If you are a small business owner or webmaster and have been researching search engine optimisation, it is very likely you will have encountered the concept of 'linkbait'. Although the concept seems straightforward - produce content for your website that is of sufficiently high quality to encourage other webmasters to link to you - getting into the mindset of 'what linkbait looks like' is often unintuitive.
There is such a thing as a boring niche
Countless times I have read or heard people in the search marketing space say 'there's no such thing as a boring niche', and it simply isn't true. Of course there is, after all, 99.9% of the world's population probably think that SEO is a 'boring niche'. However, just because your niche is boring does not mean you can't produce linkworthy content with a decent strategy.
Additionally, linkbait is often presented as some kind of golden bullet, where the instruction is to produce content that is all of the following:
- pitched squarely at your niche
- includes your main target keywords
- aimed at a targeted, engaged audience
- highly shareable/viral
Unless you are very lucky or a highly talented marketer, it will not be possible to produce content that satisfies all these criteria, so the key is to stop trying. Instead, focus on number 3 - make sure your content is aimed at an audience that is online, engaged and achievable. This is the most important part of your strategy - if no audience exists to consume your content it will not generate links.
Your audience could be your customers, suppliers, non-competitive competitors (e.g. work in a different locality), resource centres, companies in the broader niche, or even simply bloggers.
Linkbait content ideas
Generally a blog is the best place to host linkbait as it is typically less commercial in nature, but if you do not have a blog you can simply create 'resource' pages to host your content, or even work your content into your standard page types. What content you produce will depend entirely upon the audience you have selected, your available resources and your brand/company limitations. Ed Fry from Distilled put together an incredibly thorough guide on developing linkbait ideas and strategy, which is great for ideas and brainstorming. I have worked through some straightforward 'real life' small business scenarios in the examples below.
Case Study 1: Local Plumber
Scenario: You are looking for links to help push you up the SERPs for local terms. It is important to you that any content you produce doesn't ruin your company image, and that you remain a source of knowledge and authority.
Strategy: In this instance you could target links from the broader niche of DIY. Since it is important to preserve your company image, you should probably be looking for instructional content. You could take a leaf out of the 'thought leadership' evangelists and give a bit of your knowledge away - perhaps with a 'how to' guide on how to increase boiler pressure, accompanied by a short video. You could create a series of short instructional pieces that offer everyday advice to the general consumer, that might be sufficiently useful to be linked to by DIY websites, or even other plumbers' websites from other regions.
This sort of linkbait can have dual benefits, as you might also be helping potential customers with your guides, who may then give you a call the next time they need to service their boiler (which is the type of work you wanted anyway).
Case Study 2: City Theatre
Scenario: You want to increase revenue specifically to your 'room hire' services. It is not your core business, but you see an opportunity to attract potential customers through search engine traffic.
Strategy: There is a never-ending requirement by commercial companies for stock images for their website or blog. Take advantage of all the events, weddings, conferences or workshops that occur regularly on your premises by taking pictures of the events. Presuming you can get permission to 'own' and use the photos on your website, you can set up a little resource section for each event type, load on all your best images, and release them under a creative commons license. This basically means that you allow other commercial organisations to use your images, so long as they provide attribution back to you (i.e. a link).
It is worth working through a thorough guide on how to optimize images for SEO and how to release them under a creative commons license; I would suggest this one from Michael Gray.
Case Study 3: Gift House
Scenario: Your website is product based and very commercial in nature. You see large potential in search engine traffic but don't have the resources for blogging or 'creative' content.
Strategy: Use your products as the bait themselves. Search for products through your suppliers/manufacturers that are cool, funny or shocking, which can then be pitched to relevant bloggers to write about or feature. They don't even have to be all that 'interesting', you can get away with simply useful or practical products if you are prepared to send samples out for reviews or competition prizes. You can also look to make your products more exciting by using video to animate them; even with a small budget you can make a fairly standard product jump off the page with a cool video.
By using your products as linkbait you can also generate leads or sales, and videos can offer a further talking point for sales staff or account managers. At Ideasbynet we used this concept to produce a video of one of our phone holders, which gave us a load of links and several thousand pounds worth of sales:
Hopefully some of these ideas will get you thinking in the right direction - as with any linkbuilding tactic it will be a case of seeing what works and then looking to replicate your successes. Once you do find something that works, however, a whole host of other ideas will begin to occur to you as you start to think along certain lines - the hardest part is often coming up with the original ideas and having the confidence to follow through with them.
This advice comes with one major caveat - there is no point in producing great, linkworthy content if you are not prepared to put some effort into promoting it. Check out my previous post for ideas on how to get started on active content promotion techniques.
