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Headsmacking Tip #10 - Incentivize Links

SEO digest

A very short tip, but one that has been proving incredibly valuable to all of our clients of late.

When you think about attracting links organically, the process goes something like this:

  1. What content can I create that will naturally attract links?
  2. What format should I put it in for maximum share-ability?
  3. How can I promote it to reach the largest possible relevant audience?

For the very first part of that equation, a lot of link builders and viral marketers think about things like high quality resources or the "ultimate" guide to a particular topic group. However, in my recent experience, I've seen that link creation on the part of bloggers, journalists, site owners, and social media participants is less about linking to the "best" content, and more about linking to something because they get something in return. For example:

  • Twitter users, forum posters and bloggers all like to link to things that will make their visitors/audience appreciate them and come back to them
  • Social media users want to vote on things that excite them, inspire them or amuse them (the last one appears particularly strong). The ease of consumption plays a big role here, too - the faster something is to digest and enjoy, the more Stumble thumbs, Diggs and votes it earns. More complex pieces don't earn that ability with the same ease.
  • Site owners, particular those in the SMB or personal website arena are incented to link to stories and content that backs up their point of view or re-inforces a long-held or long-argued position.
  • People everywhere want to link to things that show off how cool/impressive/important/interesting they are

Use this psychology of online participation to your advantage. If you're a:

  • Site catering to real estate professionals, rank the top real estate bloggers or top real estate agents
  • Site that serves news stories, talk about the early adopters and discoverers of content and allow them to participate and get quoted - they'll reward you in the future with loyalty and links
  • Site involved in e-commerce, reward your customers who run websites with discounts, thank-you's, and recognition
  • Site that provides B2B services, incent your partners with badges or testimonials that make them look good

You can apply this logic to almost any business or content focus and benefit from the natural links that are created. You just have to remember the web isn't "fair" and people don't link to something because it's the "best." They link because it benefits them to do so - play to linkers' egos and their selfishness and you'll often have more success than if you appeal to their sense of altruism and sharing ethos. Remember that, more and more, site owners, bloggers and social media participants think of themselves as competitors for online attention - while they will still share "great content," they also sometimes get that nagging feeling that the greater it is, the worse it makes them feel about what they've produced.

This may seem like a cynical viewpoint to take regarding online psychology, but it makes sense and it brings links, so I'd be remiss not to share. Get to work incentivizing your audience and you'll see the links come pouring in.

published @ December 17, 2008

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