The dust appears to have settled on Google's recent updates and the SEO world seems to be accepting that things are changing and if you don't move with the times and roll with the punches you are going to get left behind.
Rising from that dust has been the latest tactic or strategy or whatever you want call it content marketing (include buzzwords here). Everywhere you look there is someone praising this "exciting and new" tactic, telling you that if you want to win in the search engines that you need to produce killer content/exceptional content/content that deserves to rank.
Content. Content. Content.
Why content? Because it will get you social shares, they cry. Because it will help build your name as an authority, they bellow. Most interesting (to me at least) because if you build awesome content then you are going to get the links that count.
Whilst I know that great content can get you the links that you need, there is often something missing from the posts that I see praising content marketing - they talk about the content and forget about the marketing.
If you want to get links from your content efforts you best have a plan or else you are doomed to be disappointed again and again.
So what does link building for real content entail?
It may be over simplifying a little but I tend to break it down into three areas:
Research your Niche
One of the biggest mistakes that I see is sites that have grasped the idea that content is important but then jump in blind. Doing research is key to achieving success. You need to know what is successful in your niche pre qualify your ideas so that you know that you are going to striking the right chords with your readers.
We recently looked at some of the big sites in the online marketing niche and compiled some data based on the most linked to pages on Econsultancy which we shared in this infographic:
Infographic by Boom Online Marketing
I'm not suggesting that everyone goes out and produces and infographic but collecting this data is pretty easy. Find the top sites or blogs in your niche and you collect the data with tools like Open Site Explorer and Social Crawlytics. Compare the data for a few of these kinds of sites and you are going to start to develop an idea of what works in your niche. Is it:
- Particular types of posts
- Content that is presented in a certain type of way (a graphic, mainly text, data - remember, what works for one niche is not guaranteed to work for another)
Research Those Who Have Linked
The great thing about having all data on the popular sites in your niche is that you can also use it to build up your outreach lists.
Content doesn't (very often) win on its own you need to give it a push it's the marketing part of content marketing building outreach lists (email, twitter, other) is going to be crucial to promote your content and turn it into links.
For example if I randomly take of the most linked to posts on Econsultancy from our dataset:
Run this through Open Site Explorer and you will get a list of sites that have linked to this post in the past. Mapping your content ideas to similar content of the niche leaders and you can quickly build up a list of potential sites that will be interested in linking to yours.
Using the URLs as a starting point you can collect the data that you need to build your (almost) pre-qualified list to gather outreach data:
- Important contacts at the site
- Twitter profiles
- Facebook pages
You can start to build relationships with these people before you build your content thus making it more likely that you can gain editorially given, quality, natural links.
Research Those That Have Shared Socially
You can also find those they have shared the post socially and build relationships there in order to push your content further, gain more social shares- and hopefully links.
Take the URL of the content in question and head over to Topsy and use their advanced search to find out who tweeted the content in question.
Using Scrape Similar for Chrome you can grab the twitter handles of these people and sort the data at your leisure. You now have an outreach list for promoting your content on Twitter.
Filtering Your Outreach
Phase two is the process of taking your lists of potential linkers and sharers and prioritising.
For the site data you need to be looking at a number of metrics to make decisions on who is going to make the master list:
- Site authority (Page Rank, SEOMoz metrics)
- Social media followers (numbers of followers of the site, engagement on social media channels)
- RSS subscribers
- Relevancy (how relevant is the potential site to your niche)
- Likelihood of getting a link (you need to set big goals but don't make all of your targets massive you can get lots of wins from the smaller sites)
For the twitter data you need to be looking at:
- Number of followers
- Number of following
- How often they tweet
- Last time they tweets
- Some kind of influence score (Klout and PeerIndex aren't great but they give you a rough idea!)
- Relevancy of account tweets to your niche
Filtering your data is crucial to your success. You know these sites and twitter accounts are potentially going to be interested in the content that you produce but you don't want to bite off more than you can chew!
Put your potential sites and people into buckets based on the data you collect this way you can be sure that you aren't going to wasting time contacting those that aren't going to help you spread your content.
Now comes the time to start building relationships ideally this can be done before the content is finished (you can even ask some of the influencers to be part of the content so that they are emotionally attached to the project and more likely to share and/or link).
Building the relationships that matter takes time:
- get to know what they like
- get to know what else they share
- participate in conversation
- caress egos without being weird
- share their work
- be positive above all be real
The great thing about building these sorts of relationships is that they are not only likely to share the content that led you to them - but they will start to share other things that you unleash onto the world. Although we started with a single piece of content, you will now be creating relationships that can last a lifetime. It has been said before by people a lot smarter than me
Relationships = Links
Remember though, links are a happy by product of something bigger that you create with a solid content marketing plan!
Further reading: recently my good Interwebz buddy Anthony Pensabene has covered some awesome and unique ways to use tools and smarts to connect and build relationships - I highly recommend you take a look: