Connecting the Chains
If content is “king”, then linked content is the empire. Writing words for your site
– even if it’s the best prose ever constructed ‐ ‐easy to scan, benefits‐rich, with
the perfect call to action…can only get you so far. As someone who has written
copy for over 200 websites in the past few years, I’ve seen it all: poor design,
great design; bad content, great content; poor attempts at conversion, and
conversion machines; non‐linked content and yes, link friendly content.
At the end of the day, you have to do a lot of things right in order to have your
content found on the web and to convert visitors, as I discuss in my book,
Content Rich: Writing your Way to Wealth on the Web. But of all the things I
mentioned there, link friendly content, or content that naturally attracts links, is
the most important – by far. How do we know? Because Google tells us it is…
In Google’s Webmaster Guidelines they say, “Give visitors the information
they're looking for ‐ Provide high‐quality content on your pages, especially your
homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain
useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice
webmasters to link to your site. In creating a helpful, information‐rich site, write
pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words
users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site.”
They go on to say, “Make sure that other sites link to yours ‐ Links help our
crawlers find your site and can give your site greater visibility in our search
results. When returning results for a search, Google combines PageRank (our
view of a page's importance) with sophisticated text‐matching techniques to
display pages that are both important and relevant to each search.”
Many people refer to links and link building as “Off Page Optimization” (OPO).
Wikipedia explains it well by expressing that OPO involves “strategies for search
engine optimization that are done off the pages of a website to maximize its
performance in the search engines for target keywords related to the page
content. Examples of off‐page optimization include linking and placing keywords
within link anchor text. Methods of obtaining links can also be considered off‐
page optimization.” These include:
* Public relations
* Article distribution
* Social networking via sites like Digg and Slashdot
* Link campaigns, such as asking complementary businesses to provide links
* Directory listings
* Link exchanges
* Three‐way linking
* One‐way linking
* Forum posting
* Multiway linking
I would provide a little editorializing by saying that the type of link building I’m
referring to, creating link friendly content, deals mainly with on‐page
optimization, in other words, right on the pages of your site. But looking at the
off page factors are important as well.
The Link Building Experts Speak…
It’s important to also know what the most noted link experts in the search
marketing space have said in regards to link friendly content. Eric Ward, one of
the guys that practically invented the concept of link building and promoted the
importance of links as early as 1995 says, “The visible text within the link (aka
anchor text) can help the search engines make a forecast as to what content lies
at the end of that link if clicked. If that happens often enough, and if the
originating sites are of high quality, then the engine can use that signal as part
of the ranking process. “ And Jim Boykin, one of the most successful link
operators on the web says, “the best backlinks in the world (and often easiest to
get) are those that came because of great content.” These guys live links – they
eat, sleep and dream in links and what they say is always relevant to the
Lee Odden of Top Rank Online Marketing blog said, “Whether you drive traffic to
the site from offline marketing programs, paid search advertising or social media
promotions, you still have to deliver the goods once visitors get to the web site.”
What are the “goods” that Lee is referring to? CONTENT.
But you see, most companies don’t “get” this. Like meta tags, they seem puzzled
by the concept and are not sure where to start. Yes, the twenty‐something’s and
Web 2.0 crowd are in the know – but even they don’t always link their content or
“link bait” correctly – or consistently. And that’s really what it’s all about,
creating link‐friendly content the right way and doing it frequently.
So, I bring up the concept of link baiting. What is it? Linkbait is used to describe
viral, linkable content designed to attract thousands of links and is recognized as
one of the most effective ways to build links – and relevance for a site. So link
baiting is really building link‐friendly content. It’s just another name for it – or
more accurately, a subset of it.
The traditional way of getting links circa 2004 and before involved contacting
other relevant websites, emailing the webmasters and asking for a link. You’d
contact people you know – vendors, partners, customers, suppliers and
“reciprocate” links. You would carefully explain in your email that linking to you
would be worthwhile for their visitors and beneficial to them as well…and you’d
spend hundreds of hours doing it.
