Are some industries just too boring for link building? This is a very common question.
Amid terrific stories being shared, written about, and linked to every minute, it's easy for link builders to get stuck and wonder how on earth they can come close to competing. But "boring", like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Any industry, no matter how boring on the surface, has interesting stories just waiting to be exploited by a creative link builder.
Every business has customers with problems to solve, every business owner has struggles to wrestle with, and every employee has problems to solve in their daily work. These can all make interesting human stories. Journalists, writers, and bloggers – and their readers – are attracted by human stories.
The first step to uncovering these stories is to kick yourself out of the mindset that the industry you're struggling with is inherently boring. But shifting mindset isn't easy, so a few exercises can help – here are the ones I've developed over the years – they do seem to do the trick.
1. Do a Google News Search and See What Comes Up
If you're working in a boring industry like, say air filters, then you'll probably see a lot of PR platitudes and poor news stories that aren't really news at all. But persevere and read through a few.
In the air filter industry, I came across an interview with the CEO of an air filter company. It wasn't particularly interesting, but in the very last paragraph, I came across a startling research statistic: "the air inside your car is 7 times more polluted than the air outside." Wow, what a statistic! That type of information is of interest to us all but most of us have no idea that's the case.
What link builder worth their salt couldn't make a great piece of link-worthy content around that? It's worth putting the time in to uncover gems like this.
2. Look for Disruptive Companies in Your Industry and Learn From Them
A disruptive company is one that turns an established business model on its head and introduces some long overdue innovation.
So find a disruptive force in your industry and look at what they're doing. What is disruptive about them? What issues do they focus on? What benefits do they offer? What stories do people write about them? What types of sites link to them and why?
Disruptive companies don't get much support or coverage from their own industry because of the threat they pose. And if they do get coverage, it's likely to be negative or, at best, skeptical.
SurveyMonkey is a disruptive influence on the market research industry because they encourage businesses to conduct their own research rather than use market research companies.
AirBnB.com is a disruptive influence on the travel industry because they provide a source of accommodation that is outside the usual travel market.
Such disruptive companies have to be creative in reaching out to other niches, and in establishing a presence and links from within these niches. So doing a link analysis of such sites will give you some very interesting niches and link prospects to explore.
Finding disruptive companies isn't that difficult. If your client can't provide them, do your own research. Fortunately the MIT Technology Review has published an excellent resource, "50 Disruptive Companies of 2013" – they also have 50 companies from 2012, 2011, and so on.
Here's one great example from the current crop that is truly mired in what many would regard as a boring industry. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry hasn't been particularly interesting over the last 70 years or so – until two men who created the iPod and iPad launched a revolutionary central heating thermostat at Nest.com in 2011. According to MIT, "the HVAC industry, a sector as unexciting as the thermostats it sold, was astonished by the fresh ideas behind the device."
The product has been featured in that Wall Street Journal, CNET, Slate, and a host of others. A careful read of the coverage will give you a great idea of what are the hot issues in the industry, and a backlink analysis will reveal a host of sites ready to write about them.
3. Piggyback on Breaking News Stories
In the book he tells the tale of how Wynn Resorts newsjacked a story on the arrest of Paris Hilton by barring her from their properties. Wynn Resorts was then mentioned in nearly every story about the arrest.
As Scott says literally anyone can newsjack, "...if you are clever enough to add a new dimension to a story in real time, the news media will write about you."
And just last week the UK media was buzzing with the story of how Oprah Winfrey was refused the opportunity to buy an expensive handbag from a store in Switzerland. According to Lyndon Antcliff who runs a newsjacking alert service at CornwallSEO.com, this was a perfect story to be hijacked by a handbag retailer or manufacturer (disclosure: I've worked with Lyndon on a number of projects). According to Antcliff, there are some great handbag stories out there to be curated including, "I was handbagged by Mrs Thatcher" on the BBC.
"Boring" is in the eye of the beholder. In any industry, no matter how boring on the surface, you can find and exploit opportunities for tremendous coverage and editorial links.