The Content Link-Building E-Book

The Ultimate Guide To Creating Link-Worthy Content

Introduction:

Often times as a small or mid-sized business, the most important aspect to your website’s SEO success is gaining backlinks. Unfortunately, not many people know this! Many think SEO is all about keywords when in fact, backlinks matter to Google more than ever. This e-book is designed to help drive backlinks through content marketing and other initiatives. You’ll learn how to come up with awesome content ideas, write them, and find the right websites to get links from. By the end of this, you’ll be considered a backlink superhero!

Key Concepts to Understand:

Here are a few key concepts you’ll need to understand with this ebook. These are considered to be the fundamentals of link building:

  • Backlinks: (also called “inbound links” or “incoming links,”) are created when one website links to another. In terms of SEO, backlinks are important because they represent a “vote of confidence” in Google’s algorithm.
  • Domain Authority (DA): a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.

Table of Contents:

Content Ideation

  • Topic Research
  • Find Keywords for Your Topic
  • Idea Refinement

Content Creation

  • Content Formats
  • 10x Content Elements
  • Link Assets
  • Collaboration

Content Promotion

  • Link Building Prospecting
  • The Outreach Process
  • Email Outreach Tips
  • Outreach Approach

Part 1: Content Ideation

Content Ideation Overview:

In this section, you’ll learn how to come up with killer content ideas. To start your content ideation process, you should base content and topic choices around what has already worked. To do that, we’ll need to find existing content pieces that have had success, and ultimately, emulate it.

Here’s what you’ll need to research when finding ideas for content ideation:

  • Persona-Approved Ideas
  • Keywords
  • Idea Expansion

The Content Process:

Ideation

Persona

Keywords

Idea Expansion

Content Formatting

10x Elements

Linking Assets

Collab

Outreach

1. Choosing Topics that Personas Will Love

The content ideation process begins with customer personas. Finding compelling topics to customer personas will help create interest and engagement in your article.

Use Persona Research to Find Topics

Customer personas are defined as fictional representations of your ideal customer. They’re established and supported through research and data. Personas incorporate the motives, values, and behaviors of  potential buyers, which can be used as content ideas. These are the topics that users are most concerned about and will often search answers and clarity using Google and other search engines.

The chart below is a good exercise to do to explore initial “user persona” topics.

Whether you have formal data of personas, or informal research, you’ll want to use personas through content topics that they would find meaningful or valuable.

Research Similar Content Out There

After finding persona-approved topics, it’s time to find examples of similar content pieces published online. By finding other existing content similar to yours, you can get ideas around the topic, what to include in the content, the angle on the subject, and more. It’s really a great starting point for your research, and something to keep in mind as you go through content creation. 

You can find ideas from a number of different sources:

Use Advanced Google Search Operators:

Compared to regular searches, using Advanced Google Search Operators helps explore content ideas to find more specific content faster. Here are some of the popular search operators

  • Intitle: this operator helps you find keywords in a title tag.
  • Intext: this operator helps you find keywords in the body copy of a web page.
  • Inurl: to find pages on a website that have a certain word in a URL, the “inurl:” operator can be used.
  • Site: This operator helps you see all pages that appear on Google searches.

Now that you know the basics, we can use these operators to find potential content ideas. Here are a few ways to use different types of advanced Google Search Operators:

Forums + Advanced Google Search Operators:

The use of forums in advanced Google searches can be a great way to find topics that your personas may be interested in reading. Using forums is one of the purest ways to your target audience’s thoughts on a topic. Here are a few ideas on how to use Advanced Google Search Operators with forums:

  • site:forumxyz.com “topic” – pages on a forum that relate to a topic
  • site:reddit.com “topic” – pages on Reddit that relate to a topic
  • site:quora.com “topic” – pages on Quora that relate to a topic

Competitor Websites + Advanced Google Search Operators:

Another source to consider are competitors. Using broad topics with Advanced Google Search Operators, you can see exactly the content your competitors are posting.

