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,
-Peter

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.

Conclusion:

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.

What Makes an Effective Link Builder

by SEOMoz

Good link builders are a special breed of SEOs. There are a lot of solid SEOs in the industry, but effectively building links is much different from keyword research, copywriting, and technical analysis. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what makes an effective link builder.

Whether you’re an SEO looking to improve your own skillset or a manager looking to hire a new link builder, these are the characteristics of an effective link builder.

Internet Culture

SEO is one of the few industries where my history as a competitive video game player, an epic geared raiding Warlock, forum admin and hacker became a marketable skill.

I’m an effective marketer online, not because I have formal marketing training, but because I understand online communities intimately.

A link builder should keep on top of memes, read Reddit daily, use StumbleUpon, engage on Twitter, and read Hacker News. They should follow in-depth analysis about these communities.

Internet Culture

Creativity is one of the things that is difficult, maybe impossible, to teach. It can be encouraged through culture and environment, because everyone has some level of creative genius, but creativity is something I’d hire for.

SEO, especially link building, is moving closer to being inbound marketing, which is starting to become difficult to distinguish from pure traditional marketing. Creativity is a driver of holistic marketing strategies.

The creative process can also be inspired.

At Distilled, we have a culture and structures in place which help inspire creativity. It’s important to create boundaries and modes of thinking that help creativity. Having the ability the stop, separate, drink a beer, and invest full mental power allows your brain to free itself up to the creative process.

Analytical Skills

Creativity isn’t enough for an effective link builder. Technical chops are also a requirement. Distilled carries resident math, computer science, and engineering majors. Prior to leaving college to pursue a career in SEO, I was studying engineering and worked at Vanderbilt where I did pharmacology research.

Analytical skills are indispensible as a link builder. A link builder should have a basics understanding of data analysis to conduct competitive link analysis, to dig deep into a website’s information, to perform research, and bring insights out of large sets of information.

This also includes skills on using the right tools, such as Open Site Explorer, Excel, and Google Analytics.

Analytical skills allow a link builder to do two things really well:

  1. Scale processes by evaluating data effectively.
  2. Recognize changes and trends, which can be reapplied to your marketing efforts.

Technical Skills

Although a non-technical link builder can build links through the process of business development, content creation, outreach, and PR; they don’t have the capability to develop products or agile tools without leaning on a team.

Technical Skills a Link Builder Should Have

  • Intermediate knowledge of (X)HTML/CSS
  • Basic understanding of at least one modern programming language (no need to code, but hack at least)
  • How to build agile tools in Google Docs
  • Ability to upload files via FTP
  • Ability to execute 301 redirects using .htaccess and how to create robots.txt files
  • Sufficient coding skills to “get” tools like Firebug

I agree with Dan Cristo that every SEO should have a side project, and I like to see this in the form of a website where they’ve done at least a basic level of code / design tweaking.

Sociable Geek

A link builder is not the same as a technical SEO. The SEO who loves indexation and crawl analysis may absolutely hate talking to people. A link builder must be comfortable talking and engaging with complete strangers.

A sociable geek is the valuable combination of the introverted developer and the extroverted sorority girl.

I believe people like Rand Fishkin and Wil Reynolds are the epitome of sociable geeks.

I do believe being sociable is a skill you can learn. By nature, I’m exceptionally introverted, so I find people describing me as an “affable, personable search marketer” a bit odd. I’ve improved my skills as a link builder by constantly presenting, facing clients as often as possible, going to networking events, and talking to strangers on the bus (this is actually true). Reading books also helps. I personally enjoyed reading Never Eat Alone and The Exceptional Presenter.

Sales Experience

Few job experiences taught me more about link building than the three months I worked in-house as an internet marketing coordinator and was placed into the sales department. I worked on a 9 person cold calling sales team and was exposed to their tactics and culture during my time working with them.

Manual outreach is not too different from cold calling and business development.

Recommended Sales Reading for Link Builders

Ingenuity

By ingenuity, I mean something different from just creativity.

Ingenuity is intellectual hustle.

