Strategic Content Creation for Link Building - Matthew Barby
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Strategic Content Creation for Link Building

Reading time: 5 minutes, 28 seconds

Everyone talks about how creating great content will get you links. This sounds obvious in principle, but in reality, this just isn’t how it works.

I’ve stumbled upon loads of fantastic pieces of content online that have come from sites that have next to no links or social signals pointing to them.

Not only that, but I’ve begun working with countless webmasters that tell me the same thing:

I’m spending all this time creating awesome content, but I can’t get it in front of anyone.

Don’t Just Create Great Content, Create the Right Content

Creating great content alone may not bring in the results that you’re looking for, especially if you’re not creating content that your target audience are looking for.

By this I don’t mean creating content around search terms that are searched for heavily. Instead, I’m talking about content that your audience are likely to link to and share.

Content meme

Image source: http://www.pinterest.com/sejournal/search-memes/

The most obvious place to start looking for content ideas that are likely to get you links is within existing popular content.

Whenever I start any content marketing campaign, I will always do a full audit of the content produced within the industry to find ways that I can replicate and improve upon existing content to get the best return on my time.

This is particularly important for blog owners.

Understanding What Your Audience Wants

I all too often see people getting bogged down on trying to create the latest infographic in the hope of gaining links back to their website, but the reality is that spending loads of cash on a really visual content asset isn’t going to guarantee you anything – in fact, most infographics end up looking like this.

This is largely due to people focusing on the format of the content rather than the actual information inside it.

Understanding what your audience want to see and, more importantly, are likely to link to or share, is much more important than making the decision of whether you’ll spend big on a cool looking infographic to see if people share it.

There are so many factors that you need to consider when planning out the development of your content. Here are just a handful of them:

  • What is the purpose of the content?
  • Who are you targeting and who is likely to consume this content?
  • Are you answering a question or filling a gap in the industry?
  • Is it an original idea? If not, what is different about it?
  • How will it be displayed?
  • Where will it be displayed?
  • How long will it take for someone to view the content?
  • Are people prepared to spend this much time viewing it?
  • When is the best time to deploy the content, and is it time-sensitive?
  • Why are you creating it?
  • Is it easy to share and link to?
  • Could there be any potential barriers to the content being linked to/shared?

This is only scratching the surface of the questions that could be asked, but these are a good starting point.

I spend a good part of any digital campaign that I work on simply gathering intelligence around my target audience in order to create content that will perform at the best possible level.

One study from Medium shows how this can be done to great effect, where they looked at the optimal length of an article on their site in order to give the best possible user experience to their visitors.

They actually found that the optimal article length for their readers was a 7 minute post. Just understanding something as simple as this could dramatically improve the effectiveness of your content.

Making Good Content Great

Some of the most effective link building campaigns that I’ve implemented haven’t been focused on producing anything truly original or new, but instead focused on finding semi-popular, ‘good’ content and turning it into really popular, great content.

The web is full of content that could be improved upon, so it makes sense to make use of it.

The basic premise of this strategy is as follows:

  1. Find content that has been linked to and shared via social media.
  2. Re-purpose and improve upon the content.
  3. Reach out to existing linking parties to gain exposure.

This simple strategy is so often overlooked, yet it can yield huge returns.

An Example within the Food Industry

The food industry is full of mediocre content (no offence, foodies – you’re not the only ones either!).

There are tons of pieces of content that are genuinely useful and full of great information, yet they lack in certain areas.

Take this page for example:

Banana pudding recipe

Source: http://www.texascooking.com/features/apr99bestbanana.htm

This particular article is a recipe for banana pudding. It’s been shared on Facebook 989 times, pinned on Pinterest 527 times and linked to from 136 URLs.

When you actually look at the page, it doesn’t exactly get your mouth watering. Instead, it looks like something I created in school after using Dreamweaver for the first time…

If this can get all of those social shares and all those links, surely a slight improvement to this could help you cash in big time.

Here are some ideas for the approach that I’d take:

  1. Draft up a similar recipe with some slight additions/variations (putting your own spin on it), trying to keep the amount of text used to a minimum.
  2. Break up the paragraphs and make it a little easier on the eyes.
  3. Get some sexy images of the banana pudding being made at different stages in the process.
  4. Add in a video tutorial on how to make the meringue.
  5. Add some extra banana desert options at the end of the post, with images.
  6. Scrap all of the above and turn it into a super duper awesome infographic – YEAH! (In case you didn’t pick up on it, that was sarcasm).

And voilà… you’ve just improved a mediocre piece of content to make it a great one.

Once you’ve built the new and improved content asset, it’s time to reach out to the captive audience behind it.

Reaching Out to a Captive Audience

The most logical place to start promoting our new and improved banana pudding recipe will be to all of those that linked to the original article.

This is where you’ll want to use a link analysis tool like Majestic SEO, Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer.

Just plugging the URL into Majestic SEO will give me a list of linking domains/pages that I can earmark as targets for my outreach.

link targets

I tend to download all of these links to a .CSV file and then upload them into BuzzStream. This way I can start quickly gathering their email addresses, contact names, social profiles, etc.

