Egobait exists for one main purpose: to increase visibility (which will hopefully generate links). Designed to appeal to the ego of an influencer, it’s a concept that has some negative connotations, due to the whole “ego” bit.
While it’s true that some people need to have their ego stroked or threatened in order to acknowledge you, there are still people out there who do things for altruistic purposes. Sure, we want the links and the tweets, but sometimes we also just like to contribute to something.
(And naturally I appealed to the egos of my fellow link builders for help with this post.)
I’ll share my outreach email with you below. I have a standing list of industry people who I admire, and whenever I want to do something like this, I put together a list of ones who I think are good choices and, if the list is too big, I’ll just randomly choose a few. As you can tell, I’m already trying to appeal to the ego of anyone who wasn’t contacted.
I’m writing a post about egobait for link building for Search Engine Watch and am trying to get some ideas for how to do this for specific verticals. I have a very, very bad habit of using SEO examples when I write so I’m going to avoid those as they aren’t usually relevant to a lot of other industries of course, so if you are interested in contributing I would be insanely appreciative, but if you’re too busy/are just uninterested/think I suck then that’s fine too although I’ll frown heavily and probably eat one too many muffins.
Here’s my list of questions…if you are interested and have the time, you’re welcome to answer one question or answer them all. I’ll compile all of this for a post that should be live on SEW on June 11th, so if you could get this back to me by June 1st I’d greatly appreciate it.
Notice a few things here:
- I tell them where the piece will be published.
- I include a very honest statement about why I’m asking for their help: it’s because I do tend to use SEO-heavy examples and I needed something different.
- I give them an easy out for not responding or participating.
- I give them options to make it easier if they can even answer one question.
- I give them dates for when I need their responses and when the post will go live.
After looking over the tips and answers that people sent to me, I realize that I could have improved my response rate by doing a few things differently. I also thought back to a few recent crowdsourced pieces that I participated in, ones where the outreach email listed other contributors. I think that can be a very good tactic as it can lend legitimacy to your piece.
Anyway, enough from me. I’ll get started on what everyone else said now. I’d like to thank the following people for contributing (and inspiring the heck out of me!) Note: some answers have been condensed.
1. Are there any verticals where you feel like egobait is impossible? If so what are they and why is it so hard?
Nick LeRoy: Impossible, no, but is it more effective in some verticals than others? Absolutely. I think someone starting a business or a campaign in general that is in a vertical that isn’t established yet would have a hard time. This has a lot to do with lack of individuals associated with the industry or lack of overall exposure.
Jon Cooper: It’s hard to say “impossible”, but in niches were the tech saviness levels are really low, then it can be quite difficult, just because even though you might have appealed to their ego, it would still be difficult for them to actually implement the link on their website because, as stated, they’re not very tech savvy.
Chris Dyson: I’ve personally found egobait to be a great way for small clients or for my own projects to get on the radar of thought leaders in a new vertical. I don’t think egobait is impossible in any vertical, however it may require in depth research/planning, more outreach and paid social media promotion depending on the niche you are working in. Egobait can be a hard sell to clients because I find that some businesses are apprehensive of being positively or negatively associated with other people or brands.
Pete Attia: I think it really depends more on the person than the vertical. Even in marketing where egobaiting is well recognized, it’s still effective. I will say, however, egobaiting is much more effective on people with a smaller or new following. I imagine it’s because people with large followings are just used to it and become numb.
Gaz Copeland: I think any vertical which isn’t particularly tech savvy and doesn’t have much in the way of online communities or influencers (they still exist believe it or not!) is going to be difficult to crack with any technique so egobait is no different. On the other hand any vertical which has been hit hard by SEO’s in the past, I’m thinking mummy bloggers or similar, just see straight through egobait if it’s done purely for links and shares. I wrote a post over on Triple SEO pointing out that I actually dislike the term. As a tactic it’s effective, but the term it a little crass for me.
