Tag Archive | "Links"

Building Links with Great Content – Natural Syndication Networks

Posted by KristinTynski

The debate is over and the results are clear: the best way to improve domain authority is to generate large numbers of earned links from high-authority publishers.

Getting these links is not possible via:

  • Link exchanges
  • Buying links
  • Private Blog Networks, or PBNs
  • Comment links
  • Paid native content or sponsored posts
  • Any other method you may have encountered

There is no shortcut. The only way to earn these links is by creating content that is so interesting, relevant, and newsworthy to a publisher’s audience that the publisher will want to write about that content themselves.

Success, then, is predicated on doing three things extremely well:

  1. Developing newsworthy content (typically meaning that content is data-driven)
  2. Understanding who to pitch for the best opportunity at success and natural syndication
  3. Writing and sending pitches effectively

We’ve covered point 1 and point 3 on other Moz posts. Today, we are going to do a deep dive into point 2 and investigate methods for understanding and choosing the best possible places to pitch your content. Specifically, we will reveal the hidden news syndication networks that can mean the difference between generating less than a handful or thousands of links from your data-driven content.

Understanding News Syndication Networks

Not all news publishers are the same. Some publishers behave as hubs, or influencers, generating the stories and content that is then “picked up” and written about by other publishers covering the same or similar beats.

Some of the top hubs should be obvious to anyone: CNN, The New York Times, BBC, or Reuters, for instance. Their size, brand authority, and ability to break news make them go-to sources for the origination of news and some of the most common places journalists and writers from other publications go to for story ideas. If your content gets picked up by any of these sites, it’s almost certain that you will enjoy widespread syndication of your story to nearly everywhere that could be interested without any intervention on your part.

Unfortunately, outside of the biggest players, it’s often unclear which other sites also enjoy “Hub Status,” acting as a source for much of the news writing that happens around any specific topic or beat.

At Fractl, our experience pitching top publishers has given us a deep intuition of which domains are likely to be our best bet for the syndication potential of content we create on behalf of our clients, but we wanted to go a step further and put data to the question. Which publishers really act as the biggest hubs of content distribution?

To get a better handle on this question, we took a look at the link networks of the top 400 most trafficked American publishers online. We then utilized Gephi, a powerful network visualization tool to make sense of this massive web of links. Below is a visualization of that network.

An interactive version is available here.

Before explaining further, let’s detail how the visualization works:

  • Each colored circle is called a node. A node represents one publisher/website
  • Node size is related to Domain Authority. The larger the node, the more domain authority it has.
  • The lines between the nodes are called edges, and represent the links between each publisher.
  • The strength of the edges/links corresponds to the total number of links from one publisher to another. The more links from one publisher to another, the stronger the edge, and the more “pull” exerted between those two nodes toward each other.
  • You can think of the visualization almost like an epic game of tug of war, where nodes with similar link networks end up clustering near each other.
  • The colors of the nodes are determined by a “Modularity” algorithm that looks at the overall similarity of link networks, comparing all nodes to each other. Nodes with the same color exhibit the most similarity. The modularity algorithm implemented in Gephi looks for the nodes that are more densely connected together than to the rest of the network

Once visualized, important takeaways that can be realized include the following:

  1. The most “central” nodes, or the ones appearing near the center of the graph, are the ones that enjoy links from the widest variety of sites. Naturally, the big boys like Reuters, CNN and the NYTimes are located at the center, with large volumes of links incoming from all over.
  2. Tight clusters are publishers that link to each other very often, which creates a strong attractive force and keeps them close together. Publishers like these are often either owned by the same parent company or have built-in automatic link syndication relationships. A good example is the Gawker Network (at the 10PM position). The closeness of nodes in this network is the result of heavy interlinking and story syndication, along with the effects of site-wide links shared between them. A similar cluster appears at the 7PM position with the major NBC-owned publishers (NBC.com, MSNBC.com, Today.com, etc.). Nearby, we also see large NBC-owned regional publishers, indicating heavy story syndication also to these regional owned properties.
  3. Non-obvious similarities between the publishers can also be gleaned. For instance, notice how FoxNews.com and TMZ.com are very closely grouped, sharing very similar link profiles and also linking to each other extensively. Another interesting cluster to note is the Buzzfeed/Vice cluster. Notice their centrality lies somewhere between serious news and lifestyle, with linkages extending out into both.
  4. Sites that cover similar themes/beats are often located close to each other in the visualization. We can see top-tier lifestyle publishers clustered around the 1PM position. News publishers clustered near other news publishers with similar political leanings. Notice the closeness of Politico, Salon, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post. Similarly, notice the proximity of Breitbart, The Daily Caller, and BizPacReview. These relationships hint at hidden biases and relationships in how these publishers pick up each other’s stories.

