4 Tips for Creating Link Bait

From SEOMoz

  • If your content or subject really is universally applicable – While this is very rare, there is some content topics that apply to almost everyone on the web. A good example of this would be Facebook; just about everyone on the internet has a Facebook account and has an interest in changes (especially when it involves privacy settings).
  • Creating exhaustive guides – Super in-depth and extensive guides and documents can receive a lot of links if they are done really well. Think about how many links SEOmoz’s Beginners Guide has received.
  • Sales data – you can analyze your sales data and segment it by population, gender, or other information you collect in the sales process to contribute something new. Yes this data might not be completely accurate as it is your sales data and may not be representative of the market. That said, it is still new and typically unavailable to people.
  • User data – When users register, ask them for information. If they have profiles on their site, ask them for information. Then anonymously aggregate this information and present it with pretty charts and graphics (More on this from Dr. Pete). OK Cupid does a great job of this with most of their blog posts. Check out this one on stuff white people like (original stuff white people like).

  • Do your own research – Offering brand new data is great because no one else has it so you get to be the definite (linked) source for forthcoming references. This can be really helpful with infographics – if you are having a hard time finding research that someone has published, do the research yourself. Tools like Ask Your Target Market are great for this as they provide you with a large panel so you can get quick responses and you can focus your time on creating your link bait, not doing research.
  • Spelling/Proofreading – do you have typos or misspellings. It happens. A lot. Get someone who is really nitpicky and uptight to go over it.
  • Technical details – Make sure that the content is technically correct and that you aren’t wrong. Find a subject matter expert and have them verify your work.
  • Readability – While the linkbait might make complete sense to you and your cohorts, you this is your baby (and nobody thinks their baby is ugly) so somethings that might seem obvious to you really aren’t obvious to everyone else. Have your mom look at this, kind of like when you were in grade school and your mom checked your homework. Get someone object who isn’t invested in the project verify that it makes sense (and that it’s cool).
  • News hook
  • Contrary hook
  • Attack hook
  • Resource hook
  • Humor hook
  • Ego hook
  • Incentive hook

What insights do you guys have? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you when you’ve been working on creating link bait.

How to Train a Link Builder

by SEOMoz

Training someone who doesn’t know anything about SEO to link build can be very challenging even for someone who is quite advanced in the industry. You have to know how to dumb things down, while still giving adequate information. You also need to make sure you don’t overwhelm the person you are training. I’ve taken several approaches to this in the past and I wanted to go through a step-by-step of what works for me.

Again I’m going to assume the person you’re training doesn’t know anything about SEO.

First things first!

1) Tool and Software Setup

This will vary greatly depending on the type of link building they’re going to be doing.

Keep it simple at first. It’s important to learn how to build links without tools in the beginning and slowly introduce new tools to them as they develop. If they hit the ground running, by all means, give them more advanced tools. However, you can’t assume they’ll do well right away and putting too many tools in front of someone can be really confusing.

This should be tailored to the person training them. For example if you generally use Open Site Explorer instead of Yahoo Site Explorer (which will be gone soon anyways), make sure they’re using the same thing you are during training.

Excel  Excel
Trainees will most definitely need an Excel program for record keeping and looking at reports. Open Office is a great alternative if you don’t have access to Microsoft Excel.

SEO Dictionary  SEO Glossary
This isn’t really a tool, but for people who don’t know anything about SEO, this is a reference they WILL need. I like SEO Book’s Dictionary. Everything is on one page so you can do a quick Ctrl+F command.

Page rank  Page Rank Tool
Page rank is by no means a great way to judge sites or pages, but for someone new to SEO, it’s an introduction to the concept that some sites are “voted” better than others. I like to use Search Status. It gives you a quick look at the page rank without having to click anything.

Back link tool  Back Link Checker
Something that can give a quick look at the number of back links a page or site has is absolutely necessary. This way they can find an ideal page or site when you have multiples that seem equal. The SEOmoz Toolbar is a great on for Firefox or Chrome. There’s also SEO Site Tools for Chrome, which pulls back links from Majestic.

Firebug  Firebug
This kind of depends on how HTML savvy your trainee is, but Firebug comes in handy on several occasions, especially if they’re dealing with a site owner who usually outsources their development and doesn’t know how to make changes on their own.