Debra Mastaler: Death and taxes. Who wants to read much less link to anything related to death and taxes? Morbid and boring, no thanks.
Paddy Moogan: No verticals spring to mind immediately that I’d classify as impossible. Some are clearly harder than others and I’ve sometimes struggled with B2B verticals where targets for egobait with the ability to link are quite limited. I’ve often found that targets are easy to find in most industries, but ones that have the ability to link to you and / or have a large social following are harder to come by.
Jo Turnbull: I think it is hard to do egobait for the insurance and finance market, not due to a lack of data but due to the fact that everything needs to go through compliance and can take a very long time. This means that any new ideas you many have had for egobait are not so new when it comes to being published as it may have taken up to a month to publish the content.
2. Are there any verticals where you feel like egobait is done too often? If so, what are they and why is it so overdone?
Jon Cooper: Overall, a badge strategy is a type of egobait, and in any blog-happy industry, 99 percent of the time that tactic has been beaten into the ground. So no, I can’t think of the overall strategy of egobait being done too often in a specific vertical, but in some verticals the way the egobait is displayed (i.e. badges, but there are others) is used too often.
Chris Dyson: In Online Marketing Circles (SEO, Social Media etc) it seems almost impossible to go more than a week without seeing an egobait post in the echo chamber. 20 Bloggers to Watch in 2013 etc. etc. I’m not saying that these articles are in anyway poorly executed, or don’t help both the blog hosting the content or the bloggers featured to gain more exposure, but the sheer volumes of these posts do mean that I will more than likely scroll past them when they end up in my Twitter feed or inbox.
Pete Attia: Although it’s slightly off topic, old school sales. I have a hard time dealing with sales people whether it’s through work or personal endeavors. They’re not trying to get a link out of me, obviously, but the concept is still the same. They’ll tell you how amazing you or your company is in order to get whatever it is they want from you. This directly affects their pay scale, so they’re over the top about it. It drives me slightly crazy.
Debra Mastaler: The arts (music, movies and TV) and education industry have more infographic and egobait pieces done than necessary: how many times can you write an article on how hot Channing Tatum is or how to secure a loan for college? Enough already.
3. Do you have any examples of successful egobait that you can share, ones you’ve conducted yourself or simply witnessed/read about? Alternatively if you know of any amazing failures, I’d love to know about those too.
Jon Cooper: I can’t share any specific examples, but one type of egobait that seems to be a home run just because of the time & effort involved to produce it is via infographic. It can be hard to justify the cost, but making an egobait infographic is usually a sure thing, and the great thing about it is that it can be scaled.
Pete Attia: Well, one time I did an article about videos, where I mostly discussed the band OK Go’s YouTube success. I wasn’t necessarily trying to get anything out of OK Go, but I figured I’d email them and mention the article, just to see what would happened. They ended up tweeting the article to their 970k followers. I didn’t get a ton of retweets out of it or anything like that, but it was neat just because I’ve been a fan of the band for years. For the record, my favorite failure is Topeka, Kansas changing it’s name to Google, Kansas in an attempt to get Fiber in their city. What’s funnier is they ended up installing fiber in Kansas, just a different city.
Gaz Copeland: I do a lot of work with a local photography business and one of the regular pieces of content we produce on their blog is a “wedding venue of the week” post. We include some of the amazing pictures my client has taken with information about the venue itself, the history, location and direction and the best areas to get great photographs there. These posts will more often than not be shared on Facebook and Twitter by the venue, associated staff and any brand advocates they may have. It works really well. I think the key to this series though is that the posts stand alone, they are useful posts first and foremost, they’re egobait second. If you go out of your way to write something with the intention of it being egobait then it’s gonna fail. If you write a good post and sprinkle it with egobait, you’re all set.
