What’s the hardest aspect of SEO? For most people it’s building links. Or more to the point – earning them. Because hopefully you are well aware by this point that any sort of scaled link building is a no-no from an SEO point of view.
So how are you meant to earn links?
Well the easiest way is to use content marketing and to create “link bait”.
Link bait is a nice sound bite, but all it really means is creating the sorts of content that are likely to earn links. If you understand your audience and you write the sorts of content that inspires people to link to you, then your chances of success are higher.
1. Generating Traffic / Getting Known
But creating the content is only half the battle, because like it or not, you need to build yourself some sort of a reputation and get a little attention. Bloggers and other content creators are much more likely to link to people whom they already know of. This is part of the reason why persistence is so important. If you blog regularly, and if you interact with your community (via forums, comments, social media) you will increase your chances of being remembered.
2. How To Become Known
The only reliable way to become known is to be seen often. That means that you need to use various traffic building strategies regularly. Eventually, the right people will notice you. This means doing things like:
- Commenting on blogs
- Guest posting
- Socially share other people’s content
- Respond to other users
- Write your own blog at least once a week
3. Writing Linkable Content
People are more likely to link to you if they already know who you are, but that’s only half the battle. The other half is giving them something to link to. This part of the post is about that:
4. Blog Post Round Ups
I keep a spreadsheet on my computer and every time I read a blog post that is particularly interesting or useful to me, I make a note of it. Then, periodically I will write a post linking to all of the “interesting posts” I have collected.
This is a great way of showing other bloggers that you read their content; and rubbing a blogger’s ego is a good way to win their attention. If you are just starting out, try to find some less established blogs to read. These bloggers will get less attention than those “A listers” and hence it will be easier to get their attention.
You can even send the relevant bloggers an email if you like. Don’t ask for anything, just let them know you wrote a post about their post and thank them. They may link to you if you’re lucky, but even if not, it’s a nice way to start a relationship.
5. Interviews With Influencers
If you don’t have a lot of credibility you can often borrow someone else’s by asking them for an interview. Many influencers will accept if they have the time because being interviewed is fun and it’s nice to be asked.
Make sure you ask good questions and try to ask open ended questions and a few unusual ones. This will get the interviewee talking more and will make your post more interesting for readers. If you’re lucky the interviewee may even link to you from their blog.
6. Respond To Other Bloggers
Have you recently read a blog post that you agreed with, disagreed with, enjoyed but thought there was something missing? Whatever the case, why not respond by writing your own post?
As an example, Larry Kim at Wordstream wrote this post about conversion rate optimization, which I thoroughly enjoyed and which also got me thinking about the practical applications for smaller sites.
So, what you can do is you can write a long form article based on Larry’s findings and then tweeting him or any other blogger for that matter about it and asking them to share their feedbacks. If you are lucky enough, you might end up getting a natural links from the blogger.
7. In-depth Content / Guides
All of the ideas above are essentially good ways to piggy back on other people’s audiences, which is a great idea to get yourself started. But you can also create your own in-depth content. This is a strategy which is less effective for immediate traffic, but can be good for generating links over time.
The best option is to create relatively “ever-green” content and consider setting it apart from your regular blog by linking to it from your home page or creating a resource section.
8. Original Research / Analysis
This is perhaps one of the hardest things to do, but that also means that not many people do it, which means it can be very effective. The idea is that you collect your own data and create some sort of a study and a blog post to show the results.
The guys at Buffer do a lot of this and it is very effective. Check out this data-backed post about creating effective Tweets for example.
How you do this will depend on what your site is about, and this is a topic I can probably cover in more depth in another post. But for the time being, so typical ways to gather data might include:
- Surveying your existing customers
- Holding a competition (and use PPC to get responses)
- Studying your website’s analytics
- Aggregate data from existing studies
- Analysing available data (eg, SERP pages, Twitter etc…)
The biggest challenge is finding a useful way to organise the data into something useful. If you can turn the information into actionable tips and strategies then that works even better.
9. Format Matters Too
All of the tips and ideas above have been about how to create the content. But you also have a choice about how you format that content. There are many different ways to present information and different types of people prefer different methods.
For this reason, it is a good idea to try to mix up the types of content you use. By all means, have a favourite (probably regular blog posts) but try to use other content types occasionally to broaden your appeal.
10. Blog Posts
Blog posts are the easiest way to get your content out, but for that reason they are also competitive, which means that you need to be persistent and put a lot of work in to each post. My average blog post takes 3-5 hours to create for example.
11. Long Lists
Long lists are easy to overdo, but they can be very effective if you get them right. Generally, if you are going to do a list style post you should aim to make it totally comprehensive.
Infographics are a great way to display the results of data related content. They used to be more potent than they are now (since they have been overdone a little), but they can still work well if done well. Create your content and then consider hiring a designer (using PeoplePerHour for instance) to make your infographic look great.
These are basically infographics but with the focus on being instructive in nature. They essentially offer a fun way to display your classic “how to” style blog post. Again, create your content carefully and lay it out nicely and then hire a designer to add graphics and turn it into a finished product. Here’s a guide +instructographic on how to create an instructographic!
14. Post Series
Blog posts are generally simple, stand-alone content, and while you should of course link to your older posts, creating a post series can be a great way to go more in depth or perhaps to follow a story or tell a narrative.
Videos are a great way to engage your audience for a few reasons. Firstly, they take less effort to consume than blog posts, secondly not many people create video posts because most people don’t know how or don’t like doing it. If you don’t mind learning the ropes, this can be a good way to reach a new audience.