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20 Linkbaiting Techniques

As I’ve mentioned numerous times already in this series on linkbaiting - ‘linkbait’ is a term that is used to describe a variety of practices that have the purpose of generating links to your site.

It is impossible to come up with a definitive list of what these practices are as they are only limited to the imagination of website and blog owners.

Below I outline 20 of the more common linkbaiting techniques that I’ve seen (and used).

A couple of things first:

  • Please note that in describing them I don’t necessarily endorse them all. It’s worth saying up front that like many aspects of the web, the tactics that people use vary quite a bit in terms of what they see as ethical or acceptable behaviour.
  • Also note that some people use these techniques with the motivation of getting links where as others do them without such motivation. While they are described by some as linkbait many of them are just activities that bloggers and webmasters use in their day to day work.

Here are 20 linkbaiting techniques that are commonly used (please note – points in the following list are not mutually exclusive, there is overlap between many of them).

  1. Tools – give other website owners a useful, fun or cool tool that they can use on their blog that points back to your own. A prime example of this was the blog worth tool that Dane from Business Opportunities developed that tells how much a blog is worth based on Technorati’s API (used by thousands of bloggers (google shows 27,000+ links pointing to it) – most of whom posted the button that the tool provides (with a link back to his blog).
  2. Quizzes – quizzes, surveys and tests have long been popular with web users and if you’re smart about the way you design them (giving people a button to place on their site for example) they can be quite viral. I ran my recent ProBlogger quiz as a quick test of a plugin and saw it bring in quite a few links – if I’d given participants a button and given it some more thought it would have been even more successful).
  3. Contests – organise something for people to participate in and you’ll find that some will. Add a competitive element to it and offer a worthwhile prize and you might just find the participation rate increases. My recent group writing projects (with prizes) is an illustration of this (although they’re not strictly competitions). Over 300 people submitted entries in my lists project and in the current one there’s already 150+, most of whom linked back to ProBlogger to show their participation (even though I didn’t make it compulsory to do so).
  4. Be First – if you’re the first in your niche to do, say or be something you’re likely to be linked to heavily by others in your niche. Being second, third, forth…. in your niche to do, say or be something will generally have less impact. For example take a look at the success of the Million Dollar Homepage in contrast to the main thousands of copycat pixel advertising sites that followed. Another example was the One Red Paperclip guy.
  5. Scoops – related to being first is breaking a story in your niche. Break a big enough story and the amount of others that link to you giving you credit for being the source of their own news posts can be quite massive.
  6. Exposé – similarly – expose a fraud or scammer and you can create a real buzz around your blog and become part of the news itself. I’m sure there are a few political bloggers out there that would identify their ‘big break’ as exposé blogging when they exposed one politician or another of doing or saying something that showed them for what they’re worth.
  7. Awards – At the beginning and end of every year in blogging circles a silly season of awards happens (last year there were so many that I created ProBlogger’s Awards for Blog Awards). While not all awards work well, many do particularly well at generating a buzz (with lots of traffic and lots of incoming links). They do it on a number of levels. In the first part they generate links from those hoping to be nominated – then they generate links from people who have been nominated who try to get votes – then they generate links from winners showing off and others complaining about the winners…. the waves of incoming links to a good awards can be quite fascinating to watch.
  8. Lists – I’ve written extensively on lists before so won’t go into it in much detail – but of late many examples of blog posts that seem to get a lot of link attention are very list oriented pieces. There is just something about a list that people latch onto, digest and want to pass on to others (just check out digg and delicious and you’ll see plenty of examples). Of course these days list posts are a dime a dozen so you’ll need to make your list useful and stand out in some way. If you do (and you have a little luck) you’ll be well on the way to being linked to.
  9. Humor – some of the best linkbait that I’ve seen has a humorous edge to it. Whether it be a cartoon (Hugh does this well – I’ve seen his blog linked to numerous time today alone), a funny photo, a story or even a title that gets a laugh – people enjoy humor and like to pass it on (it’s something we’ve been doing for centuries in the stories/jokes we tell).
  10. Make someone famous - I’m still trying to get my head around this one but one of the reasons why I think my group projects seem to do well is that they offer people the opportunity the chance of being discovered (of course the prizes help – but some people feed back to me that the main reason they participate is the traffic and incoming links that it can potentially bring). Another example of this is BlogTopSites.com (and other sites like it) which rank pages in different categories. I suspect that a lot of people participate in these sites (and link to them) because they want to see how they rank with other blogs and have hopes of climbing the rankings.
  11. Create belonging/community - people like to belong and they desire community. Give them a place where they do have community (or at least feel that they have it) and they’ll quite often link to it from their blogs. For example, I find here at ProBlogger that people quite often link to the comments sections of my posts (more specifically to comment threads that they themselves have participated in) rather than the post itself. I also see this illustrated by a lot of bloggers who participate in (and link to) discussion forums.
  12. Design – those people clever enough to design something that others use in large numbers can do quite well out of it in terms of incoming links. For example a good blog theme/template (with an inbuilt link to it’s designer) that is picked up and used widely can create an avalanche of incoming links. I’ve seen a number of designers who have had their work picked up as default themes at WordPress.com comment upon the many many thousands of links that this brought them.
  13. Rants – there is something about a well written, well argued and passionate rant that is very link worthy. People get stirred up when you get passionate and the links will often flow as a result. Of course when you write a rant you need to expect that people will react both positively and negatively (and there is often fallout).
  14. Controversy – similarly, controversial posts tend to get strong reactions from those reading your posts. I discovered this very early in my blogging when I innocently wrote a short piece with some of my thoughts on the Iraq war on a Christian blog I was running at the time. I didn’t expect any reaction and was surprised to wake up the following morning to find it had caused a massive stir in the ‘God Blog’ community with hundreds of bloggers linking up either to support or criticise what I’d written. Again – controversy brings in all kinds of responses. Don’t do it just for the sake of being controversial unless you have very thick skin!
  15. Attack – while we’re talking about controversy – another common way to get attention for yourself is to pick a fight with another blogger in the hope of tempting them (and others) to ‘bite’ back. I’ve seen this approach get a number of emerging bloggers on the map in the past 12 months – but would warn those wanting to give it a go that there can be significant fallout from the approach and that you’ll want to consider whether you want to build your reputation around your snarkyness or some other characteristic. If you’re going to build a blog purely on snark you need to be ready for the snark to come back at you and should realize that it’s difficult to sustain.
  16. Shock – ok, I’m obviously pooling these together but using shock tactics is yet another linkbaiting technique that some people use quite effectively. People have been doing this for years in other mediums (‘shock jocks’ in Radio for example) so it is no wonder that they’re doing it on the web as well. Shocking via language, extreme views, showing controversial or titillating pictures or video etc all fall into this category. Once again, I’m not really into this type of blogging and wouldn’t want to build a reputation around it – but it’s definitely a tactic that some use with real effect.
  17. Research and Statistics - researching a topic that has popularity and that people can use in some way is another effective way to generate incoming links. While it’s may not be strictly research – Dave Sifry’s periodic ‘state of the blogosphere‘ posts are widely linked to and quoted from because he is presenting interesting statistics that directly apply to something people are passionate about.
  18. Give something away – think about the buzz that Oprah created when she gave every audience member a car a couple of years back and you see the power of what happens when you give something away. While giving every reader you have an extravagant gift like that might not be possible – the clever giving of gifts can definitely create a buzz.
  19. Usefulness – writing something ‘useful’ is a pretty general thing to say (and would be incorporated above in many places) however I think it’s worth saying. The more useful your content is to people the more likely they are to want to pass it on to others. Show someone how to do something, give them knowledge, entertain them and/or improve their lives and/or be better at something and you’ll be amazed at how they’ll rave about you.
  20. Cool Factor – as I look at what seems to get linked to by bloggers I’d say that a fair proportion of it isn’t particularly ‘useful’ (or anything else in this list) – it’s just ‘cool’. Of course ‘coolness’ is difficult to define or achieve (it seems to just happen) but if you are cool (or do something that is) you might just find yourself getting linked up to.

