Link building is made complex by people like me who talk about hundreds of link building strategies and techniques and analyze what does and doesn't work. But in this post I want to simplify the link building process and bring it back down to basics.

I'm talking about creating great content; that doesn't just mean text " it could be tools, videos, text, etc.

The original idea behind Google's use of links in their algorithm was to identify pages and websites users and webmasters found useful. And while webmasters like me have adapted to build these links from external websites, the best links still come from creating great content that people want to link to. That's what we call link bait.

Creating link bait -- and I mean really successful link bait that gets linked to from hundreds of thousands of websites, Twitter profiles and Facebook pages -- can be done in many ways but the general idea is to go beyond your competition and stand out from the crowd.

There are three really useful and successful link bait techniques that will drive high quality links and traffic to your site with little effort, promotion or money.

Create a free tool


A large portion of highly successful websites give away tools for free:  you will rarely see a low ranking site with few links giving away a high quality tool.

The truth is that online tools take time and depending on whether you know a programming language or not it may cost money and as a result when you create a new tool it gets a lot of attention (links).

Now I'm not talking about creating a tool that's already been done. My own site is about link building and I have a page about PageRank so it would seem like a natural fit to build a PageRank checker -- but there are loads of other PR checkers out there so my new tool wouldn't get that much traction. On the other hand, if I build a better, more accurate, faster, easier  PR checker that could get traction.

The point is that when you build your free tool, don't invest your time and money into reinventing the wheel. Come up with something new, fresh, creative and needed and you are sure to get lots of high PageRank, rich anchor text links.


  • Hire a programmer (if you don't know a programming language) on Elance or look for great programmers on LinkedIn.
  • Don't make people pay for your tool or place barriers to entry (like email addresses). Monetize it by linking to conversion pages or place ads like Adsense on the page.
  • Make it sleek and easy to use, hire a designer if necessary.
  • Provide HTML for people to place the tool on their site with your choice of anchor text in a link under the tool.

Investigative journalism


My personal favorite film is "All The Presidents Men" and has certainly sparked a love for investigative journalism that is lost on the web.

Take for example Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan's site that is often first for news and has contacts inside a number of large organizations just like traditional broadsheets, like the Washington Post. He was the first to report Google's investigative piece on Bing's so called copying of Google's results. That one report has attracted 39,769 links to date!

Thereare many things to unearth and it doesn't have to be a scam or something sinister. It could be a research project or a statistical analysis.


  • Leave no stone unturned, anything new will attract controversy and disagreement and if you leave gaping holes in your article or report.
  • Don't always be a negative Nelly, its ok to report on some unknown successes. Attending conferences and networking in your community is a great way to hear about these stories and you should be doing it anyway.
  • Make sure you have contacts and friends in big companies in your industry. A great way to develop these is to ask for an interview with a well known employee and follow up with friendly emails and meet ups.

Write a free eBook


Make an eBook. A short book, 50-100 pages long or so. Make it a guide to one particular topic. EBooks are easy, quick and valuable to users and are extremely easy to promote.


  • A quality eBook really stands out and will be shared more than lazy effort: take the time to provide valuable content.
  • Hire a designer to produce a great cover and a cool design inside the cover.
  • Promote your eBook using the cool, new site Pay With A Tweet which allows you to give your eBook away for free in return for people Tweeting your message.


The key here is not that these 3 link bait techniques work: it is about creating the message. The message is that high quality content  builds tons of high quality links naturally.

That means putting in the extra effort on the content side whether that's going the extra mile with a research project, hounding well known people for interviews, writing a free eBook, creating a free tool or anything else people really want.

Its about going back to what Larry and Sergey envisioned when they implemented the PageRank algorithm: quality content people link to.

Focus on content creation and the links will come.