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

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.

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. 

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


Majestic (previously MajesticSEO) reports around 38 new links:

Majestic shows 38 new links!


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

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.

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


How about that Tweet? How far did that go? 

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


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.

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


Mentions Everywhere! Even an AMA Request!


Where is his site ranking now for his name?

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! 😀

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.

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.

Dennis Seymour :Entrepreneur, Author, Father. Follow me and Say Hi! Snap Me / Tweet Me / Instagram

View Comments (40)

  • 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. :D

      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 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 :D

      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

      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

  • 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

  • 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!