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What Is Link Bait? 7 Successful Examples

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Not every page on your website will earn you backlinks.

That is one of the many reasons why link building is hard. Pages need links to rank. Yet not all pages will earn them.

But there is a certain type of page you can create that will naturally earn links better than others. In the SEO world, we call them “link bait.”

Knowing why and how link bait works will help you create more “link magnets” so you can get more links to your website.

But first, let’s start with the basics:

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Link bait is content designed to attract backlinks. It’s something so valuable and interesting that bloggers and journalists want to link to it.

What is the purpose of link bait?

Link bait helps you rank higher on Google and get more organic traffic to your website.

There are two reasons why this is so.

First, because links are one of Google’s top three ranking factors, pages with more links tend to rank higher and get more traffic. Our study of over 1 billion pages confirms this.

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Line graph showing the higher the median number of referring domains, the more organic search traffic

If you create a piece of link bait about a topic people are searching for, the links it attracts should result in more traffic to the page itself.

Second, you can distribute some of the “authority” your link bait attracts to other pages on your website using internal links. This can help boost the pages’ rankings in organic search.

Flowchart showing more "linkable" webpage can transfer link authority to product page through internal linksFlowchart showing more "linkable" webpage can transfer link authority to product page through internal links

Why does link bait work?

Link bait works because it takes advantage of psychological principles that make people want to link to it. These principles are called “share triggers” and were coined by marketing professor Jonah Berger in his book “Contagious.”

They are:

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  1. Social currency – People share things that make them look good to others.
  2. Triggers – People share things that are top of mind.
  3. Emotion – People need to feel something to share something.
  4. Public – People tend to imitate others’ behavior if they can see or observe it.
  5. Practical value – People like to pass along practical, useful information.
  6. Stories – People don’t just share information—they share stories too.

Best practices for creating link bait

Here are some best practices for creating link bait that “takes advantage” of share triggers.

Try to incorporate at least one or two into your link bait so it stands the highest chance of success.

1. Make your link bait practical

Making your content practical means creating something that the reader can use right away. Examples include tools, calculators, templates, checklists, and cheat sheets. For example, at Ahrefs, we created a whole bunch of free tools.

List of free Ahrefs toolsList of free Ahrefs tools

Each of them has a significant number of backlinks:

Table showing each free tool's page has lots of referring domains and backlinksTable showing each free tool's page has lots of referring domains and backlinks

2. Make your link bait opinionated

Another way to make your link bait valuable is to give the reader something new to think about. This can be done by tackling a topic from a unique angle and adding something unique to the conversation. 

Here’s an example: A few years ago, our chief marketing officer, Tim Soulo, published a “rant” about bad email outreach.

It was incredibly opinionated and born entirely out of his own experience. But people loved it.

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This resulted in over 2,500 backlinks from 533 websites:

Site Explorer overview of Tim's post on bad email outreachSite Explorer overview of Tim's post on bad email outreach

3. Make sure your link bait evokes emotion

If you’re as old as me, you may remember the glorious days of Upworthy. During its peak, it was as if every single one of the site’s articles went viral. (Although I’ve not seen anyone share Upworthy’s content in recent years.)

Upworthy is a website dedicated to positive stories. People kept sharing its articles because each one was engineered to make people feel awe, surprise, happiness, and a general sentiment that the world was not as bad as it seemed to be.

Of course, the content worked incredibly well as link bait too:

Site Explorer overview of a positive, inspirational Upworthy articleSite Explorer overview of a positive, inspirational Upworthy article

Positivity is just one aspect. There are tons of emotions you can try appealing to, such as anger, excitement, sadness, joy, etc. See if you can incorporate them in your link bait too.

4. Make your link bait visual

For someone to link to a piece of content, a four-step process has to occur:

  1. See – The potential “linker” stumbles upon your link bait for the first time.
  2. Consume – They click and consume it.
  3. Enjoy – The content makes a lasting impression on their mind.
  4. Link – They take the “bait” and link to it.

If your link bait isn’t visually appealing, this process gets cut off between “Consume” and “Enjoy.” This is because visuals help people to consume content quicker and easier, thereby increasing the likelihood that someone will enjoy the said content and, thus, link to it.