A More Global Perspective

Last year, a fascinating project by Kalev Leetaru at Forbes looked at the dynamics Google News publishers in the US and around the world. The project leveraged GDelt’s massive news article dataset, and visualized the network with Gephi, similarly to the above network discussed in the previous paragraph.

This visualization differs in that the link network was built looking only at in-context links, whereas the visualization featured in the previous paragraph looked at all links. This is perhaps an even more accurate view of news syndication networks because it better parses out site-wide links, navigation links, and other non-context links that impact the graph. Additionally, this graph was generated using more than 121 million articles from nearly every country in the world, containing almost three-quarters of a billion individual links. It represents one of the most accurate pictures of the dynamics of the global news landscape ever assembled.

Edge weights were determined by the total number of links from each node to each other node. The more links, the stronger the edge. Node sizes were calculated using Pagerank in this case instead of Domain Authority, though they are similar metrics.

Using this visualization, Mr. Leetaru was able to infer some incredibly interesting and potentially powerful relationships that have implications for anyone who pitches mainstream publishers. Some of the most important include:

  1. In the center of the graph, we see a very large cluster. This cluster can be thought of as essentially the “Global Media Core,” as Mr. Leetaru puts it. Green nodes represent American outlets. This, as with the previous example, shows the frequency with which these primary news outlets interlink and cover each other’s stories, as well as how much less frequently they cite sources from smaller publications or local and regional outlets.
  2. Interestingly, CNN seems to play a unique role in the dissemination to local and regional news. Note the many links from CNN to the blue cluster on the far right. Mr. Leetaru speculates this could be the result of other major outlets like the NYTimes and the Washington Post using paywalls. This point is important for anyone who pitches content. Paywalls should be something taken into consideration, as they could potentially significantly reduce syndication elsewhere.
  3. The NPR cluster is another fascinating one, suggesting that there is heavy interlinking between NPR-related stories and also between NPR and the Washington Post and NYTimes. Getting a pickup on NPR’s main site could result in syndication to many of its affiliates. NYTimes or Washington Post pickups could also have a similar effect due to this interlinking.
  4. For those looking for international syndication, there are some other interesting standouts. Sites like NYYibada.com cover news in the US. They are involved with Chinese language publications, but also have versions in other languages, including English. Sites like this might not seem to be good pitch targets, but could likely be pitched successfully given their coverage of many of the same stories as US-based English language publications.
  5. The blue and pink clusters at the bottom of the graph are outlets from the Russian and Ukrainian press, respectively. You will notice that while the vast majority of their linking is self-contained, there seem to be three bridges to international press, specifically via the BBC, Reuters, and AP. This suggests getting pickups at these outlets could result in much broader international syndication, at least in Eastern Europe and Russia.
  6. Additionally, the overall lack of deep interlinking between publications of different languages suggests that it is quite difficult to get English stories picked up internationally.
  7. Sites like ZDnet.com have foreign language counterparts, and often translate their stories for their international properties. Sites like these offer unique opportunities for link syndication into mostly isolated islands of foreign publications that would be difficult to reach otherwise.

I would encourage readers to explore this interactive more. Isolating individual publications can give deep insight into what syndication potential might be possible for any story covered. Of course, many factors impact how a story spreads through these networks. As a general rule, the broader the syndication network, the more opportunities that exist.

Link Syndication in Practice

Over our 6 years in business, Fractl has executed more than 1,500 content marketing campaigns, promoted using high-touch, one-to-one outreach to major publications. Below are two views of content syndication we have seen as a result of our content production and promotion work.

Let’s first look just at a single campaign.

Recently, Fractl scored a big win for our client Signs.com with our “Branded in Memory” campaign, which was a fun and visual look at how well people remember brand logos. We had the crowd attempt to recreate well-known brand logos from memory, and completed data analysis to understand more deeply which brands seem to have the best overall recall.

