Publishing amazing content as an SEO strategy has been preached over and over again, yet marketers following this strategy often overlook that you need more than amazing content to actually rank well in a competitive niche. Let’s face it, in most cases, content absent of links is still going to have trouble ranking.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not going to tell you content marketing doesn’t work (why else would I be writing right now?). You need a mix of both, but must abandon the “if you build it, they will come” strategy. After all, the Field of Dreams approach relies on content that is so good that it earns the links/rankings naturally through visibility on social media, word of mouth, email, press and public relations – which does work for some, but not the vast majority.
To put the power back in your hands, I’ve outlined a simple strategy that can help get your content the love it deserves without relying solely on serendipity.
Failing before You Begin
I figured it would be best to put this section up top and save quite a few people some time. If you plan on using great content to build links, then you actually must have great content. If your content is irrelevant, boring or downright sucks, then your ability to procure links, as well as your outreach attempts, will fail.
This applies to any form of content, whether that is written word, videos, graphics, games, image galleries, podcasts, PDFs or whatever else you may have. If it doesn’t provide unique value then you are going to have trouble convincing high quality sites to link to your content.
Note: this doesn’t mean you have to invest a ton on creating something crazy. Blog posts, when positioned correctly, can downright kill it.
If you’re unsure of what content you need to create – or should use out of what you already have – check out the below bullet points for reference, because the best content for attracting links and social shares normally has one or more of the following characteristics:
- Solves a problem
- Entertains the reader/viewer
- Fosters an emotional attachment
- Answers a question or set of questions
- Provides an expert’s opinion or research
- Downloadable or printable resource, checklist or guide
How is it Done?
The goal here is to find sites with pages that are relevant to our piece of content and offer up our content as a natural extension for their users. With this, think less about the product and more about the resource, such as: DIY tutorials, downloadable guides, PDFs, videos, etc.
For example, let’s look at water purifiers and pretend our client sells mobile water purification systems. If the client recently put out a guide on the different types of filters used in mobile water purification, then I may reach out to someone like this:
I am working with Example Company who sells water purification supplies and I’m hoping that you are open to using them as a resource.
The reason I’m contacting you specifically is because you have an amazing post on inexpensive water purification systems and my client recently put out a guide that breaks down the types of filters with positives and negatives in the systems you mentioned.
Since purity is a major concern of those interested in the systems I thought it may be a good resource for your readers.
Thanks and I hope to hear back from you soon!
Where to Search
Finding great places to share your content is relatively easy, even in the less exciting niches. Just think back to the water purification example. Who would link to a site selling water purifiers? Sure you have your mommy and family blogs, but what about people who work – or play – hard in the outdoors, survivalists, environmentalists in rainy climates, philanthropists or how about student and scientific research. Water purification sounds boring at first, but you can easily spice it up.
Just remember, you want to find sites that can use your content as an extension of their own – as you can see with the previous pitch. This requires finding relevant, quality pieces with a publisher that has the power to add links and make changes.
I wrote a post a while back about prospecting for links which covered the basics of advanced search operators, Bing and some other social aggregators; however, here I’d like to cover some great places to search that most don’t think of.
Many times, the best place to begin is ten or twelve pages deep into the search results. MillionShort does this for you, allowing you to view results while excluding the top million, hundred-thousand, ten-thousand, one-thousand or hundred pages.
You can also adjust the settings to exclude domains, which is helpful if you don’t want to see competitors or sites like Wikipedia or About.com.
FAQ Fox lets you find specific questions on Q&A sites around the web. All you need to do is input the query and sites you want to search and you’re on your way to finding link opportunities.
Also, with FAQ Fox, don’t just use this for link prospecting, but for content ideas. In all actuality, it’s more useful for content than link prospecting, but you still find some gems in here.
Dogpile is an interesting search engine that you can use. Dogpile takes results from Google and Yahoo and combines them into a, well, dogpile of results.
Duck Duck Go
If you haven’t noticed a theme yet, searching multiple search engines is a great idea, and Duck Duck Go is a great option for those looking to find more unique sites.
Similar Site Search
Similar Site Search is great for finding contextually relevant sites. Just plug in a URL and you’ll get back other sites that are similar to that one.
Determining a Good Fit
There are a few key things to determine when you’re deciding if a specific site is a good fit for your content.
Is it Relevant?
Everything is about relevancy. Yes, link metrics like PA, DA, CF, TF and whatever else you use matter; however, it doesn’t mean a thing if it isn’t relevant to your product, post or brand.
Is there a Benefit?
I’m a stickler for conversion rates, especially with outreach emails. And, if you want your outreach conversions to be high, then you had better provide benefit to the site you are trying to get a link from.
Will the Link Convert?
You want links that get clicked on. Getting clicks isn’t only for traffic, but for user-data that Google uses when determining the relevancy of the link. This means you want to find pages that actually rank and get traffic – in addition to sites that don’t hide or blend their links in with the content.
What to Avoid
One of the best skills you can have is realizing when to avoid a link opportunity. I wrote a post on this a while back on determining link quality, and, even though it’s a couple years old, it still holds true. Some of the basic points include:
Site Search Your Target
Use a site-search to determine if the site has been deindexed. This is a good starting point and be prepared to run if you see the following:
- Site is not in the index
- Tag, category and general archive pages plague the results with no real content (generally shows a duplicate content hit)
- Pages created by comment plugins rank higher than the content itself
However, while these are good tells, even penalized sites can still rank and are indexed. So continue on to the next set of checks.
Web Search Brand Terms
A regular web search for the brand term should return the homepage. There are two exceptions to this; the brand is a very generic or competitive term – as with many exact match domains – or you are searching in a highly localized environment, which may return a careers page (depending on how many in that area are search brand name + careers).
If the site is an obvious link network, avoid it. Additionally, if they are outright advertising their link network or about how you can use their link network, then run.
Other Site Quality Checks
- Ratio of ads to content
- Sites with free link submissions
- Comments lack editorial review
- Directories without an editorial process
- Does the content on the site match the URL?
- Amount of guest content compared to original content
- Site contains anything about pharmaceuticals, gambling or payday loans
Lastly, many don’t even consider the fact that linking to pages that link to you is a great way to boost your own authority. I mean, wouldn’t you rather have a link from a page that has a ton of link equity as opposed to a link from a page with no equity.
When strictly viewing links as numbers – in respect to Page Rank, Page Authority, Citation Flow or whatever you use – link equity doesn’t just transfer and stop, but flows from page to page. And, with this being the case, you’re missing out if you aren’t building links to pages that link to yours.
Now I’m not saying you should go out of you way every day to build links to these pages, but when you get a chance to double dip, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.