Using everyday conversations to gain natural backlinks
In my career as a journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to cover breaking news events from around the state of Utah. In the summer of 2010, a major oil pipeline developed a leak, forcing more than 20,000 gallons of oil into Salt Lake City’s Red Butte Creek. It was a major catastrophe from both an environmental and economic standpoint. People wanted to find out how the oil leak affected them, the extent of the damage, the clean-up efforts, and what government and company officials were doing to rectify the situation.
The news business is not unlike other businesses. Many have their favorite station to watch, or their favorite radio frequency locked on their preset when they want to avoid a traffic jam. Often consumers will buy their groceries from the same store, and even show preference to one brand over another. Think Apple products versus Android. During the oil leak, and the many months of clean-up afterwards, residents wanted the latest information, and consumed that information through a variety of channels. They also had very high expectations from the station, and wouldn’t have been satisfied with a 2 or 3 line story about the oil leak or a regurgitated press release.
So, how does a major news event correspond with effective linkbait content? Think about what you do when you hear breaking news through the grapevine. Let’s say you arrive at work early, sit down at your desk and turn on your computer. Suddenly, you notice your coworkers huddled around the office television, and you look at the screen and see images and video of a building fire. After watching the TV for a few minutes, you turn around and type in the URL to your favorite news station’s website to see if they’re covering that breaking news.
What if your website became that instant source for information about your industry? It can! In fact, that’s what SEO.com strives to be in the search engine optimization industry, and it’s highly rewarding to see people link to our blog posts. I don’t mind tooting my company’s horn a little, because we’ve worked hard to become one of the leaders in the industry. There’s no reason why your website can’t do the same!
How to earn links naturally
You may have heard the phrase “Content is King”. In April 2011, my colleague Kevin Phelps challenged that belief, and offered some alternatives to content marketing, including traditional SEO, PPC and social media efforts to garner more traffic. While the written word is still incredibly valuable, there are many other ways to earn links naturally. Remember my example about the oil leak? There were many ways to get the latest information about that leak, including video, newspaper, radio and website content. In the linked story, there were links to external websites so readers could get even more information about the spill. There were photos, in depth interviews with government officials, helicopter footage of the damaged areas and social media buttons to help you share that story with your friends and family. They offered a comments section, so you could share your views and stories about how the spill affected you. There were different angles of the story, like how the oil leak affected local wildlife, and even numbers and email addresses to local resources.
Now, I understand that this is a news station which has hundreds of employees on the ground and behind the scenes working on the story. Not everyone has the time or resources to invest in making content like this. The point of this example is to show you ways to earn links naturally. Let’s say you own and operate a website that sells air fresheners. Not terribly exciting, is it?
One of the elements of SEO that I recommend is having a blog on your website. Search engines want to show fresh content in their results pages, and blogging is the best way to make sure these search engines keep coming back to your site. Sometimes you can even rank for long tail keywords placed within the blog posts.
You may be struggling to think of ways to write about air fresheners specifically. In this case, you should start thinking laterally. Take a moment and think about ways people use air fresheners. How about in their cars? People enjoy taking long road trips with their families, and often use a search engine to help figure out what they need to pack. This is a great opportunity to write a 50-point packing checklist for your blog. You could even add real check boxes instead of bullet points, and make the page print-friendly. REI’s “Expert Advice” section is a great example of this. Chances are, if people find your content useful, engaging and easy to use, they’re more likely to link to it. One hour writing a blog post or article like this could easily earn many links down the road. Is the time investment worth it? Of course it is!
Follow the trending topics
I use this strategy daily on a website I own about local news. A few weeks ago, Northern Utah experienced a strong wind storm that uprooted trees, snapped power lines and caused extensive damage. People immediately flocked to the Internet to view pictures and read about what was happening in their communities. I continuously wrote new content and provided pictures that people sent to me, and Google indexed my articles almost immediately. I saw a lot of unique visits from long tail keywords, and gained a large amount of natural backlinks. Besides the established news stations, I was one of the first local websites to break the story, and became part of the conversation. Social media networks are a great way to find out which topics are trending.
Let’s go back to my air freshener example. You probably think of those tree-shaped air fresheners that you can hang from your rear view mirror in your car, but “Febreze” is a brand that seems to be set on changing peoples’ perception of what an air freshener can do. Check out their page called “Breathe Happy”, which is filled with interesting statistics like “17% think crayons are the most recognizable childhood scent”. I’m not one who would hang out on a website about air fresheners, but this page is actually pretty interesting, and there’s lots of great stuff to explore!
During the holiday season, many people like to host parties at their homes. Often, it’s a chance for hosts to spray some type of holiday-scented air freshener before the guests arrive, or after the guests leave. Why not write a blog post about tips for hosting a holiday party, and include a tip for air fresheners?
The point here is to think outside of the box, and put yourself in the place of your customers. What are they talking about? What are the trending topics within your industry?
Please share your experiences with effective linkbait, and offer any suggestions in the comment section below!