Debra Mastaler: The group link building interview Rae Hoffman does is a terrific example of successful egobait. She lines up a bunch of link builders and has each answer a number of link related questions. All the participants promote the piece, and many of us refer to it in later articles to reinforce a point in a blog post. It’s a good example of using written interviews to attract links and attention.
Let me show you a couple additional examples outside the SEO industry.
This is a great egobait idea IMO. This man has created an interview series with business experts in Wisconsin. His series is a good example how to incorporate local and topical terms/ideas to attract attention and links using a group of people.
Here’s another example I think rocks because it reuses video content to support and promote a new story. The feature article talks about mortgages and foreclosures in the San Francisco area and offers previously recorded video interviews of experts talking about the same issue. Instead of peppering links to the videos throughout the story, they place the videos right after the new feature article but within the top fold of the page so your eye is drawn down to the rest of the content. If this were my blog, I’d send a short email to the people featured in the videos and let them know the videos have been re-released and ask them to retweet, +1, etc.
Paddy Moogan: I can actually remember my own first piece of egobait pretty well and it was pretty successful given the amount of time I put into it. I can’t go into loads of detail but it was in the UK and for a company that sold garden sheds and garden buildings online. I put together a list of the top 10 gardening and shed blogs in the UK and let people vote for their favourite site. It was pretty simple and only took me about 3-4 hours and I got seven pretty good links as a result. The process was pretty straight forward and certainly one that can be replicated across different verticals:
- Find 10 websites that are good quality and look active
- Write a short paragraph about each one and why it is a good website
- Publish this page onto the client’s website
- Add a simple voting system – I used polldaddy.com
- Contact each of the 10 websites and tell them about the page whilst asking them to encourage their readers to vote for them – this gets them to link without asking for the link!
- Follow up with any who didn’t respond
That was about it! The great thing was that it also led to good new relationships with good websites which helped for future link building.
4. What do you think about using negative egobaiting tactics? Like publicly calling someone out in a blog post, or fussing about someone on social media? Is this a good way to build links?
Nick LeRoy: Yup. I would argue it’s better than traditional egobait. Just make sure you have thick skin and a strong brand. It’s also a pretty good idea to make sure you don’t have any skeletons in your closet that you can’t afford to be ‘outed’.
Jon Cooper: It depends on the level of social distance between you and the person you’re calling out. Say, for example, if I called out Richard Branson, then no one would care (distance far too great). The same goes for a no-name blogger calling out someone prominent in the industry. But if you’ve already built up traction, then calling someone out can generate buzz, and links are one of those byproducts. I’ve never done this solely for links though, just because it could backfire and cause more harm than good to your brand.
Chris Dyson: If it’s done in the correct manner and not just a malicious or personal attack then I’ve seen these articles do very well. I’ve rarely seen a brand or business use this tactic as it is often a tactic used by personal blogs. A recent post I saw from Daylan Pearce got a lot of attention and there was a very interesting debate between Darren Rowse and Daylan in the comments too, regarding the use of Twitter for business/personal purposes. I think this article really got Darren’s attention as it used Darren’s Twitter handle in the title, which meant every time it was tweeted Darren got a mention. A few years ago the blogosphere seemed to have a lot more debate and it was quite common to see these debates carried out in blog posts/comments – where as now they seem to be carried out across social media channels.
Pete Attia: It works. It causes controversy and debate, which humans are naturally attracted to. That’s why celebrity gossip sites do so well. However, I don’t think it’s worth doing. It puts an aura of negativity around whatever the subject matter is. There are plenty of other ways to get good results and stay in a positive light.
Gaz Copeland: You can definitely overdo it. Nobody likes a brown-noser. James Agate wrote a good post over on Jon Cooper’s blog a while ago, one of the sections covered “Avoid being a sycophant”. I think that’s a great tip.