Learn About Linkbait:
14 thoughts on “Linkbait Ideas For Small Business Owners”
Awesome advice, very good info on how to get natural links. This is something I am working on, but need to explore some of the other opportunities like contest, having software on the site, or some other resource.
All the best.
The idea is the more high-quality links to your website, the more likely you’ll experience higher rankings. Linkbait is an effective way to attract links to your website, with the collateral benefit of viral marketing.
There are definitely niches that I search for and I am bored. I think that some things are just hard to make fun. I think the 20 dollars on a hook will definitely help the boringness of it.
When you’re releasing stuff under the Creative Commons licence, do you need to approach the photographer who took the photos for you? Or do the photos belong to you if you engaged him, and you’re already using them on your website etc?
Hi Amy, good question – you need to be very careful that you own the copyright for the work yourself before you start licensing it through Creative Commons (although you should not really be using images on your site anyway if you are not the copyright owner or have an agreement in place with the owner).
This situation would entirely depend upon how the relationship between the website owner and the photographer is defined. If you contract a photographer to take photos for you to use on your website, then you would own the material. If the photographer is a third party and not contracted/employed by you, then you would need to get permission from them to use the images on your website, and to release under a Creative Commons license.
I would be up-front with the photographer and say you want to encourage your website users to make use of the images and give attribution back to your company/website in order to increase exposure to your service or product. If you are having conversations like this, I would definitely recommend getting your agreement in writing so you avoid any issues further down the line regarding Copyright law.
I would suggest reading through the licensing information on https://creativecommons.org to ensure you fully understand how the licenses work, and they also have a handy tool which can provide you with the html you would need to license your work properly, and suggests other online communities you can share your work with (in addition to publishing on your own website).
Some great ideas there, Patrick. You’re right, some niches are just not very sexy – as is very often proved by their failure to excite interest on Facebook. But there are definitely things that can be done to make your site stand out above the rest of your competitors. Particularly like your plumbing suggestions 🙂
Hi Jo, thanks for the comment (I found and de-spammed it). I think the Facebook comment is an interesting one – you see all sorts of businesses that have jumped on the social media bangwagon and tried to engage users through platforms such as Facebook, when perhaps their efforts could be better directed elsewhere. I think it is incredibly important for small business owners to make sensible choices about which social media platforms they are going to try and target. I personally see Facebook as an almost exclusively B2C platform, and even ‘boring’ B2C businesses such as plumbers are not suitable for Facebook, in my opinion.
Your other point is also very important, and probably something I did not highlight sufficiently in my post – whatever creative content you produce for your site, even if the intention is to garner links for SEO, it will have a secondary impact of making you stand out from the crowd. These days it is very easy to find a whole host of websites that offer the same or similar content, and if you can be the one doing something different then you could increase your conversion rate by simply appearing different.
Totally agree, there is far too much formulaic posting out there – both on websites and on Facebook. To survive in today’s economic climate, businesses have to have a USP and that applies as much to their online presence as to their day to day interactions in real life.
Re your reply to Amy, you’re right it is important to get your ownerships in writing when it comes to all graphics on your site. But, even then, there can be problems with people just stealing images and blatantly reusing them without permission. At the end of the day, it depends on how willing you are to enter into expensive legal wrangling… and a lot of these content thieves rely on your inertia and lack of funds to pursue them.
Hi Jo. Yep, there is always the inevitable expectation that some people will steal your images and re-use them, which is completely against copyright law. Although these days, with things such as Google Image search (http://www.google.com/insidesearch/features/images/searchbyimage.html), it is getting easier to track down such abusers.
Here is a brilliant post by James Carson on how he used this situation as an opportunity for some widespread link-building: http://www.jamescarson.co.uk/socialsearch/2011/08/22/a-winning-12-stage-hustle-process-for-link-building/
I think, so long as you can find a webmaster or website owner who will actually respond to you, simply the threat of legal action can be a sufficient ‘stick’, particularly if all they have to do is put a link up to your page.
Very well said. Linkbait is truly a good way to have more links to your website and I always believe on this. I found such great ideas here and it is helpful to me. Thanks a lot!
Thank you! I currently use your case study 2. I have so many photographs of various scenes and sceneries. I am thinking of creating a section in my blog with these pictures and just ask for a link back to my blog.
Really helpful! G +1 and tweet by me!!!
Love the examples you presented here and I guess, the best link bait of them all is to simply find out the major pains of your target market/audience and build stellar content that compels them to read more ( and trust you more as an expert ).
A shameless piece of poor link building though, “phone holders”. This is just what Google have been clamping down on over the last 2 weeks, unnatural anchors.
Good topical comment. Although I don’t agree.
I was writing about using products for link building. The product I am talking about is a phone holder, and the link goes specifically to the product that the video relates to – making it entirely relevant. It would have been unnatural if I’d linked to some landing page or something.
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