SEO 101: What Gordon Hayward Can Teach You About Link Building Using Link Baits

by Dennis Seymour October 17, 2014
Link Bait Promotion

For the past couple of years, I have been getting questions about link baits being used for link building and SEO. 

I have seen and executed my share of viral pieces over the years but I have never really wanted to talk about them as those niches are boring as hell. 


So, What is a Link Bait?

The concept is actually pretty easy to explain and VERY powerful when executed masterfully.

Basically, it’s content “designed” to attract attention. That attention will lead to other sites linking back to you, hence better search rankings.

For my industry peeps, it’s “high quality content that gives a benefit or entertains a reader enough in order for them to take action and share it.”

We see it everyday, in the news, Buzzfeed and those other crap you see on your Facebook feed.

But even after all those things, I couldn’t really find a great example of a great link bait that I wanted to really talk about…well, until today.

I love basketball and I love the NBA. You probably do, too. But since I am nowhere near 6′ tall, nor am I even remotely athletic, I rely on playing at an NBA level on my PS3. Yup, a 3, old school.

Everytime I picked a team, I always went with the Utah Jazz. I get laughed at and ridiculed for picking a “boring” Jazz team.

Then I proceed to drop 50 on them with a single white dude with a weird stroke that they don’t even recognize.


Enter, The Best In The Game

I’m talking about THIS. That is an example of a link bait.

The NBA sends out viral pieces of media on a daily basis but it’s rare for players to actually be the one to do the blogging on their own site, let alone think of a topic and create the content. 

Today, I’m talking about how Gordon Hayward made a link bait out of a simple, innocent topic.

The benefits? It will earn him a huge jump in his rankings, a lot more traffic, a better social presence, exposure to new readers and even his Alexa rank will rise, currently at 1,406,952. 

I just saw this on my Flipboard while reading about the pre-season results. Now, I’m turning it to a blog post and he’s getting another link plus new referral traffic from here.


Executing the Link Bait

In our industry, we know that executing a link bait starts with a core idea.

It could be:

  • Funny & Entertaining
  • Controversial
  • A compilation of months’ worth of data
  • An EPIC piece of content (whitepaper, book, case study etc)
  • Something visual (infographic, video, witty memes nobody has ever thought of before)

Link baits can work with a single idea or a combination of any of those above. 

So, let’s break down this piece of link bait


The Title

Simply put, it created controversy.

It was also a highly clickable title, especially for those that followed his blog. Obviously, the title got better when it was featured on other sites that covered it. That’s when it got my attention when I was browsing for some NBA news.

In any case, no NBA player would really want to call himself the “best in the game” publicly unless they wanted to get destroyed in their next meeting with Bron, Kobe and hopefully, a healthy Durant.

It helped that he’s an NBA star (that just signed a max deal) but it still started with an idea. A funny and entertaining idea.


The Hook

My name is Gordon Hayward, spelled with a G. And I am the best player in the game today.

I couldn’t have thought of a better opening line.

It’s a hook alright. It got you to read on and actually stay on his site longer to actually read the content on it.

That hook alone could’ve gotten thousands more if it was tweetable on his site!

So I’m helping him out by editing it abit and making it tweetable here.

Lesson? Open the content with a bang. Hook the reader in.



One on one versus LeBron James? He would get crushed. We would all be witnesses to a straight up annihilation. The reigning MVP, Kevin Durant? I’m LOLing. Go ahead and put him with Russell Westbrook. Throw Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in there, just for kicks. They’d still have no chance.

Name dropping other players in the content stirred up a lot of people. It was funny for some and it was probably offensive to fanboys but the point is, he got some emotions going.

People kept reading, thinking they’d see more trash talking.

And that got the content rolling and it got passed around organically because of it.

One more thing he did is to promote his content is to use social media.

He didn’t just tweet it out. He used an image that was also equally controversial.

Link Bait Promotion

Who would call out the King like this? Click!



After all that, was it effective? Will it really get me link juice to help my SEO

Let’s take a look:

The post is still new, less than a day old.

In terms of links acquired, AHrefs reports 7 backlinks. 

Link Bait getting Backlinks

After less than a day, Ahrefs sees 7 quality links.


Majestic (previously MajesticSEO) reports around 38 new links:

Link Bait with Majestic SEO

Majestic shows 38 new links!


Open Site Explorer’s “Just Discovered” Links Module shows 42 new links:

Open Site Explorer Link Bait

OSE’s Just-Discovered Module Shows 42 STRONG Links


You might be thinking “That’s it???”

