Sometimes you can spin yourself into the ground trying to think of a great linkbait or widget idea. I’m talking hours in front of a white board, wearing out dry erase markers (ahhhh, the fumes!) and blurting out ideas until you’re hoarse. When you finally settle on an idea, you build it and after hours of painstaking research and development, you roll your shiny new toy out to the appropriate audiences via email/PR/social media/phone calls/carrier pigeon/skywriter and hope for the best. Sometimes you hit a home run, sometimes you hit a single, and sometimes you strike out.
I’d like to tell you some sort of magical secret to making easy linkbait and widgets that will always turn into a winner with little to no effort every time, but I don’t have that magical secret. What I have is a story about how we developed a relatively simple linkbait/widget idea, the steps we took to make it, how we rolled it out, and the results. Hopefully this sparks some ideas in others that can turn into a healthy dose of links with minimal sweat equity.
I’m on a boat!
We started working with our friends at Manitou Pontoon Boats on their SEO a little while back as they had found themselves sliding slightly after a pretty good run atop the rankings for their primary terms. They’re in one of those situations where the primary keywords drive a ton of traffic which leads to conversions (which in turn leads to selling some pretty lucrative boats). Needless to say, falling from 2nd or 3rd to the bottom of the first page for these major keywords was extremely detrimental to their business.
We very quickly realized that the waters were going to be a bit rocky for us – the top competitors were all extremely similar in terms of their link profiles and it seemed every one of them (including Manitou) were already listed on every boat manufacturing site or boating news site that it made sense to be on. We wanted to get high value, relevant links, but we needed an idea.
Take a good hard look…
We started our search for ideas with the most generic search possible. We simply Googled “boat”. This turned out to be way too general, and our listings were a mishmash of other boat manufacturers, a 7-pack of local results, and “boats for sale” type sites. Nothing useful there. Next search? “Boating”. We saw a couple of sites dedicated to boating safety right off the bat and started clicking around through the other results. It turned out many of these sites had information on boating safety and seemed very interested in promoting it as the main source of content or as a featured section of their site. Looking into these sites we identified three key things quickly:
- These places also had a lot of authority
- There was a LOT of information, but nearly all of it was text
- These places had a ton of links
This certainly gave us a starting point. We needed to make something visual/interactive that would appeal to the boating safety crowd. Given that all of this information was in text and there were a number of non-visually stimulating quizzes, we immediately decided we’d make a little interactive quiz about boating safety. How simple! Problem: We know as much about boating safety as we do about riding dolphins. Our contacts at Manitou had some information, but not really the type we would need to create something truly compelling.
Since we were relatively useless on the subject, we had two options – dig in and do the research or have someone else do it. Quite honestly, we like partners who are smarter than us, so we devised a plan that would save us from doing any real work. Our solution? We’d ask the sites we already found if we could use their quiz information. We found the right contacts, fashioned some introductory emails telling them what we wanted to do, letting them know that we were truly interested in helping spread the word on boating safety (it really is an important issue we were happy to support) and that we’d be sure to promote them by featuring them on the tool itself. This started conversations with a couple of boating safety websites and both were happy to offer up the content for our quiz. Not only that, both of them agreed to promote it on their social media, newsletters, etc. Boom! Free promotion. That was easy.
Through the process, as I already mentioned, we realized that spreading the word on boating safety was important, so it became pretty obvious that it would make sense to turn this thing into an embeddable widget so more people could use it (and of course we’d have a link attached to it). We drew up the specs and handed it off to our friends at Nicholas Creative who do a lot of development work for us and they laughed at how easy this concept was and then quickly put it together for us.
As you can see, this isn’t a tremendously complicated idea, but since we didn’t want this thing to seem commercial at all, we initially placed it on a page free of the general site template so as to not dissuade any skeptical webmasters. As you can see now, we moved it back to the general site template so it sits snugly within the Manitou site and lets any inbound traffic easily peruse the Manitou site.
As for our own promotion of it – we sent out a press release through a PR service, contacted some target boating news, and safety sites and did a little bit of social media promotion – all EXTREMELY quick and easy stuff.
Okay, so now you want to know what happened. I’d say that the page got a million links, but it didn’t. It DID however get some really relevant links.
One of these links was a home page link on a PR7 site. The page for the quiz actually now has the highest PageRank on Manitou’s domain (PR6 vs. PR5 for the home page). There were a number of places that embedded the quiz as well, leading to even more good links (one being Discover Boating themselves). Speaking of PageRank, the home page PageRank jumped to a 5 with the next update (in conjunction with some of our other work, I’m sure), and more importantly, rankings and traffic went up significantly. We were no longer an also ran for our target keywords – we were consistently in the top 3 again and traffic and business came with it.
“Pontoon boats” is just one of the big keywords being targeted, but obviously the results YTD are substantial with a 4,148 visit increase for just this one keyword and it’s not even boating season yet, where these numbers should grow exponentially.
Got your swim trunks and flippy floppies?
The big thing to learn here is that linkbait can get results without you having to kill yourself by doing everything from scratch. If you connect with the right resources, often times it’s a matter of simply repurposing their content in a way that benefits them, your client, and hopefully your target audience. Even better, if you do a nice job, there’s a good chance these people will handle part of the outreach and promotion for your new linkbait/widget.
Our takeaways from this were a quick inventory for quick, simple, effective linkbait.
- Is there a valuable resource in your niche or associated niche that can be presented more interestingly or more comprehensively?
- Are these resources heavily linked to?
- Do your sources have a likely location to link back to you, do their quality links also appear to be good targets for your linkbait/widget?
- Do these sources have their own built in marketing machines (do they have a newsletter, massive social media following, prominent news section or blog?)
This list can be a good starting point as far as your next big idea. If you have any more simple sources and ideas for great linkbait, feel free to share!
(Special thanks to Manitou Boats for agreeing to share some of their analytics information in this post.)