Earning inbound links is one of the best avenues for long-term online traffic growth. Links convey authority to your site, increasing your website’s tendency to rank highly for various queries in search engines, and are therefore imperative for your SEO campaign.
On top of that, they result in indefinite referral traffic and help support your brand’s reputation online.
The problem is, you can’t just build links anywhere; you have to earn those links by creating content that’s worthy of being linked to. Assuming you’re familiar with the basics of content marketing (and what makes for “good” content), what are the best ways to earn inbound links?
1. Provide original research value. Providing original research is one of the most reliable ways to attract links. So long as you’re researching a subject that people care about, and you present information that people haven’t seen before, you’ll stand a good chance of receiving links and acknowledgment from other sources in your industry. The “research” part of the equation means you’ve done work that other people aren’t willing or able to do, and the “original” part means they can’t get it from any other source. Consider conducting surveys as an inexpensive way to capitalize on this option.
2. Go viral. Though hard to predict and harder to reliably execute, if you can get a piece of your content to go viral, you’ll earn dozens (if not hundreds) of high-quality links in the process. The conventional definition of “going viral” implies getting millions of views and thousands of shares, but that isn’t necessary to see the benefits here. Instead, your link potential will climb with any combination of cascading shares. In other words, let’s say 10 people share your content, and increase your exposure by 1,000 total people. In addition, 1 percent of people eventually link to your piece. In this scenario, you’ll increase your link potential by 10 just by making your content shareable, which you can do by making it emotionally striking, unique, and entertaining.
3. Work with influencers. If you want a shortcut to getting more links, consider working with someone who already has a history of getting them: an influencer. By definition, influencers already have an audience of thousands of people, and the respect of the industry behind them, so if you can tap their existing potential, you’ll stand to get far more links, far easier. You have a few options here; for example, you could produce a piece of content together with an influencer, interview them, or reach out directly and advertise your piece to them.
4. Initiate controversy. You could also generate more links to your piece by covering a controversial subject, or taking a controversial stance. Controversy works because it naturally attracts more attention; more people will react and respond to the piece, no matter what side of the issue they’re on, and because most companies are afraid of taking controversial (or even debatable) positions, you’ll instantly stand out from the crowd. You’ll want to use this strategy carefully, however; if you choose a political issue, or one that’s too divisive among your target demographics, you could damage your reputation. Stick to topics related to your industry specifically.
5. Guest blog. Ideally, people will link to your article on their own, but it can be hard to generate that interest without some initial momentum. Through citation, you’ll work on submitting high-quality content to external publishers, and manually build links pointing to your content as a way to validate a fact or cite a quotation. This is especially convenient if you already have a guest author profile established. It takes more time than letting the links come naturally, but it’s also more consistent and more effective; you can guarantee yourself getting at least a few links, and you’ll increase your exposure to a point that helps you generate even more.
6. Promote your content. If you’re having trouble achieving visibility or getting momentum, you can also promote your most important or most valuable pieces of content. Again, there are many options here; for example, if you’re working with a limited budget, you could rely on free channels like social media and forums to showcase your post. If you’re willing to spend some money, you could invest in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to drive initial traffic to your post. In any case, working to get more eyes on your work will increase traffic and shares, and thereby indirectly increase the number of links you receive.
7. Repeat, repeat, repeat. No matter which other strategies you’re using, you can maximize your results by giving your most important content some measure of ongoing support. Syndicate it multiple times on social media with different titles, respond to the people commenting on it, update it when you get new information, and reach out to people who have shared or linked to it. This will improve the quality of your material, enhance your visibility, and build your follower relationships all at the same time.
You might gravitate toward one or two of these strategies more than the others, either because you have more interest or experience in them or because they’re inherently more valuable, thanks to your niche and demographics.
However, it pays to at least experiment with as many strategies as you can; through experimentation, you’ll gain a better understanding of how each tactic works, and through diversification, you’ll end up seeing greater and more consistent overall results.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!