Why didn’t someone in the know just explain to them that all they had to do was
write solid content and the links would come? Of course, you have to promote it
too, but perhaps they were looking for the easy way out. Ironically, the easier
way is to write high quality, very popular, link friendly content. ;)
With link bait, you can do this.
First, as all the experts will tell you ‐ you need a good hook. This is the angle or
the way of grabbing attention from the reader. You do it by capitalizing on
something that’s really important to most people – security, money, respect,
gossip, new ideas, a secret, etc…and give it a little sizzle.
Types of Hooks:
• Tying in to what’s relevant – the News Hook
• Going against the grain – the Contrary Hook
• Taking the offensive position – the Attack Hook
• Providing something important – the Resource Hook
• Making people laugh – the Humor Hook
Providing something important ‐ Resource Hook
* Develop a comprehensive list of blogs in your niche ‐ link out to them, and
chances are they will link to you.
* Create a useful tool related to your niche that people like
* The list concept: How to do ____. Make it substantive and link friendly!
* A compilation of news stories on a theme that you in turn analyze and create
a post for
* Example: If you run a hotel, discuss all the places to visit in the surrounding
Tying in to what’s relevant ‐ News Hook
* Find out who reports the news to the news reporting agencies – and then
jump on it.
* Calling someone or something out – if you can expose a fraud or flaw in a
news story, and report on it, that content you wrote could be very link friendly.
You could have thousands of links very quickly.
* Giving your opinion on a popular news story
* Don’t rehash what someone else already reported though – give it your own
Going against the grain ‐ Contrary Hook
* Are you a natural contrarian? Put it to use! Be the one guy that finds
something to not like about a story, a product or service and then go off on
* "Why <insert prominent blogger or company name here> is WRONG
* Find something that’s really really popular and then tear it apart. People will
Taking the offensive position ‐ Attack Hook
* Pointing out why a particular product or service is doing more harm than
* Going after the government re. almost anything – they are a great target
* Standing up for an under‐represented or disadvantaged group
* Choose a topic that has a fair degree of truth on both sides and then write
away! Make it informed, smart and very controversial.
You have to be careful with this one – you don’t want to write the wrong thing
about the wrong person. A good idea is to go after a company or product instead
of an individual. However, if you’re gutsy, have some proof for what you are
claiming and really want to gain some instant traffic, it can give you instant
credibility and build your reputation like wildfire. Most people love controversy
and when you use an attack hook, you stir it up.
Making people laugh – the Humor Hook
* Photoshop a funny picture or cartoon for the subject you are writing about
and post it
* Post a list that takes a funny slant: ie “Top 20 Ways I’m Going to Work from
Bed This Week”
* Post idea: "You know you're a _____when..."
* Play off another funny bit that you came across: jokes, funny stories, etc
People love to laugh right? They also need comic relief from the craziness of life
on the web. Or life in general. If you have a natural way of lightening things up
through your personality, you may be able to write that way too. Give it a shot
with your next blog post. You’ll create some link friendly content in the process.
Other Ways to Link Bait
Another thing you can do to build link‐friendly content is to run a contest or
sweepstakes on your blog. It doesn’t have to be expensive – you could give away
your services, actually. For me, being an online copywriter and marketing
consultant, I could give away 10 pages of free content. I haven’t done that yet,
but I could. It would probably go off very well. What could you give away? Once
you decide, promote it and blog about it like crazy.
Finally, to build some high quality link bait or “link friendly” content, you could
interview prominent people in your industry. How about that for an idea? You
know that these people you interview will link to you, right? Absolutely they will.
Most of the prominent people out there in any field have big egos. Play off that
and get some great traffic as a result!
Product or Service Reviews
There are a million products or services that your target market would love to
read about. What are they? Think about what your customers like. What do they
use in their lives? You may want to even survey them to find out. The great thing
about reviews is that they are easy to write and give you instant content. Plus,
you’ll get people who want to link to them, especially if it’s a review for a
popular product or service.
