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Who will link to this?

If you’re in the active business of creating content for the purpose of gaining shares/links, are you asking yourself this question enough: Who will link to this?

Going back as recently as 3-4 years ago, link building services were at a high, because building links at scale was easy. People would buy 200 directory submissions here, spin the text of a couple of articles over there, and along with a few other less-than-white-hat tactics, you had high quantities of links to show your client on the first of the month.

That’s changed quite considerably these days. The stop-gap in-between mass web spam and the sudden daunting reality that is modern-day SEO, was the ‘boom’ of guest posting and infographics that dominated the last few years.

The problem seems to be that the industry is working at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Suddenly the directory submissions and guest posts aren’t as effective (and are even harmful to a site), and the amount of “link building is dead” articles begin to creep out of the woodwork (not helped by sensationalist headlines).

Link building isn’t dead, it’s just most of the old ‘tactics’ don’t work anymore.

Content for links?

Content is undoubtedly the best way to build genuine links (at scale) in 2015 and beyond, but with that becomes difficulties. What we now see is endless new pieces of content being created around topics that people think will go ‘viral’ and get them lots of links, but in most cases, don’t.

If you read articles around content marketing or listen to podcasts (such as This Old Marketing – which I love, for the record) the focus is very much on content strategy, and creating the most applicable content for your audience. But what about amplification and seeding?

Never-fail content promotion

One of my favourite SEO articles is by Richard Baxter on the Built Visible (formally SEO Gadget) blog. Richard talks about big content promotion and his team’s mantra of ensuring content is a success in terms of it’s goals.

Never Fail Outreach

To borrow Richard’s example:

You’ve had that “great” idea, everyone in the room agreed to it, you got the research done, you hired a designer, you hired a developer and everything looks great. The big day comes, it’s time to go live, to publish your work.

You click “publish”, and, nothing.

The solution Richard outlines is a great process for publishing content, but keeping your SEO hat on, the core question should simply be: who will link to this?

If you are planning a piece of content to encourage links and shares, then you shouldn’t be blindly doing so without doing your due-diligence.

Can you quickly find 10 websites or blogs that would be interested in sharing your piece of content-in-the-making? If the answer isn’t an emphatic ‘yes’, then it could be a sign that your piece of content isn’t going to do very well in terms of outreach when you’re trying to gain coverage.

Do your research. Analyse what people are sharing. Speak to potential target sites. See how well similar content has done in the past.

For The Open University, we at Huskies recently produced a piece of content to celebrate 30 years since the first dot-com domain name. We had identified a clear topical opportunity in advance with relevance to our goals. Before we created anything, we did our due diligence and made sure we had identified (and spoken to) the people who would be interested.

Apple 1990s website

This worked really well to get us shares (and links) above the noise of lots of other news/content that was being published by other brands across the web.

Relive the 1990s web

We can do better

Not all pieces of content that we create will be successful, and some will completely fail. There are steps we should be taking as an industry to produce the best possible ideas and content though, and not just publishing things for the sake of it.

I’ll end on Jonathan Colman’s great post from a few years ago:
We Can Do Better Than This

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  • Reply Andrew Nattan |

    Nice to see you blogging again Kieron.

    It’s definitely something I need to consider more with my SEO content. From a copy point of view, I suppose it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that if it’s well written and useful, it’ll automatically find an audience of willing linkers.

    Half a second’s thought (and however many years of experience) shows that’s not the case.

    • Reply Kieron |

      Cheers Andy! Thanks for the comment too.

      I just get a little fed up of reading “create great content” as advice for SEOs. It’s obviously good advice, but it’s only half the battle if you’re actually trying to get that content to be seen (read: shared) online.

  • Reply Andrew Nattan |

    It’s bollocks advice too. There’s so many variables that determine what is or isn’t great content, and great content isn’t automatically shareable.

    It’s vague enough to be absolutely pointless. It’d be like going to your first lecture when doing a medical degree and hearing the words “to be a good doctor, just cure the disease.”

    Oh. It’s that simple, is it?

    I’ve got a Tweet scheduled to share this tomorrow, thought it best to wait until my audience is awake!

  • Reply Tom Fitton |


    There’s way too many people out there banging the ‘build it and they will come’ drum. 9/10 times, even if you put out the most oustanding piece of content, on the most in vogue of topics, if you leave it without giving it a good push to the right audience, through; social, email, phone, etc, etc, you won’t get anything out of it.

    Link building still requires outreach, but rather than the old days when it was almost a robotic scattergun approach, you need to have aclear target and (excuse my PR speak) know how and who your going to “sell it in” too, before you go to the trouble of producing the content.

  • Reply Jeric |

    Link earning is much more powerful than link building, and having a great content is one way to do it.