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Linkable Asset Strategy: How to Pick & Prioritize Assets

lyons-ken
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magician-bunny-hatWhen it comes to linkable assets, marketers often have a single objective: build as many links as possible (hence the name, "linkable asset").

But if you're only goal is links, you really aren't harnessing the full ROI potential of your assets and likely missing out on some opportunities.

When done right, linkable assets can yield:

  • Quality, editorial links from authoritative sources
  • High-intent traffic
  • Social shares and mentions
  • A passive traffic stream for the life of the asset
  • Monetization opportunities
  • Qualified leads

To develop linkable assets that can fire on all cylinders, you really need to have a solid developmental process in place. And that process starts with gathering ideas based on a set of key factors and culminates with evaluating and prioritizing asset creation based on end goals and potentially budget. That way, you can ensure to your linkable assets generate not only links, but leads, conversions and high-intent traffic as well.

Here's a process for picking and prioritizing linkable asset development.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is the foundation for everything you do with SEO. From content mapping, to on-page optimization, to link building, keywords inform your search engine marketing efforts. The same goes for linkable assets: keywords drive concepts.

Everyone has their own means for discovering keywords. Mine centers around leveraging keyword tools, competitor analysis and mining proprietary analytics data to identify terms that are both relevant and traffic-driving. And it's during this process that I aim to scale my keyword research efforts. Not only do I want to uncover relevant terms with commercial intent, but I'm also mindful of terms and phrases that are great candidates for linkable assets.

And just to be clear, I draw a distinction between linkable assets and content with commercial content, like sales-driven copy or SEO landing pages.

For me, linkable assets are typically informative, evergreen content plays that aren't self-promotional or commercial (i.e., directly selling an organization's product or service) in nature. The reason the purely informational is being is it's markedly easier to acquire links for content that is genuinely useful, informative and without commercial intent. Your primary goal is links and nobody wants to link to your marketing collateral.

Examples of linkable assets (particularly those guided by keywords) include:

  • Blog posts
  • Informative guides (process-driven "how-tos," consumer guides, product reviews, etc)
  • eBooks
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Ego bait pieces (group interviews, "best of" lists, etc)
  • Free tools, widgets or apps

So getting back to the keyword research process…

Here, you should segment all your keyword opportunities in a spreadsheet and pair them with potential content partners (e.g., should you turn this keyword into a blog post? would it be better as an infographic? etc.).

Ninety-nine percent of the time there's going to be overlap, where the same keywords can map to a variety of asset types. And overlap is fine. In fact, it's encouraged so you can get maximum value out of your keyword analysis and topic strategy efforts.

I like real world examples, so say you run a site on family safety. A single, relevant, traffic-driving, mid-tail term like "home security cameras" can be turned into a range of overlapping content types, including:

And frankly, that family safety site shouldn't stop there. I can see that topic turned into videos, an infographic, a group interview and so on. So overlap happens, just be sure to vary your approach and the concept somewhat, depending on the type of asset you map it to so each asset is unique.

Another tip is to start riffing on topic ideas at this stage. Doing keyword discovery gets my creative juices flowing. And partnering keyword ideas with potential asset types spawns a lot of ideas.

To fuel creativity even more, you can copy keywords and drop them into Google search, Google Trends, BuzzFeed, Quora or Yahoo Answers for Q&A ideas for inspiration. Then, add your fleshed out topic ideas into a separate column paired with your keywords and your asset types, like this:

keyword-linkable-asset-topic-ideas

Search Demand

Another key factor you want to consider when picking topics is search demand. The number of potential users that are actually searching for a keyword is a data point you'll use help prioritize topic selection.

The reason potential search demand is important is because we want this content to drive traffic. Again, this isn't just about links. We want to develop a linkable asset that will drive passive traffic for the life of the asset. So as you're qualifying and prioritizing your list of topic ideas, estimated search demand should factor in.

With keyword search data, typically we're grabbing estimated monthly, exact match searches from the Google Keyword Tool. Also, if you have any proprietary data from any paid search campaigns, layer that in as well. It's more valuable and actionable than estimated data since it's proven to produce results for your specific site.

Traffic Intent

Even though search demand is a goal, you want to factor in the intent of that traffic. Passive traffic is great, but passive traffic that converts is even better.

Topics that align with the theme of the site not only drive high-intent, qualified traffic, but will typically net relevant links as well.

