Link building, or link outreach as it seems to be more commonly known these days, is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks faced by many SEOs. That’s because it’s time-consuming and often thankless. You tend to get far more rejections than you do successes and it can be a super-frustrating way to spend a day.
It can be better though.
Instead of treating link outreach (link building seems to have some negative connotations) as a one-off project, think of it more as a continuous process.
This is a common process we see when it comes to link outreach:
- Research piece of content
- Write content
- Outreach content to relevant websites
- The end.
It seems really easy to generate a list of potential sites who may be interested in linking out to your piece of content and then dropping them an email and maybe a follow up to see if they would be interested in linking to your content. In reality, this technique is doomed to failure.
Successful link outreach is about continually looking for opportunities to get a link back to your content. Looking for new, relevant sites and articles that may be interested in linking to your awesome content should never stop. You can learn more about sustainable link outreach in this awesome Whiteboard Friday from Paddy Moogan on the Moz Blog.
Successful link outreach starts with the content
If we go back to the list above, everything starts as it should. Researching your piece of content is the starting point for any link outreach campaign. Finding out what type of content people are searching for and researching the content that currently meets the searcher’s demand is the best place to start.
What content works for your clients?
Whether you are creating content for yourself or for clients, it’s important to understand the types of content that work the best in terms of outreach and engagement. Just because you have had success with video content for one client doesn’t mean it will work for all of them.
The reason this is so important is that creating content is time-consuming and can be expensive. Understanding what works best for you or your clients means you can provide a much better ROI on the content you are creating and end up with less ‘duds’ in your content library.
We would recommend recording the time and budget you are putting into each piece of content (including time spent on outreach) so you can more accurately allocate an ROI to each and every piece of content you are creating.
You can use a simple chart to help plot the types of content that work for you and your clients. Here is a great example from Paddy Moogan’s blog:
3 types of link-worthy content
Whilst it’s important to understand the types of content that work for you or your specific clients, there are some content pieces that seem to perform really well when it comes to outreach. Over the past four years, Digital Hothouse has worked on a wide range of content initiatives for clients across New Zealand. We have had some big hits and some flops. The flops can be hard to take but the key is to learn from them and refine your content ideas moving forward.
We don’t have many flops anymore.
From our experience, here are three types of content we have seen the most success with in terms of outreach (not necessarily engagement).
Over the past four years, the one content type we have had the most success with is infographics. Whilst we’re delighted to see these picked up by other relevant sites and leading media outlets, it comes with a caveat.
They can be extremely time-consuming to create.
Some of the pieces have taken 100+ hours of research and development, not to mention the design costs.
*This is a snippet from an Infographic we created for a car rental client in New Zealand. We identified a lot of search volume for people comparing the cost of a taxi and an Uber and decided to include car rentals in the graphic to show that it’s often cheaper to rent a car rather than catching an Uber or a taxi.
We have found a number of elements that make an infographic highly link-worthy:
- Original – this has been the biggest selling point for us with the majority of the infographics we have created. Using original data, researched by you and not available to anyone else immediately gives you a USP. Generating original data and research, however, is time consuming so make sure you consider the benefits compared to the time you will need to invest.
- Relevant – if you are carrying out original data research, make sure you keep it relevant. Creating something unique can be great, but only if it means something to the people you are targeting with your outreach. Make sure there is a demand for the data you are providing.
- Well designed – in our early forages into creating infographics, we tried to cut costs by using tools like Canva to create our own infographics. The thing was, it often took us ages to create them as we don’t have the necessary design skills and they looked pretty average. Invest your money in a proper designer and you will see much greater interest in your infographic.
2. Long-form blogs
This is one of our go-to content pieces for attracting backlinks. It’s one of the most cost-effective types of content and if you have a skilled copywriter, long-form blogs can be created in-house.
In order to be successful in attracting links to a long-form blog post, you need to invest in quality writing, provide actionable tips and provide something that definitively answers a searcher’s query.
