If you build it, [they] will come.
– Field of Dreams.
This quote gets recycled a lot to suppose a specific premise: that if you do something well enough, it will naturally attract people.
If you create an amazing ice cream stand, people will flock to buy your ice cream. If you build a baseball diamond with ghosts of great players, I bet you’ll have plenty of people buying tickets.
And if you create content that’s truly valuable, you should naturally attract links.
That’s the concept behind link earning, but the mechanics are a bit more nuanced.
Let’s explore them.
Table of Contents
The Pros and Cons of Link Earning
Like any marketing approach, link earning is imperfect.
Link earning has a few qualities that make it a valuable addition to your SEO strategy:
- Safe. If you don’t have any hand in constructing new links, you can’t possibly be held accountable for conducting a link scheme.In other words, link earning is safe.If you’re especially concerned about the possibilities of a Google penalty, or if you just want to build your SEO dominance as safely as possible, link earning could be the approach for you.
- Convenient. You should be writing good content no matter what. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy by itself, and it’s necessary if you want to strengthen your onsite authority and optimize for keywords.In some ways, it’s possible to use link earning as an incidental strategy. If you keep focusing on content quality, with some extra attention to promotion, the links should come rolling in.
- Hands-off. You’re not the one making citations, writing offsite content, or planning a long-term approach. Accordingly, link building is a hands-off strategy.You can get away with not paying anyone and spending less time building links if your strategy relies on link earning.
But there are also some weaknesses you should know about:
- Inconsistent. Even the best link earning strategies have inconsistent returns.With one article, you might earn dozens of new links.With the next, you might earn none. Even with consistent quality, it’s a bit of a crapshoot. This makes it hard to account for as the cornerstone of your SEO strategy.
- Unpredictable. You’d be amazed what some people will link to. And what some people won’t link to.I’ve had great posts that didn’t get any attention, and half-assed posts that got results. Your guess is as good as mine why this is the case, but some combination of timing, luck, and other impossible-to-measure qualities will have an influence on your bottom-line results.
- Reliant on others. Okay, so you don’t have to pay anyone to earn links—but you’re also putting your fate in their hands.If you aren’t getting momentum from link earning, you might be able to write better content or shift your approach, but there’s a limit to how much you can do.
10 Tips for Earning Links
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:
1. Create Link-Worthy Content
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.
2. Work With Influencers
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.
3. Perform Blogger Outreach
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.
4. Write an Endorsement or Review
Sometimes the best link building 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 its 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.
5. Comment on Posts
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.
6. Emphasize Quality Over Quantity
With most content marketing and social 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.
7. Look Local
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.
8. Get in the Press
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.
9. Be Original
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.
10. Use Multiple Mediums
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.
Use Multiple Channels to Get the Word Out
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 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 medias; 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.
Content Qualities of Earned Links
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.
Making the Push: Earning Links With Syndication and Promotion
That “if you build it, they will come” quote has a major caveat when it comes to online content; even the best online content can get ignored if no one knows it’s there.
For example, you can write the best blog post of all time—the most incredible, exhaustive, funny take on a popular subject—and it still won’t earn you links if nobody knows it exists and nobody reads it.
That’s why your link earning strategy will be dependent on your ability to publicize, promote, and syndicate your content; in other words, you have to make it visible.
There are a few ways you can do this:
- Social syndication. The first and easiest approach is to use social syndication; in other words, publicize your works on social media. Make a post to your followers when you have new work available, and regularly repost your older work. For this to be truly effective, you’ll have to pump those follower numbers up—the bigger your audience is, the bigger your syndication reach will be.
- Collaboration. It’s also a good idea to collaborate with other content creators. You’ll immediately get the benefit of another writer’s experience and insights mixed in with your own, but the biggest advantage comes after the post is published. If your collaborator is reasonably popular, you’ll basically get some free influencer marketing out of the deal. They’ll be incentivized to popularize the post, and both of you can benefit from it.
- Cross-promotion. Exchanging links isn’t a good idea, since link exchanges are frowned upon, but there’s nothing wrong with forming partnerships and cross promoting each other’s best work. Find some people in your industry and content creators you respect and tell them about pieces of theirs you love; they’ll likely return the favor and mention some of your best posts to their audience.
- External publication. You can use elements of a guest posting strategy to promote and support your best onsite work. For example, let’s say you’ve written a great onsite post about how to build a treehouse. You could make a pitch to an external publisher on the topic of “fun family activities,” and link to your own post as an example. Yes, this is link building, not link earning, but in the process of link building, you’ll improve the visibility and traffic of your most important posts, causing it to earn links. It’s a fantastic feedback loop you’ll want to capitalize on.
- Supplemental research. You could also suggest your content to people who are linking to similar work, or who are writing content in your niche.For example, let’s say you have that “treehouse” post, and you notice someone writing about building wooden structures for children. You can reach out to them via social media or another channel to inform them your post would be an excellent addition to the post.
These are just some basic strategies you can use to popularize your content.
Feel free to get creative, and experiment with new angles!
Link Earning as Part of a Bigger Link Building Strategy
Link earning is incredibly valuable, especially because it makes use of the high-quality content you should be creating in any scenario.
However, it’s not perfect.
The best way to use link earning is in conjunction with another, more reliable, more consistent link building strategy—and of course, effort toward onsite optimization.
If your goal is improving your search rankings, you’ll need a comprehensive, multifaceted approach. One that includes a variety of content marketing, link building, and technical optimization strategies. It’s not easy to stitch one together, especially if you’re starting from scratch, but if you commit to consistent improvements over time, eventually you’ll see the results you want.
Paid Links vs. Earned Links
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:
- Paid Links. As the name suggests, marketers pay for these links to be placed in articles, blog posts, news stories, and social posts. It’s essentially a form of advertising. You find valuable online real estate and offer to pay a price in order to paste a backlink into an article in the form of a hyperlink, citation, or reference. Unfortunately, paid links are frowned upon by the search engines and often end up looking unnatural. While building links isn’t illegal, it can still be dangerous for your keyword rankings.
- Earned Links. Organic – or earned – links involve no exchange of money or pressure from the brand that’s being linked. The content writer, blogger, or brand places these links by their own accord. Usually, earned link’s are placed because they’re seen as valuable resources to supplement the surrounding content. Google loves earned links and views them as signals of quality and authority.
Modern link building strategies prioritize building links that are natural, constructing them in a way that mimics a realistic form of link inclusion, like citing an article in the context of a guest post.
But why would you try so hard to mimic a natural link, risking a penalty, when you could just… earn a natural link?
Start Link Earning Today
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 businesse’s 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 build powerful backlinks to your site. Before you do, we suggest you take advantage of our free backlink checker tool to check your existing link profile.
At SEO.co, as an SEO company, 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!