variety of information. thanks

Mar 28, 2010

Really great... It would be awsome to get a link from NYT :)

Ken Lyons
Feb 25, 2010

Hey, Debra.
Thanks for commenting. And sorry for the delayed response. For some reason I'm just seeing this comment now.
From inception, to creating the content, to data collection, etc, I'd say we spent about 8 hours on this campaign. And the only cost (besides labor/man hours) was $140 on the press release. So the whole campaign was pretty damn cost effective in terms of ROI.
Also, we were never contacted by anyone from the NYTor Politico to verify the content or our polling methodology or measurement standards or validation processes, etc.

Tom Demers
Feb 25, 2010

Thanks Adam, I just commented: interesting take. Thanks for stopping by!

Jonathan Bentz
Feb 18, 2010

Great summary of your campaign and congrats on the high trust, high quality links.

Nancy Nardin
Feb 18, 2010

Excellent post! Extremely informative and instructional. I'm inspired to try this approach for my site

Well done.

Feb 18, 2010

A Textbook Example of Successful Link Bait Usage

Ken, this article today is a textbook example of successful link bait usage. It’s going into my paper files for periodic reading.

I had so many comments that I decided to only list my questions.

You indicate your 5 goals at the start of the article. I’m interested in 2 of them:

1) Establish goals.
5) Evaluate results.

Did you establish quantitative goals for your link bait “test”? Did the results meet or exceed your goals?

Did WordStream inherit any page rank value because of your great linkbait?

It took 3 days for your blog article to receive a link at the The New York Times. The New York Times January 17 article at used the keywords “race’s online landscape” to link to your blog article at .
I used a theoretical page rank checker to examine the page rank of each link. The NY Times link has a 0 page rank and the WordStream article has a 0 page rank. But this isn’t my area of expertise; perhaps I’m wrong with these theoretical page ranks.

When Larry Kim authored the original article I believed there was a reason. I knew that WordStream wasn’t a firm to take a dalliance with political blogging or social media. Now I know the purpose: a carefully planned company wide link bait test with goals and measurement.

Now just one more comment.

“Follow Ups: We reached out to journalists and bloggers who covered our article and thanked them. Now, this wasn't part of the campaign, but just more of a courtesy and common sense, as it aids in future outreach and relationship building with these influencers.”

I can only imagine that WordStream’s corporate plan included thank you’s to referring journalists and bloggers from the beginning. And I believe WordStream has a database of those helpful journalists and bloggers on file for future reference.

Thanks Ken for the wonderful article. How rare for a company to give insights into their corporate planning and execution on both link bait campaigns and Search Engine Marketing.

Tom Demers
Feb 18, 2010

Hey Richard, Great questions as always! We didn't have quantitative goals for this specific post, but rather we have high-level goals for blog content in general, for both links, quality of link, and traffic/leads. Link baits/blogging are a bit like sales in that you'll make x number of calls but can only expect to sell y percentage. Maybe as a follow-up we'll document our least successful link baits :). As for the PR of the linking page from the Times, there are a couple of things at play there: that page will likely resolve to more than a PR 0 once there is an update, and if you look at the pages/domains linking at the article: and the internal NY Times pages linking at it: (that should be the links with everything, including the NYT links, included) you'll see that that page is going to be pretty authoritative. This is a powerful ranking factor that people often overlook: if you have a link from a page that continually generates "passive link income" over time, it is very similar to your creating a post that generates a percentage of those links. In other words if I am one of five links on a page that generates 5,000 inbound links, I am generating 500-1000 links worth of equity (the math there is oversimplified but hopefully you get the idea. A neat tool for gauging how much link equity you can expect to get from a page is Foxy Rank, a free FireFox extension: Additionally, having a link from a unique domain like the Times and Politico will send Google an enormous "trust signal" since those are by and large very trusted sites that typically only link to other trusted sites. All of this makes it easier for Google's algo to feel confident serving our content to searchers for a variety of queries, not just MA senate related ones. Thanks Richard, feedback is much appreciated as always! Tom

Nick Shin
Feb 18, 2010

Disclosure: I am the SEM and Social Media Specialist @Marketwire.

This is one of the best link bait strategy posts I've read in recent memory. You do a great job of explaining the step-by-step approach it took to build a successful online marketing campaign. Whether it was intentional or not to put the press release distribution as the first plan off attack, I'm glad you did. Submitting the press release helped do its part with the "ripple" effect thanks to SEO and our relationships with downstream partners and media partners who subscribe to our RSS feed. It goes to show that partnering with a newswire service does help spread the word.

I really liked how sprinkled in some lessons learned during this time period and how you ended the post with why your content was so linkable. This caveat is important for everyone to understand how/why your content spread across multiple platforms quickly and effectively.

One question for you: did you see any impact on the keywords that you target, specifically "keyword research tools"?