The secret …of course with all of these link bait approaches is that you need to
have people see what you write. It’s all useless without being seen by your
peers. And if you are brand new on the scene, it can be a challenge. So, how do
you do it? For starters, link to them in your post, send emails to them, call them,
post to delicious, myweb2, etc. If you can get at least one prominent blogger in
your niche to take notice, the rest will most likely follow. Remember, the web is
a community and you need to reach out to others who can help you. In turn, you
will help them. And it’s more than simply acting professionally or ensuring you
behave appropriately on the web ‐ It’s a basic tenant of life.
The result? Powerful, Link Friendly Content.
Let’s Take a Step Back and Start with the Basics
So, what do links look like? How do you use them? Why are they important? For
the benefit of all those who are new to the topic or are just designing their first
site now (yes, there are still people out there…I’ve talked to many of them), here
are some basic explanations:
First of all, the web has a unique quality re. content, different from books,
newspapers or any printed media – this distinct quality is called “hyperlinking”.
When you place your mouse over certain words, and click on them, it takes you
to another page on your site or another page on a different site. These are
hyperlinked words. How can we spot them? They are usually underlined and in a
different color than the rest of the text. So, the web in essence, by the very word
“web” is a totally interconnected, interdependent thing. How connected you are
is what we are referring to with links.
How do you hyperlink text? Simply left click on your mouse, highlight the phrase,
then right click on “Hyperlink” and type in the destination URL (wherever you are
sending the reader when they click on the text). That’s it!
Check your links before and after you publish. This is something many people
miss. Before you publish your web page, make sure you click on every link to
ensure they are working correctly. If you find an issue, fix it and then recheck to
make sure you got it right. Also, some of your links may break when you publish
your site. Be sure to check them all! If you do find problems, fix them, test and
The worst thing you can do? Have no links at all or broken links. Another thing
that isn’t too great is having too many links. You don’t want an entire page full of
hyperlinked text. This negatively impacts the user experience.
Anchor Linked Text
How many times have you seen the phrase “click here”? It’s ubiquitous on the
web. You can’t escape it. And its always hyperlinked right? The problem, though,
is this: you’re always missing out on an opportunity to rank for a good keyword
phrase when you use “click here”. (See our real world examples below for more
Anchor text is the visible, clickable copy in a hyperlink. Example: “Find out more
about our island cruises.”
“Island cruises” is the anchor text. And it when it’s clicked it may take you to
If this is a complimentary site to what you offer, then you will benefit from this
link friendly content. (and they will too) If that sentence is on another site and
www.excitingislandcruises.com is your site, then you have an external link
coming from a relevant site for a relevant keyword phrase. You win there too.
You can also use anchor text to link to other pages on your own site, this is called
Anchor text is weighted highly in Googles algorithm, because the linked text is
usually relevant to what the landing page is about. Googles goal is to provide
highly relevant search results; so when you hyperlink words relevant to the page,
it helps your rankings.
Link Expert Debra Mastaler says, “Link text, or anchor text, plays a key role in
how a web page ranks. It's the clickable part of the link you see and is considered
a strong query ranking factor used by both humans and search engines to
provide information on destination content.”
She goes on to say, “For example, if the term "running shoes" is hyperlinked, you
expect to be taken to a page hosting additional information on running shoes. A
search engine has the same expectation and imparts importance to the anchor
text and the page it points to whenever it finds and spider’s links using the term.
The more links it finds using the term and pointing to your URL, the more it
associates the phrase with your web page. Which hopefully means the next time
someone searches for "running shoes," your pages will show in the top search
results. The goal of most link building campaigns is to secure a large number of
links from quality pages using a mixture of keyword anchor text and pointing to a
variety of your internal pages.”
One thing to keep in mind is that you want to vary your anchor text every now
and then. Target your keyword phrase, but then use it in your anchor text in
different ways. If the phrase is “steel oil drum”, use it in this way a couple times,
use it as “steel oil drums”, “oil drums made of steel” and then spaced out
between other words as well. The reason for this is because people search for
many different variations of your keyword phrase – it isn’t always what you think
it will be… and also because Googles algorithm looks at this factor.
