The capacity to create high-quality widgets and other interactive pieces of content makes for a valuable linkbait strategy that can increase incoming traffic, create returning users, and further develop a website’s influence online.
While creating these types of linkbait takes skill, originality, and creativity, it can be an almost sure-proof method to get more links to a website.
Widgets work great because once they are launched, they can incorporate links back to the original website that created it. They are basically small programs that run within a frame or box, like a mortgage calculator or a body fat estimator. Users input values in order to get their customized result.
HTML widgets work best since Flash-based or Java widgets do not support links back to a website. However, Java and Flash-based widgets have more possibilities when it comes to design and function and HTML can always be worked around them. Nick Wilson of Search Engine Land says that compared to textual linkbaiting, widget linkbaiting (or, as he calls it, “widgetbait”) can be defined as “high risk, high reward.” This is because the cost to create them may be high and in turn, a widget designer cannot definitely promise that a widget will generate a large amount of incoming links.
Plugins are a subset of widgets that are written for content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. Stephan Spencer mentioned in his blog that his download plugin page on his company’s website is nearing the same page rank as their home page, which is a 7 or 8. Because these CMS’ are open source, any developer can create Plugins and submit them for approval and entry into the plugin directory.
Once a plugin is activated on a users site, it may include a link and credit to the developer’s site. Some plugins aren’t free and many developers offer them for sale on their own websites (free plugins are used mainly for linkbait and for promotion of a developer’s expertise in their field).
Although not much “overlooked” anymore, infographics are a great type of linkbait that is becoming more popular. A great designer displays statistics and information about a subject on a large single graphic, which is then rapidly shared online. The statistics are usually higher than estimated and therefore makes users want to share. For example, an infographic titled “Facebook vs The United States” published in April 2010 on Mashable was shared over 4200 times in 4 months.
Quizzes and Badges
Quizzes were a big fad in the 1990s, but they can still popular today if they are used in the right context. Types of quizzes that remain popular are trivia (especially when it comes to sports, celebrities, or current events), personality/fun (i.e. “Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert?” or “Which cereal are you?”), and necessity (i.e. “What type of dishwasher/car/insurance is best for you?”). Other quiz-like online components are in-browser flash-based games that involve speed, knowledge, or accuracy. Many quizzes and games present the user with a badge that they can share on their website or blog. As Neil Patel from quicksprout.com states about using these methods to improve SEO, “Rewarding helps build content.” This is where the real value of these types of linkbait comes into play. The badges usually have a graphic which is hosted on the website’s directory, giving them a link once the user inputs the badge code onto their website.
Tying in Social Media
Rewarding not only helps build content, but also makes users want to share their results. Making the results and badges easy to share means more traffic back to the hosting website. As you can see, TheOatmeal.com (created by web developer Matthew Inman) makes quiz results easy to share by giving users options, along with an eye-catching graphic. He also made the options large and noticeable, with the applicable social media icons next to the share link.
Controversial Hidden Links
Any type of linkbait on the web wouldn’t be complete without some type of controversy. In this case, many SEO experts believe that widget developers may be using “black-hat” methods in order to place unaffiliated links inside a widget or quiz badge’s code. Matthew Inman, one of the co-founders of SEOMoz, was caught for this process in 2008. Soon he was called out by the Guardian for shady linking practices-
“It works like this. Inman devises a free quiz, which appears on some webpage. You take it – answering perhaps a dozen arcane questions about Star Trek. At the end, you’re presented with a badge or widget for your blog, website or social networking page; there’s also the option of some HTML code that can just be copied and pasted in to any page’s source. But tucked away within the HTML code that puts the badge or widget on your site – and unseen by human readers of the blog, because the badge or widget obscures it – is a link to an entirely different site. Search engine spiders spot the link, see that many bloggers seem to be pointing towards it and raise its page rank, producing high search results for certain keywords (also in the HTML) such as “cash advance”.
Soon after this was published, Inman wrote a blog post on SEOMoz about the Guardian’s article and admitted to wrong-doing, but then highlighted the steps he has taken to incorporate ‘white-hat’ SEO processes into his linkbait.
Since the incident, Inman has become a full-time freelance developer and still posts cartoons and other viral content on his website, The Oatmeal. His cartoons get thousands of tweets, diggs, and posts on Facebook and he occasionally speaks at web networking events around the country.
If you would like to learn more about how BlueGlass can help your website or company create engaging and viral widgets, plugins, and quizzes like the examples above, please contact us. Our viral marketing and content development staff will help you determine what type of linkbait strategy is best for you.
Here are some other articles about widgets on Blueglass.com: