Linkbait Case Study: How We Got on the Front Page of Mashable
Back in December we launched an infographic centered around the Internet and the environment. It didn't do as well as our previous infographics, which didn't particularly surprise us – we weren't completely happy with how it came out, and we didn't put as much effort into promoting it.
A couple of weeks ago, we relaunched the infographic (see below; click to enlarge), after giving it a complete overhaul, to coincide with Earth Day. This time around, it got the traction we had hoped for, attracting over 150 new links, including several high-value links from new domains like the LA Times and the Atlantic, and giving us a big spike in referred traffic.
So what did we do differently? Why did the infographic perform so much better the second time around? Here are three reasons why I think the relaunched infographic outperformed the first version by a large margin.
Because the infographic had a "green" theme (the effects of the internet on the environment), it made sense to time its release around Earth Day. Whenever you can tie linkbait in with a timely event on the calendar, you stand to get a lot more traffic and traction out of it. Web searches for "Earth Day" and related environmental queries spike around April 22, and people's interest in the topic is generally piqued. So put some thought into when you time the release of your linkbait. Does it make sense to line it up with a holiday or national or worldwide event like a big election, the Olympics or the Superbowl?
Comment spam works
OK, maybe not comment spam per se – I'm not advocating for carpet-bombing blogs in unrelated spaces. But dropping a link in a comment on a relevant post can actually be a worthwhile way to draw some attention and traffic to your site, even if it doesn't result in an editorial link. And sometimes it does – Larry dropped a comment to our infographic in a relevant post on Mashable. The comment link actually drove a fair amount of traffic on its own, and a day later Mashable wrote up a dedicated post for it, giving us a front-page link. (P.S. Email outreach works too – the LA Times link was the direct result of Larry sending an email to an LA Times staff member he thought would find the data interesting.)
Insist on high quality
As I mentioned, we weren't completely happy with the quality of the first version of the infographic – it was a little sensationalist and difficult to read. The problem with mediocre linkbait – aside from the fact that it's less like to catch on – is that your team is less likely to put in the requisite work to promote it. It takes effort to make something go viral – content may be king but it needs an army to rule. If your team loves your content, they'll go the extra mile to make it sure it gets seen and talked about. And if it's great content, of course, other people will love and share it too.