Like I said in my introductory paragraphs – a definitive list of linkbaiting techniques (and examples) is impossible to achieve. The above 20 types of linkbait are just the beginning of the ways that bloggers get links from other sites (sometimes they do it intentionally with the motivation to get links and sometimes its just byproduct). I’d love to hear your suggestions on linkbaiting techniques that you’ve seen used (or used yourself). Feel free to give an example or two also.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. brem says:

    TechniqUes, Darren in the title.

  2. Tom says:

    It’s actually a bonus technique. Cause sticklers to hunt you down on your site to correct typos.

  3. yuga says:

    Just curious and maybe this could further the definition or scope of what is and is not a linkbait.

    Is it possible for someone to do something really worthy to be linked to but the motivation was not to link bait? Does is still count as a link bait? Since the definition you stated clearly indicates that there should be “the purpose of getting links”. What if someone did something out of fun and doesn’t want people linking to it, yet it generated a lot of links. That should not fall under link baiting right?

  4. Bill McRea says:

    Some very good strategies. Nothing smarmy about the list at all. As long as people don’t stoop to comment spam on post I’m cool.

    I need to come up with a cool giveaway or maybe a tool to get more links.

  5. 2. Quizzes .. // I was a stickler on this because I put one up on one blog and got 50 responses in 13 months. Then, when I saw the democracy plugin I tried again but didn’t give it a chance because it limited to only 1 poll. Now I realize that you can have as many polls as you want and am trying this out again. A giveaway button is a good idea.