As a result of strategic pitching, the high public appeal, and the overall “coolness” factor of the project, it was picked up widely by many mainstream publications, and enjoyed extensive syndication.

Here is what that syndication looked like in network graph form over time:

If you are interested in seeing and exploring the full graph, you can access the interactive by clicking on the gif above, or clicking here. As with previous examples, node size is related to domain authority.

A few important things to note:

  • The orange cluster of nodes surrounding the central node are links directly to the landing page on Signs.com.
  • Several pickups resulted in nodes (publications) that themselves generated many numbers of links pointing at the story they wrote about the Signs.com project. The blue cluster at the 8PM position is a great example. In this case it was a pickup from BoredPanda.com.
  • Nodes that do not link to Signs.com are secondary syndications. They pass link value through the node that links to Signs.com, and represent an opportunity for link reclamation. Fractl follows up on all of these opportunities in an attempt to turn these secondary syndications into do-follow links pointing directly at our client’s domain.
  • An animated view gives an interesting insight into the pace of link accumulation both to the primary story on Signs.com, but also to the nodes that garnered their own secondary syndications. The GIF represents a full year of pickups. As we found in my previous Moz post examining link acquisition over time, roughly 50% of the links were acquired in the first month, and the other 50% over the next 11 months.

Now, let’s take a look at what syndication networks look like when aggregated across roughly 3 months worth of Fractl client campaigns (not fully comprehensive):

If you are interested in exploring this in more depth, click here or the above image for the interactive. As with previous examples, node size is related to domain authority.

A few important things to note:

  1. The brown cluster near the center labeled “placements” are links pointing back directly to the landing pages on our clients’ sites. Many/most of these links were the result of pitches to writers and editors at those publications, and not as a result of natural syndication.
  2. We can see many major hubs with their own attached orbits of linking nodes. At 9PM, we see entrepreneur.com, at 12PM we see CNBC.com, 10PM we see USAToday, etc.
  3. Publications with large numbers of linking nodes surrounding them are examples of prime pitching targets, given how syndications link back to stories on those publications appear in this aggregate view.

Putting it All Together

New data tools are enabling the ability to more deeply understand how the universe of news publications and the larger “blogosphere” operate dynamically. Network visualization tools in particular can be put to use to yield otherwise impossible insights about the relationships between publications and how content is distributed and syndicated through these networks.

The best part is that creating visualizations with your own data is very straightforward. For instance, the link graphs of Fractl content examples, along with the first overarching view of news networks, was built using backlink exports from SEMrush. Additionally, third party resources such as Gdelt offer tools and datasets that are virtually unexplored, providing opportunity for deep understanding that can convey significant advantages for those looking to optimize their content promotion and syndication process.

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How to get links to your site: Create content that people want to link to

At SMX East Alli Brenner, Lisa Barone and Paddy Moogan talked about how to make content that attracts links.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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Can You Still Use Infographics to Build Links?

Posted by DarrenKingman

Content link building: Are infographics still the highest ROI format?

Fun fact: the first article to appear online proclaiming that “infographics are dead” appeared in 2011. Yet, here we are.

For those of you looking for a quick answer to this strategy-defining question, infographics aren’t as popular as they were between 2014 and 2015. Although they were the best format for generating links, popular publications aren’t using them as often as they used to, as evidenced in this research. However, they are still being used daily and gaining amazing placements and links for their creators — and the data shows, they are already more popular in 2018 than they were in 2013.

However, if there’s one format you want to be working with, use surveys.

Note: I am at the mercy of the publication I’ve reviewed as to what constitutes their definition of an infographic in order to get this data at scale. However, throughout my research, this would typically include a relatively long text- and data-heavy visualization of a specific topic.

The truth is that infographics are still one of the most-used formats for building links and brand awareness, and from my outreach experiences, with good reason. Good static visuals or illustrations (as we now call them to avoid the industry-self-inflicted shame) are often rich in content with engaging visuals that are extremely easy for journalists to write about and embed, something to which anyone who’s tried sending an iframe to a journalist will attest.

That’s why infographics have been going strong for over a decade, and will continue to for years to come.

