Unlike most forms of marketing, which usually have a single goal, content marketing campaigns can have a variety of different objectives.
They can be geared towards generating leads and attracting new customers, earning coverage in newspapers and on top websites, or even establishing yourself or - your brand - as a leader in its category.
One of the most common marketing objectives of content marketing is link building. By creating content that's newsworthy, educational, helpful, interesting or remarkable, you can attract links from other writers and content creators that have a huge positive effect on your SEO.
Despite speculation that Google doesn’t care about links as much as it used to, links are still by far the most important factor for Google’s search algorithm. More links from high quality, popular websites remains the most effective way to improve your visibility in Google search.
SEO experts like Neil Patel and Brian Dean both agree that content marketing is one of the best ways to earn real, white hat links that improve rankings. Great content, combined with effective marketing, can earn you hugely powerful links that supercharge your SEO.
There’s just one problem: in 2016, almost every business is doing content marketing. The era of writing a short and simple blog post and emailing it to bloggers in exchange for a link or two has come to an end - to survive with content marketing in 2016, you need to do something different.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of content marketing, and how it can massively enhance your SEO, build brand awareness and drive more sales, click here to check out details on our Professional Diploma in Search Marketing.
Simply put, you need to create content that other people want to link to.
Luckily, standing out isn’t as difficult as it may seem. In fact, creating content that attracts high quality links naturally is far less challenging than it appears. All it takes is a little bit of creative thinking and the right approach to research, content creation and promotion.
Below, we’ve listed four winning strategies that you can use to write (or create, in the case of audio, visual and video) content that other bloggers, journalists and writers can’t help but want to link to!
If you’re struggling to build natural links to your website, give one - or two, three of all four of them - a try and watch as your link profile expands and diversifies over time.
Be the best in your category
As much as we may not like to admit it, most of us web users are a little bit shallow.
Given the choice between sharing “8 Cute Puppy GIFs” and “The 21 Cutest Puppy GIFs You’ll Ever See,” most people will pick the second. It’s longer, contains more content and even has a more intriguing title than the first option.
When people search for list-oriented keywords ike “ways to train your dog,” then tend to click on the longest, most detailed examples. This is because comprehensive, attention-grabbing search results achieve the highest CTR, even if they aren’t ranked first in Google’s SERPs.
One of the most effective ways to generate links is to create content that’s the biggest, the best and the most authoritative in its category.
If your competitors have blog posts entitled “10 Tips for Cleaning Your Rug” and “The 7 Easiest Ways to Clean a Rug” that rank well and attract links, create an even more authoritative piece of content by listing more ways to achieve the same goal.
This method is called the Skyscraper Technique. The idea is to build content that resembles the tallest building in the city skyline - the tower that everyone will notice.
It’s an analogy that works. Many people know that the world’s tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Far fewer people know the name of the world’s second-tallest building - the Shanghai Tower.
Imagine you’re a pet blogger looking for great resources to add to your weekly roundup. To find content that’s relevant to your audience, you search for “best dog treats” on Google and see the following results:
- “The 21 Best Dog Treats for Making Your Pet Feel Great”
- “Our 5 Favorite Dog Treats”
- “10 Great Dog Treats Your Pet Will Love”
Given the choice between these three resources, which would you link to? Since most people value longer, more comprehensive content as the best option, the first web page - which lists 21 dog treats instead of five or 10 - is the most likely to earn a link.
Below, you can see this strategy in action. The first result, with 50 examples, outranks shorter, less detailed content.
Building the tallest skyscraper isn’t just about having the biggest number in your title. It could also mean creating content that’s more helpful than the existing options, or turning a complex, text-heavy blog post into a more shareable, engaging infographic.
In a crowded market with free access, people naturally gravitate towards the best. Create the best content in your category and you’ll earn link after link while your competitors struggle to catch up.
Simplify a complicated process
The current trend in content marketing is towards longer, more detailed content. Because of data indicating that longer content ranks better than shorter content, many content marketers aim to write the longest, most detailed content in their industry.
This is often a good thing. A guide to a DIY electronics project or business process needs a lot of detail, so long content is a great fit. But it’s also created a huge amount of content that’s just too detailed, lengthy and intensive for its target audience.