    All the rest. Great tips Darren. Another for the bookmarks.

  6. Several years ago, I gave a talk on humor and storytelling for business writing and presentations. One of the other speakers did a lecture on 10 or 15 types of ‘hooks’ for good business and copywriting. It was an interesting talk, with some great tips.

    What’s fascinating is (from what I remember) his list and this list are very similar. It’s kind of funny that the term “linkbaiting” can often associated with shady tactics when it could also clearly be associated with good writing.

    I think your point about the motivation is spot on.

  7. Renée says:

    Point #18 — Til this day, no talk show host can beat Oprah’s car-give-away. On top of it, it’s difficult to beat the 4th most influential woman in the world.

    As bloggers, one must be of some substantial status in blogsphere to be able to get great sponsors to pull a stunt like this or similar.

    Meanwhile, mediocre bloggers like us just have to make do with giving away free ebooks, video/audio tutorials, vouchers and memberships. Anything more (especially physical products), most likely have to come out of our own pockets (provided our pockets are deep enough)

    Nonetheless…me looooooooove your 20 linkbaiting techniques.

  8. Andrew Wee says:

    What you call linkbaiting, i call traffic generation.
    i guess linkbait’s the ‘phrase du jour’

    my weirdest experience with ‘linkbaiting’ also seems to be my most successful.

    one day i was feeling really fed up with the poor quality blogs i’d been reading lately, and totally went out of my internet marketing theme to lash out with: How to Fail at Blogging (http://www.whoisandrewwee.com/91/internet-marketing-101-how-to-fail-at-blogging/)

    i threw in some lines like: “I’ll guarantee you’d scare away prospective visitors. That is, unless you’re horribly amusing, or freaking sarcastic. Unfortunately most stop at the horrible and freak stage.”

    The next thing I know, the post is carried and tracked back at: http://7cmarketing.supremeserver20.com/blog/2006/09/how-to-fail-at-blogging.html
    and http://blogbusinesssummit.com/2006/09/lets_talk_about_1.htm.

    I especially liked the line “Creating your own blog is about as easy as creating your own urine” (from some other guy’s post)

    and for some weird reason, it seems to be my most popular post.

    go figure.

    Andrew Wee
    http://www.WhoIsAndrewWee.com

  9. Dave Child says:

    Great advice, Darren. With my site, the cheat sheets attracted huge numbers of links and lots of traffic (unintentionally, I might add – I had no idea they would be popular). It’s a huge contrast to the articles, and really hammered home the point to me that you need to offer more than just thought to attract links – you need to give the user something. You need to let them leave your site feeling that they’re come away richer.

  10. Jeff Day says:

    Darren,

    Good post. I’ve actually been doing #1 (Tools) with relative success: I created a recent comments add-on module for Blogger and Blogger Beta, which is now being used by about 100 people or so. They love it, and it provides a minimal impact link back to my domain in the form of a “More…” feature, which is actually useful.

    Now what to do with the people coming in? :-)

  11. Resource Box says:

    Linkbait is just a “buzzword” created by someone who wanted to be the “first one” to talk about something that has been around for a long time. It’s just getting links, and like any other human activity there is a good way and a bad way to do it. What bothers me is that the term linkbait seems to have grown to encompass both, driving bloggers and internet marketers to believe that the end justifies the means. Just as some magazines are picked up for the quality of their content, others depend on gory covers portraying crime scenes, celebrities in disgrace or scantily clad women to make their circulation numbers. Again, there is a good way and a bad way to do it…. In the end, your website or blog will reap what you sow. If you pursue links in a questionable or unethical way, it will directly affect your site’s reputation. If you’re in this business for the long haul be very selective of the techniques you use to get links.

  12. Good article ! I would like to add another linkbait topic: buy a good domain name. A good domain name my bring you some traffic because of direct type-in navegation.

    Best,

  13. James Galway says:

    I would agree with domain name purchase.. tdnam.com is great for giving you traffic results for a dormant domain..

    Must use some of these tips!

    Thanks!

  14. Marc says:

    Guess this really is becoming popular. Going to have to read up on it. Thanks for the article.

  15. Expert says:

    Really very nice resource, ready to use! very usefull! Thanks.

  16. Blog Opinion says:

    Running contest or quiz on your blog would be a great idea and fun for users to improve their knowledge. Good post.

  17. Great list! (and great Linkbait ;-))

  18. Dave says:

    Another way to linkbait is to host a weekly or monthly blog carnival. You pick the subject area and chose among the bloggers who submit contributions. The blogger who make into your carnival invariably link back to it. For more information see blogcarnival dot com

  19. Linkbaiting is a technique growing in popularity and occurs more often than many think. Even having a link in the person’s name really is a way of linkbaiting.