My methodology

Prophecies aside, I wanted to take a look into the data and discover whether or not infographics are a dying art and if journalists are still posting them as often as they used to. I believe the best way to determine this is by taking a look at what journalists are publishing and mapping that over time.

Not only did I look at how often infographics are being used, but I also measured them against other content formats typically used for building links and brand awareness. If infographics are no longer the best format for content-based link building, I wanted to find out what was. I’ve often used interactives, surveys, and photographic content, like most people producing story-driven creatives, so I focused on those as my formats for comparison.

Internally, you can learn a ton by cross-referencing this sort of data (or data from any key publication clients or stakeholders have tasked you with) with your own data highlighting where you’re seeing most of your successes and identifying which formats and topics are your strengths or weaknesses. You can quickly then measure up against those key target publications and know if your strongest format/topic is one they favor most, or if you might need to rethink a particular process to get featured.

I chose to take a look at Entrepreneur.com as a base for this study, so anyone working with B2B or B2C content, whether in-house or agency-side, will probably get the most use out of this (especially because I scraped the names of journalists publishing this content — shh! DM me for it. Feels a little wrong to publish that openly!).

Disclaimer: There were two methods of retrieving this data that I worked through, each with their own limitations. After speaking with fellow digital PR expert, Danny Lynch, I settled on using Screaming Frog and custom extraction using XPath. Therefore, I am limited to what the crawl could find, which still included over 70,000 article URLs, but any orphaned or removed pages wouldn’t be possible to crawl and aren’t included.

The research

Here’s how many infographics have been featured as part of an article on Entrepreneur.com over the years:

As we’ve not yet finished 2018 (3 months to go at the time this data was pulled), we can estimate the final usage will be in the 380 region, putting it not far from the totals of 2017 and 2016. Impressive stuff in comparison to years gone by.

However, there’s a key unknown here. Is the post-2014/15 drop-off due to lack of outreach? Is it a case of content creators simply deciding infographics were no longer the preferred format to cover topics and build links for clients, as they were a few years ago?

Both my past experiences agency-side and my gut feeling would be that content creators are moving away from it as a core format for link building. Not only would this directly impact the frequency they are published, but it would also impact the investment creators place in producing infographics, and in an environment where infographics need to improve to survive, that would only lead to less features.

Another important data point I wanted to look at was the amount of content being published overall. Without this info, there would be no way of knowing if, with content quality improving all the time, journalists were spending a significantly more time on posts than they had previously while publishing at diminishing rates. To this end, I looked at how much content Entrepreneur.com published each year over the same timeframe:

Although the data shows some differences, the graphs are pretty similar. However, it gets really interesting when we divide the number of infographics by the number of articles in total to find out how many infographics exist per article:

There we have it. The golden years of infographics were certainly 2013 and 2014, but they’ve been riding a wave of consistency since 2015, comprising a higher percentage of overall articles that link builders would have only dreamed of in 2012, when they were way more in fashion.

In fact, by breaking down the number of infographics vs overall content published, there’s a 105% increase in the number of articles that have featured an infographic in 2018 compared to 2012.

Infographics compared to other creative formats

With all this in mind, I still wanted to uncover the fascination with moving away from infographics as a medium of creative storytelling and link building. Is it an obsession with building and using new formats because we’re bored, or is it because other formats provide a better link building ROI?

The next question I wanted to answer was: “How are other content types performing and how do they compare?” Here’s the answer:

Again, using figures publisher-side, we can see that the number of posts that feature infographics is consistently higher than the number of features for interactives and photographic content. Surveys have more recently taken the mantle, but all content types have taken a dip since 2015. However, there’s no clear signal there that we should be moving away from infographics just yet.

In fact, when pitting infographics against all of the other content types (comparing the total number of features), apart from 2013 and 2014 when infographics wiped the floor with everything, there’s no signal to suggest that we need to ditch them:

Year

Infographics vs Interactives

Infographics vs Photography

Infographics vs Surveys

2011

-75%

-67%

-90%

2012

-14%

-14%

-65%

2013

251%

376%

51%

2014

367%

377%

47%

2015

256%

196%

1%

2016

186%

133%

-40%

2017

195%

226%

-31%

2018

180%

160%

-42%

This is pretty surprising stuff in an age where we’re obsessed with interactives and “hero” pieces for link building campaigns.

