The defining traits of a linkable asset are as follows:
Unique. You need content that’s different than everything else that already exists. Every sentence doesn’t have to be groundbreaking, but there do need to be novel elements to it. This is how you encourage people to share.
Informative. Gone are the days when 500-word blog posts with generic information allowed marketers to gain traction. The bar is so high in 2020 that you need in-depth, informative content. We’re talking about 2,000-word blog posts that dig into the details and nuances of the subject matter so that people walk away feeling like they learned something new.
Visually pleasing. Even if it’s a written blog post, it needs to be aesthetically pleasing and visually stimulating. Always think through the context of social media. Linkable assets should always look good on social, since this is where most virality starts.
Shareable. Linkable assets are easy to share. You shouldn’t make it hard on people. In other words, don’t hide content behind a paywall or opt-in. Make it free and easy for people to reference.
If you develop content through these filters, you’ll do just fine. It might take you a few months to gain traction, but your content will ultimately provide the return you’re looking for.
Tactic #2: Splinter Up Existing Content
Content is time-consuming and expensive to produce. And with a limited number of ideas, it’s important that you’re resourceful with what you do have.
Every piece of linkable content you create is another opportunity to propagate backlinks from other websites to your own. Thus it makes sense that you maximize the value of your existing content.
I’ll call this strategy “splintering up” content.
When you splinter up content, you take an existing piece of rich content and you use it for breeding other linkable assets.
As you’ll notice, this blog post is already incredibly rich and shareable. It gets an A+ for being a linkable asset. But notice how HubSpot doesn’t just leave it that.
The team over at HubSpot has actually developed a free “Product Marketing Go-To-Market Kit.” There are also buyer persona templates. And if you were to look at their social media feeds, you’d probably see an array of custom graphics for a variety of platforms.
When developing content, think about the end game. Think about how you can splinter the post up to get as much value out of it as possible.
This is how you win with content.
Tactic #3: Guest Posting
Guest blog posting isn’t a novel link building idea, but it’s still one of the top strategies for earning valuable backlinks that pass the Google sniff test. That’s one of the reasons Matt Cutts, way back in 2014 poo-poo’ed on guest posting:
He is correct, if the methodology you’re using is spammy.
At the heart of guest posting is networking.
In fact, guest posting is all about networking. Success is directly correlated to who you know, how well you’re able to pitch yourself, and what you’re willing to provide in return.
To get the results you want, you’ll need to find websites, blogs, and publishing platforms that are relevant to your audience (without being direct competitors).
Ideally, you should find blogs that already have contributor programs established. Just look for links like “Write for Us” or “Submit Content.” If you can become a regular contributor with a weekly post or column, this allows you to garner backlinks and simultaneously build trust and recognition with a new audience.
Understand that popular blogs get hundreds of pitches per week. Sending a generic request isn’t going to work.
To establish meaningful guest posting relationships, you need to prove that you can add value to their audience.
Do your research on their style, formatting, and subject matter. Include a piece of original content in your initial pitch. And speaking of pitches – get straight to the point. Tell the recipient that you have a piece of content for them to publish and that you’d simply like to have it attributed to your brand.
Tactic #4: Crowdfunding Link Building
This is a unique strategy that hasn’t really gone mainstream yet – which is exactly why you should seize on the opportunity.
I’m calling it crowdfunding link building, and it involves contributing to existing crowdfunding campaigns on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo in return for a link back to your website.
The critical piece to this puzzle is finding crowdfunding campaigns that offer “mentions” or “links to your website” in return for a monetary donation.
To find these campaigns, you can run Google searches like:
site:[website url] inurl:projects + “link to your website”
site:[website url] inurl:projects + “donor page”
While Google frowns upon paying for backlinks, this is one exception that skirts the rules and doesn’t get you in trouble. And if you can achieve quality backlinks at an affordable price point, the return on investment can be significant.
Tactic #5: Reverse Engineer the Competition
While you probably don’t want to copy everything the competition is doing, you can learn a lot by spying on their backlinks.
Thanks to tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, and SEO Powersuite, you can simply plug in your competitor’s domain name and you’ll gain instant access to all of their backlinks and precisely where they’re coming from.
Using this information, you can do some reverse engineering to determine how they might have earned these links.
Was it because their content was super high quality?
Are they ranking well for a related keyword?
Does it look like they have some sort of negotiated guest blogging agreement?
If your competitor has been super successful with link building, this is a perfect opportunity to peek behind the curtain and study their handy work. If nothing else, it’ll help you see where their strengths and weaknesses are.
Tactic #6: Save Broken Links
Tree-bound kittens, stranded boaters, and broken links – what do they all have in common?
Well, they need saving, of course!