So, in essence, whenever you write anything, whether it’s a new blog post, new
web page, online press release or whatever, you need to be thinking about your
anchor text. What phrases can you use? What can you link to? Always have a
strategy. Remember, its all about building link friendly content – friendly for you,
friendly for others, and friendly to the search engines!
Different Applications for Link Friendly Content
Websites – Look for 3‐4 areas on every webpage where you can link anchor text
(your keyword phrases) to other deeper pages on your site, be sure the majority
of your pages are linked in this way. One of the best pages for these types of
links is an FAQ’s page or a Why Us? Page.
Blogs – This should be the central “hub” of all your web properties for link
friendly content; you want to use links in every blog post you write, linking out to
prominent, complimentary websites and also linking back to your own pages –
both on your blog and your regular website.
Articles – Hyperlink your keyword rich anchor text in 3‐4 places in article copy
and also throw a link into your bylined section at the bottom – not always to
your home page, but to a page on your blog or website that supports the subject
of your article.
Press Releases – Same as articles above, this is a great place to use link‐friendly
content because of the wide distribution your press release receives.
Emails – It’s a little different when you are writing email copy, because you
aren’t trying to attract links from the outside, rather you are using the email
content to try and get the reader to click through to your website or blog to find
out more. Be sure to provide a link to your client testimonials, portfolio of work
(if you have one to share) and more information about your services. And if you
are using the email to try and recruit people for a webinar or teleconference and
are using a landing page to collect registrations, be sure to place this link
prominently in the email.
Also, having newsletters, articles and case studies on your site is a great idea
because this is high quality content that people will want to link to. If you have a
huge library of these items and become the authority on the subject, even
better. You’ll want to be sure and archive these as well so they have access to all
Anchor Text Example
To find out more about our Swiss watches, click here..
You see that “click here” is hyperlinked. But this does you no good. As I
mentioned earlier, “Click Here” is not a good keyword phrase and you don’t
want to rank for it anyways. We’ll leave that to Adobe Acrobat, Shockwave, and
iTunes – they have millions of web pages that have the words "click here" as the
anchor text. Rather, you want to use “Swiss watches” as your link friendly
content and hyperlink that to your Swiss watch product page. So now, it looks
Find out more about our beautiful Swiss watches.
What are some good ideas you can use right away? As I mentioned above, write
a review of a product or service that is complimentary to yours as a testimonial
and then email it to the company that sells it. You’ll find that most of the
websites will appreciate that you took the time to write a review and include a
link to your site. And Presto! You have a quality link that will hopefully stand the
test of time. How did you get it? By doing something positive for someone else—
but also by writing quality content that was meaningful.
Another idea is to simply find quality sites that are complimentary to yours and
link to them. This works especially well if you have a large site with lots of traffic.
Why? Because you could be giving the other site lots of referral traffic. The
webmaster at the site you linked to will see this and give you a link through their
own high quality content. It works both ways. But it was started by you.
The other way is to of course link to others in your blog posts. On almost every
successful blog out there, you’ll see multiple places in each post where they
linked to someone else, usually a very popular website for whatever keyword
phrase they want to link to. Example: I wrote a post titled “What is SEO
Copywriting?” and linked to five outside sites in the post.
This is called linking out and it’s an important part of your overall strategy of
creating link friendly content.
Link Guru Debra Mastaler says, “From a business standpoint, it's advisable to link
out when a source will help reinforce a position or statement you're making, add
credibility to your products or be of value to your users as a reference.” Great
advice I say.
She goes on to say, “From a ranking standpoint, linking out to sources that use
the same/similar verbiage and keyword phrases helps to establish relevancy for
your terms. Keep in mind, even outbound links using keywords in the anchors are
on‐page content for you. Keep your anchors relevant to your on‐page topic and
pointing to pages similar to your own.”
