Content based link building: 4 tips for success

Link building is hard and any digital marketer that tells you otherwise is lying. Here are four top tips to help your content achieve links.

01 Mar 2017
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Luke Cope

Good content is vital for gaining links, but even using content to achieve links is hard work. Simply producing content isn’t a silver bullet to link generation.

Over the past five years, lots of companies went out and hired a person to be responsible for their content in some way. At the same time Google changed the rules and made the link building game a lot harder for SEOs. Now we have lots of companies producing content for blogs, social and various other platforms and SEOs trying to get links with this content with varying degrees of success.

In this article we’ll be explaining how to produce content marketing campaigns that drive the kind of high quality links that will improve your search rankings for key terms.

1. Start with the right campaign idea

Content based link building relies on starting out with the right idea. There’s nothing worse than wasting time and money on a campaign that is doomed to fail from the off. First of all, you need to be thinking about your target personas, where they hang out online, what sites and publications they read and who influences them.

Then it’s all about exploring persona interests and your target publishers and trying to pull together consistent themes or topics that perform well and that your publishers are willing to cover. Buzzsumo is a great tool for this kind of research.

Using Buzzsumo to analyse content popularity

At the end of your research phase you should have an idea of what appeals to readers and publishers. From this you can produce a few well-researched campaign ideas that you know are likely to interest publishers.

2. Create eye catching content that publishers will love

Your research phase will identify lots of subject areas and potential ideas but they need to have a certain depth or complexity to them in order for publishers to want to link to them. 

Content screenshots: Footballers Cars & Celeb Car Collections

It’s important that your content does the hard work for the publishers; as well as the research you’ll need an eye catching way of putting it all together. Above are two campaigns we ran, our aim was to achieve coverage from aspirational lifestyle type sites and we identified that the subject of celebrity cars and footballers’ cars came up a lot. Most of the content around these subjects were quite thin and flimsy - straightforward ‘Top 10’ lists and that kind of thing.

We flipped the subject area of footballers’ cars into a calculator that calculates how long you have to work in order to be able to afford one. We also did a piece on most expensive celebrity car collections which required lots of research into individual cars as well as the overall collection values. This allowed us to create something that will catch the eye of publishers when it comes to doing the outreach, making them more likely to link. You can read more in our National Numbers case study.

3. Use data to make your content newsworthy

A data-led content piece is a perfect way of being able to supply a publisher with a fresh, unique story that they will want to link to. 

We formed the below piece of content from a survey that went out to a database of nurses. This went onto feed a content piece that calculated average weekly nursing activity - a unique take on a subject that we knew was newsworthy. The figures were used to gain coverage from industry publications such as the Nursing Standard and the Royal College of Nursing.

Content example: Medicare Nursing Calculator

These industry publications are authoritative and highly relevant to our client, so the links from them led to dramatic search ranking improvements.

4. Plan your outreach and provide proof of concept

Journalists and site admins are drowning in poor quality content that gets pitched to them in huge quantities. In order to achieve links to your content, your outreach approach needs to be spot on and you need to show you are a responsible, reliable source of data.


A good way of doing this is to add a proof of concept document that packages up all of your research and helps show the publisher that this story will perform well for their site. These proof of concept docs can include:

•    Search volumes from Google trends
•    Social media advertisement screenshots that have engaged a similar audience to that of your publishers
•    Any evidence from your research phase

This kind of evidence shows publishers that your content is likely to do well. It minimises the risk to them and we’ve found that it dramatically increases your chances of getting coverage and therefore achieving links.


Getting over the finish line and achieving a link back to your original content piece is the final hurdle. Let’s recap:

•    You’ve given the publisher a story based on a solid idea that will perform well amongst their target demographics.
•    You’ve created a visually stunning piece of content that they’ll be happy to link to.
•    You’ve ensured your content is newsworthy by using in-depth data and/or analysis.
•    You’ve minimised the risk for the publisher by proving that your content will perform.

A link will usually come as a by-product of the content piece being so awesome that it deserves a mention, but this isn’t always the case. Ideally your content piece will hold a bit more meat than the publisher’s story; that way any user wishing to find out more can do so by exploring your content piece. This can be the case with large landing page pieces that can’t be hosted by other sites (unlike an infographic which can simply be embedded in the publisher’s site).

Start applying each of these tips and you'll begin to see more success from your content driven link building efforts!


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