What Is Link Bait? 7 Different Types & Examples

Link bait is a highly scalable backlink-building strategy. There are many types of link bait, and I’ll highlight them with examples in this article.

February 21, 2024
Written by
Nate Matherson
Reviewed by
Charles Purdy

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Creating link bait, or content designed to accumulate backlinks naturally, is one of my favorite strategies for building backlinks.

SEO is constantly changing, but one thing is clear. That is, backlinks are still incredibly important when it comes to ranking in organic search and ranking highly.

There are plenty of ways to build backlinks (such as guest blogging), but these methods can be fairly manual and time-consuming. Building backlinks through link bait is often a more scalable method over the longer term.

There are many different types of link bait. You are likely familiar with creating statistics pages as a form of link bait. Today, this approach is largely spammed to death, and it has become much harder to rank for statistics-related keywords — though it can be effective in some industries. Fortunately, there are many other types of link bait, and I’ll highlight them in this article.

Let’s Talk About Statistics Pages

Statistic pages are the most popular link bait strategy, but given the popularity of statistics pages and the fact that they’re relatively easy to create, ranking these pages in highly competitive niches can be very difficult. That said, however, for companies with high domain authority already or who are in very niche industries, statistics pages are still likely to be low-hanging fruit and an effective form of link bait.

In the example above, The Zebra has created a page on homeownership statistics, and it ranks highly on the first page for this keyword. This page has accumulated hundreds of backlinks from websites such as BiggerPockets (shown below) and Axios, as well as a large number of smaller real estate websites.

Statistics pages are often a roundup of other people’s statistics. What’s likely to happen is that someone searches for “homeownership statistics,” finds The Zebra’s article, and then links to that page instead of linking to the original source that The Zebra is citing. And that is exactly what happened here:

The author of the BiggerPockets article cited The Zebra as the source of this data on mortgages when they should have cited the primary source of that statistic, which in this case is Zillow.

On the Optimize podcast, Jeffrey Trull, an SEO consultant and a former director of content growth at Student Loan Hero, found an incredible amount of success with this strategy. Jeffrey created a student loan debt statistics page and built “about 4,000 referring domains, 13,000 backlinks” over the course of a number of years, as journalists used the page as a source.

Regurgitating other people’s statistics onto your own statistics page does work. But if possible, it’s great to include some original statistics on your page as well. We chat a bit more about that below.

Using Surveys to Tell Engaging Stories

Surveys are highly effective for creating or generating your own unique data.

NerdWallet, a popular website in the consumer finance space, runs an annual survey of prospective homebuyers, asking them questions about their outlook, budgets, and more. As of this writing, NerdWallet has built nearly 1,000 backlinks to this page from websites, including Yahoo, MarketWatch, and many local media outlets.

Homeownership is always a popular topic. And NerdWallet has created highly linkable and proprietary statistics that journalists can reference any time they’re writing about homeownership. I imagine that when publishing this report, NerdWallet pitched many media outlets with the highlights from their survey. And given that this is the fifth year that NerdWallet has run this report, I imagine that they have a large rolodex of journalists they can contact who have previously written about NerdWallet’s homeownership data.

I love that NerdWallet goes out of its way to communicate its methodology:

In this case, NerdWallet used The Harris Poll, a very reputable polling company, and it’s clear that the company was thoughtful in this screening process. There are plenty of companies that offer online polling as a service. That being said, you’ll want to choose a polling provider that has some credibility, and you’ll want the sample size to be large enough that the data can be taken seriously.

In this case, NerdWallet surveyed more than 2,000 adults within their demographic, which is more than enough. In my experience, you typically need at least 1,000 respondents for a journalist to want to take your data seriously.

In addition, I really like how NerdWallet has taken excerpts from the report and turned them into helpful and embeddable graphics:

This report is evergreen in that it can accumulate backlinks for a long period of time or anytime someone is writing about homeownership in the United States.

Surveys are great, but if you can extract interesting information from your user base directly, that is even more awesome and unique to your company!

Using Publicly Available Data and Rankings

Surveys are also often quite expensive to perform correctly. If you’re on a tight budget, know that there are plenty of free datasets available on the internet.

For example, the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other government agencies release tremendous amounts of data. The example above is an article from Clever that recaps the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S. The report utilizes a significant amount of publicly available data from the aforementioned government agencies.

Clever has packaged this data, and they created a methodology to rank cities based on certain data points. Clever has built backlinks to this page from a number of interesting sources. Of course, there are traditional media websites like CBS News linking to this page, but there are also backlinks coming from local media websites and the cities themselves.

When using freely available data, the cost of creating a report like this is very low. Moreover, when pitching this article to either journalists or the cities themselves, the data and methodology naturally come across as very authoritative since the data comes directly from government sources.

I imagine that this page will accumulate backlinks naturally over time, as it is ranking well for keywords related to the best cities for biking, but I’m confident that Clever also actively pitched this article and the rankings to national media, local media, and the cities themselves.

