As we’ve discussed rather extensively on our online marketing and link building blog, link building is an integral component of modern SEO. If you want to grow your impressions, increase traffic, and drive conversions, solid links are catalysts for success. But not all links are created equal – and how you achieve these links will, to an extent, dictate your results.
In the world of link building, there are a couple of basic categories. In the industry, we refer to links as either being paid or earned. (Purchased vs. organic would be another way to categorize these links.) Here’s a breakdown of what these categories mean:
While there’s a time and place for both paid and earned links, the latter is accompanied by fewer risks and more long-term opportunities for value. In particular, you’ll find that earned links yield the following benefits:
The beauty of earned links is that they grow on an exponential curve. The first few earned links can take time to accumulate. But as you earn more backlinks, your search rankings improve and your visibility grows. This further enhances your chances of being linked to in the future. So while it can be tough sledding in the early days, the long-term ROI is well worth the effort.
It’s one thing to recognize the value of organic backlinks – but how do you actually begin earning them? Well, let’s take a look:
You aren’t going to get many backlinks – earned or otherwise – if you don’t have link-worthy content attached to your brand. So it’s only natural to start by revamping your content strategy and creating content that others will find appealing enough to cite or reference.
Link-worthy content typically comes in four forms: informational, inspirational, educational, or entertaining. In order to attract links to your content – as opposed to someone else’s – you’ll need to offer something that’s unique. Original data and research is one of the best options. Interviews with leading experts can also help you gain some traction. Compelling visuals like infographics tend to be effective as well.
It can be helpful to tap your own professional network. If you know any influencers who’ve had success with link building and have large audiences of their own, this is a natural starting point. You could produce a piece of content in tandem with them – leveraging their audience to your advantage – or interview them to create your own piece of original content.
While there’s something to be said for creating quality content and sitting back and waiting for links, patience will only get you so far in this industry. You’re much better off going on the offensive and proactively tracking down opportunities.
One option is to contact bloggers that have audiences that intersect with your own. Offer to write a guest blog post and provide an accompanying pitch that’s a natural fit for their site. In return, you can usually slip in a couple of your own links.
Sometimes the best strategy is to work in reverse. Instead of trying to get others to directly feature your brand, you can feature them on your site or blog. This could look like writing an endorsement post of their products and services, or mentioning the company’s founder in a positive light.
Most brands have alerts set up that tip them off when they’ve been mentioned elsewhere. And it’s only smart business practice for them to acknowledge or link back to the endorsement you’ve provided. Thus, in a sense, you cleverly coax them into giving you an earned backlink without coming across as aggressive or pushy.
Visibility is obviously important in the realm of digital marketing. If you want to consistently earn backlinks from reputable bloggers and brands, it’s important that you make yourself known. One way to do this is by regularly interacting with them online. This can happen in the comment section of a blog post, as well as on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
At first, you’ll want to be very casual. You can just comment and mention that you like the article, or highlight something that you found useful. But after you’ve initially made yourself known and earned a bit of respect, you can then start to reference your own posts (assuming relevancy) and encourage backlinking.
With most content marketing and social media applications, the more content and information you push out, the better. With links, it’s true that the more you have, the better you’ll fare, but you’ll actually earn more links with fewer pieces of content if the quality of your content is higher. For example, if you spend as much time on one piece of high-quality content as you do on four pieces of decent content, your high-quality piece will likely attract more links than your other four pieces combined. Make an effort to emphasize quality over quantity here.
Local media outlets are some of the best places to look for publishing opportunities. Local news sites, local universities, and local government pages will all carry high authority and will be much more likely to publish your work than an equivalent national organization. Anything with a .gov or .edu extension in the URL will host some of the highest authority you can get on the Internet; just be sure to position yourself as an influencer in your community, and use that in the context of your content whenever possible. For example, you could conduct your research using a survey of the local population, or submit a news story about a local event your company attended.
Press releases are gateways to high-authority links, as long as you remember the quality-over-quantity rule. Press release submission services like PR Newswire are fantastic and relatively inexpensive, but you’re only going to get published by major outlets if your stories are truly newsworthy. Don’t just pop out a press release every time your company takes an action; instead, wait for a prime opportunity, write an extensively detailed news release, and push it to as many outlets as you possibly can. This is also a great alternative if you find yourself unable to execute original research.
It should go without saying at this point, but your content absolutely needs to be original. If your work is merely an extension or a rehashing of material that’s already in circulation, it’s not going to earn any links from reputable sources. After all, if you’ve gotten information from a separate source, why wouldn’t the reputable resource in question simply bypass you and link to that original source directly? If you want the best chance at getting noticed and getting links, conduct some original research. It doesn’t have to be a big-budget effort, but it should cover a subject that no one’s done before, or at least make some new data available.
