How To Develop Content Assets That Generate Links

Link building and content marketing fall into the same bucket when it comes to SEO for good reason. When you read any ranking correlation study, the number of referring domains linking to a page/domain is one of the top reasons a site ranks well.

With that being the case, we set out to find a way to make our content marketing efforts more efficient in terms of building links. We came up with what we call our Content Asset Program. At the end of this post you’ll see a slide deck we put together detailing our methodology on how we create these assets, from idea creation to content type. In this post, I’m going to detail our top idea creation strategy along with why we prefer embeddable content for these assets, and show you how we used it for one of our clients.

The power of topic selection

Strategically planned content marketing/link building campaigns should not start with copywriting. That’s the biggest mistake we see — people just come up with an idea and run with it. According to our Content Asset Program methodology, we actually recommend content creation be the sixth step in your process.

Before we invest the time and effort into creating one of these assets, we want to make sure we have an idea that has a good chance of working. But how do we do that? By coming up with an idea based on one of our three marketing strategies:

  1. Past Success Strategy
  2. Gap Filling Strategy
  3. Relationship Strategy

Our approaches to all three of these strategies are laid out in the slide deck, but for now I’m going to focus on the strategy that has proven the most successful for us: the Past Success Strategy.

We built this strategy on a quote from one of my marketing professors — “The best marketers are the best thieves. They are just smart enough to fix the mistakes of others.”

Basically, this strategy is to examine past topics that have done well from a linking perspective, then figure out a way to make improvements that will earn links. For example, is one of my older, successful posts now outdated? Broken? Poorly designed? Is there a similar topic I can write about that the same group of people will find interesting? These are just a few examples of ways to capitalize on the success of past posts. We’ll also take things a step further by fashioning the refreshed content in a format that best suits the publishers. (Plus, as we study the sites that link to this type of content, we uncover more publishers to pitch — a nice fringe benefit of this strategy.)

To anyone who knows Brian Dean’s Skyscraper technique, this isn’t a radical new idea. But to take the Past Success Strategy to the next level, we look for posts that should have done much better from a linking perspective. We look for posts that got a few links because they contained great information, but didn’t have anyone putting a campaign behind them.

Here’s an example. We have a client in the trucking industry. Using the Past Success Strategy, we identified a trucking association website that had a “tools and resources” section for its members. We noticed an APU (auxiliary power unit) weight exemption guide that detailed state by state what the laws were for APUs. We plugged that URL into Majestic to see how many links it had, and saw only 14 domains currently linking to the post.

Despite (or because of!) the low number of links, we saw it as a massive opportunity. When we looked at the linking sites, we noticed most were trucking companies linking to this information on their blogs to share with their drivers. If these trucking companies liked this content enough to link to it, we were sure all of the other trucking companies would like it — and there are tens of thousands of them. So we created an up to date, embeddable APU table and started our outreach campaign.

Why you should invest in embeddable content

Another key takeaway from this trucking industry example (beside the power of properly selecting your topic) is why you should invest in creating embeddable content. Many people would have created a text-based table and started outreaching. But by offering publishers an embed code for our well-designed graphic, we:

1. Made it easy for trucking company and job board websites to insert our content into their site, wherever they saw fit.

2. Gave ourselves maximum leverage to create multiple high-quality links from a single piece of content.

Within a week, we had people posting our table, including large, well-known and influential trucking magazines such as:

When we first started our content marketing program, we did the same thing a lot of other content marketers did: Show publishers the blog posts we created and hoped they liked them well enough to link to them. It worked, but excruciatingly slowly. We had to wait until the publisher wrote a post relevant to our post, and then hope they remembered to link to it. Often, publishers would end up just sharing our post on their social channels, which did not directly generate a link for us.

Embeddable content, on the other hand, makes it easier for publishers to give us a link, and allows us to use that same topic multiple times, helping us spend less time creating and more time pitching. It’s a win/win for a link builder, to be sure.

Here’s another example. We recently did a case study about our lead validation platform. Most case studies involve a blog post that details the findings and a social media push. We turned our data into a slide deck and pitched it to other websites. People loved the data and wanted to show off the findings. One of our best placements was AMA with all credit links pointing back to our website. In just two months of outreach, we have had 20 sites post that slide deck on their website with many more in the pipeline.

Don’t limit yourself!

Embeddable content is not a revolutionary idea, but most SEO/Link Builders use it exclusively with infographics. However, there are many other types of embeddable content, so don’t just default to an infographic. We’ve created checklists, slide shows, videos, fact sheets, and guides that have all been uploaded to SlideShare. That way, if a publisher wants to display them on their site, we can use the embed code from SlideShare to get them that piece of content.

Why are these content assets so important? If they are put together correctly, they help you quickly generate great, in-content links back to your site. The key is to come up with a topic strategically. Know what type of publishers like your idea, and be ready to talk about its value to them. Then make sure your finished content is in some type of visual/embeddable format, enabling you to pitch it to multiple publishers.

Take a look at the slide deck below to see the entire Content Asset Program methodology. Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments as well!