Beginner’s guide to linkbait

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  • June 29, 2007
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Linkbait is the act of adding content to a website with the aim of attracting links from other sites. The content can take a variety of different forms from a unique tool or a breaking news story to a well written article or controversial image.

Sometimes linkbait is intentional but quite often the best linkbait is conceived quite by accident.

My favourite piece of link bait is the Adobe Acrobat Reader software. The download page has over 15 million links and is probably the most linked internal page on the web today.

Creating your linkbait

The first step to thinking of a really cool tool, unique news story or article is to find out what people want to read about. It sounds simple but following the breaking stories on the various social networking sites as well as Technorati will give you a unique insight into the weeks hot topics.

Another good tip is to search the social bookmarking sites for things related to your site that have been popular in the past. You might find a nice tool that was on Digg 2 years ago and be able to use it to inspire something more modern for your site.

A quick look at some popular tools in different areas is often a good source of inspiration. For example you might see a tool on a car/auto website for valuing used cars and be able to apply it to your real estate site.

Top 10 lists

Although top 10 lists are very popular on sites like Digg they are actually the least successful kind of link bait. Most of the reputable sites won’t bother linking to a top 10 list unless it is really amazing or offers new information. You could try using a top 10 list to build a short burst of traffic but don’t expect a link from Engadget in return.

Articles

Well written articles or tutorials are an art form and are one of the hardest link bait methods to pull off unless you are well known or an exceptional writer. The article would need to be very well written and perfectly targeted towards your audience to succeed. If you want to try link baiting some quality articles you should concentrate on writing content that will help people, content that will offer such great benefits that other bloggers will want to link to your post to help their readers.

News

Most new linkbaiters should really start off with trying to break the latest news in their niche before anybody else. Done right this is an easy way to build links from authority sites and social bookmarking sites. You should also benefit from lots of new RSS subscribers who want to get more breaking news from you in the future. Gain a reputation for being the first to break the news and you will dominate your niche. If you break a big enough story you will find all the bloggers in your niche desperate to post about it and links will flow into the hundreds or thousands.

Apart from being the first to write about it the key aspect of writing a breaking news article is to make sure the article is of exceptional quality and includes the sort of images that other bloggers will want to use on their sites. You need to make sure that your article is the authority that others will want to link to. If somebody else explains the story better or has more details then they will attract the links.

Finding news to write about can be very hard. Building relationships with larger companies is impossible for most bloggers so you will be reliant on subscribing to press releases and news feeds in most cases.

If you can be the second site to write about something and promote it in the right way you can often overtake the first site and become the “source” yourself. The best way to find breaking stories that have not yet become mainstream is to subscribe to a load of RSS aggregator feeds. Below are some of my favourites:

Tools

For anybody with a bit of imagination and a talented programmer, creating a tool for your site is the easiest way to link bait. Make the tool useful and well presented and its very easy to link to. Unique and useful tools can often turn a commercial site that struggles to attract any natural links into a useful resource that even competitors will link to and use on a regular basis.

Common ideas include methods to help people find information about products, test their websites, improve their skills, generate images or content for blogs and social networking profiles. Some of the best tools build millions of links without the users even knowing they are part of some clever link bait scheme.

As with any type of link bait the presentation of the tool is very important. Although it sounds like a cliché making good use of AJAX is a great way to improve the linkability of your tool.

Get sued or sue somebody

This technique is only recommended for those with deep pockets or a postal address in an obscure country where you are unlikely to ever face court.

If you decide to take on an industry giant like Google then the links will flow nice and fast. Make sure you have a good case to maximise your links.

Presenting your link bait

Although successful link bait will attract thousands of visitors you should not expect the visitors to click on any Adsense adverts or buy any products from your site. The best way to make your site stand out and attract links is to remove all the adverts. Yes, you read that part right. Remove your adverts. You can put them back on in a months time if you like but make sure the page is clean, well laid out, easy to read and ad free.

The next part is very important, you need to have a selection of bookmark buttons at the bottom of your page. Use the icons from each site to form the buttons so they are familiar to your visitors. The goal is for readers arriving from sites like Digg and Stumble Upon to like your site and bookmark it at Del.icio.us and Reddit while they are visiting.

Design is another essential skill in a link baiters arsenal. The page needs to look great and not look like just another WordPress blog. Invest the time and money required to make your site look great. People who go the extra mile and design custom graphic for a particular article or blog post will get more links because of it. If you are really creative then adding an image that’s cool enough for other bloggers to use it on their blogs while they link to you will make you more memorable and maximise the potential of your link bait.

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