  • site:competitor.com “topic”

Searches by Topic:

With Google Search Operators, you don’t necessarily need to search for content pieces on specific websites or domains. There are different ways to find the content you’re looking for without a site:search:

  • intitle:”topic” – topic shown in a title tag of an article
  • intext:”topic” – topic shown in the text of an article
  • inurl:”topic” – topic shown in a URL of an article

For more relevant searches, try filtering over the past year, month or week in Google searches. This way, you can find more recent content on topics.

Social Media Searches:

Social media can be another way to explore content ideas. Chances are, when searching on social media, you’ll find some content pieces you may not otherwise see in Google searches. Here are some social networks to use:

  • Twitter – use hashtags and Twitter searches.
  • Pinterest – search for any related images related to your topic.
  • YouTube – search for related videos about a topic. Consider watching the top videos on your search. 

2. Confirm Topic Choices with Keywords

Once you found an idea, it’s time to find a keyword to use. While your main idea behind topic research is to get backlinks, identifying keywords will help drive relevant traffic through organic search. Here’s what to look for during content keyword research:

Keyword Search Volume:

  • A topic ideally should have a keyword with some amount of search volume. If people aren’t searching for that topic in search engines, what’s the point of even publishing it.

Low-Competition Keywords:

  • It must also realistically rank against the competition. Check the competition of the keywords you want to target. In addition to that, take another look at the top ranking websites.

Relevant Keywords:

  • You should try to target keywords that are relevant to your business. This may seem obvious, but in most cases, you’ll want to write a content piece that you’re an expert on, or at the very least, a topic related to the services or products you offer.

3. Idea Expansion & Research

So far, we have a persona-approved topic, and a keyword – but to write great content, we should have a general idea of what to include in the piece. What exactly should the content you’re writing include to yield great results? Here’s how to go through that process. 

Identify Top Content Pieces to Emulate

To better understand what to include in our content piece, it’s helpful to see what else is published online by other companies or publications.

Type in your keyword into Google and click on the top search results. Google’s goal is to show users the best results based on that keyword, so there’s a reason why top results are shown. By using the top results as a benchmark, we can emulate the top ranking blog posts in the execution of writing a content piece.

Gather Data for Top Content Pieces

User Engagement Data:

When researching the performance of similar content pieces, data will tell us a lot. There are social and content analytics tools like Buzzstream to help you understand the quality of the content. Here are a few metrics to keep track of:

Social Media:

• Checking the social engagement of other articles published online helps determine the quality of content, and why it’s engaging to a user. Beyond just social media likes, check what people are saying in the comments and shares – you’ll sense why people are engaging with that content piece.

Backlinks:

• Just like social engagement, it’s important to see if a similar piece of content has been linked to by other websites. You can measure the number of backlinks and referring domains a specific URL gets through tools like Moz, or Ahrefs.

Further Research of Top Content Pieces

When you take a look at each of the first few search results, be sure to note the following:

  • Content Length – is the content short or long? Often times, how broad a topic is will dictate the length of the piece.
  • Content Formatting – are there short paragraphs, subheaders, bulleted or numbered lists? 
  • Use of Videos or Images – do these exist? If so, how do they add value to the content?
  • Quality of Content – is the content quality? Is it well-written? 

Part 2: Content Creation

Content Creation Overview:

Now that we have our idea and a what we will need to have in order to be competitive in Google search result, it’s time to create a plan for our content piece. This plan will help you create a content piece that will be remarkable, and more importantly, linkable.

The Content Process:

Creation

Persona

Keywords

Idea Expansion

Content Formatting

10x Elements

Linking Assets

Collab

Outreach

Step 1: Content Formatting:

Great content formatting makes content digestible and engaging. These days, web users have a very short attention span, so great content helps users get the information they need quicker and easier.

