The Secret To SEO: How To Make a Link Magnet

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Andy Crestodina

I’ve seen many posts recently about SEO and content marketing, and they all agree on one thing: quality is the key to ranking high. But I haven’t seen a good explanation on how and why this works.

It’s true that it’s the good stuff that that people link to, and it’s those links that help you rank. But quality is just half of the SEO secret. There’s still something missing.

Quality, Plus Visibility

It’s the proverbial tree falling in the woods. (Did you hear something?) Even a super-high quality tree can fall, and if no one hears it …nothing happens. A high quality post that no one reads does nothing for you. No visibility, no links, no rank.

So the second criteria is visibility. By that, we mean traffic. Yes, you can and should drive traffic through social promotion. Post it and share it. Yes, you can and should promote it through email. A blog without a newsletter is like a postcard without a stamp.

But both social and email marketing are labor intensive, and the traffic benefits are temporary. So what’s the secret to driving long-term visibility? Surprise! It’s actually more SEO.

…Equals a Link Magnet

The secret is to get the post to rank, even for a less popular keyphrase, even if it’s low on page one. If it ranks, it may stay visible for a long time. It’s like that tree just keeps falling, over and over. And if it’s high quality, this is where the magic happens.

Some of the visitors it attracts will be other bloggers. Those bloggers will love the post. “It’s so useful and easy to read,” they’ll say. And some will gratefully link to your high quality post. You just attracted a completely organic link. And that link helps the page rank higher. You now have a link magnet.

If you’re watching, you’ll see these links appear in several places:

  • WordPress Pingbacks (if it was a WordPress blog post)
  • Google Analytics Trackbacks
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Eventually, they’ll register in Link Explorer and Ahrefs.
  • Subscription-based link/rank tracking tools like SEOmoz (now Moz) and Raven Tools

Track the links over time, or just ignore these stats and go write your next high quality, highly visible post! Either way, here how it’s done:

  1. Write a great post.
    Make it useful. It should teach or help solve a problem. The tone should be approachable, in your own voice. You’ll know it’s good if you enjoyed writing it and it’s something only you could have written. Don’t be afraid if it’s long. The goal is to make the best page on the web for the topic. Go big.
  2. Give it SEO visibility.
    Don’t get too fancy. Just do your keyword research and target a phrase that isn’t too competitive. Then, follow SEO Basics, using the target phrase in the title and header. Use it at least four times on the page (you probably used it more than that anyway). Also, link to the page from a few older posts, using the keyphrase in the links.
  3. Promote at will.
    Of course, share it through social media, send it as an email to your list, and share it personally with a few bloggers or people who might like it.

Example Post: “How to Market an Event”

A few weeks ago, we wrote and published a post about event marketing. Our first goal was quality. We wanted to make it the most useful page on the web for the topic. So we did hours of research, applied all of our experience and talked to pros. We were thinking big.

Then we researched keyphrases. Here are some of the phrases we considered:

  • “event promotion tips” 36 searches / month
  • “event marketing tips” 110 searches / month
  • “event promotion marketing” 390 searches / month
  • “event promotion” 9900 searches / month
  • “how to market an event” 12,100 searches / month ← I think we’ve got a shot!

We selected the last phrase, not just because the numbers were highest, but because the competition was slightly lower than some of the other phrases. Based on our existing link popularity, our odds looked pretty good.

Next, we made sure to use the phrases in the post, following the guidelines above. Repeating the phrase happened naturally since the post was almost 2800 words.

We promoted it through email marketing and social media, of course. But within a few days, we were checking the rank, hoping for more durable visibility. Sure enough, it was ranking low on page one at #9 …and was getting a bit of traffic …then a few websites linked to it …then it jumped to #7 …then it started getting more traffic and a few more links.


SEOmoz tracks the rank for the phrase over time.

Today, this is the top ranking site for the phrase. It attracts 30-40 visitors per day and 3-5 links per week. It’s been linked to by 27 websites since it went live 6 weeks ago. It’s officially a link magnet.


Google Analytics tracks links to your website (“trackbacks”) over time.

Those links keep the post ranking high, but also lend authority to the entire website, helping us rank for ever more popular and competitive phrases.

Tip: Setting up Google Authorship will make your picture appear next to the search listing, making the post more visible in search results.

Still Not Visible in Search Results?

Try this…

  • Improve the quality of the post however possible. Add examples, statistics, details, evidence, quotes, etc.
  • Link to the post from a few other, older posts on your own site.
  • Share the post with bloggers who write about your topic.
  • Write a guest post on a similar topic for a relevant, popular blog, and link back to your original post from this guest post.

The Halo Effect of Link Magnets

If you want to rank for a high-value, high-competition blockbuster phrase, don’t worry about it. Just start writing high ranking content for lots of related topics. You first need to fill your site with link magnets. Here’s an example:

Want to rank for “chocolate cookies?” Write content on related topics, like the history of chocolate, the economics of sugar, altitude and baking instructions, and anything else useful to your audience. Make it great and make it rank on page one. The links it will attract will eventually make you more likely to rank for that more valuable, more delicious phrase.

Tip! If you’ve got a link magnet, make sure that it’s passing SEO value to your other pages through a few internal links. Every great link magnet has an internal link to a product or service page. Remember, it’s also a traffic magnet so you want to guide these visitors into your marketing pages.

How Did We Learn This Secret?

Where are these SEO secrets, these master-tricks hidden? In Google’s own Webmaster Blog and videos. This post is just a summary of their basic instructions. Google is literally asking you do this.

Quality and visibility. This is truly the great secret to SEO and content.

If you have any great SEO secrets, please leave them in the comments below.

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Comments (29)
  • Nice post! Learned some cool insights here, thanks!

