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Old 04-25-2007, 08:09 AM
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Default Link Bait and what Link Baiting is

Building Link Bait - by Dave Davies, CEO of Beanstalk Search Engine Positioning, Inc.
Link bait (n): Link bait is any content put on a website with the primary function of attracting links to that page or to another page on the site.
The purpose of link baiting is pretty obvious, to develop incoming links to your website. One thing that may not be clear however is how links to internal pages on your site helps you rank highly. The benefits are divided into two parts:

1. You will rank for more phrases. Building links to internal pages is a great way to get those pages ranking for related terms. For example, if you run a real estate site and you put out some great content on how to get a mortgage in yourtown, somestate and who your visitors should use and provide a few useful tools to help your visitors you can attract links to this page for mortgage-related phrases. This will then help you rank for phrases such as "mortgages yourtown somestate", which in turn is going to drive traffic to your site.

2. You will boost the overall strength of your domain. Building links to internal pages helps build the link strength of your overall site. The internal links from the linked page to your other pages will be stronger and so, in turn, those pages become stronger. Stronger pages rank higher.
So we understand what link baiting is and what its purpose is however, how do you build it? This is a difficult question to answer as what makes good link bait can vary from site to site and industry to industry. In short though, you need to create something that others in your industry will find important, useful, or even humorous enough to link to.

Let's use an example we all know, YouTube. If you view any given video on YouTube you're going to find two ways to put that content on your site, link to it or embed it. The link provides the link bait benefits, embedding it provides the branding. They win either way. Now they have content to meet any persons' needs/wants, but what do those of us with fairly fixed site topics do?

Here are the steps for building link bait:
  • Figure out what appeals to those you want linking to you. This is not necessarily the same as what might appeal to your target market. When you're doing this try to think about the types of people they are (likely very similar to you). Are they funny? Do they just want quick solutions to their problems? What do the people who own websites related to your topic want to provide for their visitors?
  • Build it. If you want to provide a solution to an information gap, write up a great article. If you want to provide something humorous, do that. If you want to provide a useful tool on your site, write up your specs, hire a good developer and get it made.
  • Test it. If you're unsure as to how your new link bait will be received, test it. If you've written a great article on a subject you know people are interested in, try visiting a few forums and posting a link to it and see what the reaction is. You can do the same for humorous content and tools as well. Find out how they're going to be received by your site visitors and site owners you are hoping will link to it.
  • Launch it. Now it's time to add it to your site. In the Testing stage we put it up on the site but didn't link to it internally. Now it's time to link to it from inside your site. If you feel your potential clients will enjoy it, why not add it to your navigation? If you feel it's better for the people you want to link to you but not as useful for your potential clients then perhaps you'd be better of to build a resources page and link to it from there. Or, if you have a blog you can simply announce its launch on your blog.
  • Promote it. Now it's time to get the word out. There are a wide variety of methods for doing so and the most effective will vary by site category and who you want to reach. Here are some of the methods we have found most effective across a wide array of subjects:
- promotion on your site: large buttons on the homepage, in the navigation or other prominent spots
- press releases: if it's a service or information that a wide variety of people will be interested in a press release is a great way to get the news out quickly
- forum posts: if what you are offering will help then why not tell them about it in related forums. Chances are there are people looking for the solution you are providing - post a link to it for them, and others, to see. This will provide you with a link from the forum and potentially many more as people find the information and feel it may help their visitors too
- newsletters: take out an add in an industry newsletter
  • Monitor it. Now all that's left is to watch your stats and backlink counts to monitor the success. If you find you're getting solid traffic, or backlinks, or both it's a sign you just might want to do more of the same. If the results aren't as spectacular as you were hoping then you'd do well to consider how well you performed the five steps above, how they might be adjusted, and what else you can do.
It's important to note that building link bait is not a "one off". A successful site will continue to develop greater and greater numbers of incoming links through a variety of methods. Once you determine how to successfully link bait in your industry you'll want to reproduce it periodically. Fortunately, with the results you'll see if done properly - you'll be happy to take the time to do so.

This article was first published by Dave Davies, CEO of Beanstalk Search Engine Positioning, Inc.
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Old 04-25-2007, 08:20 AM
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Tips on Link Baiting

Quit Whining

The most common thing I hear about link baiting is that it’s hard. “How the heck can I link bait on my industrial water pump site?”
Stop. Complaining. Start. Thinking. Anything can be link baited. Sell a special kind of Dacron pillow? Maybe you need to write “101 Secrets to Sleeping Revealed.” Or maybe your site is a thin affiliate page that simply generates mortgage leads? How about “How to: Flip Houses in a Hot Real Estate Market.”