But when you look at the brand mentions, you can see a LOT of potential.

Imagine if you were working on that for your client or your own site. I’m pretty sure you’d be happy.

Plus, it’s less than a day old.

Massive Mentions and Links from Link Baiting

A LOT of mentions and potential links. Semantic Web anyone?


How about that Tweet? How far did that go? 

Getting Massive Social Activity from Link Baits

Just a few retweets here and there. Not that many…


Link Bait Twitter Followers Acquired

Guess How Many New Followers He Got?


“How about Anchor text? You can’t control it when it’s a link bait?!”

True, but it’s natural and you can often influence people to link out using related words.

For many viral pieces, the brand is usually a part of most anchors and it’s the same for this piece.

Brand Anchor Text from Link Bait

Some Natural Brand Anchor Texts Here and There


How does that help SEO and Rankings?

Remember, his site wasn’t really trying to rank for anything but soon, he will be showing up for a LOT of terms.

This image below shows an authority site ( linking to his site. The title has “best in the game” in it.

Following common sense, it’s not too hard to figure out that Google will eventually think his site is about the “best in the game” or whatever other keywords that are used by other sites. He might even start showing up for terms related to League of Legends. 

Showing up in Google News

Showing up in the news for generic terms like “Best in the Game”


Authority Sites Covering the Link Bait

Mentions Everywhere! Even an AMA Request!


Where is his site ranking now for his name?

Link Bait Benefits in Rankings and SEO

Do you think this site will benefit from all those mentions?


How about traffic??? That’s the most important part!

The bonus? He semi-hijacked a popular Hashtag! Stealing some thunder away from Richard Sherman! 😀

Link Bait Traffic

Well, the site was down for a while. Traffic just crushed it. No biggie.


Actionable SEO, Link Building and Traffic Retention Tips

If you were doing SEO for your site and had a hit link bait, here are some tips you need to do:

1. Research

After a day or 2, start compiling all the links using the tools I mentioned above. Grab all the links and put them in a spreadsheet. There’s a lot of things you can do with these. 

  • You can look at how they linked to you, specifically, with anchor text. If there’s a better term, reach out to them and ask for an edit. 
  • You can use them as references in the future when securing links or guest posts on other sites.
  • Add them to your Wikipedia page. 
  • Put them on your site for further “proof” that you were featured.
  • Build links to these pages. Say when you secured a link somewhere, like a magazine or newspaper site, try to ask for them to link to one or 2 of these articles that linked to you. These sites will then get more value, hence your site can benefit from it.
  • If you are a bit old school, or follow gray/blackhat work, you can use these as your first tiers.


2. Content Audit

Start auditing the content you have on your site. Why? You’ll need it for internal linking and maybe, you can offer them during your outreach.

Open a spreadsheet and make sure each URL is there. The title in another column and the target keywords on the next column.

You can also see if you have a really weak piece of content and you can proceed to improving it. Who knows, it might be the next viral hit.


3. Outreach

Turn on your mention trackers. Google Alerts,, TalkWalker and OSE (from Moz just released a new tool to “reclaim links”) are my go-to tools. Compile those prospects:

  • Bring out Buzzstream (or a spreadsheet)
  • Check the site that mentioned your brand but didn’t link back
  • Reach out to them and ask for a link!
  • Moz’s new tool can also show 404 links so you can reach out to those as well.


4. Internal Linking

Look at your Google Webmaster Tools or refer here for more information. Check your Average Position column. See which are almost at the top or almost on the front page. Be sure it has a good enough number of impressions so you don’t waste your time.

Go back to your website, use that popular page to link to other pages of the site. The other pages will benefit with traffic and “juice” since the page linking to it is a good one.


5. Further Promotion

Using social media to promote regularly is a must. If you tweet it out today, doesn’t mean everyone will actually see it. Keep promoting it and tweaking the message. You’d be surprised at how good it works.

I’m a supporter of CoSchedule I’d like to share one of their images from this post.

Social Media Frequency for Link Bait Promotion

Promote it again and again. Learn from what worked and tweak the next message.


6. Build and Email List

Have a piece of content? Have a site? A business? A blog? You’ll need to collect emails. Email marketing will keep them coming back and it will keep them buying. 

Make sure you have a popup or a way to collect emails. The traffic will eventually die down on that link bait so building your list will keep them coming back. 

The money is in the list after all.


7. Funnel the Traffic

You need to make use of the traffic.