However, topics that are well-aligned with a site aren't always that interesting to a linking audience. So sometimes you may need to sacrifice relevancy for "linkability," which usually means lower intent traffic but a better chance for wider distribution and links. In those instances, you want to adjust your offer to match user intent (more on monetization later…)

In the linkable asset topic ideation document, I usually identify traffic intent as high, medium or low intent, again pairing it with keyword opportunities, search demand and asset types.

Linking Audience

Given we're talking about linkable assets, you'd assume I would have led off with how your topic will appeal to a linking audience. For me, keyword discovery work best as a starting point, since it fuels the brainstorming process. But ultimately link potential will weigh heavily in the final stages when you prioritize topic selection and determine which linkable asset to launch.

However, to each his own. If it feels more natural for you to start with link potential, then do so. There's really no right or wrong way to do this.

When it comes to links, the questions you should ask are:

  • Who is our linking audience?
  • Will this topic appeal to them?

When it comes to linking audience and appeal, it's often driven by the type of asset you produce. If you're publishing a group interview, you've got some level of built in publicity and link opportunities with everyone who participates. Then maybe you want to develop a broader topic that will be relevant and appeal to a wider swath of bloggers and resource lists.

With an infographic, maybe your link target is a high-authority publication, so the incentive for them to link is an exclusive, as well as a graphic you've tailored for their particular audience. And even though that topic may have anemic search demand and limited conversion potential, the authority and trust of getting a link from that publication is so valuable that it trumps all other factors.

In any case, we often do a lot of research on the potential appeal to a linking audience ahead of time. Since our goal is really to "stack the deck" in our favor, we look at:

  • Number of links similarly-themed assets have acquired
  • If there's a strong "market" for this topic
  • Should we replicate the asset and "do it better" or should we map our concept to a new asset

Now, the reason links are the primary objective here is because links are a force multiplier. By getting those links, you help float the trust, authority, and relevancy of your domain, which thereby lifts the "SEO value" of all pages on that domain (including your commercial sales pages), which in turn helps those pages perform better in the SERPs.

The links you attract will also help your asset directly with better SERP performance, which is why you factor in elements like traffic and conversion potential as well. In short, you want this asset to be working as hard as it can for you.

Monetization Potential

Finally, you want to ask yourself "can we monetize it?" (Hint: the answer should be "yes.") Monetization potential is another factor you should weigh when selecting a topic. And by monetize I mean can we get conversions from it.

And the reason monetization is so valuable here is because you're producing an asset with a potential for passive traffic, so you want it to have the ability to be a continuous lead source for your company.

With monetization, you want to determine which offer to expose. Should you expose a softer offer that maps better to informational searches and top-of-the-funnel visits, like a newsletter signup for example? Or should you push something close to sale, like a software trial or a product inquiry via form submit pop-up?

Typically, the intent of the user will determine your offer. Are they gathering information or are they further along in the buying cycle? Both are key questions to ask yourself. And even if you get it wrong at first, you can always (and should always) test different offers to find the one that performs the best.

And in the event you don't have an offer that makes sense for your asset, create one. Figure out a way to capitalize on this traffic source, so you're maximizing your assets potential.

Now, when it comes to monetizing your asset, I highly recommend you add your offer after you're done with all link outreach. Why? No matter how awesome your content, it's much harder to get sites to link to something that's riddled with ads or aggressive in-line banner offers.

"Delayed monetization" is the move here, so you don't kill your capacity for building links. Frankly, it's not uncommon for us to wait months to add offers to an asset.

Prioritizing Your List

Now that you have your list of assets, topic ideas, goals and data points, you'll want to prioritize which topics and corresponding assets you publish based on your goal values. Certainly links are your top priority, but what comes next?

Do you value traffic potential over, say, newsletter conversions? Is the link value so great that you're willing to sacrifice topical relevancy and page-level conversions? Is the search demand anemic, yet the traffic intent is high?

Also, it's worth noting that you can evaluate and prioritize at either the keyword or asset level. For the keyword level and using the "DIY home security" example above, let's say the client only has the budget to develop and promote a single asset. And the client's goals are in this order:

  • Links
  • Conversions
  • Traffic intent

Assuming you've analyzed all your other keyword opportunities and narrowed it down to this vertical as the most promising, you'd probably have a section in your document like this:

linkable-assets-priority

Given the client's objectives, it would make sense to prioritize keyword topic two: series of a consumer videos with individual reviews of popular brands. It appears that the link potential is high (many opportunities exist with video security companies that you review, particularly the smaller brands that don't get much publicity). The client can monetize those reviews with a variety of offers once the outreach is complete. And traffic intent is moderate to high since you have consumers looking to make an informed decision before buying.

For more on linkable assets, check out:


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