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Want Links? Here’s Why You Need to Invest in Superb Content

Posted on 25 Nov 2012 in Content Marketing | 13 comments

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Guest post by James Agate, founder of Skyrocket SEO - a content-led link building agency and home to a high-quality guest blog posting service.

The chances are you have experienced the frustration of working with a client or a manager who just doesn’t ‘get it’ when it comes to investing in content.

They want links (big juicy ones), they want visitors (lots of the relevant variety), they even want to generate leads and make sales. You tell them “Great, we need some budget to produce content”. They can’t make the connection between what you’re suggesting and what they asked for.

It isn’t their fault though, it is our job as the consultant/practitioner to help them understand the immense value of investing in content and how it can make or break the success of a link building campaign.

I want to cover some specific techniques and things we do as a company to help our clients to understand where content fits into their linking strategy, how it helps them as a business and generally how we build a business case for securing the budget to produce it.

Hopefully you’ll be able to use these in your own day-to-day work and we’ll all see a lot more budget for producing killer content (which would make all our lives a lot easier).

#1 – Content Opens Bigger Doors

Go to any of the big sites in any niche. Chances are they’ll have an editorial policy. This means they actually give a shit about what goes on to their website and gets seen by their audience.

Dig around in their archive and you’ll likely struggle to find any kind of keyword-stuffed-article-marketing-junk with a generic sounding title and even more generic reading body copy.

If you want to get published on the authoritative sites you need to produce high-quality content. It may be obvious but highlighting this (with a few examples of sites in your industry and comparing this to the latest articles produced) to your client or your manager is often a very quick and easy way to ensure that you are on the way to securing the buy in that you need.

#2 – It Heightens Brand Awareness and Improves Perceptions

Link building is just as much about creating long term value and building a brand as it is about improving the relevance and popularity of a site to drive search engine rankings.

The Custom Content Council conducted a study which found:

  • 77% of people understand that an organisation’s goal for content is to sell them something, but are OK with it as long as it provides value.
  • 73% of people prefer to get information about an organisation in a collection of articles rather than in a traditional advertisement
  • 61% of people feel better about a company that delivers content and are more likely to buy from that company

Those are some pretty compelling statistics as to why investing in content is such a good idea.

You may think you are just building links, so those statistics don’t really apply. However if you’re building links intelligently then you’ll be targeting blogs and websites your potential customers might actually be reading.

Great content can kill two birds with one stone and not only earn a strong link but also start attracting prospects into the top of your conversion funnel.

#3 – You’re Not Paying for Attention, You Are Earning it

I’m certainly not one of those types of people who demonises paid media or preaches how we “inbounders” and better than those evil “paid marketers” because quite frankly there are many situations where outbound marketing is still really applicable.

That being said, when it comes to content driven link building campaigns, far too many people adopt a paid media mindset.

The fact is that you are earning the placement, the attention and that link. You need to create win-win-win situations by producing content that people actually want to read. The blogger or website owner needs a reason to publish your content, otherwise, what’s in it for them?

Give the audience something that they are going to love and the webmaster is going to be happy which means you are likely to get what you want.

Go back to reason 1 and ask yourself if that guest post you’re about to send across matches or exceeds their current editorial standards.

#4 – Good Content Makes Link Building Defensible and More Sustainable

Arguably, the litmus test for a defensible and sustainable link is if Google disappeared or stopped getting high off of link juice, would that link still carry value.

Quite obviously there are going to be nuances here with links that would carry little value if Google disappeared but which are helping sites to rank at this present moment and equally there are links out there which carry a huge amount of value outside of SEO yet may well be harming a site’s rankings.

That being said, producing, syndicating and sharing high-value content is one of the smartest link building strategies because not only are these types of links going to continue to grow in SEO importance they also offer a huge amount of additional value (beyond the SEO perspective). Can you really say that about the link you just dropped on Probably not.

This makes content-led link building sustainable and also easily defensible.

Because although your client or manager could save a few pennies (sorry, cents!) in the short term by investing in directory submissions or footer links the reality is that when the proverbial shit hits the fan you’re going to need to explain why you now need to spend their budget getting those links removed and then spend more of their budget doing this link building stuff the right way.

On that basis, producing quality content for link building is positively cheap by comparison.

#5 – You Might Not Have a Choice in the Future

Leading on from my previous point, the way things are progressing it is looking like content-led link building (with high-quality content) is going to be the only real feasible link building strategy.

Acclimatised and educating your clients and manager as soon as you can is essential and makes it much less painful for the industry as a whole because let’s face it they’ve probably got no choice in the future.

I don’t care what anyone says. Penguin made link building a whole lot more expensive. That’s not agencies cashing in by the way, I’m talking about the fact that it costs more to develop a relationship with a genuine website and co-ordinate the production of high-quality content than it does to drop a comment link.

