OK so, a bit of a facetious title but bear with me, I’m click baiting!
Getting links is one of the hardest, but most important, aspects of any SEO’s day to day. Although Google are hoping to make their algorithm less reliant on them in the future, they’re still a huge mark of trust for a site and as it stands, without them, Google still struggles to accurately determine site quality.
So we need links; we need them at scale, we need them within budgets, within Webmaster Guidelines, within brand guidelines, within success metrics, within set timeframes and somewhere, within our sanity. And we need to do all of this, if we’re playing it on the good side of Google, by just creating “excellent, interesting, useful, funny, compelling stuff” and waiting for the links to roll in.
I am going to hold my hand up and say, working in an agency, I find this fantastically difficult. I spend sleepless nights worrying that, despite having done all of the correct analysis upfront (I did a Mozinar on that here) that this piece of content just won’t drive links. For whatever reason, it might just not stick. There is always that risk, there will always be that risk and whilst we can mitigate it, it will never disappear.
So what happens when my content isn’t getting any links?
I ought to caveat that links aren’t everything and there’s plenty of other valuable metrics that we can assign to content (reach, engagement, referral traffic etc) but ultimately, if we desperately need links and our content isn’t driving them, well… then we need to pay.
However, we’re playing on the right side of Google here so we’re not paying for links, we’re paying for exposure.
(N.B – Laura Crimmons wrote a lovely post on how to use social promotion to earn links last week so I definitely recommend you read that).
Fortunately, there’s lots of ways we can secure additional reach for our content that may need a little boost. Additional reach, in turn, should yield us links. Or failing that, important social and engagement metrics, visits and hey, maybe even a few of plucky conversions!
I also ought to caveat that for any of the below to have impact, there’s an assumption that your content (be it a blog post, a video campaign, an interactive microsite, anything) is excellent, interesting, useful, funny or compelling in the first place.
StumbleUpon Paid Discovery
StumbleUpon is an excellent platform on which to promote your content, the users are there looking for content, looking to be engaged and likely to share. It’s different from advertising on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin simply because it’s less interruptive and, provided the content is interesting in and of itself beyond being branded, then it blends in to the user experience.
Essentially, the content is the ad (so no time needed trying to get ad copy sign off!). Equally, StumbleUpon allow for audience targeting based on age, gender, location, device and interests so you can create, and promote, your content targeted specifically to the right people.
In terms of budget, there’s a pay as you go service where bids start at $0.10 per visitor, so you can easily test the response the content is receiving and manage bids based on this. You essentially choose how mainly daily visits you want to receive and crucially, how much you want to pay for them. Your visitors will start arriving the moment your campaign is approved.
From my experience, paying for Stumbles will also drive free visits, as the more people who see the content (again, providing it is interesting in and of itself and you are targeting it to the correct audience) the more who are likely share it themselves.
The key success metric for this, is of course, referral traffic as opposed to links.
Similarly, Reddit users are, by definition, internet types; likely to engage and likely to share. With ads starting at $1.00 CPM with just a $5.00 minimum spend then even small budgets can benefit from extra exposure. Reddit has subcategories for pretty much anything, so it’s likely you’ll find an engaged community within most niches, however topical content is most likely to work well here.
The key success metric for this is, again, referral traffic as opposed to links. However it’s certainly worth monitoring who has shared your content and seeing if they are worthwhile outreach prospects for the future.
Like the guest post, the infographic and the directory; advertorials were once completely legitimate advertising tactics that we SEOs took, jumped on repeatedly and smashed them to bits (sorry). Advertorials (or, rather, paying for links on high authority news sites or blogs) is now seen is a dodgy SEO tactic, likely to get you penalised by the big G.
However, this really is not, nor needs to be, the case and can still be an entirely legitimate tactic for gaining exposure. If the Huffington Post talks about your content, then the rest of your outreach largely speaks for itself. At SMX London last year, Stephanie Beadell at Buzzstream spoke about how to earn links from influencers. She talked about when outreaching, start with your big influencers and there you will find the “trickledown effect”, making outreach less painful and link earning more successful.
However the hard part, of course, is getting exposure on those big sites which are going to make an impact. If that were easy, we wouldn’t be in this problem in the first place. So if you’re struggling to get your content to gain traction naturally on bigger influencer sites, amidst the wash of equally great content being created by equally great brands, then pay for it. If the site links, you can always ask for a no follow.
Don’t think about the link, that is categorically not the objective here. This is just pure advertising – you’re paying for eyeballs and for coverage and most influential blogs and sites are happy to offer this. You can then take this coverage and use it as your collateral to go out and earn those links, naturally, from the smaller sites that are influenced by them.
So dust off that old outreach black book and start naturally earning yourself links through PayPal.