Broken links – which take you to 404 error pages that look a little something like this – are everywhere. And if you think users hate them, bloggers and webmasters hate them even more.
The problem is that few bloggers and webmasters take the time to identify and address the broken links on their web pages. But they would gladly replace them, if only it were simpler and less time-consuming.
This is where you come in and save the day.
Using a technique known as broken link building, you can identify broken links, develop useful content to replace these broken links, and then offer those links up to whoever is in charge of managing the page with the broken link.
It’s a strategy by which you take hot topics that are popular at the moment and find a way to link your brand to the topic so that you can create content that people are attracted to.
There are lots of good examples of effective newsjacking over the years, but Oreo provided one of the best illustrations when they took advantage of a 34-minute power outage at the 2013 Super Bowl to tweet out an ad that read, “Power Out? No Problem” with an accompanying image. The image, which featured an Oreo with a spotlight, read “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark.”
It’s clever. It’s relevant. And it gets people talking.
While you don’t have to be as clever as Oreo, you get the picture. The brand had nothing to do with the Super Bowl power outage, but they still managed to capitalize on what everyone was talking about. The amount of backlinks and exposure they received was better than any multi-million dollar Super Bowl commercial.
You create some sort of elaborate and humorous story that people find believable – maybe an outrageous new product or ridiculous marketing campaign. You push the story for a couple of days and slowly start to reveal the punch line.
The goal isn’t to lie to people – it’s to play an April Fool’s Day-type prank. Something that makes people laugh and tell their friends.
The Tactical Duty Kilt from 5.11 Tactical is a great example. In fact, this product began as a joke and eventually became so popular that the company started manufacturing and selling the kilt. But more than anything else, it brought attention to the company and allowed them to garner a bunch of backlinks.
Tactic #9: Try Wikipedia
While your college professors told you not to use Wikipedia as a resource in your essays and dissertations, savvy internet marketers are aware of the role it plays in modern link building.
While Wikipedia links are nofollow – meaning they don’t pack the same punch as standard links – they get a ton of visibility and can generate plenty of referral traffic.
So how do you earn Wikipedia links?
It can be as simple as editing the page, submitting valuable links to relevant pages, and hoping that they get approved.
There are no guarantees, but as long as you have quality content and the reference is natural, there’s a good chance you’ll pick up a backlink!
As you can see, roundup posts are basically long-form blog posts that curate top products or quotes from individuals within your respective industry.
The beauty of these posts is that you’re linking out to a lot of different people and brands – featuring them, per se. This gives them a natural incentive to share the post with their own readers. The result is a bunch of quality links from powerful domains.
Tactic #11: Leverage Podcasts
Podcasting might not seem like a link building strategy, but hear me out.
Podcasts have gone from an obscure niche in the content marketplace to a booming medium that attracts hundreds of millions of listeners each year.
But podcasts aren’t limited to listeners. They can also be used to reach people via organic search. This is true for a couple of reasons.
First off, most podcasts are available outside of places like the iTunes Store or iHeartRadio. You’ll often see them linked to websites.
Secondly, podcasts are known for driving people to search for specific people, products, or brand names. When there’s enough search volume, Google notices and the rankings reflect this boost.
The best part is that when a podcast host publishes an episode, they’re apt to link to their guest’s website and/or social media profiles so that their listeners can learn more. And if the episode is super popular, even listeners will share.
Likewise, you may consider launching your own podcast and uploading it to your site. Then when you interview people, you can encourage them to share the episodes. This leads to even more backlinks and mentions.
Negative news seems to rule the day, but the world can always use a little more good.
And while you should be careful doing good things just to gain PR brownie points, exposure, brand mentions, and backlinks are a natural result.
Scholarship link building – a tactic many law firms use – is a great example. It involves launching a scholarship aimed at high school and college students and banking on the fact that authoritative .edu websites will notice and link back to your website.
Don’t have the money for a scholarship? No worries.
You could also give to a local charity.
Launch a non-profit campaign.
Help a little old lady cross the street.
Okay, the last one might not be worthy of backlinks – but do you get the gist of it? When you do something good, people take notice and are more likely to link back to your website. It’s as simple as that.
Who’s Ready to Build Some Links?
By no means is this an exhaustive list of backlink strategies and tactics, but it should prime the pump.
It’s your turn to take over and develop a plan of attack.
As we discussed at the beginning of this post, you don’t need to implement all of these tactics. In fact, you’d be much better off focusing on just a two or three that you can get to work on immediately.
Don’t overanalyze this.
The best link building strategies are built on the backs of doers – not necessarily thinkers.
So, tell me, which tactic are you going to capitalize on within the next 48 hours?
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International.
He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.