The point is that your topic has a link bait piece (or a dozen of them) waiting to be written. Granted, some topics will require a bit more creativity in coming up with baity content. That’s fine. In fact, let’s skip the content for now, because…

It’s All in the Title

The single most important aspect of a link bait piece is its title. On social bookmarking sites such as Delicious and Digg, the title is pretty much all people see before they decide to vote or bookmark. In a 1000-word article with a 10-word title, the 10 words in the title are probably more important than the next 1000.

Which title do you think would get more diggs? “Some ideas about linking” or “55 Surefire Link Baiting Tips”?

Obviously the latter title would have a much better chance of success, even though both titles could describe the exact same article. The 10 or 15 minutes that you spend on titling can make all the difference in the world. So when beginning a link bait piece, clear your mind and focus on title ideas. I like to brainstorm three or four different titles, then have a friend help me pick the best one, and then, right before posting, give it a final tweak (if necessary) for maximum effect.

Just as an exercise, pick a site that you think would be impossible to link bait, then put it through Copyblogger’s cheat sheet.

Copyblogger’s title cheat sheet:
  1. Who Else Wants [blank]?
  2. The Secret of [blank]
  3. Here is a Method That is Helping [blank] to [blank]
  4. Little Known Ways to [blank]
  5. Get Rid of [problem] Once and For All
  6. Here’s a Quick Way to [solve a problem]
  7. Now You Can Have [something desirable] [great circumstance]
  8. [Do something] like [world-class example]
  9. Have a [or] Build a [blank] You Can Be Proud Of
  10. What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]
Want an example? Let’s run through the cheat sheet Andy Hagans style:
  1. Who Else Wants Build Links and Rank High in Google?
  2. The Secret of Link Baiting (It’s all in the title!)
  3. Here is a Method That is Helping Webmasters to Link Bait Better
  4. Little Known Ways to Link Bait Like an SEO Pro
  5. Get Rid of Your Backlink Problem Once and For All
  6. Here’s a Quick Way to Rank Highly in Google by Link Baiting
  7. Now You Can Have that #1 Rank in Google
  8. Learn to Link Bait like Andy Hagans
  9. Build a Backlink Structure You Can Be Proud Of
  10. What Everybody Ought to Know About Link Baiting
Now, notice that I didn’t follow the cheat sheet exactly; feel free to tweak. It doesn’t need to be a rigid structure—just use it as a springboard for ideas. Next on our plate.

The Old “Quality Content”

Seeing as “content is king”, shouldn’t we have tackled this first?
Well, content is only crowned as king when it has focus. Focus comes from the title. In the title, you are making a promise to the reader: here’s what you’re going to read/learn/achieve in this article. All your content should be devoted 100% to meeting (or exceeding) this promise. Anything else—no matter how “valuable”—is fluff and should be cut out. Readers do want in-depth resources and advice, but they want it in a concise, focused serving.