Content Formatting Types

Here are a few engaging ways to format content: 

  • Q&A’sa great way to elicit valuable content through interviews.
  • Listiclescontent presented in the form of a list. Usually these are evident from the title of the piece.
  • Interactive Content (Quizzes, etc.) – these are content pieces that require participants’ active engagement.
  • Step-by-Step Guidesthese serve as informative content pieces, that serve to educate users on a topic.

Formatting Best Practices

In addition to these formatting types, it’s important to incorporate best practices in content when appropriate:

  • Content Length – take into account the length of high ranking search results
  • Use bulleted and numbered lists, when appropriate
  • Paragraphs are short and well-broken up, and use Subheaders to preview different parts of an article
  • Use of bolding and italics, when appropriate
  • Use of relevant internal links, and external links to trustworthy websites

These elements will help you engage readers. Well-formatted articles are the first step in getting backlinks. The more readable and engaging an article is, the more likely someone will link to that content piece.

Step 2. 10x Content Elements

A well-formatted article is the foundation of a linkable article, but in order to take it to the next level, an article should incorporate 10x content elements. 10x content is defined as content that is “10 times better than the best result that can currently be found in the search results for a given keyword phrase or topic”.

Characteristics That Define 10x Content

Here are the characteristics that help define 10x content:tc

  • Provides a uniquely positive user experience.
  • Delivers content that is of high-quality, trustworthy, useful, and interesting.
  • Is considerably different in scope and detail from other work on similar topics
  • Loads quickly and is usable on any device or browser
  • Has achieved an impressive quantity of content amplification/promotion
  • Solves a problem or answers a question by providing comprehensive, accurate, exceptional information.Elements 

10X Content Elements

In addition to the idea of 10x content, there are other elements of content pieces that can enhance how users interact with content, both aesthetically and cognitively. These elements will ultimately be the reason your users will share and link to a content piece:

Emotional

Content that creates or elicits an emotional response is likely to be shared or linked to. Consider creating content that induces happiness, awe, surprise, joy, or anticipation.

Visual

The use of visuals can help enhance the users tend to engage with visual posts; infographics, maps, inspirational visuals tend to do very well in terms of engagement.

Educational

Educational “how to” content pieces answer questions that your users may have. The question should be a common one that is asked by user personas, and the answer has to be quality, actionable and in-depth.

Data-Driven

Data can support your content. This would require your own research, or using existing data. Consider running your own survey on Survey Monkey, or other data collecting sources.

Trending

Newsjacking is the practice of incorporating current events or recent news stories and tying it back into a content piece. The recency of newsjacking can make content more linkable.

Broad Appeal

Content pieces that are broad topics are highly linkable. These are universal topics, like dating, finance, Even in a niche industry, the use of broad topics can help drive backlinks, because they apply to everyone.

Data-Driven Example

Here is a good example of a data-driven content piece in the form of an infographic. The graphic outlines most popular Halloween candy in every state, and the data sourced was from Google search volume for keywords, a public tool.

Step 3: Link Assets

Link assets focus on how prospects will link to our piece of content. More specifically, where on a prospect’s site will they put a backlink pointing to your website. The most common way to get a link on another website is through an HTML link on either a “press” /”news” page or on a blog post. In addition to the good old fashioned HTML link, embedded links are another, less common (but still effective) way to get a backlink.

  • HTML links: these links are usually featured on a blog, press, or news page of another website. This is considered the typical way to get backlinks.
  • Videos: include an embed link on your video so that others can take that code an implement it on their website.
  • Infographics: add an embed code at the bottom of the infographic, or in an email with an infographic as an attachment.
  • Contest and Award Icons: running a contest or award program works for more established companies. Gather award winners, and reach out with an image and code so that a link can easily embed on their site (see example below).

Step 4: Collaboration

A great way to get backlinks on a content piece is to get companies or organizations involved in the content itself. By featuring other people’s opinions, advice and experiences, you ‘ll greatly increase the likelihood of them linking back to your content piece.

