How Orbit Media's Link Bait Magnet Built 430 Links in Six Months

A Link Bait Case Study

Jason Quey
Last updated: Nov 13, 2019
Originally published: Apr 11, 2019

Getting quality links to your site is TOUGH.

Building one or two links to an article feels good. Roping in 10 to 20 links, and you feel like a champion. But what if you could get over 430 links to an article?

Not only that but...

  1. You bring in 8,100 visitors the first month...
  2. And 2,700 the 2nd month...
  3. Then 1,400 visitors every month after the first two months.

Oh, and for kicks and giggles, try to do this in six months while running a 7-figure business. Impossible, you say?

This is exactly what we did for Orbit Media’s annual blogger survey. Look, it even ranks in the top 10 spots in Google for 47 keywords in the US:

link bait

What’s even better? Orbit did not have to beg thousands of people for links, because reaching out to survey bloggers created original data, and original data is a natural link bait magnet. After analyzing 1,000,000 articles, Buzzsumo found that original research is one of five types of content that gets a ton of links, and shares.

Therefore as a rule of thumb, the more people who see the original research, the more people will link to it. So the more traffic Orbit Media sent to the article through influencer relationships or through SEO, the more links came on their own.

Like any masterpiece, this process takes a lot of time and effort. In this article, I will share a behind-the-scenes look at how you can build your own link bait magnet using a survey.

Here’s what I will cover in today’s guide:

  1. Come Up With Tantalizing Survey Questions That Build Links for You
  2. Mastering Email Outreach: The Magic Sauce to Magnetic Links
  3. Final Touches to Make Your Article Ready for Prime Time
  4. 5 Reasons Why Your Experiment Might Fail…

Come Up With Tantalizing Survey Questions That Build Links for You

At first blush, this step seems obnoxiously simple. I mean, what’s so hard about coming up with questions for people to answer?

Turns out, simple questions that result in great answers that generate links are surprisingly hard. If you ask questions that are too difficult, the people you survey won’t respond. Which means you won’t have a survey.

Then you’ll get a landslide of blog articles saying, “Cold emails are dead.” Spoiler alert: The blogosphere declares every marketing channel dead. Yet for some reason, startups still make money on “dead” channels...

Here’s a simple process you can use to come up with powerful survey questions that build links:

  1. Brainstorm and source a list of questions.
  2. Make sure someone can answer all questions with a multiple choice answer.
  3. Keep the total number of questions small.

You can start by brainstorming questions you want to know about the people who you serve.

  1. How much money does the average co-founder make each year?
  2. How many co-founders does a startup have on average?
  3. How many startups raise a series A funding?

Don’t worry about quality. Focus on quantity first, then weed out the bad questions second.

You can also Google statistics in your industry to source survey questions. Even though those statistics are on the web, you can set your survey apart by applying a theme to your information. Or, you can use that statistic to give you an idea of a similar question you can ask.

For example, let’s say you want to create a study for realtors. Doing a quick Google Search, I found these statistics:

  1. 5.51 million existing homes were sold in 2017.
  2. Most REALTORS® worked 40 hours per week in 2016.
  3. 63% of all REALTORS® are female, and the median age of all REALTORS® is 53.

Here are three questions you could survey realtors with:

  1. How many homes did you sell in 2017?
  2. How many hours do you work in a typical week?
  3. What is your gender?
  4. What is your age?

Whatever questions you ask, you will want to keep make sure the questions are easy to answer.

Question #4 will result in a simple answer. But you could make it easier by giving age ranges (e.g. 18-27, 28-37, etc). Multiple choice questions can make it easier for someone to fill out your survey. Even better, it will make it easier for you to summarize the results.

Finally, make sure you keep the total number of questions you ask small.

It’s not too difficult to ask someone to help for three minutes. But no one likes to fill out a 20-page survey without some kind of incentive. Be careful using incentives, as they can bias your results. For a benchmark, Orbit Media only asked 12 questions.

Once you have your questions, you can create a survey for free using Google Forms or Survey Monkey.

Next, you will want to get ready to collect your data by reaching out to your target audience.

Mastering Email Outreach: The Magic Sauce to Magnetic Links

Now that you have your survey in hand, next you will need to get it in front of your target audience.

