"Link Bait." Man I hate that term. Like your site's users are nothing more than fish to be hooked. Dangle a tasty little piece of content, any content, and BAM, got another click....

If you haven't heard the term yet, you may be shocked to see over 20,000 references to Link Bait at Google. I'm not shocked. Link Bait has been around longer than I have. It's what we used to call "content."
Nowadays I guess the term content has become quaint. I hear people saying, "I don't have time to add real content, I need is something quick that will make everyone want to link to my site." And I say, "Like what, the Diet Coke/Mentos fountain video? But I thought your site sold ball bearings?"
Funny, but true. People are getting so caught up in their quest for viral, user-generated links that they will do anything. Who cares if it has nothing to do with your long-term business success, your site was on the Digg homepage yesterday! Cool!!
I say you're drinking the link bait Kool-Aid.
Link Bait is more or less anything you create anywhere on the Web that inspires other people to link to it. They can link to it via a Web page, a blog, social bookmark site, tagging site, e-zine, newsletter, IM, email or any other method that tells others about the bait.
The bait itself can be anything from a controversial blog post that gets people talking and linking, to a Web site that adds something really funny, to a useful application that actually helps people.
Go back all the way to the days that Yahoo was just a hobby for the boys at Stanford, and you could say their directory was early Link Bait. Everyone linked to Yahoo. Why? It was an awesome place to go find new Web sites.
Remember that silly screen saver of the noodles doing the Macarena? That was Link Bait circa 1997.
Even earlier was 1994's Really Big Button That Doesn't Do Anything. I laughed over that for weeks. It was funny back then. I think I emailed the link to a bunch of friends.
There's nothing necessarily wrong with link baiting. It's the term and the tactics I don't like. If you are creating Link Bait for no other reason than to attract links in hopes of also attracting search engine rankings improvement via those links...well, good luck. That's what EVERYONE is doing. And those types of links wont help you long if at all. But go ahead and try it. While you do, why not also add some really useful content and tools to your site that will help your users accomplish something?
No matter how clever the Link Bait, if it does nothing more than cause a little buzz or drive-by traffic, then you've wasted time and opportunity. Any site can fool people once, even twice. I'd rather have one person bookmark my site and use it every day than have 10 people come by for three seconds and leave.

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image of Eric Ward

Eric founded the Web's very first online publicity and linking services, NetPOST and URLwire, in 1994. Eric's expertise is in helping companies generate links, publicity and buzz for their Web content. A hands-on practitioner, Eric also offers training and seminars that teach companies how to do it in-house. His client list is a who's who of online brands, from Amazon.com to PBS.org.

Eric has written for for ClickZ and Ad Age, and he won the 1995 Tenagra Award For Internet Marketing Excellence. In 1997, he was named one of the Web's 100 most influential people by Websight magazine. A well-known speaker at the major industry trade shows, Eric will soon publish The Ward Report, a monthly "how-to" newsletter on the art of link building and publicity for Web content, with commentary on the newest trends and practices.

A native of northern New Jersey, Eric has lived in Knoxville, Tennessee since graduating from the University of TN. Eric's wife Melissa and toddler Noah say "bye daddy geek" every day when he leaves for work.

Eric can be reached at eric@ericward.com