Beyond “Great Content,” How to Be a Link Magnet

It feels good to be back at Search Engine Strategies 2010 New York. I was white-knuckled on the flight in but the embarrassing sobs and childish screams were all worth it to come fraternize with you search folk in the city that never sleeps.

The first session of the day in the Search on the Edge Track was “How To Become A Link Magnet.” The session was brimming with insight from industry thought leaders, Jennifer Slegg, CEO,, Rand Fishkin CEO,, and Aaron Kahlow, Chairman & Founder, Online Marketing Summit with moderator Greg Jarboe, President & Co-Founder, SEO-PR.

Jennifer Slegg is the first to approach the intermittently spaztastic microphone. She’ll be speaking about the building blocks of link magnetism and what needs to be in place in order to be a link magnet.

First of all, what is your motivation for being a link magnet? Is it to boost your organic prominence? Is it to place yourself in front of potential clients? Maybe its to be an online rockstar or to gain recognition. Identifying your motivation for becoming a link magnet influences how you go about presenting your brand and message.

Next, how do you want to project your brand? Are you going to brand your personal name, handle or will you go with the company name?

Personal Name
If your name is John Smith your going to need a hell of a lot more than killer content, good looks and a prayer to build a unique identity! Do the groundwork and make certain that you stand a chance. This was the exact reason I chose to brand myself as Manny Rivas rather than Manuel Rivas, well, that and everybody knows me as Manny.

If its a handle you’re going after, search it first. Is anyone else using it? Has it been used in the past and if so, what type of content did they publish? Make sure if you are marketing in multiple countries the handle you choose does not have a negative double meaning in one of your markets. Something that could be totally benign in the US could have a very different meaning in the UK.

Every audience has a different social media playground. Its important to make sure your desired handle will be available for the jungle gyms you’re going to be hanging out in. Lastly, make sure the handle doesn’t narrow your focus too much. If you go with @ppcthug, your persona will be cornered, making it difficult to extend your war out of the PPC turf.

Company Name
If the decision is to brand under the company name, realize that you and the company brand are forever merged. This may present company marketing conflicts if in the future you hire a community manager or decide to sell the company. The benefit of this method however is instant branding.

Setting the Groundwork
Whatever name you go with, be sure to register it everywhere. Jennifer is an advocate of this and advises the audience to stay abreast of new social communities that are emerging; pay special attention to communities that surround your industry. This process is easy if you know Knowem.

“Adding a blog when you’re doing personal branding is a no brainer. Everyone should be doing it.”

What Kind of Personality Do You Want to Project? Jennifer covers four main types of online personalities to brand to.

Helpful/Informative Expert: Cruise Linkedin, Yahoo!, Twitter and forums and answer questions surrounding your area of expertise. Tap into your physical community and pursue local speaking engagements.

This is a tricky area. Take a popular industry topic that everybody is raving about and show (in a purely defensible way of course) HOW its not as great as its been chalked up to be. Tread carefully though, you don’t want to pigeon hole yourself as being anti-(topic here).

The Jerk
This personality type is very difficult to pull off. These personalities get noticed and can be extremely popular for their reputation. In some instances it can prevent you from being seen as an authority figure and some companies may perceive you to be a loose cannon.

Getting Others to Build Your Brand for You
Its best to be transparent here. If you are going to have others publishing tweets under your brand name, make sure they signify who’s on deck. Jennifer references the example of Guy Kawasaki and the backlash he received for having members of his staff ghost tweet under his handle.

Next to take the stage is Rand Fishkin. He begins by giving a break down of the past few generations of SEO and getting linking. First it was direct contact to webmasters, then it moved to blogging and forums (the first social media), then once people figured out how to mechanize blog spam, we arrived at social media. Now we’re on the verge of a new generation.

Link Bait VS. Link Magnets
This new era has ushered in a new paradigm surrounding linking. First off there is a distinct difference between link bait and link magnets. Link bait is really content that is built to attract links and not necessarily reward their creation. Link magnets on the other hand, emotionally or psychologically reward the person linking, creating a fundamental incentive.

The Web has Become Jaded

The way that people share links is different now. Not but a few years ago, if Rand published a stellar blog post, he’d stand to receive 50 possibly even 100 links. Now, the amount of links published is far less but he sees anywhere from 500-2000 Tweets and Facebook status updates. Baller! Gone are the days of trying your darnedest to get on top of Digg. People have become extremely sensitive and suspicious to link bait.

“Its like the fish have figured out there’s a hook attached to the worm.”

There needs to be an emotional and obvious hook. 
Instead of taking the worm and getting a nice rusty tetanus ridden hook, you take the hook and get what you bit for. So we have go beyond link bait. People are still ready and willing to link when it benefits them. Rand gives some examples of how savvy marketers are rewarding linkers in non-financial ways to garner links.

The Yelp Badge
Transferring the window cling idea online, Yelp decided to give restaurants with high reviews a badge to put on their site. Restaurants welcomed the badges as a citation to their exquisite dining experience. The “cha-ching” for Yelp came from the link back to the restaurants profile, the neighborhood their in, and the home page on beautiful anchor text.

Ingredients in Link Magnet Soup
Unfortunately great content does not earn links or inherently rank well. This isn’t the way content works on the web, its all about branding and marketing content properly. Get your bowls ready kids, Rand dishes out some of his Link Magnet Soup one ingredient at a time.

– 1 cup rewarding content – satisfaction
– 2 tbsp “something that makes em feel good”
– a dash of utility
– 1 can of efficiency and effectiveness
– A whole bunch of strategy

Last up, but certainly not least, Aaron Kahlow. He takes a different approach to his portion and shares his thoughts, in a bullet point sort of way, on being a link magnet and what that really means.

  • Content – If you don’t have content that’s interesting, engaging, controversial or timely…forget-a-bout-it!
  • Persona – Decide who you are what you want to be and get comfortable with it. Once you decide you need to commit, be consistent and be comfortable with who you are.
  • Social – Every time you’re writing a headline, think about how it can be shared. Is it something your constituents would want to pass along?
  • Think about your friends – Hang out with the link magnets. Keep good company in who you link to, and why you link to them.

Aaron’s Take-aways

  • Decide who your target market is and then address them. If your audience is not geek you can’t geek out.
  • Make sharing easy. Make the ability to share your content the easiest thing to do when they come to that page.
  • Create a blog.
  • Decide what kind of magnet you want to be.

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