Nick (@shinng)

Ken Lyons
Feb 18, 2010

Hey, Nick. Thanks for the compliments. Glad you liked the post. Yeah, we're big fans of MarketWire. We trialed a number of other press release services with lackluster results. We chose MarketWire because you guys really "get" search and understand how syndication/distribution, links and branding help boost SEO. So kudos! BTW, feel free to use this quote on your home page or your blog with nice link ;) As for your question, we always see at the very least a temporal rankings boost for the keywords we target in press releases. In less competitive verticals (i.e. mid to long tail keywords), we often see a boost in rankings stick. If you're interested, I go into greater detail about the SEO value of press releases here: Ken

Nick Shin
Feb 18, 2010

Hi Ken,
First off, I have to apologize for the numerous grammatical errors in my last reply. *shameful face* My excuse: I was multi-tasking :P

In all seriousness though, keep up the great work. I hope readers of this post realize that it takes hard work and commitment to build a successful (link bait) strategy. Thanks for providing the link about the SEO value of press releases. I will definitely read it tonight.


Tom Shivers
Feb 18, 2010

Interesting points about link bait promotion: real time search, strategic seeding, social media. Thanks for the study.

Tim Aldiss
Feb 19, 2010

I know it's not a pure SEO observation, but I think you've missed a metric. Don't forget the number of potential eyeballs you got from getting a mention on the NY Times too. Take a look at Google Ad Planner for this: It shows a potential 26m global users, 760,000 in the UK alone. A nice additional metric, albeit a less measurable one that will no doubt raise awareness of the brand.

Colin Alsheimer
Feb 19, 2010

Fantastic case study guys. It's true that many bloggers throw out that you need to be creating link bait, but it seems that few do a deep dive into the strategy behind good link bait content. This is a post that goes straight into my Evernote notebook, which I'm sure I'll reference again down the road. Good work!

Feb 19, 2010

This is a great article. I love the fact that you showed how to do this. So many SEO articles are just bragging rights about what they did, not how they did it.

Thank you for this information! I will defiantly be passing it on.

Mike Stevens
Feb 19, 2010

Great article! A great case study for others!

Feb 19, 2010

Thank you for this post, it really was an interesting study, and I appreciate the detailed information about how it came to be. Again keep up the good work!

Heidi Strom Moon
Feb 19, 2010

Great food for thought here. Some of these tactics I was familiar with, but others I hadn't thought of before and look forward to trying, like harnessing real-time search.

I'd really love to see another case study on driving more relevant link-bait traffic. As you note, much of the traffic from this particular link was unqualified for what you sell. We've had a couple of instances of that for our own blog (; I wouldn't be much of a marketer if I didn't pitch it here ;)). While it was great to see the page views spike, so did our bounce rates, so I'm left wondering if the net effect was positive, especially since much of the referral traffic was through Twitter. If I'm not mistaken, Twitter no-follows outbound links, so you don't really get much of a ranking benefit from the links?

And I found this article on Sphinn -- another example of a great way to drive quality inbound link traffic.

Ken Lyons
Feb 19, 2010

Hi, Heidi. Thanks for dropping by the blog. Glad you found us through Sphinn. And no worries on the shameless link dropping. We're all marketers here. :) Yeah, we're hard at work on more relevant link bait campaigns as I write, and I plan to document the whole process again and publish the info on our blog in the future. Be sure to add our blog to your reader ( and you'll get an alert once that follow up case study goes live (see: now I'm being a shameless huckster too. hah!). As for Twitter no follow links, you're right in they don't pass "direct" SEO benefit, like semantic relevance or link equity. However, IMO they do indirectly help SEO performance. Google places a much higher value on "brand" now in the algos (see: '09 Vince update), so a flood of tweets around your brand sends a pretty strong brand engagement signal. Ken

James Svoboda
Feb 19, 2010

Congratulations on the link, but this post is very similar to one on SEOmoz from last year from David Ciccarelli, founder of

Ken Lyons
Feb 19, 2010

Hey, James.
Yeah, the titles of the posts are similar. I'll give you that. But the articles are completely different. Plus, my content is much better :)
Thanks for commenting.

James Svoboda
Feb 22, 2010

Good point Ken. And congrats again.

Tom Demers
Feb 19, 2010

Hey James,
The titles are obviously similar but I think if you look closely at the posts, the two processes for acquiring the link are actually very different. In fact I think it's instructive to look at the two approaches and consider both, depending on the situation.
Thanks for commenting!

The Weekly Insider 2-15-10 to 2-19-10
Feb 19, 2010

[...] How We Got a Link from The New York Times [...]

Feb 19, 2010

That's a nice post. Finally someone gets down to business and keeps not telling 'you need to interact, use social media, etc." but shows a success story. Sharing with the community. Perfect. Thx a lot!

Beantown SEO
Feb 19, 2010

This is an excellent post and a very helpful "how-to" example. When you say that the link bait was responsible for creating 236 links back to the site, I assume you tracked this by assessing direct links to this page only......any insight into what tool you used to measure this? Was it as simple as viewing Yahoo Site Explorer or Linkscape?

Ken Lyons
Feb 19, 2010

Hey, Beantown SEO. I used Yahoo Link Domain command to measure raw backlink data. But during the campaign, we used Buzzstream to track brand and link bait article mentions and link citations around the Web. Buzzstream is known primarily as a fantastic link intelligence tool, but it also features powerful brand/keyword monitoring capabilities. Cheers! Ken