For example, check out this post on the most popular beer in every country. Instead of a simple listicle, the information is actually conveyed in a map:

World map with logos of different beer brands on various areasWorld map with logos of different beer brands on various areas

With over 533 backlinks from 179 websites, it did pretty well.

Site Explorer overview of VinePair's article on the most popular beer in every countrySite Explorer overview of VinePair's article on the most popular beer in every country

5. Make your link bait newsworthy

If there is one thing that is top of mind for most people, it’s the news. And journalists and bloggers are constantly on the lookout for stories to cover.

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For example, the biggest news story of the past two years is logically the pandemic and the resulting changes it created. In 2020, Nulab ran a series of surveys regarding remote work and published them in a post.

Not only did the post earn 103 backlinks from 80 unique websites…

Site Explorer overview of Nulab's post about remote work during COVID-19Site Explorer overview of Nulab's post about remote work during COVID-19

… but it also received links from major publications like Huffington Post, Yahoo, ZDNet, Refinery29, and more:

List of domains and corresponding DRList of domains and corresponding DR

So if you want big news publications to link to you, your content will need to incorporate some newsworthy elements. Here’s a great list to look through and apply to your own content.

Another strategy to make your content newsworthy is to do newsjacking. Newsjacking is about monitoring live news and spotting opportunities to put your brand in the center of conversations by reacting with expert commentary and thought leadership pieces.

We interviewed Will Hobson, the PR director at Rise at Seven, to share tips on how to successfully execute newsjacking. You can read his tips in the post below.

Recommended reading: 9 Great Public Relations Tactics With Campaign Examples 

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6. Make your link bait a story

Bestselling author Yuval Noah Harari wrote:

Humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better.

Humans are storytelling animals. It’s how we function as a society. So it’s surprising to no one that we share and link to stories.

For example, rather than bash people over the head with logic and reasoning about why debt is bad, Wealth Simple decided to go with a story angle.

Excerpt of Wealth Simple's article where a couple shares their experiences dealing with debtExcerpt of Wealth Simple's article where a couple shares their experiences dealing with debt

It earned a respectable 85 backlinks from 62 referring domains:

Site Explorer overview of Wealth Simple's article about debtSite Explorer overview of Wealth Simple's article about debt

Plenty of which came from large websites like Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Slate, and more:

List of domains with corresponding DRList of domains with corresponding DR

Telling a good story is difficult. But if you can do so with your link bait, it may be worth a shot.

7. Include what other people are already linking to

If people are linking because of certain reasons in competing pages, it is logical to assume that the particular reason is important to that topic.

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So before you create your link bait, you should look for common link reasons in a similar page’s backlink profile.

Here’s how:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Search for a topic you’re writing about
  3. Look at the SERP overview
  4. Find a similar article with lots of referring domains
  5. Click on the number in the Backlinks column
  6. Skim the Anchor and target URL column for commonalities

For example, if we do this for Greatist’s post on the perfect kettlebell swing, we see quite a few people linking because the post mentioned the benefits:

Keywords Explorer resultsKeywords Explorer results

If you’re writing about the same topic, mentioning benefits may give your link bait a chance to get more links.

Seven successful link bait examples

Here are seven of our favorite pieces of link bait, each of which attracted tons of links, shares, and attention.

We also reached out to their creator(s) and asked, “What do you think made your particular piece so successful/popular?”

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Their thoughts are included below.

1. 13 Reasons Your Brain Craves Infographics

Picture of a brain with the article titlePicture of a brain with the article title

This piece earned 75,300 backlinks from 1,500 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of NeoMam's article about why the human brain craves infographics Site Explorer overview of NeoMam's article about why the human brain craves infographics

Here’s what Danny Ashton, founder of NeoMam Studios, had to say:

I believe timing played a big part here; we published it when infographics were a hot topic in 2013. I think the interactive format also helped—a lot of people hadn’t seen anything like it back then.

I also made sure we only used scientific studies to support each point, as most other stuff out there was a mix of pseudo-science and opinion.

And the fact that we promoted the hell out of it helped too!

