5 Important Link-Building Lessons Learned From Top Link Bait Examples

5 Important Link-Building Lessons Learned From Top Link Bait Examples Featured Image

Boost your link-building efforts by integrating the following five link bait examples from famous companies like Cisco into your content marketing strategy.


Driving links to your website is still, and may always be, the core of a successful SEO strategy. According to a Moz study, there’s a direct correlation between more links and higher rankings.

What matters to Google when ranking a website is always evolving, but a numerous variety of quality links from authoritative sources is always one of the primary factors as to why a site ranks or not.

Producing one-of-a-kind link bait encourages others to link to your content due to its usefulness. Link bait is content that is created to drive backlinks. As links to your content are shared across the web, that increases your brand’s search profile.

To create link bait that drives hundreds and even thousands of links to your website, continually review the link bait other companies create for inspiration. Check out the most-shared content from your favorite brands on social media to get an idea of quality link bait.

Here are five unique examples of high-performing link bait and what the companies did right to develop and promote these resources widely to attract more links.

Cisco: Develop In-Depth Resources

Cisco Internet whitepaper snapshot

Number of backlinks according to Ahrefs: 9,694

The most well-known way of creating link bait is covering a topic in-depth with your content. According to QuickSprout, the average content length for a web page that ranks in the top 10 results on Google for any keyword has at least 2,000 words. Most articles and other forms of content are brief and don’t dive deep. Giving readers a complete understanding of a subject can help position it as the leading resource on the topic. 

Cisco produced this white paper to provide in-depth coverage on fixed broadband, WiFi and mobile. The white paper clocks in at over 13,000 words and also includes charts and visuals.

The white paper provides original data backed by research which makes it more valuable to readers and more likely to be linked to by other industry websites as the information can only be found on the site.

The statistics included within the resource are highly shareable figures both on social media and blogs, as they provide context for what’s happening in the tech industry as a whole. It’s likely that once this white paper was published, Cisco’s marketing team pitched it to a variety of blogs and publications in the tech vertical to cover it.

To develop your own in-depth resources, identify a subject area of interest to your audience that is also related to your expertise to explain in detail. By being comprehensive in your coverage of a subject, it’ll be more likely that at least a part of the content is new to most readers.

When a person learns something of value from the content you’re sharing, they slowly start to develop trust and rapport with your organization. Including new information within your content also increases the likelihood that other websites will link to it as well.

HubSpot: Create Definitive Explainers

HubSpot what is inbound marketing

Number of backlinks according to Ahrefs: 14,423

One of the most popular and effective forms of link bait is creating a resource that explains a core concept related to your expertise or industry.

This article or resource page can describe a simple, straightforward concept on a topic that is very complex. What’s most important is that it’s a subject of interest to a wider audience you’re trying to reach and that is being regularly searched for.

HubSpot’s page What Is Inbound Marketing? is an example of link bait that answers a common question for both marketers and business owners who may be conducting research about this particular marketing discipline.

The page clearly explains the subject succinctly with both text and visuals, broken up into different sections to make it easier for a reader to scroll through and learn about the subject of inbound marketing.

Explaining a concept that is widely discussed makes it a useful resource to link to elsewhere, as it provides the definition of a subject in a comprehensive manner.

Most often called a “What is” page or article, this type of link bait can also bring clarity to confusing topics, especially when readers feel too embarrassed to ask someone in real life.

Vox also produces many of these ‘What is” resources to explain concepts trending in the news, also consistently driving links to their content as seen here, here and here.

To mirror HubSpot’s success with link bait, research the topics that relate to your company’s expertise and focus, that are also subject areas your target audience is interested in.

For HubSpot, ‘inbound marketing’ was a natural choice, as that’s the type of marketing their software helps businesses with. In your case, consider creating a few explainer posts that define concepts related to your expertise, products, services and industry at large.

Adding explainers to your blog or website is an effective way to generate links over time and should  be used as one part of your greater mix of link bait techniques.

In addition to being widely shared on social media, it’s likely this page was linked to internally across HubSpot’s website, with natural mentions on relevant pages and blog posts to disperse the SEO value and drive additional traffic.

Sherwin-Williams: Provide Utility to Your Target Audience

Link Building Example: Sherwin-Williams

Number of backlinks according to Ahrefs: 55,777

Instead of an article or page of text and visuals on your website, create a tool that provides tangible value to your audience worth sharing with their network.

