Link baiting is one of the most effective tactics for promoting a site, universally, for both search engine rankings and short term traffic boosts. Link baiting is basically appealing to bloggers through focused and relevant content for them to link to your site or article. Understanding what content, features and subjects are popular with bloggers is subjective, however important it may be to the link bait creation puzzle.
There are no special lists of guidelines that set link baiting apart from normal content building or promotion, except the knowledge that you are creating something that is specifically designed to appeal to link savvy bloggers, and web content creators. Currently you can search through sites like digg.com to find examples of sites and pages that are getting a lot of press. Some popular blogs are around for the sole purpose of link sharing. You should be looking at popular blogs for ideas on the latest web crazes. There are currently two big fields getting attention: web 2.0 applications (including mashups, community based sites, tags, feeds, content aggregation, map interfaces, etc.) and trend announcing posts or articles that present new data or talk about how existing trends are affecting industries. Both of those fields get literally hundreds of links from bloggers who cannot seem to resist pointing them out.
Link baiting exists across the web in every industry. If you could gather a group of well known and well respected industry professionals to write a practices guide or offer their opinions on factors, trends, and issues affecting the industry you would have struck web gold for on topic links.
An important step in creating a link bait is the initial promotion. With a lesser trafficked site, only, it can be valuable to actually email a popular blogger or a writer in the field and ask them if they’d offer constructive criticism. Do not ask for a link as bloggers really hate that. Ask for their honest advice. Let them know that you respect them and their opinion, and that you like to read their blog. (If you do not read their blog or respect them then choose another blogger to reach out to.) Tell them that you are hoping their feedback will help you improve. Most of the time if you implement some small changes they ask for or mention, and email them back saying that you have made them they will write about it in public.
Once a site or application has been written about somewhere it will spread like wildfire. Social tagging and popularity ranking sites (remember digg.com?) help to give the document massive visibility to hundreds of sheep like content creators, who will happily link to you without input. Link bait is a wonderful thing and to those who become experts in its application in their industry niches where natural links are hard to come by reward awaits them.
On the most basic level I think of link bait as something interesting enough that it catches people’s attention. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There are many ways to do that, including working hard for it to generate data or insights. Or it can be as simple as getting creative. Then there is the controversial discussion generated link bait, but controversy is being over done right now. The best combination of link bait is one that includes working for it creatively.