Danny AshtonDanny Ashton

2. Inception Explained

The word "Inception" in all caps and subheader of the article below itThe word "Inception" in all caps and subheader of the article below it

This piece earned 714 backlinks from 324 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of article "Inception Explained"Site Explorer overview of article "Inception Explained"

Here’s what the creator, Matt Dempsey, had to say:

I think it was successful because it paired a subject matter people were interested in with a new medium people were delighted by.

The site tapped into a film millions of people knew and loved but most didn’t completely understand—you just had to check the Google search trends for ‘Inception explained,’ etc., beforehand to see the demand for a succinct explanation.

I also used parallax scrolling, which was a very new technique at the time. I think this was the most complicated and intricate implementation of it, so it resonated well with the tech/design community.

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Matt DempseyMatt Dempsey

3. How a Car Engine Works

Sketch of parts of a car engine and text surrounding the sketchSketch of parts of a car engine and text surrounding the sketch

This piece earned 2,100 backlinks from 400 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of Animagraffs' article on how a car engine worksSite Explorer overview of Animagraffs' article on how a car engine works

Here’s what Jacob O’Neal, the CEO of Animagraffs, had to say:

Personally, I think there are four main reasons the content performed well:

  • It’s ‘evergreen’: It will stay relevant for a very, very long time.
  • It’s a fresh new format: It’s a media format no one’s really done before that delivers learning super fast. It’s a combination of moving images and text, but not a video. Videos require audio and some wait time for things to be explained, speakers/headphones, etc. The learning process can be encumbered or a bit inefficient. With Animagraffs, text is right there if you want to read/learn what the text is pointing to, right this instant.
  • It’s well organized: The big, bold, moving illustrations catch your attention first, then supporting illustrations, and then the fine print of a particular point that really interests you. It appeals to all age groups and all levels of interest and intelligence.
  • We didn’t fake it: We didn’t hold back on the ‘smart, boring’ stuff. We design for the toughest crowd first. For example, if we’ve impressed seasoned auto mechanics, we’ve done the job right. No sacrificing quality for cheap views. This is in pretty stark contrast to a lot of marketing that focuses outward first and then inward. No one recommends trying to get friends by pretending to like what others like… why is marketing done this way? It’s better to lead with real, quality work, no matter how tempting it may be to invert the process for a quick buck.
Jacob O'NealJacob O'Neal

4. 90.63% of Content Gets No Traffic From Google. And How to Be in the Other 9.37%

Drawing of a traffic light and article title below itDrawing of a traffic light and article title below it

This piece earned 6,600 backlinks from 2,600 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of Ahrefs' data study Site Explorer overview of Ahrefs' data study

Here’s what our CMO, Tim, had to say:

First of all, I didn’t know that it would perform better than any other study I did. Otherwise, I would only publish the studies that do well and never publish anything that flopped.

As for why this particular one performed so well, in my opinion, it’s because it provided people from the SEO industry with a striking stat that helped them pitch the importance of SEO.

90% of content gets no traffic from Google—that’s a killer argument to audit your own content and decide if you were investing enough in SEO for the past few years.

Bottom line: People love data-backed claims. So if you can do some form of industry research, there’s a good chance people from your industry will reference your work.

Tim SouloTim Soulo

5. Why Do I Procrastinate?

First page explaining what the "Why Do I Procrastinate" quiz is aboutFirst page explaining what the "Why Do I Procrastinate" quiz is about

This piece earned 201 backlinks from 52 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of the "procrastination" quizSite Explorer overview of the "procrastination" quiz

Here’s what the creator, Manasvini Krishna, had to say:

These are some of the reasons, in my opinion:

  • Popular subject – I think the subject (procrastination) was a common problem that many of us (and definitely our target audience!) struggle with. Knowing we should be doing something but somehow not wanting to do it, or able to do it, is a familiar feeling to most! Most of us can relate.
  • Interactiveness and engaging – I think the fact that it was an interactive quiz designed to specifically identify and isolate your problem at that moment helped. In general, quizzes are great because everybody loves to learn a little bit about themselves. And they’re fun to take!
  • Different take than usual – The quiz gives immediately actionable and non-judgemental suggestions on how to solve your specific problem that you diagnose with the quiz. Many of us are used to viewing procrastination with a lot of guilt and negative feelings associated with it, so a solution based on the ‘procrastination equation,’ which basically just looks at procrastination as an equation, the various parts of which can be increased or decreased to fix the procrastination problem, is refreshing and not very common. (The quiz is based on a book called ‘The Procrastination Equation.’)
Manasvini KrishnaManasvini Krishna