Collaboration Types

There are many different types of collaborations to consider when creating content that features guests. Here are some of the different collaboration types to consider:

  • Round-Ups: Feature experts’ opinions or input on a subject.
  • Features: Similar to round-ups, but for one website or business.
  • Guest Posts: Writing content to post on another website. Guest posting opportunities happen when you’re seen as the “expert” of a subject that’s related to the website or publication.
      • Tip: to find guest posting opportunities, use Google search operators with “guest post”: examples: title: “guest post”, or allintext: “guest post”.
  • Influencer Marketing: Partnering up with an influencer to promote your content.
    • There are two ways to target influencers:
      • Mention influencers in content, then reach out to notify that they’ve been included.
      • Partner up with influencers beforehand by pitching them a campaign.
  • Customer Contests & Awards: Awarding customers or clients for their great work through badges they can paste to their website.

Before creating your content, you’ll want to make sure that the collaborators will bring SEO value. For more on the outreach process, jump down to the “promotion” section.

A Final Look at the Content Creation Process, Step by Step:

Other Considerations:

When creating content, make sure to put in the extra time to make it look professional and polished. Obviously, this should go without saying, but if you take it to the next level, it will help you “sell” your content piece to interested linking audiences. Here are a few helpful tips to boost your content piece’s appearance:

  • Use Photoshop or Other Photo Editors: Use photoshop to jazz it up! Of course, there are other free graphic design tools online you can use.
  • Impress Featured Experts: Include a summary of their credentials, based on what you can find on their website or social profiles. Consider using a professional image of them so your users can put a face to their name.

Part 3: Content Promotion

Promotion Overview:

The promotion stage of content is where we put link building to action through our “collaboration” with others. In this section, you’ll learn how to find the best link building prospects, link outreach best practices, and ultimately, how to get links to your content.

The Content Process:

Promotion

Persona

Keywords

Idea Expansion

Content Formatting

10x Elements

Linking Assets

Collab

Outreach

Step 1: Link Building Prospecting:

As mentioned, a good starting point in the outreach process is the “collaboration” from content creation. Our content idea will be achieved with the help of contributors. With best link building prospecting practices, we’ll learn how to find prospects that will give us the best value. 

Know Your Website's Leverage

Before you start researching a link building prospect list, you should know what your company is worth to your link building audience, and how willing they would be to work with you. Here are some deciding factors that can persuade or dissuade another business from working with your business:

  • Your Social Following: This is probably the number one thing people look at these days when evaluating working with someone.
  • Your Domain Authority: Those who are SEO savvy will certainly take this into account, especially if you offer to link to them.
  • Your Brand Awareness: It's easier to those that are familiar with your brand, than those that have never heard of your brand.

You want to take stock of your website’s leverage among your audience and cater this to the websites you reach out to, and your ask/pitch in the outreach email/message you send.

Link Building Prospect Criteria (a Checklist):

When looking for participants and promoters, we can’t just choose anyone. Prospecting takes great patience and a lot of time to find the right opportunities.

The prospecting process starts by compiling a list made of potential websites to reach out to. The list should be pretty expansive, so you’ll have a lot of options to choose.

Here are the criteria to keep in mind as you narrow your prospecting list:

  • Domain Authority: The domain authority of your prospects should be relative to what your website domain authority is. If your website's domain authority is low, it may be more realistic to target other low domain authority websites in order to get backlinks.
  • A Website's "Linkability": The most common places sites will link will either be the blog or some type of “press” or “news”, but it all depends on the type of content. Content Frequency: How often do they publish content? At the very least, it should be once every two weeks. 
  • Spam Score: Use the Moz toolbar to get an initial spam score (the higher, the more spammy), but evaluate and probe sites to see if they are considered spammy under Google’s guidelines.
  • Estimated Traffic: Check how their website currently ranks. Does it get a lot of traffic? Are pages well optimized? Utilize tools like SEMrush, Spy-Fu or others to see how much estimated traffic they get from organic search.
  • Social Media Presence & Following: With many bloggers and influencers put an emphasis on growing their social following as leverage to be paid to work with brands (remember, a "nofollow" link is needed here, which discredits link juice). For link building purposes, find bloggers that have a lower social following but high domain authority.
  • Passion: Oftentimes, people who exude the most passion in a particular subject, interest or topic will be more likely and receptive of linking to a content piece.