Keyword research is the key to successful long-form blog writing. Identify topics where you know there is a lot of search volume and then create a piece of content that answers a number of related queries around the same topic.
Targeting things like Featured Snippets and Related Questions is a great way of attracting more links as well. These SERP features often drive a lot of traffic but also invite links from popular social sites including Quora and Reddit.
Here is an example of a piece of content we wrote for one of our clients based in New Zealand. They work in the tourism sector and whilst the question we answer is not directly related to their business, indirectly, it places their brand front and center for people searching for a strong New Zealand related search query:
This particular featured snippet completely dominates the search results and drives a high volume of clicks to the website. It also presents us with follow up content ideas in the form of ‘People also ask’ suggestions which we can either factor into the original post or build out new posts.
Keep it relevant
The important thing to remember is to keep your long-form blog relevant. Optimising for a topic rather than specific keyword will also present more opportunities to rank for a wider range of keywords as well as giving you more potential sites to target with your link outreach.
Videos are highly linkable pieces of content. We are now living in an age where video content is consumed voraciously by people young and old so creating high-quality video content that adds value to your target audience is a great way of engaging. It’s also a great way of attracting links.
We have found success with two main types of video content for our clients:
- ‘How to’ content – if you or your client is based in a sector where you get a lot of ‘how do I do this’ type questions, videos are often a great way to provide the most relevant answer. It’s often a lot easier for people to watch a demonstration in a 2-3 minute video than it is to try and follow a long-form page with detailed instructions. Video appeals to people who deal better with visuals rather than copy. They’re often easier to digest on mobiles as well.
- Entertainment – in a previous role at a University in the UK, we had a lot of success recruiting students by creating entertaining video content that made the University stand out in a crowded market. People love short snippet videos that entertain them. Whether you’re on the bus or train commuting to work or just sat on your sofa in the evening, everyone loves a bit of light entertainment so consider this as an option for your next content piece.
*This is an example of an entertaining video created for the University of Huddersfield which attracted a lot of media coverage and links to the University as well as the video landing page.
Video content is highly shareable on social media platforms but it’s actual links from other websites that we all crave. Make sure you create a well-presented landing page for your specific video content or create an index page with all your video content that makes it easy for websites to link to you.
Cons – most of us will need to use a third-party video hosting site like YouTube or Vimeo to house our video content. That means you can find yourself competing with these pages for the link.
Tip – make sure you include all the URLs for the third-party video hosting sites in a backlink auditing tool and if anyone links to these pages, get in touch and ask them to update that link to your own video landing page.
Link outreach is still one of the most important factors that SEOs should have included in their annual strategy. It’s definitely not easy, however, the rewards are huge as not only do you increase your opportunity to drive more traffic to your site, you also help to improve the overall page and domain authority of your site, improving your chances of ranking for your target keywords.
These three types of content are all great ways of attracting new links to your site. The amount of time, effort and money you will need to create each of the pieces varies significantly so make sure you factor this into your marketing budget at the start of the year.
My final recommendation would be to plan out your content for the year and try to stick to it. A simple format that works for us with our clients looks something like this:
- Long-form blog posts – 2-3 per month
- Infographics – 3-4 per year
- Videos – 1-2 per year
The rewards of creating quality infographics and videos are often greater than the long-form blogs, however, so is the time and cost of creating them. This balance means we make the most of our budget and resources whilst creating quality content that attracts links.
About the author: Gavin Hirst is a Brit working abroad. He is a copywriter, SEO and content marketing expert working for one of Auckland’s leading SEO agencies, Digital Hothouse in New Zealand. Outside of work, Gavin is a keen golfer and is passionate about the outdoors – hence the move to NZ! Connect with Gavin on LinkedIn or with Digital Hothouse on Twitter and keep up to date with all the latest digital marketing news and trends in NZ and across the world.