The thing about search engine optimization (SEO) is that, as the years march on, it gets both smarter and harder.
Smarter in the sense that Google consistently releases updates to its search system to make the results more intelligent, and therefore useful to its users, who happen to be your customers.
Tricking the system into ranking your bad content or inept website is much harder than ever before, which means that, like a magician getting the fake hat pulled away, you’ll need to provide more solid, legitimate resources than ever before.
Smarter and harder go hand-in-hand in the world of SEO. This makes priority ranking a battle of money, skill, and bold information that is better than the rest. While money and skill have always had a lot to do with this (and always will), it is the legitimate resources that Google is pushing to the forefront.
The theory from the search giant goes that the best and most relatable information should rise to the top, regardless of how much money went into it.
In the midst of this is an charged term — link bait. At its base level, and how I’ll use it here, link bait is anything that just must be linked to.
It’s a must because whatever the link points to is so excellent, so full of bold information, so beyond its competition that other websites can’t help but link to it.
Some people think of link bait as spammy ways to get more clicks. This also exists, but is not the bait I’m talking about here.
It’s a bit of a misnomer because bait, in the traditional sense, is used to catch fish, who are then killed and eaten by humans. The link bait methods I’m talking about are meant to attract humans, but in no way kill and eat them. In fact, it’s more like setting out bait for a fish that, when hooked, makes them procreate immediately in the cleanest water sources on the planet.
This big question is how to create effective link bait — not the spammy kind, but the kind that will actually improve your SEO.
You want my general advice for creating link bait? Create unparalleled resources. Something of such value that leaders in your niche cannot move forward without using or addressing. Something that will be reposted, backlinked, and mentioned over and over in your niche.
Sound like a tall order? It is. The reality is that the best link bait is the bait you have to sweat for.
That said, there are a number of different tools that serve as extremely effective capsules of link bait. I’ll get into these below.
I’m not exactly the first one to say this. Infographics are like crack for the information hungry; when done well they put a bunch of salient facts in a beautiful and relevant image that makes people immeasurably happy while also making them retain said information.
Infographic creation is an art in and of itself, so don’t assume this link bait will be easy.
There’s the graphic design component to consider. Try creating a design that relates to your subject.
If your infographic is about human relationships and romance, put everything inside a breaking heart that morphs into two bodies holding hands. If it’s about different breeds of dog, include the silhouettes of dogs as you highlight facts, using leashes to connect your point.
Those are brief (and not that great) examples. I’m no graphic designer.
The point is that you’ll want them to be visually compelling in their own right, leading the reader to understand a certain emotional state as they read. You’ll also want to highlight the information in a salient way.
Then there’s the actual information to consider. This is more important than graphic design simply because an infographic without no info is just an image.
First off, you need to get your facts straight. Infographics are typically created by pulling information from popular studies, but there is an influx of infographics that just aren’t true. Either there are no reported studies containing the information, or the studies aren’t verified by a peer review process.
The PEW Research Center is the most well-known and verified public research center around. They happen to create their own infographics, but a lot of the polling they do can be accessed easily and put into your infographic.
You’ll want to search white papers and other popular research centers for your statistics. Think universities, leading companies, and news sources.
Then, after you’ve collected your information, you must cite your sources. Do this at the bottom of the infographic and, above all, make sure the data is correct.
This process isn’t hard, but you’ll need to learn how to make your infographic embeddable on other websites.
This is the best way to make sure the infographic spreads. Every time someone embeds the infographic, you’ll get a backlink to your website, which will boost your SEO.
Likewise, make the infographic easily accessible on your home page, in side bars, and available in your subscriber email campaigns. People really do love infographics, so if you push that content you’ll find more and more people sharing around.
All of this will result in backlinks if you do your outreach correctly.
This one is obvious and straight forward. Just create amazing content in the form of an article, list, interview or commentary.
Publish it, send it out and get backlinks.
If only it were that simple, right? A lot of research, time and careful strategy goes into creating content that will really improve your SEO ranking.
I won’t get into a detailed description of all the factors, but here are the basics:
Sometimes amazing content will be engineered from the start, other times you’ll stumble on a topic that you didn’t know had such a high search volume. Whatever the reason, you want to make sure all of your content is up to snuff, so that when you do start getting a higher search ranking the rest of your content is valuable.
The two methods above are about generating content that will get you backlinks. This is what many people in the blogging field pursue, as content is relatively easy for them to create.
With that in mind, there are plenty of people who garner backlinks and boost their SEO through a number of coding-related processes. This will take an entrepreneur in spirit and a coder in practice to execute.
I’m talking about creating widgets, themes, and web tools that are free to use, all of which will link back to your website.
Widgets are the small customizable areas, typically in the side bar, header or footer that provide extra functionality to a website.
Some typical widgets include social media imports, visit counters, auto-quote scrollers and news updates. There are a ton more. Widgets are basically the extra “everything” that can go into a website, which helps to customize them.
You’ll need to provide either a very unique widget or exceptional functionality and UI design (best if both) to gain traction.
Not only will this allow you to create original content that highlights the widget, but you’ll be able to email your subscribers and potential bloggers about the new widget.
This creates new content as is, but the real plus of a widget lies in the auto-backlink you can code into them.
Many widget plugins are free, and in exchange for all that hard work the widget will require a link to the website or company that made it. This would be you, your website, and your backlink.
Taking this even further, you can create a WordPress theme that is downloadable for free.
Note: This method has been abused quite a bit, and Google takes action against people who buy sponsored links on WordPress themes. Never buy links, and keep a natural link profile.
Much like a widget, this will provide a backlink to your own website. Most free WordPress themes include the backlink at the bottom of the web page, and it’s on every page. It will say something like,
“This website was created using the theme “Rock Lobsters”, developed by www.yourwebsite.com”.
With every use of the the theme, you’ll get a backlink to your website.
Granted, this means you’ll have to take the time to develop a theme, which can consume resources or distract from other projects.
A good example of this is Elegant Themes. WordPress themes and plugins are their main business, so it makes sense that they receive backlinks for themes. They also have a great blog, which adds content backlinks to their already-impressive resume of backlinks.
This step is much more of an outlier than the previous two.
Web tools can really be anything. A tool that finds keywords for free, a tool that does high-level calculus for you, a tool that allows you to submit personalized customer reviews to multiple platforms at once.
A tool is anything that helps users do something. You could categorize almost any piece of software as a tool, and a number of web applications as tools.
The key here is that the tool you’re creating, at least initially, is free.
Making it free (as with all the items on this list) will ensure two things:
Assuming your tool rocks in its usability and functionality, it won’t be long before it’s getting listed as a resource on articles in your niche. Each of these will likely provide a backlink, and then the hits will start pouring in.
You can build multiple tools and link them together, boosting your SEO by leaps and bounds.
As with the others, creating tools can be a full-time job. But, if you have the concept and the funds, developing a tool can seriously improve your SEO.
The above methods are great ways to create link bait that will boost your website’s SEO and put it on the front page of Google.
Remember that along with creating such resources you’ll want to do an equally excellent job of letting everyone know it’s available.
This should consist of a fine-tuned email marketing campaign to leaders in your field, consumers in your field, and anyone remotely related to your new resource.
Do this skillfully and you’ll see an influx of hits to your website.
With any luck a number of those will link your site, article, tool, or infographic, and you can visibly watch your SEO go through the roof.