How to use April Fools day to build links

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  • March 20, 2008

April Fools day isn’t just a day to play pranks on your friends and readers – in recent years it has become an amazingly effective method of driving traffic and building natural links to your website as well.

Last year the buzz was bigger than ever thanks to the effect that social sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon have on the speed that ideas spread. This year expect this social effect to be huge as ideas spread across Facebook and other social networks throughout the day.

The key to making your April Fools day prank a success is simple:

  • Think of an idea
  • Create the idea
  • Execute a killer marketing campaign

Think of an idea

Some of the best ideas for generating links are the simplest. Larger media sites have done very well in the past by simply producing lists of the best April Fools jokes – lots of people read this and there is almost no creativity required.

Try producing a roundup post of the best pranks in your niche and you can guarantee people will read it.

Other ideas include doing a joint prank between 2 or 3 other sites in your niche to make it appear more credible. This helps you reach more readers and helps your chances of success.


Create your prank

Creation of the prank is all about making people believe it is real. This is where high quality writing and killer Photo Shop skills come in handy.

Try to use quotes, interviews and images to help your readers believe your story is the real deal. Publishing a few hours early can help make your story more believable, too.

Google’s TISP is a great example of how images can help legitimise your prank.

Execute your idea

The key to a successful execution is all in the planning. Ideally your campaign should be planned at least a few days prior to April 1st and you should have all the elements in place.

My top suggestions are to email or contact any site that has written about April Fools jokes in the past or is likely to write a post this year. If you can get on their radar you are quite likely to get a link from a roundup post of the top pranks in your niche.

Make sure your prank has the right social bookmarking buttons, these users love to see the best pranks on April 1st.


Time Zones

You should be aware, both from a readers point of view and a webmasters point of view, that April Fools day starts very early in some parts of the world.

The Christmas Islands are 14 hours ahead of the UK (you can see their time difference here) and 19 hours ahead of New York so be warned!

You can see a countdown to the Christmas Islands April Fools day here.

Launch your April Fools day as soon as it starts in the Christmas Islands to make sure you maximise traffic, links and exposure as well as fooling as many people as possible.

The best blogging pranks

My favourite pranks are the ones that nobody spotted. Like when Matt Cutts swapped jobs with Zawodny at Yahoo or got hacked (Matt seems overly good at linkbait for April Fools). Other good ones were John Chow retiring or Tyler getting sued – they are all very good linkbait and great pranks.

Shoemoney has also pretended to be hacked in the past although some people thought he jumped the gun by doing it a day early.

One of the best ever was TechCrunch aquiring and moving startup coverage to another blog. Once again they were believed because they were a day early in some parts of the world.

Photo credit

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Craig Dewe

    I can’t believe I didn’t think of this. I will have to start my creative juices flowing…

    Thanks for the heads up!

  • David Bradley

    I guess for me as a science writer there are soooo many possibilities to do with perpetual motion, climate change etc etc. Oh, hold on…


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  • Barbara Ling (aka Owlbert)

    Great ideas! I took this particular post to heart and have started seeding my blog with hints to what the April Fools joke will be.

    Next step – have to buy the domain name, write the FAQ, make the plugin… fun fun!

    Best wishes,


  • David Bradley

    …found a fantastic video clip…really banale and obvious what’s going on, but if they were fooled by the mp3 player powered by sweet potatoes, then this one will be a gas too! No one here will be un poisson d’Avril, of course..

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  • Melanie

    WOW! This really requires you to think outside the box! I wish I would have known about this blog or site before, so I had time to think of something good. I am unfortunately in the middle of moving, and have very little time to focus on much else. I want to see how this turns out though, so I will definately check back on the 1st!
    What an awesome idea!

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