Win More Links to Your Content with Paid Social Promotion

Win More Links to Your Content with Paid Social Promotion

28th October 2014

I’m going to be honest, I hate links. Before I worked in SEO I had never even thought about them and now a massive part of my time is taken up talking about them.

In PR all I thought about was my audience (and customers) and I still take this approach in SEO, because if you reach your audience and genuinely engage with them then the links will come without you having to think about them.

Just to be clear this is not another ‘If you build it they will come’ type post saying if you have good enough content people will find it themselves magically and link to it – because let’s face it that rarely happens. This is how to get links without having links at the centre of what you do – so there is still seeding and outreach involved.

Let’s assume that you already know who your audience is and where they’re active online (otherwise this would be a really long post) and you’ve created an awesome piece of content that you know they’re going to love, what next?

How do you get your content in front of them?

Stop thinking about where you can get links from and just think about how to access your audience – which social channels are they on? Which forums? Then hit them there. We’ve had great success engaging with fan forums to drive traffic to our content and from that gained lots of links as generally the passionate fans will also run fan sites/blogs that do link.

Paid social promotion of content is something that is often overlooked, it’s something we hear quite often – well this is for links so why are we paying for something else? First of all content should never be created just for links – it should have other objectives such as brand awareness, audience engagement etc as well.

Social advertising has advanced so much in the last year that it means we can be really targeted with getting our content in front of the audience we want. This also helps when you are doing outreach as, if you can show a journalist or blogger that your content/campaign is popular from a social point of view, then they’re more likely to be interested.

Let’s say for example we’re working with a travel company, we have some really great content and we’re also running a competition for people to upload their travel photos to win a prize. We know their audience is roughly 30+ and not your usual beach holiday customer, how do we get our content in front of them?

Facebook Power Editor allows us to be really specific with our targeting and is often underused as it’s not in the main advertising section. So we can use criteria such as:

  • Location (this can narrow down to town/city)
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Language(s)
  • Relationship Status
  • Parents
  • Interests
  • Behaviours

So for the example campaign our targeting might look like this:


Therefore we know our content and competition is going to get in front of the right target audience that is likely to engage with it and we also know that it is a fairly sizeable audience.

Twitter doesn’t allow us to be as targeted as Facebook but we can still focus down by people’s interests and/or the other accounts that they follow on Twitter, so this time our targeting might look like:

twitter-campaign-targeting twitter-campaign-targeting-2

We can also use social bookmarking sites such as StumbleUpon and Reddit to reach our audience although, again, the targeting isn’t as specific as Facebook.

B2B is often overlooked with paid promotion as social’s not always seen as the best way to reach a B2B audience but LinkedIn has some great advertising options too that allow you to be even more precise. So let’s say we have some amazing B2B content and we’re trying to reach people that work in HR with it, we might look at this kind of targeting:


I’ve personally tested this approach to the extreme for campaigns before where we’ve solely used social advertising to get our content out there (so no outreach at all) and have managed to get a good number of high quality links  from it, so I know this approach works.

The best approach is usually to use a combination of this paid promotion combined with media relations and outreach to get the best results – and by that I don’t just mean links but engagement, traffic and all the other good metrics that we want to see.

How do you know it’s working?

So if all goes to plan based on your robust seeding activity you should soon have a decent number of people talking about your content on social channels, blogs and news websites. The key then is to follow up with them and, if they haven’t already, ask them to include a link. Though really you shouldn’t have to do too much work asking for links because there should be added value with your content that means people automatically think to link to it.

Some of my favourite tools for monitoring how content is performing are:

  • Buzzsumo – I find their content alerts some of the quickest and they do pick up pretty much everything
  • Google alerts – a bit slower but still useful
  • Fresh Web Explorer – again, slower as the most frequent you can go for is daily
  • Google Analytics – checking referrers to see where traffic is coming from, how many visits you’re getting and on-site engagement levels

I find it best to have a combination of as many of these as possible set up to capture all mentions and to set these up for both the client’s name and associated campaign terms.

How should you evaluate performance?

As I’ve said throughout this post, the emphasis should always be on your audience and therefore when looking at whether something has worked or not your audience should still be at the centre of this.

The key questions to ask are:

  • How many people have seen it?
    • Reach or impressions – from social platform reporting
  • How many people have engaged with it as a result and how?
    • Traffic – measure through Google Analytics
    • Social actions – look at number of likes, retweets, favourites etc
    • Mentions – how many times has your campaign/content been mentioned online?
    • Links – how many people have then linked to it?
  • What value can I attach to that?
    • Conversions – measure conversions through Google Analytics

The example below shows where we’ve applied this to some content recently and we’ve purely used social advertising to get the content in front of the audience.


In Facebook Ads manager we can see the following stats which will tell us the reach of our campaign, how many clicks it’s had and how many social actions.




Again in Twitter Ads we can see impressions of the campaign, clicks, social actions and conversions.



LinkedIn offers similar reporting in terms of impressions and clicks:


Google Analytics

In Google Analytics we can then look at overall traffic driven to the campaign/content and also on-site actions such as conversions, time on site etc.


By combining all of this reporting, we can then start attributing true value to our activity in terms of the audience reached and what that means on a tangible level rather than just looking at the number of links a piece of content has received.

So using the examples above we can start to answer those questions:

  • How many people have seen it?
    • Over 144K people have seen the content as a result of our social advertising
  • How many people have engaged with it as a result and how?
    • Nearly 8K people have visited the content on-site
    • 1,225 people have engaged with the content as a result of our social advertising
    • It’s a bit early to be reporting on links but we’ve found five so far
  • What value can I attach to that?
    • There have been 20 goal completions – let’s say each goal completion is worth £100 so in that case the value is £2,000 so far directly
    • We also know that we’ve spent £2,022 on social advertising and achieved 5 links so that’s cost us roughly £404 per link

Bearing in mind all of the above, if we take into account the conversions we’ve seen already then we’ve pretty much broken even on the social advertising, plus we’ve got a load of other benefits such as brand awareness, audience engagement etc and the links we wanted coming in, all without having to actually ask for a single link!


Written By
Laura Crimmons is the founder of Silverthorn, a Digital PR agency that fuses data with creativity to deliver campaigns that give you measurable results.
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