The nature of link building continues to change and is likely to embrace the online PR model even more in the year ahead. Put simply, this means moving away from email blasts targeted at multiple link prospects: instead adopting more of an online PR approach in creating spectacular content and promoting it to top bloggers, experts and journalists.
This approach is perfectly illustrated in Buzzstream's first ebook, "Linking Outside the Box", and this publication has much to teach link builders who really want to make content work. I worked on this project with Buzzstream and they've generously shared their specific objectives and results.
They wanted more than links from the project. The main objectives were to generate downloads, encourage social shares, attract new customers, and lift product sign-ups.
"We're in a content arms race," according to Matthew Gratt of Buzzstream. "Marketing to marketers, especially about SEO, has a unique problem: everyone is creating content, and standing out above the noise is challenging."
Content Must be Spectacular
The content had to be spectacular to grab attention. Buzzstream decided to concentrate on an ebook that explored "creative link building" – both creative tactics and more creative implementation of the tactics people already used.
Key to the ebook would be to get experts enthusiastic about the project and contribute a creative strategy that had produced great results – and would inspire other link builders to develop their own creativity.
The end result had to be top-notch and the end-result contains eight detailed examples. According to Gratt, spectacular content requires going over every little piece and asking yourself, "Could this be better?"
"We spent hours fixing small things, rewriting sections, making sure we picked the right block quotes, adding resources and links to the sections, making sure images communicated the right message, and more."
Link Weren't the Main Objective
While Buzzstream expected links from the publication, it wasn't the main objective. Gratt shared the goals and results:
- Target: 1,000 downloads; result: 1,221 and counting
- Target: 100 social shares; result: 146
- Target: 500 new names who were not existing customers; result: 856
- Target: 10 percent uplift in product sign-ups; result: 26.9 percent.
In addition, the ebook received great feedback from industry leaders and links from domains that previously hadn't linked to Buzzstream.
What Can You Learn for Your Own Spectacular Content?
The spectacular approach is applicable to many industries and clients. Here are 10 lessons that can be drawn from "linking outside the box":
- Your content must be truly spectacular to be successful, or else it will just get lost in a sea of mediocre content that many others will be churning out.
- The expertise to create the content may come from outside your firm or agency – from industry experts, from your customers.
- You should be generous in mentioning others, linking out, and sharing. The more you help the people who have helped you, the more you will benefit. Buzzstream put a lot of effort into sharing, writing about, and linking to people who had contributed.
- Links may not be your main objective. If you just focus on links, you'll miss the many real business opportunities that such a publication can create.
- There are many models for spectacular content. BuzzStream harnessed experts in their own market to produce a creative ebook. In small business, Tumbleweed Houses have produced attractive publications using their own expertise, products and customer stories. TekGroup, which provides online press rooms, has grabbed a position as publishers of definitive industry research with three major research reports per year.
- Use multiple methods of promotion. A big launch will bring you many early successes, but such a publication gives you the opportunity to take risks and try promotional outlets and methods that are new to you.
- Spectacular content brings surprises. One of the best things about this type of content is that it acts like a fishing net and brings you new contacts and publications that you might not have known about. Following up on these can bring rich rewards.
- Content lives on. There are many other ways you can use your spectacular content in the future – this is a real bonus that boosts ROI (return on investment).
- Content can be extended. Explore how your content can be repurposed. Can you turn it into videos, a webinar, or training course? Or if you've created one ebook successfully, consider publishing a series of ebooks. What about annual editions – can you repeat the strategy in years ahead? Twelve months down the line, there's sure to be many more creative ideas and more material for a new ebook.
- No one can predict what will happen. But you will learn much from your first effort – and the real feedback and experience you get will help you develop and improve. You'll get to see spectacular content not as a one-off but as a strategy by which you can plan your content for the year ahead.
Buzzstream have published their strategy and results together with a link to the free ebook in this article, "Using Paid, Owned and Earned Media to Promote an eBook".
The process of creating spectacular content may seem daunting if you've never done it before, and it may seem risky because results cannot be guaranteed, but spectacular content is increasingly becoming the only content worth creating. The sooner you get started, the better.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!