Linkbaiting is a widely used term to describe strategies where new web content or services are created specifically to boost rankings through attracting lots of inbound links. 

Some argue that linkbaiting is an unnecessary term which just means ‘great content’. Nevertheless, it is a neat term that prompts marketers to focus their minds on what makes for genuinely useful or engaging content

Let’s take a look at 10 strategies for linkbaiting.

Attracting links

Linkbaiting is the practice of creating pages or resources which are deliberately aimed at attracting backlinks, particularly from other blogs. Everyone involved in SEO (and marketing, and content creation) should constantly be thinking about new opportunities for linkbait which will work best in their marketplace. 

Typically linkbait consists of useful content for a target audience such as an informative article, list of links, free tools, etc. An early post that explained the art of linkbaiting was written by Nick Wilson, who identified these five hooks: 

  • News hook
  • Contrary Hook
  • Attack Hook
  • Resource Hook
  • Humour Hook

Nick’s hooks were designed with blog posts in mind, but our options build on these to describe types of linkbait for commercial and also not-for-profit organisations.


10 linkbait strategies

  1. Advice. For example, ‘How-to guides’ create value. HowTo.tv has created an entire business around these videos, but how-to content can just be a list of practical steps to help with any process. You need to show credibility for your advice through links to other respected websites, customer reviews, research or highlighting your own credentials.
  2. Viral campaigns / Humour. Any marketing campaign with a strong viral element should attract links if it succeeds. Make sure these aren’t wasted if the viral is hosted on a standalone site. Link back to the main company site with topical links and when the campaign ends, setup a 301 redirect back to the main site. Consider the success of Will It Blend, which has attracted 30,000 backlinks following a winning viral video campaign.
  3. Controversy. A lot of political commentators generate many backlinks by courting controversy in the blogosphere. In the US, Andrew Sullivan’s blog is one of the most popular.
  4. Reviews, comparison and evaluation. Save others time by reviewing. Amazon purchased camera review site DP Review (which has over 500,000 backlinks) for several reasons: audience is one, saving affiliate commission is another, but targeted backlinks to the main Amazon site could be another.
  5. Applications and tools. Online services which solve problems will naturally generate links. Currency converter XE.com has around 1 million IBLs. Downloadable tools and plugins can be helpful too.
  6. Blogs. Companies who add a blog to their main domain will gain more backlinks as bloggers link to individual posts, but they may be insignificant. There are almost as many links to the Econsultancy blog homepage as the as the main Econsultancy homepage.
  7. News. Unique takes on news can help generate links. Try to be among the first wave (or the very first) to break news, follow a niche or add humour. All of these can also be done in conjunction with one another. Technology site The Register does this well. It is has amassed 800,000 links to its home page.
  8. Rich media. Images, video, webcasts or podcasts can create links from different sources. 
  9. Community: polls and surveys. We know from the success of social networks how web users love to relate to others similar to themselves. Short of creating a community, there are other actions you can take on this such as using polls and surveys. These can work really well for generating links from journalists and bloggers, especially if they hook into Nick Wilson’s five hooks. These can be a one-off or you can use a series of surveys (allowing for comparative trends).
  10. Top 10 lists. Or Top 20, Top 100, etc. Lists like this one seem to be popular since they are easy to digest and people can work through them like a checklist. It can be a top 10 of sites, experts, tips, any of the hooks. And if you build your top linkbait from other sites or bloggers then those you feature (flatter) will often want to link back to you. Social media sites like Digg live off a steady diet of top 10s. An entertainment blog I own called Hecklerspray.com regularly writes lists, and now has 304,000 inbound links. 

A six point checklist before you start…

  • Make it easy to link to your linkbait, either through providing code or social media widgets 
  • Think carefully about your title, and how you introduce your linkbait. An intriguing title will often encourage visitors to click through when they see the link on other sites, so you will gain direct traffic too. A descriptive title will have greater SEO benefits, especially if you attract lots of links.
  • Provide a home for your linkbait. Aaron Wall places his link on a subdomain to collect all the different tools he has developed which increases the chance that visitors will link to it: http://tools.seobook.com.
  • Develop different types of linkbait which will appeal to different audiences, for example journalists and media site owners, casual bloggers, pro-bloggers, the Diggerati, etc.
  • Review your web analytics ‘top entry pages’ for returning visitors to see which content is most popular and create more content like that.
  • Review the balance between inbound links for the home page against the site overall. For example, The Register has over 800,000 homepage links but nearly 2m overall. If the number of links for your home page is similar to the site overall it means you’re probably not doing a good job of creating other types of link-bait.

Adapted from our new SEO Best Practice Guide, compiled by Dr Dave Chaffey, which contains 300 pages of search engine optimisation advice. Thousands of people have downloaded it since the beginning of April. It’s available to subscribers, or as a one-off purchase (which you will not regret).