Linkbaiting for Fun & Profit
Linkbaiting is one of the most universally effective tactics for promoting a site, both for search engine rankings and short-term traffic boosts. There’s no special list of guidelines that sets linkbaiting apart from normal content building or promotion except the knowledge that you’re creating something that’s specifically designed to appeal to link-savvy bloggers and web content creators.
Understanding what content, features, and subjects are “in” with the technorati (the web-literate individuals, not the blog aggregation site) is a subjective, but important piece of the linkbait creation puzzle. Right now, for example, one could search through del.icio.us/popular and digg.com to find examples of sites and pages that are getting lots of press. Blogs like Lifehacker, Threadwatch, Gizmodo, and others can also serve as inspiration when you’re searching for the latest crazes. My current experience shows that there are two big fields getting attention – web 2.0 applications (which include mashups, community-based sites, tags, feeds, content aggregation, map interfaces, etc.) and trend-announcing posts (or articles) that present new data or talk about how existing trends are affecting industries. Both of these get hundreds of links from bloggers who can’t seem to resist pointing to something their cohorts will later reference them for.
A lot of folks have also pointed out that SEOmoz’s very own Search Engine Ranking Factors served as very tasty linkbait recently, garnering a few thousand links in less than 3 weeks. Other examples of this same type of linkbaiting exist across the web, ineveryindustry. If you can gather up a group of well known and well-respected industry professionals to write a best practices guide or offer their opinions on factors/trends/issues affecting the industry, you’ve got a golden opportunity for on-topic links.
The second step in creating linkbait is the initial promotion. With SEOmoz, it was easy to write about the ranking factors article in the SEOmoz blog and watch the links fly in. With lesser trafficked sites, it can be valuable to actually email some bigger bloggers or writers in the field and ask them if they’d offer constructive criticism. Don’t ask for a link – bloggers hate that (even I hate it). Ask for their advice, tell them you respect their opinion and like their blog (if you don’t, find someone whose opinions you do respect) and are hoping their feedback can help you improve. 99.99% of the time, if you implement some small changes they ask for and email them back saying you’ve made them, they’ll write about it in public.
Once a great site, great application or trendy post is written about somewhere, it gets picked up and dragged across the web. Social tagging and popularity ranking sites (like the aforementioned Digg & del.icio.us) help to give the document massive visibility to hundreds of sheep-like content creators, who’ll happily link to you (without any input). Linkbait is a beautiful thing and to those who become experts in applying it to industry niches where natural links are hard to come by (think e-commerce or pharma), a great reward awaits.
Special Guest Blogger on the Search Engine Journal, Rand Fishkin is an SEO consultant based in Seattle. Rand runs SEOmoz.org, a community web resource dedicated to improving understanding of search optimisation and related subjects. His background spans web design and development, usability and search marketing.