Let’s face it, link building is probably the most difficult, and often, most time-consuming part of an SEO strategy. Not to forget, building links usually cost a small fortune (and they might not even give back the ROI for many). According to AHREFS, the average cost of buying a link is $361.44.
This especially makes link building a challenge for agencies working for clients.
After all, if your client is paying you for securing links, and you in turn, are paying bloggers and other websites for ‘sponsored placements’, it barely makes sense. Sure, blogger outreach is a great way to secure links, and securing a substantial amount of free links isn’t impossible but what you save in terms of money, you lose in terms of time. That being said, most experienced bloggers can sniff out SEO links from across the room.
Not to forget, as Google crawlers become smarter, the importance of ‘natural links’ is increasing everyday. Sponsored content on a blog is barely ‘natural’. If you too, have been facing similar problems with your link building efforts, it is time to stop, reflect, and ask yourself this question:
Does your (or your client’s) website have anything worth linking to?
Nobody cares about your (or your client’s) products unless there is money involved. However, these are the pages that generate revenue, right? These are the pages whos rankings matter.
This is where building a ‘linkable asset’ becomes important. Simply put, it is important to have something worthy of a link-back on your website. Once your linkable asset is drawing links, you can simply interlink it with your product pages and drive better rankings. Apart from SEO benefits, which are HUGE, there are a couple of other advantages of drawing links:
- More links build and strengthen a positive, credible and authoritative brand presence.
- More links help you expand your audience base. For businesses, it can even mean more loyal customers.
What Is A Linkable Asset?
From the audience point of view, a linkable asset is any piece of content that the audience will find interesting or important enough to link back to.
From a marketers point of view, it is a piece of content that is crafted with the intention of attracting links from other relevant websites in your niche.
A linkable asset is a genuinely valuable and/or entertaining piece of content that makes people either cite it in their work or simply link back to it because of the information present in it.
- Rich in information: Any content that contains valuable, verifiable information is always useful for people. Credibility, combined with the relevance of information is the difference between just another piece of content and an “asset”. More relevant, credible, and useful your information is, more people would want to link to it.
- Interactive: More interactive content is obviously more engaging and memorable. If your content serves a purpose, or simply engages the user to entertain them, chances are, more people would want to link back to it.
- Relatable: Humans are emotional beings and when it comes to shareability, we are more likely to share content that resonates with our views.
- Emotional: Drawing from the last point, even content that conflicts our opinion has the potential to be shared. That being said, when it comes to the emotional quotient of content, the list of options goes beyond simply creating controversy- Humour, fascination, anger, nostalgia, are all great “triggers” for shareability.
If your linkable asset contains one or preferably, a combination of these qualities, it automatically becomes shareable and will continue attracting links for a long time. According to research on 100 million articles, the following are the most shared content formats on the internet:
Let us look at each one in detail- what they are, how to create them, and most importantly, how to promote them in order to draw links.
LINKBAIT #1: INFOGRAPHICS
Our minds crave infographics so naturally, they are the most shared form of content. However, not all infographics are created equal. The quality, relevance and information in your infographic is extremely important for success. However, it is also important to remember that you can make the highest quality infographic (or any other linkable asset), but it will not get links unless it is promoted.
Let’s talk about how you can find topics that people would want to link back to. There are hundreds of articles online that will tell you how you can go about finding the right topic for your next infographic (or blog post or video) and they will also tell you the same thing:
Understand your audience, understand their pain points, doubts, questions and address them. The thing is, however, your competition is probably doing the same thing.
This, in no way, means understanding your audience is not important. In fact, what this means is you should understand your audience well enough to be able to play with relevance and create truly unique content.
This can be explained with an example:
At RankWatch, we made an infographic called “The Future Of SEO”. It’s a long form infographic that looks something like this:
This infographic talks about something the audience of RankWatch, that is, marketing managers and upper management executives, will find relevant. However, it doesn’t ever come close to talking about the services or features of RankWatch, while still offering useful information.
The idea is, to create an infographic that will be relevant to your niche, without necessarily promoting one of your products. If you are creating an infographic for a mattress company, for instance, create one about great habits that help people sleep better instead of one about mattresses.
As mentioned earlier, simply creating a unique infographic is not enough. Employ the following tactics to draw the initial attention they need to become link magnets:
- Pitch the infographic to top blogs in your niche.