With internal linking, they can be led to other pages on the site. They can stay longer on the site and eventually click on an ad or a sponsor link. You can convert them to social followers by using badges and buttons. You can create a forum or community and retain the traffic. You can collect emails. You can nudge them to a sales funnel and eventually convert the traffic into buyers.

Never stop converting.


8. Never Stop Tracking

Tracking is your best friend. Never stop tracking! In order to improve your signup rate, your conversions, your bounce rate, your social shares, you need to know how your content is working. Are they reading it? Up to where? Can you tweak your optin form?

If you are on WordPress, the Sumome plugin is free and has very useful content analysis and heatmap modules.


I could go on and on with “marketing” lingo. I could tell you to figure out your “whos” and “hows” and “whats” or use a break down of how you can “statistically” build a link bait but a LOT of other people have done that and it’ll just make things look complicated.

Business owners like you do not need more complicated things to worry about, right?


In the End

I’m not telling you to go execute your marketing campaign by churning out link bait after link bait – actually, far from it.

I just want you to see how a good link bait can bring in great results for your digital marketing efforts. Improved conversions, new long term subscribers, exposure to new markets and organic rankings. Those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Nowadays, we see link baits everywhere, everyday. On feeds, newspaper sites and even at the bottom of the blogs you read.

Most of the time, you click a catchy title (with a catchy image) and you end up in a crappy piece of content just because the viral site wanted traffic. Doing it like this won’t benefit your SEO campaign and it will only backfire on you in the long run.

Tell a story, be entertaining and memorable. Give a benefit to the person that will see your content. Don’t fool him just to get him to your site.

Remember, quality matters. The value of your content, matters even more.


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  • Love the creative way you handled this! So how does Gordon make money off his blog?

    • He doesn’t really need it since he just signed a max deal, but looking at his contact form, he could probably get some endorsement and stuff from the site 🙂

  • What a great article, Dennis! You gave so much actionable information that I took a few notes. Thanks for putting this together as a great example of link bait!


    • Thanks Sue! He got a ton of links from it. Felt like it was worth a post 🙂

  • Great post, Dennis!
    I am going to bookmark this post for the future also because there are many great tips here! I also love the methodical way that you have analyzed the example. I think that providing a real life current example is highly effective and makes the reading experience more enjoyable.

    Thanks for posting. I shared through Twitter!

    • Thank you Harish!

      I tried to put it together as quickly as I could while it’s still fresh. Who knows, maybe I could get some spillover traffic from organic results lol.

      Appreciate you dropping by and sharing! 🙂

  • Hey Dennis,

    Great write dear friend. Yes, you really got me hooked with that. Guess what? I have just saved this on my Pocket and reading back tomorrow.

    Super great tips and keep it up man. Top notch especially for link bait!

    Talk soon and happy weekend!

  • Hi Dennis,

    You are so right that there can be major benefits!!!!

    Unfortunately, I get so frustrated when there is a great title and I click the link and then there is nothing really there. The content is either lacking or it’s just a squeeze page where someone is trying to sell something. That’s okay if you tell me upfront you have something to offer but I’m not buying just because you asked me to, lol… 🙂

    This is some of the best advice I’ve seen in a long time: “Tell a story, be entertaining and memorable. Give a benefit to the person that will see your content. Don’t fool him just to get him to your site.”

    Great article Dennis! I definitely learned a few things and got a few ideas moving forward. No I just have to develop the strategies and execute.

    It always comes down to that doesn’t it?

    Have an awesome weekend Dennis!

    ~ Don

    • Hey Don!

      Don’t you hate it when they sucker you in with images or titles? LOL!

      Sometimes it’s just targeted at you, with the mood you are having!

      You can’t help but admire it (aside from hating it)

      I guess we can al learn from it. I’ve been playing around with media buying again after a long time hiatus and it’s pretty easy now with the right copy.

      Yeah, spending time to plan it out and execute it. It’s always the key. Even plain, no-fun niches can get some good home runs! 🙂

      Thanks for the great comment Don! Enjoy the weekend!

  • Hi Dennis,
    Its amazing to read of this detailed insights on link bait. This strategy is helpful for effective SEO – at least, if done well.

    I have read from many blog posts and websites like Backlinko that link bait is very effective.

    Your post seems to be well researched on the subject and I am bookmarking it for future reference.

    I shared this comment in where this post was found.