A hook can help you keep this content focused and tight, and to fulfill the promise you made in the title. The hook has the potential to be the burning sensation that makes the article “write itself”. You sit down with a single purpose in mind, and this dictates how you write and package the content.
  • News Hook. The news hook is when you are the first to scoop a story; everyone who carries the story will then (theoretically) link to you as the original source. To get a scoop you don’t need to have insider information (though that doesn’t hurt); you can just be the first site to publicly predict something or to reach a controversial conclusion. Bonus points if your scoop is “true”—too many later-proven-to-be-false scoops will make other bloggers and writers hesitant to reference you again.
  • Resource Hook. The resource hook occurs when you make an extremely helpful piece of content that everyone will naturally want to bookmark (like this one!). This may be my favorite hook, because as opposed to the news hook, it encourages people to link to and bookmark it for a long period of time. Content that sits there and naturally obtains trusted, relevant backlinks passively? Isn’t that the original white hat SEO wet dream?
  • Contrary Hook. The contrary hook is when you refute a common myth in your niche. Most little areas of the blogosphere hold certain beliefs to be self-evident; all SEOs know that META tags are dead; all Web2.0 designers know that writing validated code is the right thing to do. Calling these people wrong will usually incite them into talking about you, and linking to you.
  • Humor Hook. People love to laugh, especially at people in their industry or niche. And most niches have so little levity that almost anything will get you a chuckle and a link. You can even directly cite influential people, and if done in a gentle way, they’ll generally be flattered into linking to it.
  • Tool Hook. A good link bait tool has one of two characteristics: 1) It is actually useful; or 2) It feeds bloggers’ egos. Firefox Plugins, free web design templates and financial calculators are all examples of tools that have received thousands of valuable backlinks. None of them are too hard for a decent programmer to create.
  • Award Hook. No official awards in your tiny niche? Why not host them yourself? You can either have a more legitimate award with significant organization and actual prize money like the Bloggies, or you can basically nominate everyone in your niche and hope that half link back to you out of enthusiasm for the community, as with the Search Awards. Both tactics work well. The reason is simply that people like positive recognition and they LOVE rankings. Awards get linked to because they help to legitimatize other people—it helps the winners when they promote you. Ah, human nature…
  • Giveaway Hook. Anyone who has been to an SEO conference recently (or any other conference for that matter) is stocked for life on pens, highlighters, key rings, and loads of over freebie junk. Companies fight to give trinkets away at certain events because, when directed towards the right audience, giveaways are a great way to drive sales and get a return far better than any ordinary advertising. The Internet is no different. Text Link Ads gets a lot of love around the blogosphere because they offer a free coupon for new clients. Some give away an Adwords Coupon every other week—how else can you get such branding, traffic and links with a $50 piece of paper?
  • Research/Statistic Hook. Sometimes just compiled numbers, or any kind of scientific survey, will get a lot of link love, especially in an under studied area. And while a scientifically-conducted study with valid methodology will often get better links, the (sad?) truth is that almost anything can pass as “research” on the Internet.
Whew. With all the hooks available to you, and your handy-dandy title cheat sheet you have no excuse now! Go forth and create content, and the InterWebs will reward you… or will it?
…No… it won’t. Not without sick skills in the department of…

Packaging & Formatting

“My content may not look like much, but it has a great personality!”

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it.

A good link bait piece should receive tens of thousands of unique visitors, but only a small percentage of those will bookmark or link to your site. That doesn’t mean you should stand idly by as thousands of visitors pass through your content without taking an action; what it does mean is that you need to pay attention to “small things” like formatting, structure and grammar. A single grammatical error in the first couple of sentences, or a text color which is hard to read against the page background, is generally enough to kill a link bait by itself. So before any big link bait ask a friend to check things over for readability and errors.
  • Think scan-able, not readable. Most people scan content on the Web—they don’t read it like you’d read a book. If you make your content scan-able, it’s going to be more digestible—and bookmark-able—and linkable. This means liberal use of lists, headings, sub-headings, graphs, and graphics.
  • Take down your ads. A link bait piece is not about making $500 extra in AdSense. It’s about gaining RSS and newsletter subscribers, links and good branding. But you’re not going to be maximizing these benefits if you keep up the annoying banner ad up top, the left column AdSense block, and the large Chitika unit floating in the content. Everyone wants to link to clean, juicy information; no one wants to link to your ads. So when you’re launching your link bait, take down all your ads on the landing page for the “launch period” (usually 24-48 hours). You’ll often pick up the vast majority of the links and traffic within that time, so if you want to spam the page up after that (for instance, when the link bait piece begins to rank in Google for some high traffic keywords), by all means go ahead. But until that point, if you’re keeping up spammy ads you are normally trading thousands of dollars worth of one-way links for a few hundred dollars in quick AdSense cash.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. People love pretty pictures, as any textbook will show. So take the time to add some good (relevant) ones to your link bait piece. Quick Warning: A lot of newbie link baiters either don’t think about attributing their pictures correctly, or just don’t care. Bad move. Besides being in bad taste, posting images without a proper license is illegal. In my opinion, the easiest thing to do is just go to iStockPhoto and buy a few for $1—problem solved in record time.
“Now, about that whole ‘promotion’ thing…”

It is a sad fact of life that many valuable, baity Web pages fail to ever go viral and attain a significant number of backlinks. Please, a moment of silence for these coulda-been’s and never-were’s.

Done? Cool. Let’s examine the front page of Digg. We must ask ourselves, how many of these stories arrived here by “natural” forces? (”Natural” defined as altruistic members submitting deserving links with which they have no affiliation.) Some of these stories “deserve” to be here. Others are part of power users’ personal agendas or projects. And still others are just average content that’s been promoted well.

