I think Brian Clark of Copyblogger sums it up best by saying “If your content isn’t good enough to attract good, natural links, it doesn’t matter how ‘optimized’ that content is.”

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an evolving science. What started out with the strategic placement of carefully selected keywords to boost your website’s placement in search results, has morphed into an art of producing fresh, relevant content that draws links.

As you can see on the chart above produced by Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz.org, on-page keyword usage is only a small piece of the Google site ranking pie while domain authority (defined by quality incoming links), specific page popularity (also defined by external links) and related anchor text account for more than 65%.

Content should not only appeal to your target audience and attract search spiders for related keywords, it should also inspire links from other credible websites, blogs and social networks.

What is link bait?

Content can be defined as copy, audio, video, downloads, widgets, images or other social objects available on a website. Link bait refers to content that is worth sharing.

Any content that especially insightful, funny, informative, interactive or valuable will draw interest and links from other websites. And amid the growing competition for attention on the Internet, the more links you get, the better.

While there has been some debate about the ethics of linkbaiting (due to bad practice by spammers), the bottom line is that everyone wants and needs links from other sites in order to rank well in search results. All major search engines determine a website’s value or rank based on the number of external websites that link back to your site. The logic behind this is that references from other sites (via links) enforce credibility of your content.

“It’s the online equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising,” as explained by the Microsoft Small Business Center.

Social Sharing

Beyond search engine results, link sharing on social networks presents new opportunities in the ever-changing landscape of content distribution. Social Media Optimization (SMO) has become increasingly important, which Brian Solis effectively explains with this very simple equation:

SEO + SMO = Amplified Findability in the traditional and social Web

Blog links, tweets, bookmarks, shares, votes and likes all fall under the “link” umbrella. It is now easier than ever for people to share information with their entire communities and social graphs. Does your content inspire them to do so?

What Makes For Good Content?

Good content always starts with your copy. To inspire readers to share and link to your blog or Web pages, you need original ideas, opinions and tips packaged with a talent for good writing. Translate features to benefits and keep your objective focused on motivating a favorable response.

Know your keywords and craft search-friendly copy that reads well and engages your readers. You want search engines to find you, but more importantly, you want browsers to enjoy and share your content.

Optimize without compromise to quality and be remarkable. Give people something to talk about …and something worth linking to.

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