IP Address tool  Bulk IP Checker
This isn’t always needed, but if your link builder is going to be working on a site that’s getting tons of links, you may want to avoid getting several links on the same Class C IP address. This is useful if they’re talking to someone who owns several sites. I like to use Authority Domains Bulk IP Checker. It has a CSV export function, which comes in handy.

photoshop  Illustration Program
At one point or another, your link building trainee will run into a picky site owner: someone who absolutely must have your logo in a 150×150 format or someone demanding images for a guest post they contributed, for example. Either way, it’s usually not too complicated, but be sure they at least have a simple illustration program to use in those situations.

2) Reading Material

reading material

You must be careful to not force too much information on them too quickly. I often see someone hand a trainee 30 links to articles and says, “read this”. It can work, but for someone fresh to the SEO industry, it’s very intimidating. They won’t grasp all the terms and a lot of information will go in one ear and right out the other.

Give them a few simple reads to go over that just explain basic SEO principles. SEOmoz’s Beginners Guide to SEO is a great start. I would feel comfortable handing someone that and ONLY that, during training.

Also, you need to make sure you (or someone else) will always be available for them to ask questions. This may seem obvious, but it’s extremely important. If someone’s not right there for them to ask every tiny little question they’re wondering, they’re not going to ask them at all. This also means not wearing your headphones and zoning out if they’re sitting right besides you! You know who you are! (points to self)

Side note: Once they start to get more advanced, have them subscribe to some SEO related RSS feeds or follow the industry leaders on social networks. They’ll be able to keep up with current topics and expand their general knowledge on their own.

3) Site Discovery

Now that your trainee understands the gist of SEO, the next step is teaching them how to find sites to build links to.

I like to start by having them perform their own search queries as opposed to mining through a spreadsheet or a competitor’s backlinks. This way they learn a productive pace and won’t ever come to you with “I’m finished, now what?”. They will always have to rely on the resources of search engines, which are nearly endless.

Go over the basic search phrases they can use to find relevant sites. Again, you want to keep this simple and have them use simple search phrases like:

  • “Keyword”
  • “Keyword” blog
  • Random word “Keyword”
  • “Keyword” guest post

When they start to pick up the pace, introduce them to alternative search engines. 99% of the time, they’re going to use Google. Make sure they’re aware of sites like Technorati, Blekko, Duck Duck Go, and etc.

By providing this limited amount of information to them on how to find sites, they will eventually figure out alternative search terms to use when they’ve run into the same sites over and over. Creative people will be able to think of some clever ways to find related sites and this is a necessary skill for a link builder to develop.

4) Finding Contact Information

There are little things that someone new to the link building world may not know or may not have thought about. Make sure you cover the basics like:

a) Checking Whois data.
b) Clicking “view profile” on Blogspot sites.
c) Using advanced operator commands:

I. site:website.com contact
II. site:website.com mail
III. site:website.com about
IV. site:website.com gmail

d) Contacting site owners through social profiles like Twitter and Facebook.
e) Searching the site owners name or handle on a search engine.

Some tools (like SEO site tools for Chrome) can pull contact information from a site, but it’s a good idea for them to learn without any tools in the beginning.

5) Constructing an Opening Email

This is perhaps one of the most important parts. For some reason, people tend to write long-winded emails when they’re starting out and talk about how great their client’s product is. This usually will have a very low response rate.

Give the trainee some examples of opening emails you’ve used so that they have an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Explain to them that the opening email should be tailored to a specific site and should be brief. For example:

Buddy Guy,

I stumbled onto your site while I was looking at some banjos and I saw that you play a 5 string Gold Tone in your band. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Gold Tone and wanted to get your take on it before I took the plunge and bought one. If you could hit me up when you have a minute, I’d greatly appreciate it! Thanks in advance!

All the Best,

This type of email is more likely to pull a response from the site owner, and once you get that first response, they’re ten more likely to reply to any future emails you send.

Michael King (iPullRank) recently wrote one of the best articles I’ve seen on personalizing emails when link building and why you should avoid using generic copy and paste form letters.

Subject lines are just as important as their email! You need a subject line that’s going to stick out and cause someone to actually click and read your email.

