Links are the lifeblood of the web. Without fresh links, your website has no authority in the engines or consistent referral traffic.
Some companies and individuals appear to attract links without really trying. Others struggle and never break through to the point of building links at increasing velocity.
We’ve shared plenty of linkbuilding tactics at Online Marketing Blog, and it’s an ongoing popular topic for search marketers. In addition to direct and mechanical tactics, becoming a link magnet in your own right is an indirect yet powerful strategy to attract organic links.
The rise of the social web has set the idea of personal branding on fire. By developing a brand for yourself, your company and even the individuals within it, you can build an army of advocates ready to link to everything you post.
How can you develop your personal brand so that you only have to publish that sticky idea and links occur as a byproduct?
During SES New York 2010, Greg Jarboe, President & Co-Founder of SEO PR, moderated a notable group of linkerati:
- Rand Fishkin, CEO, SEOmoz.org
- Jennifer Slegg, CEO, JenSense.com
- Aaron Kahlow, Chairman & Founder, Online Marketing Summit
Jennifer Slegg, CEO, JenSense.com
Jen started things off by talking about the building blocks to creating a personal brand with the goal of link magnetism:
First, ask yourself, “What an I doing it for?”
- Job opportunities
Figure out why you want to be a link magnet before anything else.
Next, consider your name.
- Is your name fairly unique? If not, you may have a difficult time building a personal brand.
- Are there others with similar names? If so, there is the potential for confusion, and you’ll want to consider developing a handle.
- Is the domain name available? This is vital for your blog, and you’ll want your domain name to be your personal brand if possible.
- If you use a handle, does it narrow your focus too much? I.E., if your name was “content queen,” you may limit your appeal.
- This is potentially problematic in that you and the company brand are forever merged. This can create potential company marketing conflicts in the future.
- Consider using a spin on a company name (i.e., GoogleGuy or Company CEO).
- Remember company name and your name will always be tied together. What if the company gets sold?
Setting the groundwork
Whatever name you go with, register it everywhere. Then, set up your blog on your site – everyone who wants to develop a personal brand needs a blog. Create a unique design/logo and ensure it is just as brandable as the name you use.
Define your personality
People link to personalities as much as quality information. What do you want to be?
Helpful – Great way to start if participating in forums is key to your branding. If you show knowledge, people will follow and then link to you.
Informative/expert – The most important thing is, you need to know your stuff. If you don’t consider yourself expert quality, start researching and learning now. You’ll get called out if you post bad info. Try these ideas:
- Guest blogs
- Speak/participate in events (offline/online)
- Answer questions via Twitter
Controversial – Take the opposite stance on any popular industry topic. If everyone is singing praise about a company, look at the negative. If a company makes a move that everyone loves or hates, take the unpopular view and run with it. But tread carefully – you could develop a reputation for being “anti” or “pro” on a topic.
Being a jerk – This is very difficult to pull off, but those who are successful can be extremely popular. This gets you noticed, but you live with the rep. It could prevent you from being an authority. So if that’s your goal, this route may not be the way to go.
The key point to remember is the entire world is a stage – everything you say or do will help or hurt your brand.
Rand Fishkin, CEO, SEOmoz.org
Rand started his presentation with the notion that link magnets are the new paradigm of link acquisition.
How is a link magnet different than linkbait?
Linkbait = Content that’s built to attract links (but not necessarily reward their creation).
Link magnets emotionally or physically reward the linker, creating an incentive.
Why is this so powerful? Overall, the web has become jaded. Previously, we used to get plenty of legitimate blog posts/links due to great content. Now this has shifted. With a great post, we’ll get tons of Facebook status updates, Tweets, etc.
There was a golden era of linkbait where people loved and supported great content. Now we’re too sensitive; “The fish have figured out that there is a hook attached to our content.” This suspicion has created difficulties in attracting linkbait.
But people still link when it benefits them. Savvy marketers are rewarding linkers in non-financial ways.
For example, Yelp created a digital badge version of “People Love Us on Yelp” that restaurants could use on their websites. This made the most relevant pages on the web link back to the Yelp site.
There is the notion that great content earns links. According to Rand, this is a myth. You could post the absolute best piece of content on a subject on the web, and people will not link to it just because it’s good. It’s like saying, “The best ideas in politics are supported by the voters.” Instead, it’s branding and marketing to sell a concept that has an impact on where content goes.
The new bait is an emotional and obvious hook. Linking to content should do something for the people linking to it. Play to a linker’s psychology:
One of the most beautiful things about the concept of link magnetism is that much of the time, especially when it’s embeddable, you have control of targeted links and anchor text.
You need a strategy for promotion & spreading of links. You need to create a distribution mechanism and a way to attract people, or it will never work.
Examples of great link magnetism:
Vimeo – When you click the “share” button on a video, it creates the overlay box to copy-paste the code and share it. By embedding the video, Vimeo also gains three links.
OKCupid – They create trends all the time using their data to help market the site. Their blog is frequently an example of both linkbait and a link magnet. By sharing the information on the blog, users are rewarded by sharing something interesting.
Techmeme – When they launched the learderboard, more than 30 of the top 100 bloggers linked to them.
Simply Hired – They publish the data/stats/salaries behind jobs. It is both interesting and useful data that frequently acts as a magnet for media.
Aaron Kahlow, Founder, Online Marketing Summit
Aaron decided to be interactive and not give a presentation. He gave just a few tips before turning over the panel to an audience Q&A.
Content – If you don’t have great content, there’s no reason anyone should link to you.
Personas/branding – If you don’t have a personality or aren’t comfortable with yours, you’ll never form the affinity necessary to gain links.
Social – Every time you create something, ask yourself if your colleagues/constituents would share.
Friends – Make sure you build relationships with those who are link magnets.
1. Decide who your target market is, and then address them appropriately. For example, you can’t “geek out” and get technical if your audience is not.
2. Make sharing simple and easy. For example, if your audience is active on Twitter, leverage the Tweetmeme button on your blog.
3. When you find things you like, say something about it and link to it as opposed to always linking to the source.