5 minute read.

The psychology of the backlink.

Paul Anthony / May 5, 2009

Posted in: Archive

Why do people link? If you can work out the answer to that question, you are well on your way to website success. I’ve my own thoughts on the different types of content that work online, and why they work. People link to web content for a variety of reasons,  but for any webmaster backlinks should be your number one goal. They will define you in front of the eyes of the almighty that is Google, and provide you with the additional stream of visitors that you have an opportunity to convert into regulars.

You can think of bloggers and other webmasters as the people who are most likely to link to you -probably less than 40% of the web community at large. Everyone else is a part of the sharing process, and a potential passer of the link virus to a webmaster.

This got me thinking. Why do people share and link to content? What provokes the response.  Here’s a bit of background reading on the psychology of the backlink, and how you can apply it to your site to further your exposure.


Content isn’t king. That’s a tired mantra. Resource is king. If you can become a useful resource around a subject matter you’ll gain new links. Resources could be roundup posts, listbait or a collection of useful tools. Essentially combining a resource post, with the correct timing for a particular user, will almost definitively result in a backlink.



Tap into the desires of your audience, and work out what it is they want to achieve. How can you further their goal, and what skills can you reflect through your blog that establishes authority. If for example you run a blog about music, you should have posts in that teach someone how to play guitar. The web for many represents a learning mechanism that is both vast and deeper than any library – and the key is to work out which shelf of reference material you wish to sit on.



Think about any major product that you’ve bought online, and you have inevitably been in the position where you have needed an unbiased review of that product prior to purchase. Become the one stop shop for unbiased review type searches that needs an instant answer, and you’ll gain links. For example: WordPress verses Movable Type.



Take a more academic approach to a blog post, and do some research. Have you come across the state of the blogosphere from Technorati, or the A list apart survey. Course you have. Why? Because they are magnets for links, and go the extra mile in delivering something that people want to see year on year. If you can apply the same thought process to your niche, you will be onto a winner. Wondering how to conduct your survey? – hop over here from some web 2.o survey tools.



People love to be entertained, and to entertain others. You can learn alot from figuring out what people enjoy watching or reading. Ask yourself the same question of the content you share with others within your chosen business area. How can you recreate a similar experience, or provide one as rewarding? Images and Video content are two ways of satisfying quickly and easily a users visual needs – work out how you can use them effectively within your message. I would rarely post a blog post without an image somewhere in it – simply because it helps draw a reader in and keep them hooked.


Give Back

As much as people enjoy taking online, you can win by giving, and being philanthropic. If you are providing your content for free on your website, you are already giving back something to the community, which is a start. Competitions and free wallpaper, screensavers etc all attract links.  However people will also link heavily to good causes, and charitable organisations – especially if they feel an emotional connection to the cause. In much the same vein, you have to give links out to get links back in, which is especially important for younger sites that aren’t yet on the radar. At the very least, an outbound link will get you a noticed by that blogger within an analytics package. Remember as well that .org and .edu domains are gold as far as search engine optimisation is concerned – a common element with charity websites, and will further increase your profile.


The better seeded your  content is the more of a chance it  stands at going viral, and you can give it a fighting chance against the numerous other sites and blogs out there  by firstly promoting it effectively via the social web, and getting it in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

If you can meet at least a couple of these goals in the content you stand a fairly good chance of receiving incoming links. Some people manage to combine all six of these together into content which just screams “link to me”. This is where the big wins are to be had. What do you guys think? Why do you link or share something?

  • link seeding
  • Marketing
  • psychology
  • viral content