When I’m training someone, I like to actually see the first few emails before they send them off. This gives me the chance to give them pointers, explain what I would’ve done differently, or give positive reinforcement.

6) Correspondence

When they start to get responses, it’s a good idea to guide them through their first few email exchanges. Have them construct an email they would reply with first. After that look for any issues that should be corrected. You don’t want to give your trainee something to respond with.

Obviously, there is no formula for how you should correspond with someone. It varies greatly depending on what exactly you’re trying to get out of the site. It just requires some general SEO knowledge and site evaluation skills that your trainee just isn’t going to have yet, so that’s why you should help them through this process.

7) Record Keeping

record keeping

In the beginning, make sure you have access to everything they do so that you can correct any mistakes they’re making. You don’t need to loom over them constantly, but if something is obviously wrong, you need to be able to find the problem as soon as possible.

I do this by making an excel template for them to record everything on. Ideally, you want this to be on a Google doc or a server so that you have consistent access to their files. I include information like:

  • Date of contact
  • Date the link went live
  • Site owner’s name
  • Contact information
  • The page the link went on
  • Anchor text that was used

You want to record as much as you can, but you also don’t want it to be so time consuming that they’re spending more time keeping up their spread sheet than link building.

I achieve this by making two separate tabs on the Excel sheet. One for completed links and another for everyone they’ve contacted. The sheet for everyone they’ve contacted is super simplified so they can fill the information quickly. This helps if you have multiple link builders working on the same client. That way they can cross check before they contact a site owner, allowing them to see if another link builder has contacted them.

8) Letting go of their hand

After the first 2-4 weeks you want to slowly wean your trainee off of reliance on you. They need to start making some of the simpler decisions like figuring out what page they should go after, on their own.

By no means should you ignore them. You should still be available for them to ask questions, but instead of answering every one, ask them what they think they should do and correct them if they’re wrong. I’ve had quite a few people ask questions they already knew the answers to, and once they realized that, they would stop asking and be more confident about their instincts.

Other things to keep in mind:

Finding an ideal candidate to train

This can be a little tricky, as we don’t always have the luxury to be choosy. The best article I’ve seen on this subject is the one Sir Justin Briggs wrote – What Makes an Effective Link Builder – it breaks everything down perfectly! I highly recommend you read his article even if you’re not actively seeking a link builder. That way you know what to look for and if you meet someone you can at least keep them in your network in case you need them in the future!

Personally I find that creative social geeks tend to be awesome candidates. If they have lots of friends on Facebook, and actively use Twitter, as well as other social networks, that’s a good sign. If they love surrounding themselves with tech and are excited about new gadgets, that’s also a good sign. If they run a WordPress blog, a Tumblr account, and have some understanding of html, that’s another good sign.

You basically want to find someone who’s already motivated and curious about all things Internet!

Skill Set Requirements

Requirement might be too strong of a word. I’ve seen people with no related skill sets whatsoever do really well. However, there are a few prerequisites that help. For example someone with sales or cold calling experience, already understand a little bit about what they should and shouldn’t say in a correspondence with someone to achieve their desired goal.

Another big one is being proficient with Excel. With any form of SEO you WILL have spreadsheets up to your elbows. If you’re an SEO that never has to deal with spreadsheets on a daily basis, please let me know your secret! I’ve actually had to consider making a spreadsheet for my spreadsheets a few times.

Lastly, they just have to be good with computers. You and the IT guys will save a lot of time if the person in training knows how to do simple things like removing spyware from their computer and finding what software they need for certain file types. You need someone that can be self-sufficient. I know it may be hard for some people to imagine that people still exist that don’t know how to do these tasks, but I’ve seen it quite a bit and it’s painful.


Always keep in mind that different things are going to work with different people. You’re going to have to approach problems in alternative ways depending on what the other person is comfortable with. This is especially true after they start develop and learn on their own. Don’t ever try to force someone to stick to a specific tool, browser, platform, or whatever just because that’s what you use. Obviously you want to keep things organized, but you need to give people some room to do their own thing and be creative. That’s how you’ll start to actually learn from the people you’re training.

Actionable Link Building Strategies

Today I wanted to talk about some actionable link building techniques that you can go away and start using straight away. I appreciate how difficult it can be to implement some of the link building techniques we talk about here, so I wanted to cover some which many of you should be able to use straight away.