- Promote it on your social media networks.
- Optimise the infographics for SEO performance.
- Submit the infographic to online infographic directories like Flickr Infographics Group and Infographic Archives.
- Include CTAs to simplify and promote sharing.
Apart from these, there was another reason The Future Of SEO infographic did well. We will be discussing the same in the next point.
LINKBAIT #2: LISTICLES
The next most popular form of content is listicles. Your audiences love lists for the simple reason that lists offer definitive information, are “skim-worthy”, and if the title is worded right, they invoke curiosity.
From the content creation point of view, lists are great because they are cheap to create and still give great results if you get them right.
When it comes to producing lists, you have a number of options:
- List of tips: For an SEO agency, a list about “5 ways you can boost your organic search traffic by 45%” is a great starting point. However, 5 ways to boost organic search is something any SEO or content writing expert working for any agency can whip up in a matter of a few hours. The trick to success, is to really dwell deep and cover the topic in detail. Here’s what comes up when I search for “best SEO tactics”:
- Three out of six results are long form lists that cover the topic in depth, and one of them is an infographic.
- Searching for relevant terms in your niche is also a great way to come up with topics. Sure, the competition for such keywords (best tactic for “niche related query”) is going to be high, but this obstacle can be overcome by:
> Looking at the top results and finding things they are missing from their lists.
> Going to the comment sections of top results and looking at questions people still have after reading the article.
LINKBAIT #3: AWARDS & TOP 10 RANKINGS
Another great way to use lists to drive links, awards and rankings are a bit tricky to execute. The problem with rankings and awards is that you need to have some sort of authority in your niche for people to take notice.
If you do have some authority in your niche, awards and rankings work like magic for building backlinks. Let’s continue with the example of our SEO agency. For an SEO agency, a list of ‘top 10 digital marketing experts’ seems like a great point to start. Once the list is live, follow these steps to drive links:
- Link Promotion Strategy #1: Reach out to the ‘winners’
Since it is a top 10 list, it makes sense to reach out to everyone you mention in the list. Most of the businesses/personalities in your list will have some authority and fan following of their own. If they notice their name (and possible words or praise) in your work, there is a good chance they will share the same on their respective websites. If this happens, not only do you get a FREE backlink from a top authority website, your work also gets exposure to a previously untapped section of your audience.
However, it is important to remember that successful people are busy and there is a good chance that they will not take notice of your list. For this reason, it is important to reach out to each inclusion in your list and let them know that they have been featured. Don’t make the message too fancy, simply inform them of the feature and suggest them to include the same on the “awards” section of their website, if they have one.
- Link Promotion Strategy #2: Reach out to the audiences of the winners
If you cannot get the “celebrities” in your list to give you a link back or a mention, this is the next best thing. Target THEIR audiences through paid ads on social media and inform them about the feature. If someone loves the work of the person featured in your list, they will surely be curious and would want to take a look. Chances are, some of these users will also share your content, bringing you additional traffic. Moreover, if any of these people would want to recommend a good list of experts to follow, they will link back to your work.
While lists may come in second in terms of popularity, they have the most consistent month-to-month performance. This makes list especially advantageous. Combine this with the ease of making a list, and you have a great content marketing tactic that you can use and test periodically to drive better results eventually, if not instantly.
LINKBAIT #4: GUIDES
Guides, or more specifically, “exhaustive guides” to relevant topics are a great linkable asset. The keyword here is “exhaustive”. Such guides add genuine value to the knowledge base of your audience and in the long term, act as a resource for them. Here are just a few of the advantages of creating “exhaustive” guides:
- A well-written and well-presented guide will instantly set you up as an authority in your niche.
- Most guides stay relevant for a long time, and will keep driving traffic and links to your website.
- Well presented guides will also contribute to strengthening your brand presence and image.
Creating a guide is quite straightforward for anyone that has worked in a niche long enough. However, this doesn’t mean that it will be easy. In fact, an “exhaustive” guide is quite a challenge to put together and may cost you substantially in terms of money AND time. That being said, if executed correctly, the returns exceed the investment by a significant margin.
A great example of the same is RankWatch University. It is a free resource for marketers looking to learn more about SEO. With RankWatch University, we were able to garner XYZ links and ABC shares. We’re also introducing a guide for marketers looking to master the art of social media marketing. Sign up to the RankWatch newsletter to stay updated!