Debra Mastaler: I have two outlooks on this issue: first, what people do on their blogs or their Facebook/Twitter streams is their business. Suggesting to someone their blog post isn’t appropriate or what they write about is wrong is like going to their home and telling them their sofa is ugly. I mean, who am I to criticize their bad taste in furniture? You see things one way, I another and on your blog you can do and say what you please. On the other hand…I am 100% against running false/made-up information for the sake of building links. Notice I said FALSE information… gossip and opinion are one thing (see ugly furniture reference) but flat out making stuff up to attract links? Fraud.
Paddy Moogan: I’ve never been a fan of the negative approach. Whilst it can certainly generate links, the value of these links is potentially outweighed by negative PR / sentiment towards the client. The last thing I want is to damage the client’s standing in an industry so I’d tend to steer away from this approach.
Jo Turnbull: I don’t think it is a good practice to publicly call someone out online as a way of egobaiting. If I have a difference of opinion, I will express mine about a certain post. However, I think it is more important to draw on the positives of what people say and turn that into linkbaiting rather than publicly call them out.
5. Do you think using social media alone is enough for a successful egobaiting campaign that will generate links, or do you think it needs to be done in content somewhere and not just on Twitter, for example?
Nick LeRoy: I don’t think social media is good for egobait unless you can get interaction between multiple people. For instance, the debacle that occurred a while back for Chef Ramsey “quitting” on two restaurant owners unable to take criticism. TV viewers attacked the owners on Facebook and they made the mistake of freaking out and writing ridiculous comments in response. In all reality, had they just ignored the attacks it would never had been so viral… but EGO wouldn’t allow them to let it be.
Jon Cooper: Usually something even better than social media is within the context of their community. One example that I can share that comes to mind is Kane Jamison’s Inbound.org 2012 Stats post (sorry for it being an SEO related example!). This communitybait (same strategy as egobait IMO, just a different target) obviously did well on Inbound, probably better than it could ever do on social media alone. So, for example, if the target had a forum, then posting it in the forum would most likely make it blow up.
Chris Dyson: I would always recommend carrying out egobait (or any piece of linkbait) on your own digital assets where ever possible if you are purely looking for links. If the purpose of the egobait is to generate traffic and increase the awareness of your brand then it might be a better option to create the content where there is an already established audience by offering the idea as a guest post for example.
Pete Attia: It depends on what exactly you’re trying to achieve. For example, in a certain light, relationship building is egobaiting. I can find a blogger that I want to get a review from, tweet and praise something they wrote, and when they respond, start a discussion. Continue this over a week or two and then ask them for a review. This could be entirely done through Twitter. However, if I was targeting someone more high profile and built an infographic about their achievements or something, it would have a higher success rate if using multiple avenues.
Gaz Copeland: Definitely the best way to do egobait for me is with a good blog post or other piece of content. You can use social media to build relationships at the same time, but I don’t think that’s going to get you links without some asset in the form of a piece of content.
Debra Mastaler: Needs to be done in content somewhere other than Twitter. Most of the people who come to me for a consult do so because they feel their current link building has hit a brick wall. Most of the time the type of campaign or the type of content they’re using isn’t the issue, lack of research is. It is really hard to create and execute a successful campaign without knowing who your demographic is or who the right niche and media influencers are to help promote the campaign.
Paddy Moogan: I’ve always done egobait with content rather than pure social media. I’ve created content around the people I’m trying to get links from which means I can really play on their ego and makes my approach stand out from the many others that they must receive.
Jo Turnbull: I think it is important to incorporate social media into a content marketing plan and within that you use egobait, instead of just doing social because you think you should not because you understand it or really want to.
How would you use egobait for the following verticals:
1. New restaurant in a small town
Nick LeRoy: I would challenge the starting QB / Basketball / Baseball star from the local college to an eating challenge of some sort. If they are able to complete the task everyone gets a free dessert. If they can’t… well it doesn’t matter, you’ve already had them visit the restaurant and you can take pictures / interview etc. and post a press release and on social media. Etc. This would / could also work really well with professional athletes if you have a good enough challenge.