Sherwin-Williams, the paint company, created link bait in the form of a paint visualizer, which allows visitors to test more than 1,000 paint colors on photos of the rooms they’d like to paint.

By uploading images of their house, customers can add different colors to the walls to get a better understanding of what each color might look like in their bedroom, bathroom or elsewhere.

The tool gives Sherwin-Williams customers and leads the ability to see how the company’s products might work in their homes before visiting the store or purchasing any paint.

One of the reasons this paint color testing tool works to build links for Sherwin-Williams is that it provides value to anyone who uses it, regardless if they become a customer of the brand or not.

Anyone looking to paint their home can find a use for the tool to improve their experience choosing the right colors, which is what makes it an effective way to attract links.

Some other examples of link bait in the form of value-driven tools are Zillow’s mortgage calculator, the Australian Government’s national toilet map and the Alcohol by Volume ABV Calculator by Brewer’s Friend.

To drive results from your link bait, develop a chart, calculator or another type of tool that adds value to the audience you’re trying to reach.

Think about what information visitors are looking for on your website, what experiences they’re having and what your company can offer as a free, customized solution to encourage them to spend more time on your website.

This link bait should be free to access and easy to use. It should provide customized results to your audience based on how they personalize the information using the tool.

One of the ways Sherwin-Williams may have promoted this resource is by pitching the tool and its value to DIY and interior design blogs to generate additional links and coverage.

After developing a tool that improves the experience of your audience, create a list of relevant blogs in your industry and pitch them on the value of your tool to increase exposure.

BrightLocal: Integrate Original Research, Data, Reporting & Media

BrightLocal Survey

Number of backlinks according to Ahrefs: 33,444

With more content being created than ever before and attention spans remaining low, a circumstance known as content shock, it is difficult to create content that actually reaches your audience today.

One way to stand out among the noise and create worthwhile link bait is by including original research, data, reporting or media in an article or page on your website.

Adding original information to your content makes the resource unique since it can’t be found elsewhere, especially when it’s of relevance to your customer base.

Reputation management tool BrightLocal has conducted an annual survey since 2011 on how consumers use review sites. The survey page has garnered tens of thousands of links, giving businesses a better idea of the power of reviews and how they impact businesses.

The survey includes easily digestible charts and graphs and findings with summaries that explain why they’re important.

To find your own success with link bait like this, conduct research around what hasn’t been covered before in terms of topics of interest to your audience.

Think about what angles haven’t been explored, what research or data is missing from existing articles on the subject, and what additional elements can be curated from other resources to develop a topic further.

When you’ve got a topic in mind to create content around, review what resources already exist on the subject and how they can be improved or expanded upon. This is referred to as the skyscraper technique coined by link-building expert Brian Dean.

The process basically entails finding content around a subject of interest to your audience that is heavily linked to (which shows people are interested in it), then adding to the resource with original information to make it better. The final step is to reach out to relevant bloggers and websites about the content you’ve created.

Follow in top creators’ footsteps by including original information created by or curated by your company to encourage more links.

Adobo: Cover Controversial Strategies

Adobo language study

Number of backlinks according to Ahrefs: 1,087

Controversial topics drive conversation online and, therefore, tend to generate lots of links due to the coverage touchy subjects tend to get. You don’t want to be controversial about any subject, but you can choose one that relates to your company’s expertise.

For example, Abodo is an apartment-listing company that gathered original data on the most politically correct and the most prejudiced places to live based on the number of tweets shared expressing either stance.

Abodo curated this information from Twitter and created an article with a variety of visuals to make the data easy to consume and share with others. They included links to various apartment listings in different cities at the bottom of the piece to tie in their service offerings.

As a result of covering a controversial subject with content, they received coverage (and high authority links) from CNET, Fusion, Slate, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, Mic, The Daily Beast, Adweek and hundreds of other websites, in addition to more than 67,000 social shares.

Another element that worked with their link bait is the fact that they ranked each city based on the data they collected, which drove more people to express joy, surprise or anger about where their city landed in the rankings.

Discussing specific cities and states helped personalize the content for people reading the piece, which led to more discussions about it online.

Timeliness is also an important factor to consider when creating controversial link bait, or any type of link bait, as it’ll be more likely to resonate when it’s a current issue on your audience’s mind.

To prevent reputation-damaging backlash due to your coverage of a controversial subject, plan strategically how your company will cover it, as well as the position itself when discussing the topic.

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