Once you’re satisfied with the list, you’ll want to narrow down your list with certain criteria that fits best for link building.

Gathering Contact Information

At this point, you’ll also want to start gathering contact information for each website. For this step, I like to use Email Hunter, an email extractor Google Plug-in which collects emails for a website and displays the information for you to copy and paste. Beware, the free version only gives you 100 credits.

Here are a few other tips on gathering contact information:

  • It’s better to get a specific name of someone than a hello@ or contact@ email address.
  • Sometimes, Email Hunter won’t get an email address. Another place to get an email address quickly and easily is a businesses’ Facebook page, under “about”.
  • It’s not a bad idea to get a phone number either. Some people are more receptive to a phone call, rather than an email. It can depend on your outreach audience.

Step 2: Outreach Process

Now that you’ve gathered a prospect list and contact information, it’s time reach out to those prospects! The outreach process involves reaching out to webmasters, businesses, bloggers and influencers in hopes to get a backlink.

Outreach is mainly done through email, but it can also be done through social media messaging, or by phone. In the link building process, outreach is an important step in securing quality backlinks from content created.

Listed below are a few tips to keep in mind during the outreach process:

1. Reach Out Prior to Creating Content

Up until this point, we’ve talked a lot about content.  When featuring contributors, it’s good to reach out prior, or during writing a rough draft. This creates a sense of exclusivity with your prospect list. It also gives you the leeway to pivot your request, if needed.

2. Create Email Templates to Use For Your Outreach

Create a few email templates to base your emails on during your outreach process. This gives you the time to really think about what to say and how to say it. Below are a list of emails to draft up prior to the outreach process:

  • intro (email 1)the first email to a prospect. Summarize your offer.
    • follow-up (email 1a)for those who don’t respond, send a follow-up email.
    • thanks anyways (email 1b)if the prospect is not interested, thank them for their time.
  • guidelines (email 2)send guidelines/content info in more detail.
  • final content (email 3)send the participants/prospects the final content piece.

Creating templates can help you say what you want to say, how you want to say it, at each point in the outreach process. The message and tone should ultimately remain the same, however, the next point is important too…

Email Outreach Tips

Email 1: Intro Email

Have a Short, Direct Headline:

Try to be short, sweet, and to the point. For example, if you are looking for someone to participate in a new round-up idea, something like “Feature Opportunity on businesswebsite.com.”

Personalize Each Email to The Recipient:

Personalizing is always encouraged. It’s worth going the extra mile for because it increases the response rate. The last thing someone wants to do is waste their time reading an email that reads like it could have been sent to literally anyone. Use your outreach template as a guideline, but personalize it to the person and company you’re reaching out to.

Reference The Follow-up Email:

With the intro email, reference the next step. Consider ending it with something like “if you’re interested in hearing more, I’d be happy to send you more details on this opportunity.

Email 2: Guidelines Email

Assuming the prospect agrees to participate in the content, or promote the content, we’ll move on to the “guidelines” email. This is the email where you will explain the offer in full detail and give some more guidance.

  • Timeline: Tell participants how long they will have to submit their contributions of your article.
  • Project details: to get the response you want, be sure to provide some guidelines on what acceptable answers should be.
  • Word count: Provide a word or sentence count minimum or maximum for contributors to follow.
  • Include any other guidelines of things to include or not include in the participant’s response.