  • the description makes it easier and simpler for me to understand seo. some reference sometimes confused much because of their vague premise, thank you very much for the englightment

  • Awesome ! Great mentor you are for sure! At least after now, I am going to follow google webmaster blog a little more !

  • This was an incredible read. And you write in a really awesome way! Great Teacher you are, man!

  • Hi andy again great post, I have a question that when I do guest post for a particular topic should I link back to related posts in my blog or to the homepage for SEO benefits or does the backlinks to a particular blog posts is similar to a link back to my blog ( home page or whole blog) or should I build seperate backlinks specically point to my homepages, how it affect the SEO and my blog rankings in search engines, My main goal here is I want to increase my backlinks to my blog

  • Very good information for SEO’s. I am actually doing same thing at the moment. Thanks a lot.

  • i found my answer here

  • Very nice useful & informative article for SEO’s. Now SEO is become a very hard in every part of way to promotions.  I just thinking after read this your article,  Fresh content and Social Media promotion will best.

  • What an informative article Andy, going to read the article on how to market and event now.

  • I like your statement – Quality + Visibility! YES, NO matter how amazing content or article it is…. If no one ever see that, then all reduce to ZERO. SEO & Quality content is most important!
    Visit my scoop about blogging & SEO –

  • thanks for sharing the best ways to handle seo really helpful for beginners as well as for experienced webmasters

  • Indeed, this post give me some highlight about how you can get you site up on Google? If we follow this post then definitely we will get some fruit.  Thanks Andy Crestodina

  • I’m fairly new to this so I have been researching SEO in hopes to help my business succeed.  I’m not sure if it’s better to attempt this on my own or hire a company to help me.  I’ve seen some good <a href=””>Webimax customer reviews</a>, a company in my area.  Thanks for posting, this is very informative!

  • Nice post, Andy! (Btw, I followed you here from my old post on SEP Just wanted to say hi 🙂 )

    • @Unmana Thanks for dropping by. I do remember that post! It’s such a great topic. I love to write about writing, but people often ask us how to rank, or how to get links, so I thought it was time to publish our best SEO “secrets” once and for all. I hope readers find this one useful!

      • @crestodina Thanks, and I’m sure they will — I do!

  • Some excellent points here – and you picked on two aspects that are becoming more and more important. Passing authority internally via internal context links through your own site and – one you only touch on . Co-citation. Actually adding links to authority sites on the subject you are posting about.There has always been a benefit in this last tactic – but from April 2013 I’ve seen results for pages that actively do this rise dramatically. I won’t go into massive detail here when others have written so well on the subject.
    What do you think of this as an idea? Have you tested it yourself at all? What might be the benefits of rewarding this as far as Google is concerned?

    • @Anne G Parker Hmmm… This article seems to suggest that linking *out* from your site to other sites could help you rank. Is that correct? But there’s an example at the bottom with contrary evidence. I’ve actually never seen evidence that linking out is good or bad…

  • Always well written and full of useful information!

  • You are a great teacher, you know that, right? You have this knack for putting it all together and making it straightforward. Also, THANK YOU for the highly valuable anchor text link!!! 🙂

    • @Lisa Gerber Thank you, Lisa! Appreciated. Thanks for triggering the thoughts that led to this post!

  • I’m always astonished to find people wasting so much energy looking for a silver bullet, a quick-fix, when the truth of it almost always boils down to hard work and diligence. As always Andy, great job in providing succinct guidance.

    • @SeanDFrancis Thank you, Sean! Quality rules! But every great post needs visibility too…
      Yes, if it was easy, Google would be awful. Search engines that were easy to trick died out long ago. …although I’m suddenly wondering how I rank on Lycos…

  • The Halo Effect paragraph is super valuable to those just getting started and trying to figure out what to write about. Nice article, Andy!

  • Hey Andy – thanks for this and all Orbit’s great articles. I appreciate the amount of practical information you put in each one.
    I saw this title  at the recent CMS Expo in Chicago, “Is SEO Dead? How Google is Changing Everything.” I didn’t see the actual talk, but would any insight.
    Thanks again!
    Ken D

    • @gratefulcreate Thanks for the input! Yes, the “SEO is dead” articles were popular for a while, but I think they died out themselves. Buzz and hype aside, search marketing was never even sick. It’s true that spammy SEO tactics are dead, but that’s a good thing. Blog commenting, link exchanges and directory submissions never should have affected rank in the first place.
      The tactic described above is the ethical, organic, future-proof approach to SEO. I don’t think it will ever die. Make sense? How do you approach link building and SEO?

      • @crestodina  @gratefulcreate Hey Andy – thanks for clarifying and your confidence in the direction of SEO.
        My approach to SEO so far is theoretical and based a lot on what I read from Orbit (ha!). I did have one early success writing a semi-humorous article that got picked up in Germany and led to my site getting Site Links by Google. 
        If I could ask one more, semi-related question. On Google’s keyword tool, when I search for a phrase that’s relatively precise geographically (i.e. “Glenview pizza”), the keyword tool always shows zero searches matching the phrase.
        Is this correct? Are no people searching for “Glenview Pizza” in a month or is Google /  keyword tool  not recording / displaying the results?

        • @gratefulcreate Hmm… When I tried “Glenview pizza” I found quite a few searches: 1600 / month. But this is misleading since there are many Glenviews in the world. But beware search terms like this. When I search for this phrase, page one in Google is dominated by local business listings. There are only 6 organiz listings on this page and one of them is Yelp.
          When the landscape for a phrase like this is dominated by local search results, you’ll need to do local SEO to rank, which is an entirely different ball game!

        • @crestodina thanks Andy – great stuff.

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