I know from personal experience that cities love linking to this type of content because they all want to be known as the best for something, whether it be as the best city for bagel lovers (yes, I did this) or the best place to buy a home (yep, I did this one too). Local media especially likes reporting on rankings when their city is ranked as being especially good or bad.

Creating Tools and Calculators

Building helpful (and free) tools, such as calculators, on your website is a great strategy for so many reasons. They are extremely effective link bait.

In the example above, I’ve highlighted Bankrate’s student loan calculator. This calculator page on Bankrate’s website is currently ranking first for the keyword “student loan calculator.” So, Bankrate is not only ranking for an extremely popular keyword phrase but also accumulating some seriously authoritative backlinks.

Creating In-Depth Mega-Guides

I’ve long been a fan of Brian Dean’s content on Backlinko, so much so that I had him on our podcast.

One of my favorite articles on Backlinko is this article on Google’s 200 Ranking Factors. Brian and the team at Backlino put in a serious effort to create this comprehensive guide on the factors that influence Google’s search results.

They’ve also created a highly linkable asset for any website that needs to source a claim about a particular ranking factor — for example, the impact of title tags. Brian’s article has accumulated backlinks from over 6,000 referring domains, including Microsoft, Shopify, and GoDaddy.

I love that Brian can accumulate backlinks to this page from so many different topic categories within SEO. For example, if someone is writing about building backlinks, they can source this article. If someone is writing about permalinks and their impact on SEO, they can source this article. There are so many reasons for this page to accumulate backlinks from people needing to source data within a large topic space like SEO.

Creating Awesome Graphics or Infographics

I don’t imagine that Harvard is looking to build backlinks, but they’ve certainly done that with this helpful piece of content on the healthy eating pyramid. This page on their website has accumulated hundreds of backlinks, and this image, in particular, has also accumulated many backlinks directly.

Graphics and infographics are incredibly helpful for readers. And people writing content love to include helpful graphics within their pages. If you see an opportunity to enrich a page with a helpful graphic while you’re creating content, you should do it.

For one, it’s going to make people more likely to link to your website when sourcing. It also provides a better experience for your readers, and people will often also link back to your image directly and source appropriately.

On the Optimize podcast, Ann Smarty highlighted the fact that you can pitch your graphics and infographics to other websites as you would a piece of data-driven content.

Creating Very Evergreen Content

As SEOs, we often debate the importance of evergreen content. It’s often very hard to convert a website visitor from a “What Is” type article. However, these pieces of content often make for great link bait and lead to highly contextual and relevant backlinks. “If you produce really, really awesome content, when it appears at the top of the search when people are looking for content to link back to, they will click on your site, and they will link back to it,” said Rebekah Edwards on the Optimize podcast.

As just a quick example, if you Google “What is SEO,” the first search result is this fantastic article from Search Engine Land. As of this writing, this page has accumulated more than 10,000 links from referring websites, including Salesforce, Amazon, and TechCrunch.

It has also accumulated a large number of backlinks from websites you’ve likely never heard of — for example, William Peace University.

In the example above, William Peace University published an article for marketing majors called “10 Things You Can Do With a Marketing Degree.” Naturally, the author of this page had a small section about SEO and wanted to provide a more in-depth explanation of SEO for their readers. The author of this piece likely Googled “SEO” or “What is SEO” or something similar, then found this evergreen piece of content on the Search Engine Land website and included a link back to the page.

Evergreen content is also very helpful for building topical authority on your website. After you build backlinks to evergreen content, there will likely be plenty of opportunities to internally link from that content over to your most important pages, thus passing PageRank or page authority onto the other pages on your website.

Final Thoughts

Creating high-quality link bait takes time and other resources, especially if you’re creating unique data or graphics in the process. But over the long term, link bait becomes a highly scalable link-building method.

There are many different types of link bait. I’ve found the most success with statistics pages, data-driven surveys, and helpful tools on my websites.

These backlinks tend to be highly relevant to your website and would be considered no-risk when compared with other backlink-building strategies. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to control the anchor text as you would with a guest blog, but if the topics are closely related to your core topic area, that shouldn’t be an issue.

As a final word of caution, I’ll say that it can be tempting to create link bait that is relatively unrelated to your website’s core topic area. For example, in my past life, I helped run a website that helped consumers compare financial products, and we created a piece of survey content about dating on Tinder and Bumble. We built hundreds of backlinks in the process, but those backlinks were very unrelated to our core topic areas, and the net effect was negligible and likely slightly confusing for Google’s algorithms.

Nate Matherson
Co-founder & CEO of Positional

Nate Matherson is the Co-founder & CEO of Positional. An experienced entrepreneur and technologist, he has founded multiple venture-backed companies and is a two-time Y Combinator Alum. Throughout Nate's career, he has built and scaled content marketing channels to hundreds of thousands of visitors per month for companies in both B2C (ex financial products, insurance) as well as B2B SaaS. Nate is also an active angel investor with investments in 45+ companies.

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