Finding your target audience is easier said than done.

Getting this process wrong may result in your email account becoming banned. Or worse, it will destroy your brand and reputation when sending spam-ilicious emails.

I’ve written on how to build a successful outreach program before. But I’ll walk you through three simple steps to help your survey link magnet campaign be successful.

Step 1: Get qualified emails.

Before you go any further, stop. Collaborate and listen (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

Have you ever felt frustrated receiving spam-tastic emails?

One reason you felt this way is because the offer wasn’t relevant. After all, if someone could solve the problem you are dealing with right now, you wouldn’t think it was spam. The email would feel like it was a request from a friend.

If you want to reduce the number of people who think your email isn’t for them, you need to make sure you find quality emails. Here’s how you can do this for your survey:

First, get your “low-hanging fruit” emails. This includes:

  1. Customer emails.
  2. Free-trial user emails.
  3. Blog list emails.

On top of being easy to find, these email addresses are more likely to respond because these people have a higher trust in your startup.

Second, tap into your LinkedIn connections to find email addresses. You know, the 4,572 connections in your “network” that you probably do absolutely nothing with, aside from collect dust. You can export your LinkedIn connections here.

To qualify your connections, decide on three skills relevant to your target audience. For realtors, I would consider “Real Estate,” “International Real Estate,” or “Commercial Real Estate.”

Next, find out which LinkedIn contacts have those skills.

I know, I know, it sounds like a lot of work. And it is. But missing this step is the quickest way to land in someone’s spam box.

You can outsource this task to a VA on Fiverr or Upwork. We wrote this guide on outsourcing originally for SEO, but I know you’re smart enough to apply it to another field. We pay around $2-4/hour for this task.

Step 2: Verify the emails.

You’ve got a list of qualified emails, go you! But don’t rush off to do outreach quite yet. Because sending too many incorrect emails can also result in your email getting suspended. I know, brutal, right?

To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, use an email verifier like Voila Norbert.

Step 3: Create your follow-up sequence.

Look. There are a TON of email outreach templates on the ‘Net.

I could give you an email template that will go outta style faster than JNCO jeans with 50" leg openings (remember these?). Instead, let me teach you some principles on email outreach to help you get higher reply rates.

3A. Master each element of email.

The goal of the subject line is to get someone to open the email. The purpose of the body is to get someone to respond positively. So if your open rates are low (under 30%), you need to either improve the subject line, or you need to increase the number of follow-up emails.

3B. Keep your emails short.

According to Radicati, the average office worker receives 121 emails a day. While that number seems high, to respect someone’s time, I keep emails short. Like under 125 words, short.

3C. Speak from one human to another.

For some reason, when people send me a bulk email, their language becomes corporate-y gobbledygook. Write your email as if writing to your friend. Then, send yourself a copy of the email.

Like editing an article, you’ll notice words to prune to make your email more enticing. Ask yourself one simple question, “Why would I not respond to this email?” Then go and fix your email.

3D. Follow-up (politely).

A baby cries. The cat video beckons. People go on vacation. Life happens, so make sure to follow-up politely after a few days.

One reason why people don’t send follow-up emails is they think their emails will annoy people. For some people, you will and they will mark your message as spam. For simplicity sake, let’s say this is our gauge of annoying people.

The odds that your email gets flagged as spam is the same as the first email as the 5th. If increasing sales emails doesn’t increase spam rates, then neither should it increase your well-crafted marketing emails.

My suggestion is to follow-up at least twice and space out each follow-up email by a longer period of time. So after the first email, the second email will go out three days later, and the third email goes out five days later.

It doesn’t need to be these exact numbers. In fact, I’d spend less time worrying about “the perfect time to send your email,” and more time crafting the perfect email.

3E. Make It Easier to Say “Yes!”

Too many people approach cold outreach as though they’re begging someone to do them a favor. It’s okay to ask someone for help. But see if you can make it easier for them to do so.

One way you can do this for your survey is to give a time estimate in your outreach email. With twelve multiple choice questions, we estimated this would take 2-4 minutes.

Now they know this isn’t a 50 question survey that will eat up their lunch break.