Ingenuity allows link builder to create well thought out, systematic and clever solutions. Ingenuity is seen in careers like scientists, engineers, artists, developers, and musicians. I relate this with INTP, INTJ, and ENTP personality types.

Ingenuity leads to agile tools, scrapers, and custom search engines. Link building ingenuity leads to building indexes of the internet and scalable link building tools. Effective link builders are willing to intellectually hustle to solution.

Hustle

A link builder isn’t just placing links on websites, they’re building businesses. They’re creating the differential between a business and its competition. As a link builder, you should be bringing hustle to your work every day. A link builder with hustle can dominate large brands and companies with large budgets by simply outworking them.

Enormous Talent is Not Enough
(Gary’s language is a bit flavorful, but great video on hustle)

 

If any of this sound like you, I want you to come work with me at Distilled in Seattle. We’re hiring. You can also connect with me on Twitter.

Link Building Techniques That Still Work

Writing by Nick Stamoulis


Link building is one of those areas that can be quite perplexing, but like anything in life it requires knowledge, experience, and an open mind to tackle properly. Unfortunately, there are many bogus link building services that promise all of the gold in Fort Knox and fail to deliver, leaving weary business owners tainted about the whole process. Link building requires some of the obvious, some of the quality, and a whole lot of the unique to deliver the power needed to get most websites ranking properly.

Let’s go over some of the different types of link building techniques that still work:

General Free Directories: There are many different free directories out there, but only a small fraction are actually worth really seeking out. Don’t think that 1,000 bogus directories are going to do much for you. There are a handful of older free directories like DMOZ or Jayde that are worth paying attention to.

Niche Directories: Most industries have some sort of niche directories where a business can list their information for that specific industry. Some are free and some cost money, but a niche directory can oftentimes give off a great deal of link juice to your website. We all know how powerful good quality link juice can be in getting websites to move around.

Business Listings: There are numerous locations online dedicated to listing your business. Most of these locations offer nice descriptions, logos, and areas to submit a link. Some of these business listings sometimes offer multiple links along with the use of anchor text, which is great for SEO. Sure, some are only no follow links but they still show up in Google Webmaster tools which give them some search engine optimization power.

Local Directories: Is your business located near a metropolitan area? Chances are there are plenty of local town and city websites where you can list your business. These locations are also great because they tend to rank very well for your company name, which brings a variety of other benefits to the table.

Social Media Profiles: Some will argue that free social media website links bring no link value, but I strongly disagree. A no follow link can bring link power to a website if you have an open mind. Oftentimes these links still register as one way links which still have their search engine optimization benefits, not to mention delivering traffic.

Press Releases: If you have something newsworthy to say you will get picked up by other bloggers and websites, spreading those PR links further across your industry.

Article Distribution: Article distribution works great when you write a timeless piece that can be re-used over the years. I still have articles that I distributed years ago being picked up by bloggers and websites still to this day. A good article can get picked up over and over for years to come. Always make sure to include a nice link or two in your author bio section which most article distribution sites offer.

Blogger Outreach: Blogger outreach can work great once you have somewhat established your brand online and you are capable of building a relationship with some of the bloggers in your industry. You have to be careful with your process of reaching out and how you do it so that you don’t get on their bad side. They could just as easily write a negative post on your business due to the way you approached them to write something positive.

Online Videos: Sure, a professional online video might cost a great deal of money, but sites like Animoto have allowed smaller businesses to be able to produce their own company videos which they can distribute through sites like YouTube and Vimeo to acquire some nice links. Not only can you have a very nice profile with a link, but your video descriptions will typically allow you to place a link, which will deliver traffic over time to your website.

Partner Websites: Are you one of those websites that tends to develop lots of different partners with similar websites? Encourage those partners to place a link to your website on their site. This will not violate any guidelines because there is a relationship there and the links make business sense to be on either website. For instance, linking to a business partner (that you actually know) is totally fine and vice versa, if there is a reason to. Don’t trade links for the sake of trading links for no reason other than to boost link popularity.

Make sure to follow guidelines very closely when you start to market your business online and develop links pointing to it. It is very important that you don’t push the boundaries too hard with your link building because you could find yourself in quite a pickle with the search engines.