The first two techniques involve some software called Screaming Frog. We love this in the Distilled office, its a great tool and the guys who own it are very open to suggestions for improvements. At first glance, you wouldn’t think you could use it as a link building tool. But there are a couple of creative ways that I think you can use it for link building.

If you are not familiar with Screaming Frog yet, Dr Pete did a comparison to Xenu a few months ago which gives you some insight into the features it has.

Use it to help you get a hook in your outreach

We all know the importance of having the right hook when you email someone asking for a link. One of the hooks commonly talked about is finding something that is broken on the site you are contacting.

Run Screaming Frog over the site you’d like to get a link from and filter the results by 404 pages, then see where these pages are linked to internally. Then reference these in your outreach email. This will help distinguish your email from the other emails they get that look auto generated and spammy. The fact you mention something like a broken link shows you are a real person.

Use it to snipe competitors links

I love this one, its sneaky but meh, alls fair in love and link building.

Run Screaming Frog over your competitors and find 404 pages. Chances are that you’ll find a few. Now run these through a backlink checker such as Open Site Explorer and see if anyone is linking to these 404 pages. You have to hope for a bit of luck here, as there may be no one linking. But when you do find some, its not very difficult to drop an email to the site who are linking to the 404 page and let them know. At the same time you let them know about the amazing piece of similar content you have which isn’t broken.

If you are going to use this technique, I’d highly recommend you genuinely do have good content to replace the 404 page. Otherwise, you are going to look a bit silly asking the site owner to change the link to your unrelated, poor quality page.

Quick housekeeping note here.

If you are doing this, you should also be doing the same for your own site. You’ve got other ways of finding 404 errors, such as using Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics or your own server logs. Whichever way you choose, get into the habit of checking 404s and fixing them. Hopefully this means you’ll never get into the situation of having incoming links that go to 404 pages.

Revamp old content and data that got links

Sometimes content can be published that isn’t “evergreen”. Meaning that it is useful for a while but at some point goes out of date and isn’t relevant anymore. When this happens, its unlikely to be linked to very much.   Ideally, you should always be pushing out evergreen content but in reality, this is very hard to do.

So our goal here is to find old content on other sites that was good a couple of years ago but not likely to get links now. We then need to decide whether we feel we can redo that content, update it and publish it again. This works particularly well on any content that references a time specific dataset. For example, a comparison of the average alcohol consumption in each US state vs the crime rate for 2008. If this content did well and got lots of links, then updating it with a 2011 dataset may be just as successful.

To find this content, you can use search tools in Google to specify a date range from a couple of years ago:

Its then a case of sifting through the results which admittedly can take time. But you will get better at this as time goes on.

I should also mention that you should take some time to make sure that the website haven’t already updated the dataset and posted it elsewhere on their site, or that they don’t have previous datasets demonstrating a propensity to update it every year. Good example here is the SEOmoz Search Ranking Factors that are updated every two years. If you didn’t do your homework, you could easily think that this was only run in 2009, whereas its actually updated every two years.

Start doing weekly roundups of industry news

This is a very simple one and can be very effective as a consistent way of getting good quality links as well as social shares. The great thing about this is that it can be applied to most industries too. If you work in an industry where there isn’t lots going on all the time, you could do monthly roundups which can still work well.

The general idea is that you write a blog post that links out to a number of good quality news items or informational posts over the last week. You can then also tweet about them and get the attention of the site owner by including them in the tweet. This can work very well and isn’t seen as spammy at all. Just look at the paper.li links that we all see on Twitter, when we get tagged in one of these, you can’t help but go take a look at why you’ve been tagged.

You can also email key sites to let them know they’ve been featured in your weekly roundup, make it very informal and don’t ask for a link in return. Just treat it as a way to get some conversation going with the site owner, then it can lead to getting links back further down the line.

Remember that good quality sites will not link to you for no reason, you need to get their attention somehow and give them something. If you do this roundup, you are getting their attention and giving them a link which is exactly what you need to do.

You can see some examples of people that do this such as Wiep and Ontolo.

Hopefully these quick link building techniques can help you with your own sites, I’ve tried to write about techniques that most people can use. Please let me know how you get on in the comments!