I will admit that migrating clients away from the empty-my-paypal-account-to-some-link-builder-somewhere-who-can-gets-me-many-thousands-of-linkages mindset to producing high-end content and using it to drive a link building campaign is probably one of the most challenging aspects of my day to day role at the moment. They want “instant this” and “cheap that” and nobody can blame them because that’s what they are used to, hopefully reasoning with them (using the other points I discuss in this point) should help to reduce this as a whole in the industry as time goes by because this is the future.

#6 – We’re Talking a Different Level of Quality…

A common reason that a content-led link building campaign fails is because there is a gap between what the agency/contractor/in-house individual believes to be (or rather hopes to be) good quality content and what is actually accepted by the market as being high-quality.

It is with this failure that comes the longer term issue of budgets for content often being restricted in future because they’ve “had a bad experience”.

Explain that when you say quality, you mean much more than just well structured prose and a piece that is free from spelling mistakes. If you aren’t an expert in the market you are creating content for then find somebody who is.

We make a point of hiring freelance subject experts to produce all the content we need. This gives us much more detailed content that goes well beyond the detail that a “standard” freelance writer could produce.

Writing is undoubtedly a profession and we hugely value the worth of content in our business. I am of the opinion that the best writers specialise and immerse themselves in a particular area. This ensures they have the written communication capabilities but equally the credibility to write confidently about a topic and keep people who are genuinely interested in the topic fully engaged.

How do you convince your clients or manager to invest in top-notch content?

  • Anthony Trollope

    Passionate piece, James. You can obviously tell that there is some frustration on your part about clients who expect quick wins post panda and penguin. I can only imagine that it must be an uphill battle, as I myself am not in the service led trade. 

    Do you find a lot of your clients have a grasp of the world post Google’s recent changes or are they still stuck in their old mindsets? You preach good content but people have been saying this for years – do you think there is a better comprehension of this or has it just been magnified because some people have been given major penalties or in some cases, exclusions from the engines?

  • James Agate

     Just a hint of frustration in there but dealing with some clients when it comes to this conflict is a real nightmare (sometimes).

    I’ve definitely found that post-panda/penguin that prospective clients are more receptive to good content because although it has been preached for years many felt that they didn’t need it because “we’re doing just fine thanks” – now there is a sense of holy shit this isn’t working anymore and we need to do something fast.

    So in a sense we as SEOs kind of win because clients are more receptive to doing the stuff that is more fulfilling (like guest blogging) but on the flipside because they are now in the shit thanks to misdemeanours of the past, they want stuff doing quickly so it looks like we’re never going to really win. Sadly it ‘aint a perfect world :-)

    Thanks for your comment Anthony!

  • Iain Bartholomew

    James is a guy that knows his stuff and this is a sound, well-written piece
    and the advice is sensible and offered from an authoritative position, with experiences most of us will be able to relate to.

    For my part, it is normal for clients not to care one jot about Google, what they do, whether it’s easy or hard to respond to or what additional work is required. They mostly want to pay their money and see results, preferably yesterday.

    As an aside, is it just me, or is the ‘post’ button here in the comments a bit screwy?

  • Anthony Trollope

    I think to an extent a lot of people were happy to market their business a certain way, but now, because Google is watching more closely the finer detail matters more. It’s that old adage of being able to get away with something when a back is turned, I think people have finally woken up to the fact that a mentality like that just isn’t viable in post panda world.

    Thanks for the reply!

  • Anthony Trollope

    Not just you, the comments engine seems a bit skewed. Looks like a scripting issue!

  • James Agate

     Exactly, I think many are avoiding the short tactics now which is cool but they still want to see results “like now!” but I think that over time this should straighten out as people become acclimatised to the way it works :-)

  • James Agate

     Thank you for a well rounded and sensible comment Iain – just to be clear people, I in no way, offered financial remuneration for that endorsement.

  • Sean McColgan

    James – you know how much I love this post and feel your pain. My favourite point: You’re Not Paying for Attention, You Are Earning it.

    This post is testimony to eating your own dog food :)Thanks for sharing here.

  • Sean McColgan

    Thanks for your comment Ian and highlighting the weird ‘post’ button issue – looking into it now. 

  • Iain Bartholomew

    I was even nicer on the discussion! Heh.

  • Iain Bartholomew

    Sean, I think it’s more than just the ‘post’ button. I am also seeing lots of floating bullet points and the Disqus menu at the top doesn’t work.

  • Dom

    Hi, refreshing. Being an independent consultant I appreciate 110% the problem of getting clients to “value” content. We at ViralJab specialise in Marketing Automation technologies which, as you will appreciate, consume content very quickly as it squeezes multiple variations of a piece prepared for multiple segments within a target market. We are constantly looking for partners who can support us in producing quality content.

  • Barney

    The most successful content
    marketers know that brands not only need self-published content, but also
    branded content campaigns that appear on popular niche publishers’ sites. Chris
    Aheam, formerly of Rueters Media, says that small digital publications of this
    sort are recently doing better than the big shops thanks in part to the loyalty
    of niche audiences. 

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