This is also the time to allude to having participants “share” the article on their website. We say “share” as a way to allude to getting a backlink. If they respond positively and confirm they would share the post, then by all means, continue on with that contributor.

Email 3: Final Content Email

The “final content” email serves to notify the interested prospects that the content is published. The next part, and the trickiest, is asking for a link.

Asking for a Backlink:

The contributor should already be warm to this idea. In order not break Google’s guidelines, avoid using the word “link” in your link ask. Instead, use another word or phrase that alludes to this: “we hope you share this on your website and social audience”.

Keep in mind, some contacts may be hip to SEO, and will not give a link if you ask point-blank. There’s a notion that giving backlinks to another site is bad for SEO. Despite whether or not that’s true, you’ll want to keep the focus on creating great content, rather than backlinks.

Thank Them for Their Time:

It’s important to thank a participant for their time, especially if they take the time to contribute something in a round-up or send you content.

Mention Future Opportunities:

Be sure to leave the door open for future opportunities. At the end of the email, mention that you will keep them in mind for other opportunities.

Monitoring & Following Up:

Obviously, the end goal is to get backlinks. Be sure to check whether someone has linked frequently. If they haven’t linked in 7-10 days to send them a follow-up email, encouraging them to promote but don’t be too pushy in your tone. Consider sending something like “we would certainly appreciate if you were to share this content piece on your website or social channels”.

Outreach Approach

While going through your email outreach process, here are some things to keep in mind before & during your outreach process:

  • Send a Few Emails, and Tweak if Needed: Start by sending a few to get some feedback, that way you can tweak your intro email or guidelines email on the fly.
  • Expect Some Back and Forth When Emailing: You should expect some back and forth – sometimes prospects will have some questions. You’ll want to anticipate those ahead of time, and know how to respond.
  • For No Response, Send a Timely Follow Up: Prospects are sometimes busy, and will miss emails – particularly if it’s a small business. If the prospect doesn’t answer, you’ll want to follow up. In terms of timing, you’ll want to allow a for 7-10 days to follow up from your initial email sent.
  • Keep Track of Your Prospects: Use an excel sheet to keep track of responses and dates emails were sent. See below as an example:

Promoting Your Content (Beyond Outreach)

Find Other Publications & Businesses

In addition to “collaborators”, there are other websites and publications that could be interested in promoting and linking to the content published. Before you publish, you should have an idea of who to promote the content piece to once it’s finished and live, beyond just the contributors featured.

Promote to Your Followers

Use your current brand following (no matter how big or small) to promote your content. These are the people who are most likely to share your content:

  • Social Media: Promoting your content to your social media followers will help your content to gain exposure online.
  • Email: Your email list is another medium to reach your loyal followers. Hopefully, your email is segmented by persona.

Prospect Tracking Sheet Example

Use a sheet like this to track prospecting and outreach efforts. This sheet would not track qualifications of potential outreach partners like domain authority, but it will also track when you reach out to these people. You can make your own sheet similar to mine!

Final Takeaways (TL;DR)

As you go through this process, keep these things in mind:

Know Your Audience

When creating content, knowing your audience is powerful. Knowing what entertains them, annoys them, or motivates them will help you create content that will make a lasting impression.

Embrace Creativity and Innovation

Creativity will help make your content piece more linkable! Whether it’s the topic, or how the content piece is laid out, it should be like no other piece of content.

Test Your Idea & Pivot if Needed

See if your link audience is even interested in participating

It Takes Time

This process takes time and effort! Between thinking of an idea that resonates with your audience, to reaching out link building prospects, you’ll need to set aside some time in order for this to be successful.

About The Author

Nate helps agencies and enterprise businesses improve their organic search visibility and performance. In addition to link building strategy and on-going link building services, I also offer keyword research and implementation strategy services and technical SEO support. Find out more about me and how I can help you with SEO.

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