Traditional SEO is dead.  Gone are the days when we can get to the top by studying keyword densities and trading links.  Gone are the days when optimization involves pious devotion to the H1 tag.  I'm not saying these things are, or will ever be irrelevant, and I'm certainly not saying site architecture is not important; but I posit that SEO will eventually evolve into a branch of conventional marketing.

So let's forget most of what we learned about traditional SEO for a moment.  Let's talk about link bait.

Soliciting links via link-exchanging is less effective than it once was to the end of improving rankings, and link bait creation is one of the newer popularized techniques in link building; but link bait is just a new buzzword.  It's really viral marketing repackaged in a shiny new term.  Design something useful and motivate people to promote it on your behalf somehow.  The marketing result is something that math geeks would affectionately call exponential in growth.

The new social bookmarking sites further leverage and illustrate the power of link bait.  H1 tags certainly won't help your cause if you're trying to get Dugg.

Nor will a text link ad for "SEO" on the lower right corner next to an ad for "cheap refinancing" and "discount insurance."  Nobody clicks these links.  And it's only a matter of time before Google starts to look at behavioral data in addition to the heuristics they already have to detect stuff like this.  It's only a matter of time, then, before text links ads are rendered obsolete.  Google's Adam Lasnik hints at this here.

Some SEOs realized this awhile ago.  One of them is Andy Hagans.  He has a product listed here called a "Link Baiting Service" for $3,995.  That's a lot of money, but I think it's a bargain compared to paying monthly tariffs for text link ads.  Let's examine why.

First — an appeal to authority argument.  Even text link ad dealers seem believe in the efficacy of link bait.  The goliath of text link ads, has one of the finest examples of link bait around — "The Text Link Ads Calculator."  See?  I just linked it!

Let's use this tool to evaluate the value of the links acquired with some simple link-bait I cooked up last week — "Mattcuttsarama: 21 Great SEO Tips From Google’s Matt Cutts." 

Let's estimate the approximate value of the traffic from the Digg and the text link ads in the following 2 days of the post.  I received approximately 20,000 visitors from this post.  I assume much of the traffic is relevant — at least as relevant as PPC.  If we value each click at a conservative 20 cents each, the result is $4000.00.  So far we netted five dollars after Andy's price.  This is looking good.

Then let's sum the values of all the links I acquired as a result of this link bait.  There are many.  Let's start with

$12,144 per month.  Yep, you read that correctly — over $12,000.

Let's continue.  I'll just list the amounts somewhat haphazardly (all values are per month):

$384, $53, $84, $204, $108, $53, $79, $60, $41, $24, $252,
$31, $36, $43, $60, $36, $24, $12, $144, $53, $12, $36

Knowing you paid only $3995 for this — priceless.  Andy Hagans — I think you're selling yourself short.

After a few months, and even after some of these links disappear from the homepage and are relegated to the archives, we easily meet our target value of $50,000.

And I didn't even figure in the future value of the links – that's just for a few months.

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