How to Become a Link Magnet

Greg Jarboe, president and co-founder, SEO-PR

Rand Fishkin, CEO,
Jennifer Slegg, CEO,
Aaron Kahlow, chairman and founder, Online Marketing Summit


Jennifer Slegg takes the podium first. You can find her on Twitter, @jenstar.

Building Blocks to Link Magnetism

  • Why you should be your own personal brand
  • How you should brand yourself
  • Picking your personality
  • Running with it

What’s your motivation for becoming a link magnet? Is it rankings? To get clients? Job opportunities? Stardust? Recognition? Figure out why you want to be a link magnet because that will influence how you do it.

What’s In a Name?

Personal name vs. handle vs. company name: Jennifer Slegg vs. Jenstar vs. JenSense. How do you want people to consider you?

Personal Name

  • Is your name fairly unique?
  • Are there others with similar names? You want to avoid potential confusion.
  • You want to be a unique identity.


  • Search it first to see if anyone else is using it. If it’s a dead name, check out that person’s reputation.
  • Any similar names being used?
  • Any potential double meanings? Check all the markets you want to target.
  • Domain name available? Important for blog
  • Name available where you need to market? Industry forums / Twitter / Facebook
  • Does the handle narrow your focus too much?

Company Name

  • Company name can be problematic in that you and the company brand are forever merged.
  • Potential company marketing conflicts in the future
  • Spin on company name (e.g., GoogleGuy or CompanyCEO)
  • Remember they will always be tied together. If the company sells, those profiles might go with the business or change names.
  • Good for insta-branding or name recognition.

Once you’ve figured out what route you’re taking to brand yourself, you have to figure out where to register. Go ahead and register everywhere, and keep an eye on new platforms that come out. Set up your blog. Use a unique design and logo. It should be brandable, just as the name you use.

What’s Your Personality?

Your chosen personality is key. What do you want to be? There are four main personality types:

  • Helpful
  • Informative / expert
  • Controversial
  • Jerk


  • Great way to start if participating in forums is key to your branding.
  • You’ll end up being reached out to at events and online.

Informative Expert

  • You must know your stuff.
  • If you don’t consider yourself expert quality, start researching and learning now.
  • You will get called out if you post bad info.
  • Guest blogs
  • Speak and participate in events (online and off).
  • Answer questions via Twitter.
  • If your stuff is good, it will get picked up, as long as people know it exists.


  • Take the opposite stance on any popular industry topic. If everyone is singing praise about a company, look at the negative. If a company makes a move that everyone loves or hates, take the unpopular view.
  • Tread carefully. Reputation for being pro-___ or anti-____. People could discount your views if it appears you have a vendetta. Try to balance your pros and cons about that topic.


  • Very difficult to pull off.
  • Those who are successful can be extremely popular.
  • Get noticed but you have to live with the rep.
  • Can prevent you from being seen as an authority.
  • Some companies will avoid you.

All the World’s a Stage

  • Everything you do will help or hurt your brand.
  • Don’t become a link magnet for the wrong reason.
  • Word of mouth is a powerful tool (good or bad?).
  • Personal life can impact brand. (Ask Tiger Woods and his former sponsors.)

When getting others to build your brand for you, tread with care:

  • Take Guy Kawasaki as an example.
  • Consider posting with initials.
  • Downfalls
    • People may be upset when they discover it wasn’t really you.
    • Brand builders gone bad – hacked accounts
  • Put prevention measures in place
    • Secure e-mails / password changes
    • Contracts
    • Guidelines
    • Think it won’t happen to you? Think again.

Rand, @randfish, is up next and he’ll be talking about the new paradigm of link acquisition. Link magnets are a powerful opportunity. In the past, to get links people would e-mail requests. Then blogging came around and you’d try to get links from bloggers. Then there was blog comment spam. Later we entered the social media era of the past few years. Today, though, things are changing and we’re in a new era.

How is a link magnet different than link bait?

Link bait: Content built to bring links in
Link magnet: Create a fundamental incentive to link; either emotionally or physically reward the linker to create an incentive.

The Web has become jaded. Think back to a few years ago. A great blog post would get 50,000 links from blogs in days. Now that same post would get about a dozen blog links, but a lot more people were linking in their social networks. Bloggers and journalists, or the “linkerati,” are smelling link bait and are suspicious.

The good news: people still link when it benefits them.

Thus, savvy marketers are rewarding linkers in non-financial ways. Yelp gave businesses an online Yelp badge that has great anchor text and links to that businesses profile. This earned them hundreds of thousands of super relevant links.

Ingredients in Link Magnet Soup

There’s an idea that great content gains links. He says this is a myth. It’s about branding and marketing and the ability to sell a concept, to nudge psychologically. That’s why content that rewards is so important.

Take Flickr for example. When you upload photos, you can license them for public use. People on the Web get their photos out there and used by others, and Flickr gets the links.

An Emotional & Obvious Hook

Twitter wasn’t on SEOmoz’s most linked to domains list two years ago. Now they are. People have an incentive to link to their own profile because they want followers. If you can play to the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (self-fulfillment, satisfaction, efficiency, effectiveness, utility, safety), people will link.

Targeted Links & Anchor Text

A lot of the time when you create embeddable badges or link opportunities, you have full control of the anchor text and ALT text.

Strategy for Promotion & Spread

Unless you have a distribution mechanism, your great content won’t get links. Here are examples:

  • Vimeo: The video player looks really good. They’ve worked hard on upload speed. They allow for longer video embeds. When you try embed the video, you get an overlay that grays out the screen behind. That’s all good for users. What Vimeo gets out of embedded videos is three optimized links.
  • okcupid: They release lots of trends about what their users think of other users’ attractiveness and how often users message others. These trends are picked up by bloggers and media all the time. Virtually every company has statistical data in their niche that they can use to this effect.
  • Techmeme Leaderboard: A few hours after Techmeme released their Leaderboard of blogs, most of those blogs had linked to Techmeme to point out their accomplishment.

Next Aaron, @AaronKahlow, is going to wing his presentation because Rand went over time. He’s going to make this interactive.

He says first and foremost is having good content that’s informative or engaging. If you don’t have the content, there’s nothing worth linking to.

Next consider persona. Who are you and who do you want to be? Stick with it and be consistent, and be comfortable with who you are.

Then, think about how the content can be shared. Is this something that one of my colleagues would want to share on Facebook? Is it tweetable? Ask these questions every time and match your expectations with that.

Finally, consider who your friends are. Keep good company, in terms of who you’re linking to, and copy them. Then do better than they because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.


  • Decide who your target market is and address them. You can’t geek out if your audience is not the geek. Think about who you’re tasking with the responsibility and make sure their content will match your audience interests.
  • Share and make it easy. Retweet buttons should be front and center. Leverage things like Facebook Connect and put these tools to good use. The blog is usually the most linkable content on a site. You don’t necessarily have to create the content if it’s a supporting strategy. It can be an RSS feed of other blogs and you’ll get the link back.
  • Decide what kind of magnet you want to be. SEO, marketing, PR, chick magnet… oh wait, maybe that last one isn’t covered in this session. :P

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

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One Reply to “How to Become a Link Magnet”

Just came across this post when I was looking for a definition for link magnetism. This explained it just right for me. Especially differeniating between link bait and magnet. Thanks for that!


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