Once you’ve got all of this information, you can simply drop them an email, a tweet, a call or any other way that you prefer.

I usually email these targets because it’s slightly easier to scale in large numbers, but if I’ve working with slightly smaller numbers that are of a higher quality, I’ll tend to do a more personal approach.

Here’s the kind of thing that I’d use as a rough outreach template:

Hey [FIRST NAME],

I was reading one of the articles that you wrote the other day that talked about [ARTICLE SUBJECT] and noticed that you mentioned a banana pudding recipe on TexasCooking.com.

Well, I thought that I’d share with you something that’s sure to get your mouth watering! I’ve just put together my very own banana pudding recipe and I’ll bet you $20 that my recipe tastes even better than theirs, plus it has a ton of sexy images and a full video walk-through on how to make the perfect meringue :)

Anyway, here’s the link – domain.com/my-amazing-banana-pudding-bitch/

Would be great if you could give me some feedback on what you thought, and if you get a chance to test it out, let me know if it passes the taste test!

Hope you enjoy it.

Matthew Barby
Some Amazing Food Blog
@banana_bonanza_yeah

I always find that taking a less formal approach with this kind of outreach will result in a much better response. Keep it lighthearted and play to the personality of the recipient.

Alongside the link targets, you’ve also got all of the people that shared it via social media.

I tend to use tools like Topsy.com to find me a list of people that have shared the original content URL. Once I have these people, I’ll begin an engagement campaign to share my new piece of content with them.

Another great tool for this is BuzzBundle, which will allow you to find all of the people that shared the original content and you can then engage with them directly through BuzzBundle’s interface.

BuzzBundle

Not only that but you can run a social listening campaign to find anyone in the future that is looking for banana pudding recipes so that you can start engaging with those people as well.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, this technique can be used across almost any industry and can be incredibly effective as part of your core link building or social engagement strategy.

Just remember to ask yourself the questions that I highlighted at the start of this post before you even begin to try and improve on any content.

TL;DR

  • You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel when creating content.
  • Find content that people are interested in and improve on it.
  • Engage with your audience in real-time to get even better results.
  • Infographics are not the answer to all your problems.
Seperator

About Matthew Barby

A UK based digital marketing consultant, Matt oversees digital strategy at Wyatt International. He is a columnist for many different SEO publications, a lecturer for the Digital Marketing Institute and speaks at events across the UK.

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11 Responses

Alex

Hey Matt,

great post, and I rofl’d hard from the music meme, hahahah!

We have to diversify what we do, it’s impossible to depend only on one channel – and believe me, I know how difficult or bothersome it can get when you’ve got to produce content which you don’t love half as much.

Matthew Barby

Hey Alex, yeah – likewise, I laughed so much when I first stumbled across it.

I think people often get the blinkers on during content creation by being fixated on what they think their audience wants, but in reality, they haven’t done any research around it.

This method is one of the quickest and most logical processes for getting good results from your content marketing efforts.

AJ Ghergich

Hey Matt, what % of return are you getting on an actual email address by uploading the linking urls to buzzstream?

Matthew Barby

Hey AJ, I usually get around 35-40% of the emails this way. On top of that I’ll get another 20-30% of the sites’ contact form URL. Failing that ill get their Twitter handle from BuzzStream and take the conversation over there.

Marc Andre

Excellent tips Matthew. Your real world example makes the points clear and easy to understand.

Matthew Barby

Hey Marc,

Thanks – glad you found the article useful :)

Chris B

Interesting section on improving content. There’s so much hype around creating new and original content that it’s easy to forget that making content better is legitimate and quite helpful. Working directly with the original content creator to build on their ideas can be extremely valuable as well, providing them with feedback for their own improvement while building a relationship.

Talk Car Insurance

Great article. I see the point of pimping your content. It takes a lot of time to create it and you could take a little more time to push for a larger exposure. Smart thinking.

Antoinette

That’s better, a unique approach!

Varcity515

Aside from creating quality content, I wonder if those seo strategies before like directory submissions or link exchange and more others still works out today. I mean, other says that it helps a little to rank to search engines but I do not know how it is really helpful nowadays to building good reputation and rank high to search engines.

Matthew Barby

Directory submissions aren’t worth the time it takes to fill them in. Google understands the value of links a lot better now and the value coming from a deep page within a directory is usually minimal. That said, some directories can add value – this is usually within small niches that will actual get some traffic through from the link.

The same goes for links pages. There are loads of people that say these types of links offer nothing, but actually, if they have the potential to bring in some traffic then they could add value. Likewise, if there isn’t many links on the page then there could be some worthwhile link juice being passed through.

In terms of relationships… they are so important for SEO in the same way that they are vital for PR. Having a relationship with an influencer could lead to your content being shared by them, which in turn will extra exposure and online reach (to your target audience). This can then result in links being brought in organically. On an even simply note, having a relationship with someone could lead to an opportunity to have a link placed on their site (could be through guest posting, links pages, testimonials, etc.).

Hope this helps.