For a while, written articles were the best way to circulate content quickly. Then, customized infographics were the undisputed kings of viral content. Today, both have fallen slightly out of practice but are still valuable opportunities given the right circumstances. Throughout the course of your backlink building efforts, try using multiple different mediums—the more varied you are, the more types of resources will be interested in your work. For example, you could run with a whitepaper the first time you syndicate your material, then switch to a large-scale infographic in round two, and follow up with an interactive video the next time you make a push.
Similar to the way you’ll diversify the mediums you use to produce your content, you’ll need to diversify the channels you use to syndicate that content. Your first line of syndication should be your brand’s social media channels, and you should use as many different channels as you can effectively manage. Every platform will have a unique audience with unique tastes, so publishing on multiple platforms will give you the widest reach. Also get involved on other content submission platforms outside the realm of social media; blogs and forums are perfect opportunities for this, as well as social bookmarking sites like Reddit or StumbleUpon.
After releasing your first few pieces of content, you’ll start to get a feel for the rhythm of the creation process. Learn from your mistakes and look critically at the factors that were responsible for your early successes. As you grow to become more of an authority in your industry, you’ll find it even easier to get your content to catch on and start circulating. On the other hand, if you find yourself struggling early on, it might be worth exploring new options in your content creation process—that is to say, rethink your content strategy entirely from the ground up.
Creating a piece of “exceptional” content is easier said than done. It takes time and talent to create a great piece of content worthy of thousands of social shares, but these seven qualities can get you started:
First and perhaps most importantly, your idea has to be original. People aren’t going to share your article if they’ve read different versions of it a hundred times before. Coming up with a unique idea can be difficult, so try taking a new angle on a previously explored subject. What new information can you contribute? What new ideas can you unfold? Original research goes a long way in making your content more shareable, so if you can, get your hands on some. It might take some extra time and money upfront, but the added benefit is that more external sources will link to you in an effort to cite your data.
Next, your content needs to be informative. It’s true that many modern memes become viral a simple image with some text pasted onto it, but achieving virality with these types of memes will not result in attracting new links. Instead, your content needs to be informative, or at least have an informative component. Again, it’s better if the information you’re providing is original, but if you’re offering new ideas or new strategies and using secondary data to back it up, the result will be similar.
Consolidating raw information and submitting it through social channels isn’t enough to attract significant attention. You’ll also need to have an entertaining component, which usually comes in the form of a light tone or a bit of humor. How entertaining your content can be depends on your brand standards, but including things that make people smile or laugh as they encounter your content will increase dwell time and engagement. You can also use a more casual voice to appeal to a wider audience.
Random facts and statistics can be interesting and entertaining, fulfilling the three requirements above, but learning about the sun’s average surface temperature isn’t necessarily practical if you’re running a B2B sales agency. Practicality is a big factor in content that goes viral, since the individuals who share the content will get credit for sharing worthwhile information. Make sure your content is practical when you’re coming up with the concept for your piece, and frame your information in a way that makes it useful to your audience.
Written content is great, but when you want to attract significant external links, it just won’t get the job done. Your content needs a visual component if you want it to circulate virally. Many times, this means formatting your information in the form of an infographic, or consolidating your information into a video. If you don’t have the resources or experience to produce one of these mediums, at least include some strong images in the body of your written work.
Interactivity is a difficult quality to build into a traditional piece of content, but the more interactive your work is, the more likely it is to be shared and published on external sources. Simply asking your followers for their thoughts can add an interactive touch to an existing piece, as can inviting others to contribute to your data. The key is to make sure your followers feel like they are noticed and appreciated.
Trends come and go quickly, and striking when the iron is hot is critical if you’re out to capture the greatest number of links. For example, if you’re working on a piece that has to do with a current event, make sure it’s published within a day or two of the original article. If it’s focused on the impact of a new technology, wait until the technology starts to increase in popularity before you release your content so you can capture the greatest number of interested consumers. The timing of your content can mean the difference between limited syndication and thousands of new shares.
If you can create a piece of content with these seven qualities, you’ll be in a prime position to earn a host of new links. Syndicate your content through social channels to earn the greatest possible initial visibility, and let your followers take care of the rest. Once done, you can monitor the progress of your efforts by auditing your backlink profile with a tool like Open Site Explorer—from there, you can easily determine your overall effectiveness, and make strategic changes for your next viral content push.
Link building takes time, effort, and a certain level of skill and familiarity with the technical aspects of the process. If you’re looking for a way to earn links for your business, Audience Bloom can help.
For nearly a decade, SEO.co has been helping everyone from Fortune 500 brands and to small businesses in their pursuit of acquiring links through high-authority content publishers and platforms. We begin by identifying exceptional content on your website and then leveraging pre-existing relationships with publishers that align with your campaign goals to drive powerful backlinks to your site.
At SEO.co, our focus is on creating high-quality, original content that’s resourceful and link-worthy. We help brands facilitate growth and build their brands using sustainable and proven methods. Please contact us today to learn more about our time-tested strategies and how they can work for you!