  • Hi Dennis,

    Arousing curiosity is a real biggie; do that and you’re golden and you’ve done a fine job arousing curiosity with this post and idea. Folks think of Hayward as an above average player on the Jazz. Good, athletic, can shoot and had a fine college career at Butler. But adding the quotes and noting the video game stats adds authenticity to your link titles, or promos. Once folks click thru they see what you’re talking about.

    You reeled me in on Google Plus. Any basketball fan will take a deeper look, college or NBA, because he had such a magical run at Butler. I think they almost won the NCAA title his senior year, just losing in the finals by a few points. They were underdogs so most b-ball fans will remember the name, and the way you skillfully set up this link bait was pretty darn neat. Once I saw this on Google Plus I had to look deeper. Well done dude. A little cleverness with the right presentation will make things happen. Ditto on b-ball;I’m only 6 foot, and played a few future NBA players in New Jersey, when I was in high school. Tim Thomas and Brevin Knight were too much for me…..but I actually became internet buddies with Stephon Marbury on twitter. Cool dude.

    Tweeting from Fiji 😉


    • Hey Ryan! Thanks for coming over! 😀

      Yeah, missed the last shot (from halfcourt) by an inch but it was still a magical run. If he made that shot, maybe he would’ve been picked higher. He and Paul George should’ve been picked a lot higher that year.

      Whoah, Tim Thomas would shoot the lights out in a park setting. Pretty sure you did a lot better than what you make it sound like 😀
      Who knows, maybe you could meet them one of these days when they visit Fiji for a vacation!

      I’ve only been able to play with local pros here a couple times. I would assume that I wouldn’t even get a chance to shoot with an NBA caliber guy guarding me LOL.

      Wait, what? You’re buddies now with Starbury? He’s like a god in China right now. I stayed there for 6 months, it’s crazy how much they love Stephon.

  • Hey Dennis,

    Now that was one of the best posts I’ve read on what link bait is. I also loved the basketball example too, great job.

    I think everything you shared here is so spot on but then again, this is your area of expertise. Very smart the way you went about all of this talking about Gordon and then of course, how can people not talk about him right. But even with us and our little ole unpopular blogs, we can take these examples and make some of them our own in order to stand out more.

    You did a really great job here and since as you know this isn’t my “area” then I’m going to leave it at that and just take your advice moving forward.

    Thanks again and I’ll be sure to share this post as well. You have a great week now.


    • Hi Adrienne!

      LOL! I would think that this IS part of your “area” as you have like, have 50,000 times his traffic! 😀

      Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it! 🙂

  • Hi Dennis,

    We all know that link building for our blog is very important. You should have perfect and high quality backlinks to improve the ranking of your website.
    There are many things to keep in your mind. You should create a better title for your blog post so that it can attract readers.
    Dropping valuable comments at other blogs is necessary. Promotion is the main thing to do for your every blog post.
    You have shared some great tips here.

    Thanks for writing.

    Have a nice day.:)

    • Hey Ravi!

      Thanks! Appreciate your input a lot!

  • Hi, Dennie,

    This is a very interesting topic, Dennis, and I really enjoyed your article.

    Link bait can be in so many different forms. It’s a whole lot better when the content designed to attract attention is actually an accurate picture of what the person is going to find on the other end after they click the link.

    It is definitely frustrating when folks are deceiving about this, which ends up being a turnoff and counterproductive to the results they were at looking for in the first place.

    The screenshots you provided add so much value and not just for visual learners but overall really aid in clarifying and driving home the points you’re making. Very well done. 🙂

    I’m sharing this with my friends because it’s informational, and motivational – thanks!

    I hope you have a great evening.

    – Carol

    • Hi Carol!


      It does get pretty frustrating, I just got baited again a while ago!

      One thing I could take away is that I learned another way to catch attention. Their copy skills are superb.

      Appreciate you dropping by!
      I’d love to hear more about your VA experience so far *wink*

  • Hi Dennis
    Such a lovely and long post about link baits , i learnt a lot from this article about links, thank you so much.

  • I love link bait. Not just as a marketer, but as a consumer. Link bait usually means something people like, and that is a good thing.

    • Hi David! Yeah, usually it is, especially if it has the right purpose to begin with 🙂
      Thanks for dropping by!

  • Hey Dennis,
    I have been reading about Link baits a lot but building some awesome content takes a lot of time and research.
    I have tried many times to prepare some articles like this but I haven’t been able to finish them. I still have them drafted and would surely complete them someday.
    Thanks for this post and showing us the SEO aspect of Link baiting!

    • Hi Arbaz!

