11 ways to create linkbait with zero budget

No budget, no chance? Right?! – Wrong!

The great thing about SEO is if you are lacking in budget, you can make up for it with creativity and ingenuity.

Many ‘experts’ will have you believe that the only kind of linkbait is infographics and whilst these are highly-effective attention tools, there are also very often expensive and/or time-consuming to produce.

I’ve put together 11 ways you can really put your website on the map – attracting links and eyeballs without spending a single penny.

#1 – Create something really funny

This isn’t going to be a tactic that works for all websites and that’s a judgement call for you to make. However people by and large like to laugh and will share content that is funny. Provided your website doesn’t offend people, being funny is a surefire way to get noticed. A good strategy would be to make jokes about your own industry

As a safeguard, run your ideas past a few people to make sure you your work is funny without being overly unprofessional, offensive or alienating. Those are never adjectives you want to hear to describe your marketing materials…

The quote above was taken from a little bit of something – the portfolio of a freelance web designer ‘Dan’. He got plenty of attention on Twitter when he launched the site and look I’ve just linked to him again.

#2 – Top Lists

Producing top lists can take a bit of time to research and compile but it is well worth it because top lists are some of the most shared, most viewed and most linked to content on the web. Lists are popular because they are in an easily consumable format that allows people to scan which keeps them interested and in a heightened state of engagement that encourages them to share and hopefully link to it.

If you can find a topic that will intrigue and interest people, then create the ‘go to’ list for that topic then people are going to continue to link to that piece of content for months and even years to come.

Listverse.com is a great place to start for some inspiration – take some of their ideas and translate to your particular industry.

#3 – Create ego-bait

Ego-bait is essentially producing something that strokes the ego of the person/people/company featured. Everyone has an ego, even the players in an industry and provided you do it in a subtle fashion, you’ll escape being labelled a sycophant and scoop up a load of traffic and links in the process.

There is a clear crossover between ego-bait and top lists because a top list can also be a form of ego-bait – take for example, Holistic Search’s 30 most influential people in UK SEO . This understandably garnered interest from all the participants who were encouraging their own followers to go ahead and vote for them in order to secure the top spot…surprise, surprise; this resulted in a massive upswing in social shares, links and traffic to the Holistic Search blog.

Reviewing products and services or compiling lists of top blogs and useful websites in your niche can also be a good way of tapping into the ego of others in your industry and getting some great links and extra eyeballs.

#4 – Talk credibly about hot-topics

Google+ is a prime example of the potential a hot topic has for driving traffic and building links. I wrote a post here recently about Google+ and it has been the most viewed post here for the last week – it’s also coincidentally the one with the fewest words, required the least effort and took the least time…go figure.

In the past I have written about Twitter, the latest SEO innovations and countless other hot-topics and each post has been seen by thousands of people and shared thousands of times – whatever is hot, the effect is the same and there’s always a new topic on the scene in any industry. If you want to do the same, all you need to do is talk credibly about a hot-topic, so rather than joining the countless other “me too’s”… you could perhaps go against the common consensus or just bring your personality, experiences and insights to a review of a new service like Google+.

Successfully linkbaiting hot topics = leveraging the buzz factor and adding your own unique spin.

#5 – Give something cool or useful away for free

Creating something with zero budget means you have to make it ultra-useful or unique to make up for the fact that it isn’t in some flashy format like a web app. A great example I saw recently was Richard Baxter‘s Link Profile Categorisation tool that he’s made using Excel – it doesn’t look ultra swishy like perhaps an SEOmoz tool does but to my knowledge there is nothing else out there like this so it instantly became useful and exciting (to people like me anyway!).

If you’ve got zero budget, then you need to leverage your personal skills and expertise or the skills and expertise already within your business. Other examples include conversion rate boosting scripts and how much life insurance do I need? .

#6 – Create a comparison page

At any given moment, the internet is teeming with consumers and potential clients who are all comparing products, services and solutions. By creating an in-depth comparison page to help people do exactly that, you not only tap into some additional search traffic (because you are targeting review type keywords) but it also becomes a heavily linked to resource because other blogs and websites can send their readers there too (provided it is valuable enough).

#7 – Create a beginner’s guide

SEOmoz created their beginner’s guide to SEO which to date has attracted close to 10,000 linksĀ  for that one page alone. Yes their’s looks very pretty but the key takeaways from this example would be the substance and the format. Invest as much effort and research as you can into creating a truly world class guide that beginner’s can understand. Proper formatting doesn’t cost anything either so make sure you follow SEOmoz’s lead and break things into chapters or sections (if the guide is long enough).

#8 – Debunk myths

Yes you read that right, that’s 1.1million page views for this one post in just over 3 years! Debunking myths is a great way to get attention and flex your expert muscles on a particular subject. Debunking myths will surprise, entertain and educate the masses within your marketplace and it really won’t cost you anything more than your own knowledge and a bit of creativity.

