This is a guest post by Eric Gesinski who does Tulsa web design, Tulsa SEO, and all sorts of other Tulsa stuff.

Of all methods for doing solid search engine optimization, link bait is one of the most alluring (yet mysterious) methods. Good link bait will grab attention and gather links from various pages across the web, but bad link bait won’t grab much attention and will not have the SEO effects desired. Keep in mind that bad link bait and bad attention are two different things – bad attention is still attention, and for the goal of link baiting, this is still accomplishing the desired result.

photo credit: psyberartist

To get good links and grab solid collections of links, here are 3 link baiting tips to try:

  1. Strong research on a popular topic. This is especially functional if you can find a valuable topic that has yet to be covered. This is also more effective if you can be specific. For example, in a market about dog care, doing a study on which species of dog sheds the most (with actual figures, quantitative values) is something that anyone who cares about a canine impact on their home interior would be interested in. And if it’s solid information, they’d be happy to share it with a link.
  2. An instructional guide. Showing people how to do something that is not naturally intuitive is a contribution to the web that is appreciated by both humans and the search engines. The more detail that is put into such a guide, the better. This can be done for all sorts of things, from how to operate machinery to how to practice a skill. Again, being tightly specific will help – a guide on how to properly shoot a pool ball (including the proper way to hold the cue stick, with pictures) will likely get more attention and links then a guide on how to play pool.
  3. Setting up a contest or a competition. This can be of particular value if it’s set up with some sort of reward, specific to the market. Putting a competition up to find the 5 best horror stories about blind dates would be great on multiple levels. If giving something away of relevant value to each winner (free movie tickets, a free dinner at a nice restaurant), it will get good attention from people wanting to win the prizes as well as getting great reception when you post the results. Who wouldn’t want to read the 5 best stories about horrid blind dates? And as the result can also be solid link bait, you can get a double effect from putting together a good competition on your site.

But not all methods of using link bait that are known are good. Be careful about spending time on things that are not really worth the effort. Here are 3 areas to be careful with, when it comes to link baiting:

  1. Sending everything to all major social bookmarking sites. It happens a lot – some SEOs feel the obligation to send everything to, even if it’s obviously not socially “attractive”. This is not proper link baiting, and while getting a backlink from Digg is good, putting a post there on why your site is the best site on the web to learn about iPods, unless you are the ultimate iPod guru, this will not gather links. Being a little more picky about which social bookmarking site you send good link bait links to as well as making sure you submit pages that people will want to link to can make a major difference in your results.
  2. Overcomplicating things on a single page. If you go too broad with your topic for link baiting, it can be make your page less “linkable”. A page that talks about which beer is the darkest combined with what wine tastes best freshly made combined with what glass shape is best to refrigerate for root beer floats is not link friendly. Keeping pages simple and on-topic makes it easier to link to. In addition to this, it can help target specific ranges of anchor text used by links pointing to your page. By adding too much to a single page, it makes visitors less eager to pass the link love.
  3. Not spreading the word on your link bait. You can create the most incredible page in your market for a particular topic, but if no one knows about it, it will never see links. This may seem trivial, but it’s a crucial element of good link bait. Make sure people know about it. Whether you spread the word through social media, solid social bookmarking, a good combination of SEO techniques (or all of the above), you have to follow through to the end to ensure your link bait has its full effects.

One other link bait method that has both good and bad traits is using controversy to get links. This can work effectively – but it can be difficult to produce controversial pages consistently in addition to having people question the quality of your material.

If you follow these tips, you can produce link bait that is not just good for your SEO, but that can also stay friendly with the search engines by contributing quality content to the web.

And one last quick tip: keep in mind that getting negative attention (or attention you didn’t intend to get) with a link, while bad for your image, may still get several solid backlinks. Whether or not you want to get these types of links is your call, but it can still work for SEO and raising of PageRank. Just look at how well it’s worked for the (not so child-friendly) Time Cube.

Please tell us about your link bait strategies and tips in the comments below