      Just go with it, it’ll come to you. Sometimes I bust out a 2k word article in an hour like this one because of it’s urgency. Sometimes, it takes me weeks.

      Though I have to admit that Im not the most consistent blogger so I’m the worst to give advice on that LOL. My schedule is weird and finding time to write regularly is, well, rather complicated. 😀

      Thanks for taking time to read the post! 🙂

  • Hey Dennis,

    It’s my first here and I am glad coming around. My oh my, this post is awesome Dennis…

    I really have seen a post to bookmark for today for a second reading. While I have not really had a fair share of link bait, I do think it’s something I can make do as a blogger.

    I like the way you used what you like most “Basket Ball” to elaborate more on this post, that shows you are applying the rules of blogging which is using what we are knowledgeable in to teach or share with others. I wouldn’t argue that you really gave this article ample time to come up with it. Nice write up Dennis and please do keep them coming.

    Do have a wonderful day ahead my friend.


    • Hi Jackson!

      I appreciate the kind words and I do hope to see you back again!

      Thanks and have a great weekend!

  • I see that before 2 two years – link bait is always friendly for getting search engine ranking easily, too many bloggers and novel SEO worker don’t know clearly about link baiting. I really glad to enjoy your article by given proper information.


    • Hi Sukhen,

      Thanks! Appreciate it 🙂

  • Hi Dennis,

    You have gone above and beyond to explain how Link Bait works! I’ve been on webinars, purchased products on this subject, but no one has ever explained it better than what you have given here! It’s jaw dropping!

    I’ve done a few myself by accident he he …. and it caught on like wildfire. But I do want to get better at it and this is why I just had to bookmark this post so I can study it further.

    One of my favorites is #5 because I dabbled with it and am still tweaking. My eyes popped open on that one! Also, Email lists and a good funnel is something I’m currently doing, but you shed some light on it for me here. I thank you! And of course, NEVER stop tracking. I my wildest dreams, I though I would never master this, but once I started, I became addicted to it. lol.

    Thank you so much for this great information…I’ll pass it on to my peeps!


    • Hello Donna!

      Thanks! Appreciate you taking time to come over here even with your busy schedule!

      I could see that you have some great links baits going 😀

      For #5 – Buffer actually has a new option for this. If you already have buffer then you can easily set the schedule like that (Buffer, I keep promotin’ you guys…lol)

      Thanks for sharing and have a GREAT weekend!

  • I love being able to look from a different angle when discussing a topic which is what you have done so brilliantly. By creating a relationship between NBA to SEO link building, you bring out fresh insight on the topic. Thanks for sharing

    • Hi Ikechi

      Thanks for he kind words! I hope to see you back here again.

      Enjoy the weekend!

  • and yeah, the whole blog lost almost all it’s social share counts because of the move to https 🙁

  • Now era of Link Baiting, SEO ranking will be the first link baiting. because of the last Google Penguin update was Penguin 2.1, the 5th update on October 4, 2013. After a year and 13 days, they have launched another update of penguin 3.0 last Friday night, October 17th. Google’s Pierre Far on a Google+ status confirmed that the roll out is still far from complete. The rolling out will continue till the end of next week. Penguin 6 (AKA Penguin 3.0) on October 21, 2014 (impacting less than 1% English queries).

    • Hello Sukumar

      Um, yes and it’s a pretty underwhelming update. We all expected more from it after waiting for a year

  • Guess his link bait worked for his confidence. He made LeBron a witness all right

  • Hey Dennis,

    I tip my hat off to you for writing this article. You went way beyond the norm of explaining what link bait is! You know I have to bookmark this right? There was only a couple of times when I can actually say my content was on the verge of going viral (to me that’s getting over 500 tweets within a week).

    I’ll always looking for ways to improve my tracking and look for ideas on what changes or what i can improve in in order to get more traffic to my sites. You’ve said a lot here and the only thing I can say that I’m consistently do is #4. Wow, that’s bad for me LOL… but at least you shared 7 other tips that can change that!

    I really like the screenshots you added here. More than anything it motivates me more to track the performances of my sites and capture pages in more detail. Tracking is probably the biggest part of Marketing. Hey, no wonder it’s a major in college!

    Thanks for sharing this information! I hope you’re having a great week so far!

    found your post on under the category SEO/SEM

    • Thanks Sherman!

      I hope to see one of your posts for viral and earn you hundreds of very good links.

      Here’s to you and your blog successfully ranking for your targets and raking in massive traffic 🙂

      Enjoy the rest of the week!

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