5 Effective Linkbait And Link Generation Strategies

Links are the lifeblood of the web.  Without links, your website or blog has zero trust in Google, no referral traffic and is for all intensive purposes invisible to anything other than direct traffic.  Organic generation of links happens naturally over time by creating quality content.  But there are ways to speed up the process.

Many smart people have developed ultra-popular sites and created a continuous stream of fresh links not by gaming the system, but instead putting it to work to their advantage by attracting thousands of natural links from high quality, trusted sites and blogs.

Additionally, some of the strategies listed below are better than merely generating links for SEO purposes – they bring relevant traffic, they build a web brand, and they build trust and credibility amongst not just search engines, but people.  I thought I would spend a little time pointing out several great linkbait and link generation strategies that work to the benefit of site owners on several levels.

Strategy 1

Create An Authority List Tagged To Your Brand

Examples: TopRank’s BigList and Ad Age’s Power 150 list

About AdAge’s Power 150 List:

The Power 150 is a ranking of the top English-language media and marketing blogs in the world, as developed by marketing executive and blogger, Todd Andrlik. It’s really as simple as that, except that the name isn’t strictly accurate: It currently ranks more than 800 blogs written about all types of media and pretty much every imaginable marketing discipline.

The strategy in brief:

Build a system for a niche where the top blogs, either ranked or simply listed are grouped together in one useful place for readers.

Key components:

  • Organized list of quality sites all in one place.
  • Automated, human or hybrid ranking system to create superlatives.
  • Badges with easy links for bloggers to add to their sidebars.
  • Attractive looking banners so bloggers will want to embed.
  • Strategic anchor text with badges for full SEO benefit.
  • Promote list heavily as branded elements on main site or blog homepage to entice users.

Sample of what badge embed looks like for bloggers to add once they have been selected:

Sample of badge live on a blog:

Effectiveness of strategy:

This is a highly effective strategy, and not just for SEO purposes.  Perhaps even better, the branding of your list throughout the social web and on lots of blogs can create great awareness for your program.  If you are careful with only choosing high quality sites in your network, your list may eventually reach a level of prestige where you have incredible demand from bloggers wanting to be included.  Just be careful and maintain a level of quality with blogs you allow in, as letting unworthy sites in cheapens this strategy.  It is a win for bloggers too, as you will be helping them build credibility with their own sites.

This strategy works best if you already have a popular blog or site, because you are in a position to help actually drive traffic and interest back to the sites in the network.  It probably wouldn’t work well on a small site, but is something a medium-large site could use to great success – especially in niches that don’t already have superlative systems in place.  If you do pursue developing this, be sure to also spend time to listen to what users in your network say.  Connecting people within one of these networks in useful ways only makes it more valuable to be a member, and more likely they will go out of their way to promote you.

Strategy 2

Create A Free WordPress Theme

Example: DoshDosh’s ProSense theme

The strategy in brief:

Create a free wordpress theme that plays into the brand of your site.  In this case, Maki at Dosh Dosh has created an AdSense optimized theme, which reinforces one of the components of his brand:  helping readers make money online.  The theme is highly attractive to his readers for potential new sites because it is already optimized for AdSense, and Maki frequently writes on AdSense strategy.

Key components:

  • Design an attractive theme that play into your site’s brand.
  • Attach footer links back to your blog, optimize anchor text if desired.
  • Promote theme as a blog post on your site, add a themes link at the top of your blog.
  • Submit theme to WordPress theme directories.

Effectiveness of strategy:

This is an effective strategy proven you can create a theme that stands out from the pack in some way.  In many cases, the simplest themes do the best because of the fact that people end up customizing the themes themselves.  A potential negative is the fact that some question the value of footer links for SEO purposes, however more backlinks to your site can’t possibly hurt – especially if they are on hundreds of blogs people are actively adding content to.

Strategy 3

Invite Others To Republish Your Content

Example: Chris Brogan’s 20 Free eBooks About Social Media

The strategy in brief:

Write a post with lots of niche appeal, then at the end of the post invite your readers to republish with a link to your blog.

Key components:

  • Valuable content or ideas that are unique and useful.
  • Can be a list of great resources – functioning as the aggregator is valuable.
  • Encourage users to share this on their site too, with a link back to you.

Effectiveness of strategy:

This is a great strategy – I loved this so much I re-posted Chris’ content with attribution on my blog.  A quick Google search shows you around 2,600 results, including some ultra-high quality sites such as Daily Blog Tips and Blog Herald, proving this is a strategy that can work to get you extremely high quality links.

Strategy 4

Run A Blog Contest

Example: Daily Blog Tips Blogging Idol Contest

The strategy in brief:

Run a contest on your blog – it could be for cash, it could be for prizes, it could be for both.  Keep it simple, but keep it creative – there are lots of these happening all around the blogosphere.  The more it resonates with your site’s demographic, the higher number of participants you’ll have.

Key components:

  • More than anything else must be fun and upbeat.
  • Making it competitive is also good, but keep it positive and lighthearted.
  • If you can connect the participants in some way, that’s great too.
  • Keep a running list of participants, link to them, make them feel special – drive attention and traffic to them.
  • Get compelling prizes, they don’t have to be expensive as long as they are interesting to your niche.
  • Highlight the winners in a post just for them.
  • Look at what other people are doing to get ideas, the blog contest idea has been around forever, and it does work.

Effectiveness of strategy:

Bloggers do love a bit of competition, so this strategy is certainly effective.  If you think of a reason to get people posting something on their blog with a link to you, great, but be more creative than merely “link to us and we’ll enter you.”

Also, don’t make it anything too difficult or complex because people will shy away – in fact, if you can make it something natural for the blogger you’ll have a greater chance of getting a large group of participants.  For example, if you were a food blog and wanted to host a contest, perhaps host a recipe contest where bloggers post the recipe on their own site and link to the contest page which would aggregate all entries there.  Make it equally beneficial for both host and participants and everyone wins.

Strategy 5

Create Insanely Useful Lists

Example: Nearly anything Smashing Magazine writes, such as 53 CSS-Techniques You Couldn’t Live Without.

The strategy in brief:

Create content that is more useful in your niche than anything else that exists.  Write provocative titles.  Spend literally hours crafting the content, making it so useful people can’t help but link to it because they must share it with their readers.

Key components:

  • Content that is carefully thought out, crafted with a purpose serving a niche – bonus points if the niche is underserved in the type of content you are providing.
  • Should be the definitive source on something specific.
  • Should be unrushed and written carefully by a savvy professional in a field, even if it is geared towards beginners.
  • Use pictures, diagrams and scanable content.

Effectiveness of strategy:

This is a highly effective strategy and one you can use to build an entire site from scratch.  It is also a great deal of work, and you’ll need to be consistent if you are using this as the brand for your site (you can use this strategy sparingly as well even if it isn’t your site’s brand).

Smashing Magazine has dominated social media with this strategy, breaking onto page one of Digg a mind-numbing 122 times.  Also, the post pictured above on 53 CSS-Techniques You Couldn’t Live Without has a PageRank of 6 – pretty amazing and shows you just how much link-love it is getting.


Generating a continuous, fresh stream of traffic and links is essential to the success of any blog or website.  These are just 5 methods of effective linkbait and link generation strategies – in reality there are countless ways to accomplish this to create a popular web destination or take any site to the next level.

The methods listed above are proven successes, and certainly things you can to do to broaden your site’s reach while boosting SEO and referral traffic.  Observe and carefully study the traffic and link rainmakers to inspire your own ideas, there really is no wrong way here as long as you are open, honest and transparent and not using black hat techniques.

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