A word of warning with this particular tactic is that debunking myths has been done badly for years. Avoid debunking myths that aren’t really myths because your linkbait will do nothing more than bore your readers. If you have to, survey your audience to get a grasp of the commonly held beliefs that are factually incorrect. Always include proof if necessary.

#9 – Run a survey and publish the results

Running surveys is a big win when it comes to content, audience engagement and SEO. This is because the inherent nature of a survey gets people involved with what you are doing so instead of being a constantly broadcasting blog you have stopped and asked the reader what THEY think – people like to be asked what they think.

From an SEO point of view, surveys and in particular the results tend to get lots of links and social shares since people love data, factoids and interesting snippets.

From a content point of view, you get 2, 3 or even half a dozed posts out of the one survey. You can announce the survey, remind people to complete the survey, publish a short snippet of the results and then drip feed the results over a period of time. Most of the content produces itself too!

Chris Garrett ran a social media marketing survey and even created a free report out of the results.

To build surveys you could use Google Docs or Survey Monkey (both are completely free solutions).

#10 – Interview experts

Interviews are a fantastic way to attract links and eyeballs to your website. If you can collar a player in your market and get them to answer a few questions for you, I can guarantee it will be a very popular bit of content. Our small business website WeLoveBusiness.co.uk has done interviews with Mark Pearson (MyVoucherCodes) and Jamie Murray-Wells (GlassesDirect) to name but a few and aside from being really well received and frequently shared, it also generated a good number of links as the interviewee themselves will often link to the interview from their website. Interviews are fun and insightful for your readers and a nice bit of ego-bait for you to leverage.

#11 – Curate a collection

Creating a collection of tips from experts in your industry is another quick and cheap way to attract links and visitors to your website. Corbett Barr over at Think Traffic did this very well when he published 17 traffic building tips from some of the world’s most popular bloggers. The focus of that post was tips that readers were unlikely to have read elsewhere and quite a few big names contributed (I suspect Corbett massaged their egos a little!). Corbett didn’t have to write anything, all he had to do was collate and curate the advice of others and he has had close to 600 pages link to that resource alone.

What have I missed? How do you attract links and eyeballs for free? Add your comments below


  1. avatar
    Mike Haydon July 31, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    As you suggested with Ego Bait, doing a mashup of some of the different linkbait ideas can also be good. Like a top x tips for beginners in (insert hot topic). I’ve found that to work very well, but if you throw in expert curation it would take it to the next level! Hmm something to think about. Thanks James. Oh and btw I’m now subscribed to your site because of the guest post you did on linkbait at Think Traffic :) this stuff clearly works

  2. avatar
    James Agate July 31, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    Good to know Mike, thanks for taking the time to visit and subscribe – I’ve got lots of stuff planned for the future…

    You are right…this stuff really does work, the numbers speak for themselves. It isn’t a magic bullet since it takes work

    That’s a very nice idea to do a mashup, may have to put something similar together for here over the coming weeks :-)

  3. avatar
    Jean August 20, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    Excellent tips. I’ll be incorporating some of these very soon, starting with the beginner’s guide. :) Thanks for the article!

    • avatar
      James Agate August 20, 2011 at 9:27 am #

      You’re welcome Jean, happy to be of service! Good luck with the beginner’s guide – always a challenging piece as it is difficult to know what to include and what level your audience are at.

  4. avatar
    David Moore August 26, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Great article James, I’ve read a number of posts on creating remarkable content and found your suggestions very useful. I also liked your post on SEOmoz which was how I came across your site. The examples that you’ve chosen to illustrate each point are really useful and I particularly liked the ‘a little bit of something’ site as it’s refreshingly frank and honest. Classic!

    • avatar
      James Agate August 26, 2011 at 11:13 am #

      Thanks David – the ‘a little bit of something’ site is incredible – so nice to see someone tell it like it is!

  5. avatar
    Mark Carter August 26, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Hi, I was about to jump up and down and say ‘competitions’ and then remembered this was zero budget linkbait. For once the recollection came *before* hitting the send button, not just after! Actually, this is a really useful collection of ideas. It would take a long time to exhaust these in any company – these are all you need – so thank you for sharing them.

    • avatar
      James Agate August 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

      Thanks Mark, sorry for ruining your moment then :-)!

  6. avatar
    M.Aswad Mehatb January 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    This is a great informative post, I was looking for such kind of info all over the web, I am a freelance graphic designer and have websites , it will be very use full for me.

    Thanks Again.

  7. avatar
    Michelle DeMarco April 6, 2012 at 3:39 am #

    James, I love these tips and I can verify that a top list is killer! By far the best traffic on my site is when I run lists…. people want concise easy to follow information and I think that lists attract more readers because they know it is going to be right to the point and be interesting!

  8. avatar
    Michael July 5, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    Only just came across this post.

    It can be difficult coming up with truly unique content, as nearly all of the lists, how to’s etc.. will have been done at some point by someone.

    I’ve only just started blogging (about my online activities), but and the most popular post I’ve had by far is how to out a business bank account with a poor credit history.

    I actually wrote the post as a side, and it’s not really anything to do with my usual conversation.

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