Final Touches to Make Your Article Ready for Prime Time

Now then. You’ve set up your campaign. You use a tool like Mailshake or Polymail to set up and send your outreach emails. Survey responses start rolling in, yay! You start analyzing your data and writing up your article.

But don’t hit publish. Yet.

Although your survey is complete, there are a few final touches that will help it shine (and build better links at the same time).

First, create a graphic for each question.

Graphics will make your article more visually appealing. Even better, each graphic is a new opportunity for a blogger to use your images and cite your study on their blog.

Second, consider asking a few influencers to contribute a quote about the data.

Adding a quote adds value to the influencer by getting their name attached to a stalwart piece of original research. And there is a better chance they will promote your article and link to your research in articles they write on the subject too.

Third, send the article to everyone who participated in the survey.

From my observation, somewhere between 60% to 80% of participants want to know the final result of the survey. You’ve already done the hard work of reaching out to them. Why not send them your article when it is live?

Pro tip: End your survey with an opportunity to add their email addy to see the results. Do not add them to your regular newsletter list, as this is against GDPR regulations. (I’m not a lawyer, this isn’t legal advice, and *insert anything else here to cover me from silly lawsuits*).

5 Reasons Why Your Experiment Might Fail…

If every marketing test you run were successful, I bet you’d be a millionaire. Maybe a ga-jillionaire.

But, to err is human. So here are five reasons why this survey might not be a success:

1. Not having enough quality leads.

Reaching out to the wrong people is the fastest trip to the spam box. You will never have a perfect list of qualified candidates because people change jobs every 4.2 years. And they may not remember to update every social network along the way.

You may also find it challenging to find enough leads. It may be wise to work backward to understand how many people you need to reach out to get enough responses.

There’s rarely a quick fix here. As I mentioned before, you need to spend time finding out why your leads are the right candidates for the job.

2. Not verifying email addresses.

If you don’t verify emails you send, they will bounce. Why does matter if your emails bounce? After all, you can quickly delete those emails, right?

While that is true, too many emails that bounce will result in your account getting shut down.

Be sure to use a bulk email verifier like Voila Norbert before hitting send. As odd as it is, if you found an email through these two tools, both tools require you to verify them separately.

3. Sending too many emails that get marked as spam.

When your emails get marked as spam, two things can happen:

A. The odds your emails will default to someone’s spam folder increase

B. Your email will shut down.

No bueno.

Start by sending a small batch of 100 outreach emails. If you get any unsubscribe requests in the first email, you probably need to fix the email wording before continuing.

4. Not promoting your survey.

Wanna know the magic sauce to Orbit Media’s ongoing links? They put just as much blood, sweat, and tears into promoting the article as they did creating it.

Here is Orbit Media’s promotion plan in the simplest form:

  1. They target a high volume keyword they can rank in Google.
  2. They emailed everyone who asked to receive the survey.
  3. They did promotion on the typical channels (post on social media, send to their email list, and shared in a couple communities).
  4. They went on podcasts about the survey results.
  5. They created content hubs (Orbit Media wrote this article on building external content hubs).
  6. They leveraged their past success. This is the fourth year Orbit Media ran this survey. From my observation, this made it easier to get people to respond to the survey, and to get on multiple podcast appearances.
  7. Andy Crestodina is a genuinely generous gentleman. And we humans tend to enjoy helping people like him. So again, this makes it easier for them to get more responses and get on podcasts.

With that momentum, the survey began to gain traffic and links naturally.

5. Asking too many complicated questions.

Want to know a secret to motivation? Start by removing friction. That’s one reason why Facebook never logs you out of your account. And the same principle can apply to your survey.

The simple fix is to reduce the number of questions and remove open-ended questions. You can also take the survey yourself to get a feel for what it’s like as a respondent.

Still unsure where you may have gone wrong? If the issue is with your outreach, I’d recommend reading Gmail’s Bulk Senders Guidelines. Even if you use another email platform to send out emails, most of these guidelines are principles that are platform agnostic.

With a little effort and finesse, you too will be on your way to creating an article that builds links to your blog.

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Jason Quey

I am the CEO and Founder of Growth Ramp. I enjoy serving early-stage startups and later-stage scale-ups on their journey from idea to scale.

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