  20. Clement says:

    This is a very informative post.I have learned a lot from it.
    Thanks

  21. I’m curious… lets say you find a ‘scoop’… what if your website isn’t of a blog nature and you don’t have a section for news. Is there anything you could do in this situation?

  22. Its very good article I like it. It help me a lot to have a good idea.

  23. jason says:

    I like the isea of reating controversy in order to have people want to voice there opinion and say there 2 cents. thank you for sharing

  24. I think this post is a very good example of link baiting -very good-keep up the good work Darren . :)

  25. Good and additional list. If you don’t mind I take some of your tips on my own blog zoekmachine optimalisatie (that’s dutch for SEO) because I think your suggestions are of great value!

  26. Rosa says:

    Now this is worth talking about. I really enjoyed this post. I have been rummaging around the internet trying to find blogs with informative post on linkbating and ways to get more traffic. Keep up the great work and I will be back soon for some more tips.

  27. Jacob Skir says:

    Darren,
    I wish to add one technique more to your list: hiring folks. If you have a known company, and you publish ads in your site that you are hiring folks, it makes a great positive buzz about your site. See discussion of two examples here: http://viralmarketingexamples.blogspot.com/

  28. Wow, I’ve looked over your blog from time to time to get tips for starting my own, but I have got to say this right here is the best article you’ve written regarding promotion for a site. Kudos.

  29. Terry says:

    Great ideas. I think your idea of a quiz will work well for my niche and audience. Thanks again.

  30. Really useful, ps, this article is really a fantastic link baiting, :)

  31. Larry says:

    I started giving away tshirts last month and was amazed at the signups. My idea wasn’t so much linkbaiting (or maybe it is) but I email the registrants when I have the drawing to come back to find out who won. It worked great. Here it is the 2nd day of the new drawing and there are over 30 signups so far.

    Larry
    damnIneedAjob.com

  32. Jens says:

    this article is certainly link baiting . . . ;-)

  33. This is an interesting list. I just realise now I had a few posts which were scoops, and they got picked up by Digg. They still get plenty of traffic, even though my blog is not about news.

    I have seen some contests create huge traffic, but I haven’t really thought of one for my own blog.

    Personally I’m not a fan of quizzes.

  34. Cecelia says:

    Reading your post reminds me of how much I don’t know and what a newbie I am to the world of blogging. Maybe someday it will all make sense! Thanks for the tips.

  35. Suzanne says:

    You posted this one and a half year ago and I only have found it now, following a link from Matt Cutts’ blog. But I am glad that I did find it. I does explain so much more than Matt tried to tell us.
    I still think that writing useful content is the best link bait, like this post for example.

  36. blu3man says:

    I will try this. I was inspired by the link bait pertaining to money.co.uk and the 13 year olds lol.

  37. Bill G says:

    I am going to try this as well. Good read for any newbs!

  38. John says:

    Definitely have to try these technique.. Thanks Darren for the good tips.

  39. Thanks a lot for a fine read. These tips will definitely come in handy. Linkbaiting is a very good way to drive quality traffic and its good to see that someone truly understands how it works.

  40. Dean says:

    All good ideas, very good read. Have done alot of articles in the past but your points show where I might of been missing a little. Got me willing to give it another shot.

  41. Hi,

    Thanks for the tips. I am using about 1o of them but missed the other ones. Very creative! Now I have some more ‘weapons’ in my arsenal :-)

    Peter

  42. JamesT says:

    Wow…that is a lot of information to take in. I will have to come back and read it tomorrow when it is not so late and I am actually awake.

    Since you asked though…Since I am new, I am using sites like this one and posting comments to get back links and also writing articles to get my name out there.

    James

  43. Gill B. says:

    mmm .. interesting … will have to get some freelancers to write for me

  44. Uzair says:

    Hi.

    This is really valuable and informative blog. It can help the bloggers to do blogging in efficient way

    Uzair

  45. L Banks says:

    It’s time consuming. I see more results from writing decent articles. If you can’t come up with the content then don’t bother.

  46. Great Ideas as ever. Love the top 10.

  47. Zoki says:

    even though this post is about two years old its still great!

  48. I’m having some decent success with my free information for new business owners. But I want to go past small suceess. I’ll definitely try some of these ideas.

  49. Rana Sinha says:

    Great post with sensible tips. I’ve had some small success with my blog by focussing on content and network. Now I’ll start learning and applying the other methods.

    But I have to say that ‘viral marketing’ and ‘linkbaiting’ both sound somehow sleezy.

    http://originalwavelength.blogspot.com

  50. Fantastic 20 tips there. Though not easy to use, getting into a fight can do wonders, so i am going to fight with problogger, LOL. Jokes apart, i think one should be consistent with what ever they do.

Trackbacks

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    As I’ve mentioned numerous times already in this series on linkbaiting – ‘linkbait’ is a term that is used to describe a variety of practices that have the purpose of generating links to your site.

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