6. Investment Calculator

Options to toggle answers to various questions on left; on right, key data based on what information was providedOptions to toggle answers to various questions on left; on right, key data based on what information was provided

This piece earned 1,100 backlinks from 306 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of "Investment Calculator" Site Explorer overview of "Investment Calculator"

Here’s what the creator, Caleb Barclay, had to say:

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Here are some initial thoughts:

  1. Design as differentiator: Free-to-use tool (no email exploitation), 10X improvement from competitor sites, designer websites linked to us.
  2. Launch with controversial subject: We found a highly opinionated group that kick-started exposure (Hackernews).
  3. Usefulness made it highly shareable: We needed this tool personally and spent a lot of time designing its utility (scratch your own itch).
  4. Personalization: Users participating in generating personalized content make it more sticky.
Caleb BarclayCaleb Barclay

7. The 35 Best Countries to Raise a Family in 2020

Excerpt of "best countries to raise a family" articleExcerpt of "best countries to raise a family" article

This piece earned 529 backlinks from 273 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of "best countries to raise a family" article Site Explorer overview of "best countries to raise a family" article

Here’s what the creator, Asher Fergusson, had to say:

I think what made my research on the best countries to raise a family in 2020 so popular is that it was original research on a topic that is close to home for a lot of people. And then on top of that, with the USA not ranking so highly, it was very controversial for most Americans. This helped it get on the front page of Reddit and then it went viral in the press, which brought the study countless awesome links and 35,000 hits per day for a while. My biggest error is not updating the study for 2021, but I plan to do an update for 2022, and I imagine it will go viral again and attract a bunch more links.

Asher FergussonAsher Fergusson

How to find good link bait ideas

The simplest method for finding great link bait ideas is to piggyback off what’s working for your competitors.

Here’s how:

  1. Enter your competitor’s domain into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Go to the Best by links report
Best by links report results overwhelmingly show listicles Best by links report results overwhelmingly show listicles

Eyeball the list to see what kind of formats and topics resonate with people in your niche. For example, if we did this for the Hong Kiat blog, we’ll see that listicles are popular in the design niche.

Whereas, if we analyzed our own blog, we’ll see that data studies are the most popular in the SEO space:

Best by links report results overwhelmingly show data studiesBest by links report results overwhelmingly show data studies

Final thoughts

Link bait is more than just creating something unique or visually appealing.

For it to attract links, you’ll need a combination of well-crafted content, a well-defined audience that has the ability to link to you, and a well-executed promotional plan.

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It doesn’t matter if you create the greatest piece of content in the world—you won’t get any links if people don’t know it exists.

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.

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Reddit Post Ranks On Google In 5 Minutes

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Google apparently ranks Reddit posts within minutes

Google’s Danny Sullivan disputed the assertions made in a Reddit discussion that Google is showing a preference for Reddit in the search results. But a Redditor’s example proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten of the search results within minutes and to actually improve rankings to position #2 a week later.

Discussion About Google Showing Preference To Reddit

A Redditor (gronetwork) complained that Google is sending so many visitors to Reddit that the server is struggling with the load and shared an example that proved that it can only take minutes for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten.

That post was part of a 79 post Reddit thread where many in the r/SEO subreddit were complaining about Google allegedly giving too much preference to Reddit over legit sites.

The person who did the test (gronetwork) wrote:

“…The website is already cracking (server down, double posts, comments not showing) because there are too many visitors.

…It only takes few minutes (you can test it) for a post on Reddit to appear in the top ten results of Google with keywords related to the post’s title… (while I have to wait months for an article on my site to be referenced). Do the math, the whole world is going to spam here. The loop is completed.”

