Can you use linkbait in conjunction with retargeting to make viral sales? How about use them to build an email list of linkerati*?
The linkbait we commonly discuss targets the Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit crowd of young, male techies. While baiting those communities has been proven to generate links, it doesn't generate direct sales in 99% of cases.
For example, writing some funny piece about Apple and Digg is guaranteed to hit Digg's homepage and get you links from its' readers. But if you sell diapers to moms, Digg traffic won't convert.
Why should you be content with linkbait that doesn't generate sales from the traffic it attracts? Why be satisfied with linkbait that only generates sales indirectly from higher rankings?
Now, it's possible to create unique content that will appeal to bloggers AND people in a company's target market, so long as the target market isn't a product that everyone buys, like pens.
Let's say you sell diapers and you're linkbaiting moms. You make the rounds of mom blogs and gain tens of thousands of visitors' attention! Woohoooooooo - take the day off and sit back to watch the links roll in!
Or... That's How It Used To Be Done.
Given that linkbait traffic was historically irrelevant to your core business, you didn't bother trying to sell to these visitors. And even if you did, on their very first visit, you'd be hard pressed to sell anything more expensive than an impulse purchase.
With our relevant linkbait example though, the linkerati you're drawing in are also your target market. That means you've only got the problem of them being there for your content and not being in buying mode.
The next step must therefore be to bring these visitors back. There are at least two ways to do that.
First, there's getting them to subscribe to an email list - which is beautiful, because you can continue building a relationship with subscribers and gain their trust progressively.
The difficulty with the email list is that many of the folks won't subscribe that first visit. What about all the non-buying, non-email-subscribing traffic? Is that all-wasted?
"Retargeting" is an ad targeting technique that shows your ads to visitors who previously visited your site.
To achieve this, your site "drops a cookie" (** explained below) on your visitors computer, and then you buy ads that are displayed to computers that have this cookie. In other words, the ad network shows your ads to people who've visited your site previously, and are thus a better prospect (for example, because of greater brand awareness.
[Note: The downside to retargeting is that it doesn't differentiate between multiple users on a single computer. So if my dad visits a gym's website on my computer, I may be shown the gym's ads when I later browse the web even though I'm not the prospect.]
According to SEOmoz's Rand Fishkin, retargeting this way has been responsible for about 10-15% of the company's sales.
(You can also use the web's network of links to attempt another form of retargeting.)
What About Combining Linkbait And Retargeting?
So long as your linkbait is sufficiently relevant, a good portion of people who view it will be your prospects. So...
1) Ensure visitors to the linkbait are cookied.
2) If they don't buy on the spot or subscribe by email, retargeting ads buy you another shot at selling!
Better yet, show them an ad for your newsletter.
For the diapers example above, write ad copy offering moms your free report, "10 Secrets To A Full Night's Sleep For You And Baby."
With the newsletter approach, you build a relationship and make far greater revenue from multiple sales over the customer lifetime. (Kudos to Hamlet Batista for introducing me to the progressive build-up mentality to converting traffic.)
And for the topping on the cake and perhaps best of all, building a list of this kind means you're also adding linkerati to your list. So next time you have a great piece of linkbait, you have a headstart and less need for the mommy blogs - send it to your list.
There are other advantages to this technique, too, which I share in my free advanced SEO book chapter: "How To Scale Linkbait Massively Without Digg."
*Linkerati are people like bloggers and social media users who will share your content with others and help it go viral.
**Dropping a cookie means that your site downloads a little text file to the visitor's computer. It's a record of their visit and thus is also used to store preferences, usernames and passwords (e.g. "Remember my password" functions).