Chris Dyson: If you are launching a new restaurant/bar then I would personally look at tapping into an existing online community such as Yelp Elite. All these people are all Yelp power users and many are bloggers or heavy social media users. Reach out to the local Yelp Community Manager for your area and offer them an exclusive event with some free cocktails and samples from your menu to get them through your doors.
Pete Attia: Find restaurant reviewers and notify them that they would get their first meal free for being a critic. It’s important to refer to them as a critic instead of a blogger in an attempt to build up their ego.
Gaz Copeland: I’m a big fan of Man V Food so maybe running some kind of contest or challenge for local food bloggers, writing about each of their accomplishments.
Debra Mastaler: I’d have the Mayor and Town Council photographed eating there and use the image (with their permission) in a press release and article to the local paper. If the politicians say no, I’d find a group of moms from a variety of preschools and high schools (note the two types of schools) and offer a free meal in exchange for a review. I’d do the article/release/photo-op with them and label it “Mom Chefs Give Their Approval to New ABC Restaurant”.
Paddy Moogan: Top x food bloggers who write about the speciality of the restaurant like seafood / steak etc. Perhaps also top x bloggers who have published their own recipes and even choose one to be featured on the restaurant menu for a week.
Jo Turnbull: With the restaurant in the small town, I would write a post on the local town’s website. I would also use off line to help promote the restaurant. The message both online and offline would be the same. I would highlight the USPs of the restaurant, for example if it is selling good old fashioned home cooked food, you could play around with the “Home Cooked Meals at (restaurant name) With No Fuss.”
2. Ecommerce site selling used sports equipment
Nick LeRoy: This one probably needs to be thought out a bit more… but I would watch out for injuries that occur in very recent pro-games. Did a hockey player get some teeth knocked out? How about a post ‘attacking’ this individual for not wearing a $9.99 mouth guard? A more ‘safe’ move could be making a public announcement that your eCommerce site will be sending this pro athlete 100 mouth guards for free.
Chris Dyson: For general link bait I’d create a fake product such as the “Turin Jockstrap” and paint a stain of Christ’s face on an old jock strap (hilarity and heresy ensues with the Westboro Baptist church calling me a fag!) (actually do you mind if I use this as an idea for “outrageous linkbait ideas” post… this could be funny) sadly this isn’t egobait 🙁 How about….Create a list of local sports clubs/schools (pick those in cash strapped areas) and create a contest for local people to vote on who they want to win some free sports equipment… promote it in the press/social media
Pete Attia: This is an old school idea, but building several lists of local trainers in different cities and write blog posts along the lines of “Top 20 Personal Trainers in San Diego”. Then when the posts are up, notify them and offer a badge.
Gaz Copeland: It should be easy to produce content based around sports teams or individual stars, if not targeting them personally with the egobait, targeting any fans or fan communities.
Debra Mastaler: Ever wonder why the payday loan industry is always seen in a negative light while pawn shops are not? Both industries have similar business goals and operating procedures and yet, we create reality shows around pawn brokers and vilify the payday loan industry. Why? The reason is simple: pawn shops learned how to humanize the story behind the need. If you want to promote anything used, humanize the story behind the items you’re selling. This should be easy in the used sport equipment area, as every bat, ball and catchers mitt has a dream and a game behind it. Develop your content to appeal to the emotional side while pointing out the economical savings and you’ll have a winner.
Paddy Moogan: Local sports team of the month – cover a range of sports and each month or week, feature a new sports team along with pictures, interviews or even videos if you can get them. To sweeten the deal a little, you could even offer some free equipment to youth teams such as footballs or jerseys.