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Reddit Post Ranked Within Minutes

Another Redditor asked if they had tested if it takes “a few minutes” to rank in the top ten and gronetwork answered that they had tested it with a post titled, Google SGE Review.

gronetwork posted:

“Yes, I have created for example a post named “Google SGE Review” previously. After less than 5 minutes it was ranked 8th for Google SGE Review (no quotes). Just after Washingtonpost.com, 6 authoritative SEO websites and Google.com’s overview page for SGE (Search Generative Experience). It is ranked third for SGE Review.”

It’s true, not only does that specific post (Google SGE Review) rank in the top 10, the post started out in position 8 and it actually improved ranking, currently listed beneath the number one result for the search query “SGE Review”.

Screenshot Of Reddit Post That Ranked Within Minutes

Anecdotes Versus Anecdotes

Okay, the above is just one anecdote. But it’s a heck of an anecdote because it proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank within minutes and get stuck in the top of the search results over other possibly more authoritative websites.

hankschrader79 shared that Reddit posts outrank Toyota Tacoma forums for a phrase related to mods for that truck.

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Google’s Danny Sullivan responded to that post and the entire discussion to dispute that Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums.

Danny wrote:

“Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums. [super vhs to mac adapter] I did this week, it goes Apple Support Community, MacRumors Forum and further down, there’s Reddit. I also did [kumo cloud not working setup 5ghz] recently (it’s a nightmare) and it was the Netgear community, the SmartThings Community, GreenBuildingAdvisor before Reddit. Related to that was [disable 5g airport] which has Apple Support Community above Reddit. [how to open an 8 track tape] — really, it was the YouTube videos that helped me most, but it’s the Tapeheads community that comes before Reddit.

In your example for [toyota tacoma], I don’t even get Reddit in the top results. I get Toyota, Car & Driver, Wikipedia, Toyota again, three YouTube videos from different creators (not Toyota), Edmunds, a Top Stories unit. No Reddit, which doesn’t really support the notion of always wanting to drive traffic just to Reddit.

If I guess at the more specific query you might have done, maybe [overland mods for toyota tacoma], I get a YouTube video first, then Reddit, then Tacoma World at third — not near the bottom. So yes, Reddit is higher for that query — but it’s not first. It’s also not always first. And sometimes, it’s not even showing at all.”

hankschrader79 conceded that they were generalizing when they wrote that Google always prioritized Reddit. But they also insisted that that didn’t diminish what they said is a fact that Google’s “prioritization” forum content has benefitted Reddit more than actual forums.

Why Is The Reddit Post Ranked So High?

It’s possible that Google “tested” that Reddit post in position 8 within minutes and that user interaction signals indicated to Google’s algorithms that users prefer to see that Reddit post. If that’s the case then it’s not a matter of Google showing preference to Reddit post but rather it’s users that are showing the preference and the algorithm is responding to those preferences.

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Nevertheless, an argument can be made that user preferences for Reddit can be a manifestation of Familiarity Bias. Familiarity Bias is when people show a preference for things that are familiar to them. If a person is familiar with a brand because of all the advertising they were exposed to then they may show a bias for the brand products over unfamiliar brands.

Users who are familiar with Reddit may choose Reddit because they don’t know the other sites in the search results or because they have a bias that Google ranks spammy and optimized websites and feel safer reading Reddit.

Google may be picking up on those user interaction signals that indicate a preference and satisfaction with the Reddit results but those results may simply be biases and not an indication that Reddit is trustworthy and authoritative.

Is Reddit Benefiting From A Self-Reinforcing Feedback Loop?

It may very well be that Google’s decision to prioritize user generated content may have started a self-reinforcing pattern that draws users in to Reddit through the search results and because the answers seem plausible those users start to prefer Reddit results. When they’re exposed to more Reddit posts their familiarity bias kicks in and they start to show a preference for Reddit. So what could be happening is that the users and Google’s algorithm are creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Is it possible that Google’s decision to show more user generated content has kicked off a cycle where more users are exposed to Reddit which then feeds back into Google’s algorithm which in turn increases Reddit visibility, regardless of lack of expertise and authoritativeness?

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Kues

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WordPress Releases A Performance Plugin For “Near-Instant Load Times”

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WordPress speculative loading plugin

WordPress released an official plugin that adds support for a cutting edge technology called speculative loading that can help boost site performance and improve the user experience for site visitors.

