Yes, the title is link bait…but it serves as the perfect example to prove our point. Need new link bait? Have someone threaten to sue you.
Legal action or the threat of legal action can strike a viral nerve that the savvy search marketer can cook into irresistibly tasty link bait. A large corporation suing an individual, a small business or a group can flavor the dish with essence of David versus Goliath. Stir in a threat of a punishment that is disproportional to the cause of action and you have a recipe that can satisfy your link and traffic cravings.
Last weeks’ firestorm of inDiggnation illustrated the potential of a cease and desist notice to create a media and blog feeding frenzy. In case you were dead last week, or hibernating in some part of the world that doesn’t have an internet connection or newspaper, we’ll summarize the story for you. It all began when Digg executives decided to kill a story about the HD-DVD encryption key in response to a DMCA request. Digg CEO Jay Adelson wrote about the the decision to bow to a cease and desist declaration and remove stories related to the “HD-DVD Hack”. Adelson’s post received about 5,300 back links in less than a week.
The decision created a mutiny by Diggers, who proceeded to submit and promote dozens of other pages about the HD-DVD key while burying everything else. The Digg moderators fought off the Mutiny for a few hours before being overwhelmed. By midnight, Digg’s homepage had been completely taken over by protesters. The next morning, Digg waived the white flag when Kevin Rose posted the HD DVD encryption key along with a message that they had given up trying to oppose the will of the Digg Community. That post gathered another
16,000 20,750 links.
The story broke to the mainstream press, getting coverage (and links) from hundreds of media outlets, including CNet, MSNBC, AP, Forbes, Newsday, PC World, USA Today, ZD Net, InfoWorld, MacWorld and the New York Times.
You don’t need to be Digg or the victim of a RIAA lawsuit for legal action to become viral. Breast feeding advocate –and Search Engine Guide editor– Jennifer Laycock turned a clever t-shirt and a cease and desist letter from an overzealous trademark attorney representing the American Pork Board into a viral firestorm and 2,954 links. A story about a judge losing his pants and suing for $67 million gathered 3,566 diggs – although this story appears to have only collected about a dozen links.
Eric Ward, in his post on The Coming Link Apocalypse, wrote about the rapid depreciation in value from traditional link building campaigns.
You aren’t doing anything wrong, and you do your job well. You try hard. You are conscientious. You care. But no matter the content subject, what I have seen over the past five or six years that link building has gone mainstream is a herd mentality. Everyone uses the same tools, the same tactics, the same tricks, the same companies, the same link requests, the same link-ridden press releases, the same approaches, with almost no thought or differentiation.
We are big fans of Eric and have utilized his services for our clients. He is most likely right that many link baiting strategies acquire links that are of dubious value over the long haul. On the other hand, the sue or be sued approach can create a “real story” and yield the type of high quality editorial links from main stream media outlets that are unlikely to quickly depreciate.
The Digg story is the extreme examples that illustrates the point, but a search of Google News for April 4th to May 4th shows over 22,000 results for stories that contain the word “sued” or “sues”. The media outlets that Google crawls for news syndication are, by definition, high quality editorial sites that can deliver the link juice we are all looking for.
If you enjoy playing with fire and you have the stomach for lawsuits or cease and desist orders, “sue or be sued” might be a strategy for to pursue. For the other 99% of us, if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of receiving a summons or a cease and desist letter, see if you can make links out of lemons.