The point is if you’re waiting on some random person to first (a) find your content, and then (b) submit it to bookmarking sites out of the goodness of his/her own heart, you’ll likely be waiting a long time. Sometimes you have to toot your own horn. Just toot it in a smart way. The following five services are my favorite places to “toot”:
  • Digg
    The “bigg boy”, the motherload, the big kahuna, and so on. Digg has a mostly techie audience, so anything tech, computer, software, and blogger related will do well here. But the scope of Digg has become so broad that’s it’s worth submitting almost anything that’s valuable or interesting. Here’s a few tips that will greatly increase your story’s chance for success:
    • Use power words in the title and description. “In-depth”, “how to”, “comprehensive”, “Digg”, “HILARIOUS”, “Nintendo”… some words just scream, “Digg me! Digg me!” to the Digg user base.
    • Submit the story from a power account. If a person regularly gets stories on the homepage of Digg, other users will “befriend” him/her, and as a result, will be more likely to vote for his/her future stories. If you don’t have access to a power account, at least try to build some trust in your username and profile by regularly submitting stuff that’s not from your own site, commenting, and digging others’ stories.
    • Ask a few friends for a “bump”. I’m not recommending you set up 100 dummy accounts through proxies, and I’m not recommending you ask the same 20 guys to vote for your stories time and time again (that’s called a “pattern”, and, unsurprisingly, it’s detectable). Do however ask three or four people on your IM list to give the story a bump—stories that start off with a few votes tend to gain momentum.
  • Delicious
    Delicious is the only bookmarking site that can rival Digg in terms of resulting backlinks. Because the Delicious interface is not very user-friendly, there doesn’t seem to be very many casual web readers using Delicious, so it does send less direct traffic than the other top social bookmarking sites. Many users here however are webmasters and bloggers, so you can get a ton of links by rising to the top of Delicious/Popular. It only takes 10 bookmarks in a certain period of time to get on Delicious/Popular, so, frankly, it’s easy to game.
  • Netscape
    If Delicious sends links but not much traffic, Netscape is the opposite. It’s basically geared towards “the mainstream” (whatever that is). Basically if Joe Six-Pack and Jane Soccer Mom like your link bait piece, it will do well on Netscape. Because Netscape has fewer members than Digg, getting 12-15 votes in a short time can get you to the bottom of the first page. If you’re planning on trying to game the system, however, you should beware: the Netscape algorithm is sophisticated enough to recognize the worst manipulators. The site administrators are also rather trigger happy, with a “ban first, ask questions later” philosophy. So if you and some friends are pumping your own link bait, make sure to spread the voting around to other Netscape articles to keep your profile in good standing.
  • StumbleUpon
    StumbleUpon is probably the most useful bookmarking site you’ve never heard of. The program is growing quickly but still doesn’t have the name recognition of Digg or Delicious. The StumbleUpon “algorithm” doesn’t seem to get gamed much, so getting your friends to “thumbs-up” an article won’t likely get it banned, though as the site grows in popularity gaming the site may become harder. The nice aspect of StumbleUpon traffic is that it continues over time. (The other sites I refer to generally work in 24-hour cycles.) A quality piece of link bait can receive StumbleUpon traffic in near perpetuity.
  • Reddit
    Reddit traffic is small but growing. (This is definitely the least important of the five services we’re exploring.) Still, the audience is quite different than that of the other sites (it seems to be more politically-oriented, for one), so it’s worth submitting here just to see what happens.
Now, a note on all of the above sites—many users of one site will have an account at another of them. From a promotional aspect, this means the traffic from being on the Digg homepage can help you move up Delicious/Popular. You can help amplify this effect by submitting the content to all of the sites at the same time (otherwise it may “expire” on Delicious/Popular before it makes the Digg homepage). You may also want to add chicklets or buttons—they look a tad cheesy, but the bottom line is that you will get more votes if you include a “delicious this” text link at the bottom of a post, and a Digg button near the top of the article.

Now what?

Well, these are the basics. Are there tactics and tricks I’ve left out? A few—but the other minutiae are simply not important unless you’re link baiting on a regular basis. (Some of the finer points change anyway, as the systems evolve both organically and from the top-down.) At this point, you just have to go do it. Since I’ve given you my gameplan (one that has been proven successful by hundreds of successful baits), you have no reason not to be on the front page of Digg and Delicious by 5pm tomorrow.

Happy link baiting!
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Old 01-23-2009, 12:34 PM
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Great article man.
Good luck for this
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