Linkbaiting. Sounds like another one of those nefarious techniques employed by slimmy web-spammers used to fool Google into believing that a site has more links than it really should with the goal of getting better rankings. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Eric Ward has an excellent post which explains it in depth (note: Eric is a true pioneer who I worked with many years ago on some web press releases through his URLwire service and received excellent results for my projects!).
Linkbaiting in a nutshell is a way to generate what I call “honest” links. Other folks will link to you because they WANT to link to you, not because you are paying them to link to your site, spamming them with comments or agreeing to exchange links.
Sounds pretty straightforward, but you might be wondering “why would someone want to link with me? What do I have to offer?” Well boys and girls, you need to give people a reason to link to you. There are many reasons, but a few that come to mind include:
- Compliment them in a review or post on your site — you don’t actually come out and ask them for a link exchange, but they are so happy that you mentioned them that they take the initiative to mention you.
- Write about something controversial that will illicit response from others.
- Write about causes that people are truly passionate about.
- Offer cool (and FREE) tools/widgets on your site that other folks will want to use.
- Host a platform for others to express their views.
There are many other ways to linkbait, but I hope you get the concept — trying to fool Google into believing you have lots of meaningful links is a costly and short-term solution. Better to generate honest links by providing a truly valuable service.
Let’s look at a few examples of sites that successfully employ these ideas.
Alltop is a relatively new site started by Guy Kawasaki. Guy calls Alltop an “online magazine rack” which is a cool way to say that the site features thousands of other sites and showcases their content via a unique presentation. The idea is good and I enjoy discovering sites and articles on it, but what’s really ingenious about this idea is the way it promotes linkbaiting. Alltop will feature big name sites side-by-side with smaller, mom-and-pop sites. The smaller sites are likely thrilled that they appear in Alltop next to the big-boys and want everyone to know about it. Alltop offers them the means to promote their inclusion by giving them a cool badge to display:
It must be working. A quick search of Google and Yahoo reveals 33k and 50k+ links respectively. Of course many of these links are not from the badges but I hope you get the idea.
I have incorporated a similar strategy on a smaller scale with Cancerdirectory.com. We review the best cancer websites and blogs we can find. We don’t do this to obtain back-links, but it is a nice result when it happens!
OpposingViews is an issue-oriented website where experts in various fields discuss and debate issues people care strongly about. OpposingViews attracts well-known experts such as high-ranking members of the Obama and McCain camps, PETA, Sierra Club, the NRA, etc. They also focus on controversial issues such as abortion, gay-rights, global warming, gun control and sex education. I have invested in OpposingViews and have worked closely with Russell Fine, the CEO, since its inception. When Russell first pitched me the idea, I was intrigued. Why? Sure I liked the idea of experts discussing issues. I REALLY liked the idea that for once, they would be held accountable for their views since the other side would be on hand to point out flaws in their arguments. But what I REALLY, REALLY liked about Russell’s business model was that it was such a perfect link generator. Think of it this way. Almost every piece of content on OpposingViews is about an issue that people feel deeply about. Issues that folks are already on the web spending time blogging about to get their viewpoint across. What’s more, OpposingViews attracts both the experts and organizations that people adore and HATE. These experts write arguments that people either agree with or can’t stand. What better way to get other websites to write about you?
Does it work? OpposingViews launched towards the end of last year and has received thousands of direct links. It’s pagerank, as of the time of this post, is already a 6. Why are sites linking to OpposingViews? Let me stress this again… because they WANT to! That’s the secret sauce to linkbaiting. Give them something they want to discuss and link to and they will. Not so clever, but you would be surprised how many websites miss this point.
Whenever a website displays a Widgetbox tool, they are also promoting Widgetbox. A quick Google search for backlinks shows almost 200,000 links. Widgetbox has a PR of 8 and the site is only two years old! Other sites employ similar techniques, but Widgetbox has taken the widget concept to a whole new level.
Let’s Build a Better Web
Now you know the secret to generating more links, better Google rankings and ultimately more traffic. Create something useful. Write useful articles and blog posts. Create cool tools for others to use on their sites. Compliment other sites. Link to other site because it’s relevant to your post, not because you are simply looking to exchange links. Notice that this post has quite a few links in it. Hey, I’m no idiot!