- How to build links to guides?
Promotion of a guide is pretty easy if you have really put in the work. Apart from promoting it on social media, you can approach bloggers that are talking about relevant topics. In fact, if you truly believe your guide is the best one out there, approach a blogger that is currently linking to an inferior guide and pitch them your guide.
If your content is genuinely up to date and actionable, the blogger will link to it without hesitation. Apart from this, you can also approach blogs and businesses in your niche that are not your competition. Chances are, most of them have a similar target audience that will benefit from the guide.
Bottom line, an exhaustive guide is not only beneficial for you, but for everyone else that shares it, so attracting links to a well-written guide is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
LINKBAIT #5: TOOLS
The logic behind tools is pretty straightforward, they attract links because they make a complex task easy, not to forget, if made right, a tool can prove to be an extremely useful resource to the user. A great example is the free Domain Authority checker by SEO Review Tools. The tool attracts over 4,000 backlinks from several high domain websites.
The reason this tool has so many links is pretty obvious, if you are someone that only wants to check the Domain Authority of website, you wouldn’t want to sign up for an expensive software service that also tells you a lot of other information about a website. When only DA is relevant to you, this tool will do the job for free.
Building a tool, just like building a guide, can be an expensive affair. You will most definitely have to hire a coder and a web developer for the same, which can be pricey, depending on the complexity of the tool you are trying to create.
Similar to all other linkable assets, a tool will not be able to attract any links until it gains some visibility. Since your tool serves a specific purpose, the initial promotion part is pretty straightforward. There are two ways you can promote your tools:
- Promotion Strategy: Reach Out To Bloggers That May Find Your Tool Interesting
Think about the DA checker tool. Anyone the engages in guest blogging will find the tool extremely useful. So the person that built a DA checking tool will simply reach out to bloggers that talk about guest posting as a way of building backlinks. A simple Google search will shed light on hundreds of such article. All that will be left to do after, is to simply reach out to these bloggers and make them aware of your tool. If the tool is good, which in this case, is true, it will start attracting backlinks in no time. Apart from this strategy, you can also use low-cost PPC campaigns on social media to promote your tool to targeted audiences with little investment.
How To Make Sure Your Backlink-Generating Resources Perform Well?
Building linkable assets is one thing, and making sure they get the initial attention they deserve is a whole other task. Unless people, search engines, influencers, and bloggers don’t learn about your extremely useful asset, it remains just another piece of content in the vast expanse of the internet. Moreover, only promoting the asset you have built is not enough, it is also important to ensure that it is being associated with your brand. While the above content does talk about the basic strategies you can employ to promote different kind of linkable assets, there are certain basic promotion techniques that are common to all of them.
- Outreach: Reaching out to relevant bloggers in your niche that may find your linkable asset useful is probably the easiest way to gain exposure in front of a large audience. One simple mention or link back to your asset on any blog will directly mean that a significant portion of their audience now knows about your content/tool.
- Optimise for search: If your linkable asset is not indexed, the search engines will not find it, and all the backlinking will go in vain. Make sure your on-page optimisation is in place, and the newly created asset is part of your XML sitemap.
- Brand all content: Making sure you include your brand name and logos in your work is of critical importance to your brand value. The ultimate objective of any marketing activity, apart from sales, is to establish a positive brand value for your business. When people come across your logo on a piece of content or infographic they find useful, your brand will register itself as an authority figure in their minds.
- Include CTA: Including a CTA, which in this case, would be a “share” button is extremely important. Unless the CTA is there, the user will simply go through your content and leave your website. Keep in mind, the “CTA is the tipping point between a bounce and a conversion”.
- Interlink to your product pages: Strategic interlinking offers dual advantages. Firstly, it supplies link juice to your product pages. As mentioned earlier, people rarely link to product pages, so interlinking will help your product pages achieve better rankings and give your website a boost in traffic. Next, by smartly linking to your product pages in your content, you will be able to intrigue users into visiting them. The search terms your content ranks for will usually be middle-of-the-funnel terms. At this stage, your audience simply need a little push in the right direction to make them start considering a purchase.
Creating linkable assets is hands down the best strategy for getting natural and high-quality backlinks to your website. Sure, they require a significant amount of effort, and sometimes, money to create, but if done right, it is all worth the trouble.