Jo Turnbull: Here you need to highlight the benefits of the sports equipment even if it has been used. Maybe it has only had one owner who never actually used the equipment or if they did you can use the fact that it has been tried and tested so in good working order. The ecommerce site should have content on a school website or a not for profit website talking about the latest equipment they have for sale Maybe they could also have content and include some stats on the % of people who buy sports equipment don’t use it and therefore the ecommerce site that is selling the sports equipment is helping the environment – recycling…
3. Educational site devoted to producing documentaries and papers about health issues related to poverty
Nick LeRoy: The problem here is doing something that would / could get a reaction without killing your brand. My gut reaction would be to something controversial that would get people worked up and vocal about illegal immigration and healthcare…
Chris Dyson: Find people who have a similar objective to your own such as local politicians, celebrities or business people who have established social media and press profiles. Reach out and ask them for the opportunity to receive exclusive access to your new piece of content before it’s full launch and ask for quotes or interviews for your documentaries, website & research papers. You could also draft a politician/celebrity who is currently promoting their own health/poverty agenda and point out to them how your own work compliments their own ideologies.
Pete Attia: Find industry experts that have written about the issues and ask to interview them for your documentary or paper.
Debra Mastaler: I have two words here: Sally Struthers. Focus on her involvement with the Child Fund: she was one of the very first celebrities to fully support the organization through extensive print, radio and TV spots. Her involvement and how they used her were the subject of many studies and papers, so they’d be a great model to emulate. I like to look at what’s been done and what’s successful for ideas and inspiration.
Jo Turnbull: For the egobait post I would clarify any myths around poverty for example: Did you know that x % of people who live in poverty suffer x% more health problems or did you know x% of that those living on the poverty line have all gone to good colleges. Top 10 poverty related health issues busted
4. Author who wants to only sell books online
Chris Dyson: Create an ebook interviewing other writers about their passion or offer advice such as their working practices – how to fight writer’s block for example. Once the ebook is complete create a method for people to sign up for more information by using something like a launchrock page and contact the interviewees asking for their help promoting the launch. When the book is launched give the book away for free but setup something like pay with a tweet to help gain more traction on social media.
Pete Attia: This is actually Alessio Madeyski’s tactic where I believe he got a link from Seth Godin out of it. Find other well respected authors and get their books translated in other languages for them and then post them on your own site.
Gaz Copeland: Book review posts, tweeting quotes from the author maybe.
5. Pest control! (this is my favorite one to think about since I’m terrified of spiders)
Chris Dyson: Negative Egobait…. 50 Celebrities that look like rats? 😉
Pete Attia: Man, that’s a tough one. The only thing I can really think of is doing infographics on the negative effects of having specific bugs live in your home and use data from different insectologists’ studies. Then when it’s created you can show them have you’ve used their data. Since it’s their own information, they’re more inclined to link to it or promote it in some fashion. Plus you’d still have an infographic, so if it didn’t work out, you could still promote it on its own.
Debra Mastaler: Bugs, snakes and birds don’t bother me but I am scared.to.death.of alligators. Another reason not to move to Florida 🙂 This one is easy IMO, I would do a little utility searching using “.edu + your bug keyword” and find ideas, sources and backlinks.
Jo Turnbull: Maybe here, play on people’s fear by writing some great posts on home help sites: “Face your fear and banish those spiders from your home for good in 5 simple ways” “3 Ways To Prevent a Cockroach Infestation” “How you are encouraging more pests to live in your house””5 reasons why spiders are good for a home ”
6. Outdoor fabrics and furniture
Gaz Copeland: Maybe creating features on specific properties. If you’re a local business featuring local bars and restraints with great outdoor areas would be a good place to start. If you’re bigger than that maybe looking through images of iconic houses (PlayBoy Mansion, The White House, etc) and creating features on that.
Well, I have to say that if you get through all of this and you still aren’t inspired, you should take a deep breath and read the examples again. I’m happy to see that there’s a lot of agreement about egobait.
Egobait can be done to death (but hey, it works well!) but there are many takeaways from successful campaigns. Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to contribute!
Image Credit: 123RF Stock Photos