Very few people will find any value in a 5,000 word guide to baking cupcakes. Even fewer can find value in a 10,000 word guide to changing a flat tire. When people search for an answer to an easy, straightforward question, they’re not always happy to find an ultimate guide.
This creates an opportunity. If your industry is flooded with guides that are needlessly long and detailed, you can stand out from the crowd and attract attention by creating content that’s short, simple and to the point.
eHow is a great example of this strategy in action. Its content is short, focused and heavy not on text, but on images and helpful video content. The content is designed to deliver its point quickly and efficiently, without any fluff or unnecessary detail.
As a result of its simple, helpful content, eHow is one of the world’s most popular websites, with an Alexa rank of 603 in the United States and almost 10 million backlinks:
This method might seem to contradict the Skyscraper Technique, but it’s actually designed for a different purpose:
- If your industry is full of short content that doesn’t adequately answer people’s questions, build the best, most detailed content you can.
- If your industry is full of long, overly detailed content, simplify and create a resource that anyone can access in minutes.
It’s all about standing out. Sometimes the best way to stand out is to deliver a long, helpful post that answers every question. In other cases:
the best way to stand out is to simplify a solution to its bare essentials and save people from spending more time reading than doing.Tweet This
Create "reference content"
You may have noticed we’ve linked to several references throughout this content to back up our key points. We linked to a page about the Skyscraper Technique to explain how it works, and to a post on Search Engine Land about the link between long content and rankings.
This is a common practice for bloggers and journalists - linking to references that contain useful information, original data or compelling arguments. Great links strengthen a blog post and give it a more authoritative feel, since every fact and figure is backed up by real data.
One of the easiest ways to passively generate links to your content is to give facts, figures and other data that other bloggers can use to back up their arguments.
This is “reference content” - content that’s designed specifically to act as an authoritative fact or statement on a particular topic. Reference content works best for link building when a topic isn’t completely agreed upon, and when data can help a writer make a more compelling case.
For example, there’s debate among marketers over whether bounce rate affects organic search rankings. As a result, whenever a marketing blogger discusses bounce rate, they inevitably link to one of the top-ranked posts for keywords like “bounce rate and SEO.”
Whenever a political pundit writes a piece about an upcoming election, they’ll link to original poll data. Whenever a health blogger shares a new ingredient or supplement that improves physical health and performance, they’ll link to a study, statistic or case study showing its effectiveness.
Even Wikipedia, one of the world’s most authoritative websites, is built around citing useful data from studies and essays. Here’s the page for content marketing, with every reference in the first paragraph highlighted:
If your content makes a compelling, evergreen point, it might continue to attract links for years after it’s published. Provide useful reference data and you’ll attract links from bloggers, writers, marketers, forum users, “facts” websites and other sources for a very long time.
Be unique, controversial and remarkable
As the old saying goes, “any publicity is good publicity.”
Since people tend to share content that’s striking, unique and interesting, controversy, from an SEO perspective, works. If you have a controversial opinion, a unique and bizarre product, or something remarkable to share, it could be a fantastic way to build links.
For many years, SEOs have been using linkbait - content that’s deliberately designed to attract attention and create controversy - to earn great backlinks from intrigued bloggers and surprised journalists.
Early linkbait was somewhat crude, as can be seen in the examples former head of webspam at Google Matt Cutts shares on his blog here. But today’s linkbait is genius, attracting links not just by being controversial, but by being unique and remarkable.
Take the website Ship Your Enemies Glitter, which earned links from the Guardian, Time and other global media publications just a few days after it was published. Or OkCupid’s politics test, which went wildly viral during the lead up to the 2008 Presidential Election:
If you can create content that intrigues, surprises, shocks, offends or inspires, there’s a distinct possibility it will encourage discussion and generate links. Just make sure not to aim for a topic that could potentially damage your brand.
What type of linkworthy content is best for your brand?
From unique and remarkable linkbait to authoritative skyscraper content, all four of the tactics we’ve outlined above can be used to create content that people don’t just want to read or view, but that people want to link to.
Of the four strategies above, which do you think is the best fit for your business? Can you create engaging reference content that people want to share, or should you try to create your industry’s tallest skyscraper?