Rand Fishkin chimes in by saying, “Linking out is something I recommend all sites
do, not just for SEO purposes, but to help their perception as good internet
citizens and to help earn links back in. A recent study of news sites confirmed that
"in general there is a strong relationship between news websites linking out and
getting links in return."
Linking out can be used to emphasize an important point you are trying to make,
especially if you are writing a “cornerstone” blog post (an important tenant that
forever stays on your blog home page) and want to back up what you are writing
with opinions from other thought leaders in your field. It helps to add credibility
to what you are expressing and gives your reader a more favorable impression of
your post. How did we do this before the Internet came around? We used
footnotes or endnotes in books. Same concept, but different in the fact that you
can’t simply go to that book or article that was footnoted and look at it instantly
like you can on the web. Gotta love the steady advancement and application of
Linking out can also be used to link to other forms of online media, like podcasts,
you tube videos, and the like. You don’t have to always put these on your site –
simply link out and watch your influence grow!
What can Link Friendly Content do For You?
Higher website rankings in the search engines
Bigger and more influential standing in your online community
More qualified traffic
And…the benefit of appearing on Diggs home page….
Writing for Social Media Site Inclusion – Link Friendly Content and
the Potential for Domination
One of the best things that can happen if you have written a link friendly blog
post, press release or article is appearing on Digg, Delicious Popular, Reddit or
the other social media sites. Write a great, link baiting post with a powerful
headline and you could be well on your way. As mentioned previously, you want
to use your keywords in the title – this is a great place to use them. If your post
gets lots of Diggs, then it could be on the home page of Digg, which would result
in hundreds or thousands of links back to your site.
Note: you can post your own content to the social media sites, but it’s usually
looked down upon. Get someone else to do it for you.
Guest Writing on Other Blogs
What’s another great way to build link friendly content that most people forget
about? Write for another complimentary blog as a guest! Others in your industry
are always looking for blog writers. With the demand for fresh, exciting, link
friendly content always out there, you will be welcomed with open arms when
you ask to write for another blog. What you want to be sure and do is provide a
keyword rich, anchor text link to your site in your guest blog post.
Chances are you will get your link benefit in the bylined section of the post, but
occasionally it may be appropriate to link to something on your site in the main
post itself. When you do put you link in the byline, make sure you consider the
needs of the reader and link to something on your site that they will find
valuable, not just your home page URL. Do you have some important content
that always stays on your blog home page and acts as a “101” or “Intro” to your
product or service? Link to this URL.
Posting Video Content on You Tube
Here is something almost no one does, but should: when you put a content rich
video up on You Tube, place a link back to your site in the description of your
video. Use anchor text here as well. This will serve you well, because it’s coming
from a big important site like You Tube.
What are the three most important criteria a search engine robot might consider
when it is evaluating an inbound link?
Rand Fishkin, who asked this question to the most intelligent SEO people he
knows, came back with this: Anchor text, global link popularity of the linking site
(how important is the domain providing the link) and topical relationship of
linking page (how relevant is the page providing the link).
What should you do? Have links from highly authoritative, trustworthy, and
relevant sites with anchor text representative of the products or services being
marketed by the target site.
And our good link building friend Eric Ward sums it up like this:
“It's still about content...The bottom line for me is quality content=quality links.
Will the content attract links now and over time and will those links help you
meet your marketing objectives?”
In other words, build link friendly content – every day, in every way, and for
every purpose. After all, it all starts with content. If in doubt, ask yourself this:
what’s in it for the reader?
From those first ideas you had in your head, to the words you write on your site
to the desire of others to be associated with your content, in the form of links,
it’s all about the words. And doing it over and over again, always improving on
what you did before, takes you one step closer to higher search engine rankings,
better converting copy and a loyal community of followers ‐‐or what we call
ultimate success on the web.
Want to know more? Need to learn how to promote your link‐friendly
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Content Rich: Writing your Way to Wealth on the Web
Thanks for reading!