Speculative Loading

Rendering means constructing the entire webpage so that it instantly displays (rendering). When your browser downloads the HTML, images, and other resources and puts it together into a webpage, that’s rendering. Prerendering is putting that webpage together (rendering it) in the background.

What this plugin does is to enable the browser to prerender the entire webpage that a user might navigate to next. The plugin does that by anticipating which webpage the user might navigate to based on where they are hovering.

Chrome lists a preference for only prerendering when there is an at least 80% probability of a user navigating to another webpage. The official Chrome support page for prerendering explains:

“Pages should only be prerendered when there is a high probability the page will be loaded by the user. This is why the Chrome address bar prerendering options only happen when there is such a high probability (greater than 80% of the time).

There is also a caveat in that same developer page that prerendering may not happen based on user settings, memory usage and other scenarios (more details below about how analytics handles prerendering).

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The Speculative Loading API solves a problem that previous solutions could not because in the past they were simply prefetching resources like JavaScript and CSS but not actually prerendering the entire webpage.

The official WordPress announcement explains it like this:

Introducing the Speculation Rules API
The Speculation Rules API is a new web API that solves the above problems. It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation. This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them.”

The official WordPress page about this new functionality describes it:

“The Speculation Rules API is a new web API… It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation.

This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them. Also, with the Speculation Rules API, “prerender” actually means to prerender the entire page, including running JavaScript. This can lead to near-instant load times once the user clicks on the link as the page would have most likely already been loaded in its entirety. However that is only one of the possible configurations.”

The new WordPress plugin adds support for the Speculation Rules API. The Mozilla developer pages, a great resource for HTML technical understanding describes it like this:

“The Speculation Rules API is designed to improve performance for future navigations. It targets document URLs rather than specific resource files, and so makes sense for multi-page applications (MPAs) rather than single-page applications (SPAs).

The Speculation Rules API provides an alternative to the widely-available <link rel=”prefetch”> feature and is designed to supersede the Chrome-only deprecated <link rel=”prerender”> feature. It provides many improvements over these technologies, along with a more expressive, configurable syntax for specifying which documents should be prefetched or prerendered.”

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See also: Are Websites Getting Faster? New Data Reveals Mixed Results

Performance Lab Plugin

The new plugin was developed by the official WordPress performance team which occasionally rolls out new plugins for users to test ahead of possible inclusion into the actual WordPress core. So it’s a good opportunity to be first to try out new performance technologies.

The new WordPress plugin is by default set to prerender “WordPress frontend URLs” which are pages, posts, and archive pages. How it works can be fine-tuned under the settings:

Settings > Reading > Speculative Loading

Browser Compatibility

The Speculative API is supported by Chrome 108 however the specific rules used by the new plugin require Chrome 121 or higher. Chrome 121 was released in early 2024.

Browsers that do not support will simply ignore the plugin and will have no effect on the user experience.

Check out the new Speculative Loading WordPress plugin developed by the official core WordPress performance team.

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How Analytics Handles Prerendering

A WordPress developer commented with a question asking how Analytics would handle prerendering and someone else answered that it’s up to the Analytics provider to detect a prerender and not count it as a page load or site visit.

Fortunately both Google Analytics and Google Publisher Tags (GPT) both are able to handle prerenders. The Chrome developers support page has a note about how analytics handles prerendering:

“Google Analytics handles prerender by delaying until activation by default as of September 2023, and Google Publisher Tag (GPT) made a similar change to delay triggering advertisements until activation as of November 2023.”

Possible Conflict With Ad Blocker Extensions

There are a couple things to be aware of about this plugin, aside from the fact that it’s an experimental feature that requires Chrome 121 or higher.

A comment by a WordPress plugin developer that this feature may not work with browsers that are using the uBlock Origin ad blocking browser extension.

Download the plugin:
Speculative Loading Plugin by the WordPress Performance Team

Read the announcement at WordPress
Speculative Loading in WordPress

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See also: WordPress, Wix & Squarespace Show Best CWV Rate Of Improvement

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Featured Image: Vanatchanan/Shutterstock

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