Surveys are perhaps the surprise package here, having seen the same rise that infographics had through 2012 and 2013, now out-performing all other content types consistently over the last two years.

When I cross-reference to find the number of surveys being used per article, we can see that in every year since 2013 their usage has been increasingly steadily. In 2018, they’re being used more often per article than infographics were, even in their prime:

Surveys are one of the “smaller” creative campaigns I’ve offered in my career. It’s a format I’m gravitating more towards because of their speed and potential for headlines. Critically, they’re also cheaper to produce, both in terms of research and production, allowing me to not only create more of them per campaign, but also target news-jacking topics and build links more quickly compared to other production-heavy pieces.

I think, conclusively, this data shows that for a solid ROI when links are the metric, infographics are still competitive and viable. Surveys will serve you best, but be careful if you’re using the majority of your budget on an interactive or photographic piece. Although the rewards can still be there, it’s a risk.

The link building potential of our link building

For one last dive into the numbers, I wanted to see how different content formats perform for publishers, which could provide powerful insight when deciding which type of content to produce. Although we have no way of knowing when we do our outreach which KPIs different journalists are working towards, if we know the formats that perform best for them (even if they don’t know it), we can help their content perform by proxy — which also serves the performance of our content by funneling increased equity.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to extract a comment count or number of social shares per post, which I thought would be an interesting insight to review engagement, so I focused on linking root domains to discover if there is any difference in a publisher’s ability to build links based on the formats they cover, and if that could lead to an increase in link equity coming our way.

Here’s the average number of links from different domains for each post featuring a different content type received:

Impressively, infographics and surveys continue to hold up really well. Not only are they the content types that the publisher features more often, they are also the content types that build them the most links.

Using these formats to pitch with not only increases the chances that a publisher’s post will rank more competitively in your content’s topic area (and put your brand at the center of the conversation), it’s also important for your link building activity because it highlights the potential link equity flowing to your features and, therefore, how much ends up on your domain.

This gives you the potential to rank (directly and indirectly) for a variety of phrases centered around your topic. It also gives your domain/target page and topically associated pages a better chance of ranking themselves — at least where links play their part in the algorithm.

Ultimately, and to echo what I mentioned in my intro-summary, surveys have become the best format for building links. I’d love to know how many are pitched, but the fact they generate the most links for our linkers is huge, and if you are doing content-based link building with SEO-centric KPIs, they give you the best shot at maximizing equity and therefore ranking potential.

Infographics certainly still seem to have a huge part in the conversation. Only move away from them if there’s proof in your data. Otherwise, you could be missing out for no reason.

That’s me, guys. I really hope this data and process is interesting for everyone, and I’d love to hear if you’ve found or had experiences that lead to different conclusions.

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Why isn’t my fabulous content attracting quality links?

Not getting anyone to respond to your link outreach emails? Here’s a look at why they may be failing and what you can do to improve your open rates and ultimately your link counts.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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Internal links: Link building’s secret sauce

Contributor Andrew Dennis explains why you shouldn’t overlook internal links on your site: They leverage link equity from external links and direct organic visitors to important, converting pages.



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Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

Link building campaigns shouldn’t have a start-and-stop date — they should be ongoing, continuing to earn you links over time. In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, please warmly welcome our guest host Paddy Moogan as he shares strategies to achieve sustainable link building, the kind that makes your content efforts lucrative far beyond your initial campaigns for them.

Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. I’m not Rand. I’m Paddy Moogan. I’m the cofounder of Aira. We’re an agency in the UK, focusing on SEO, link building, and content marketing. You may have seen me write on the Moz Blog before, usually about link building. You may have read my link building book. If you have, thank you. Today, I’m going to talk about link building again. It’s a topic I love, and I want to share some ideas around what I’m calling “sustainable link building.”

Problems

Now, there are a few problems with link building that make it quite risky, and I want to talk about some problems first before giving you some potential solutions that help make your link building less risky. So a few problems first:

I. Content-driven link building is risky.

The problem with content-driven link building is that you’re producing some content and you don’t really know if it’s going to work or not. It’s quite risky, and you don’t actually know for sure that you’re going to get links.

II. A great content idea may not be a great content idea that gets links.

There’s a massive difference between a great idea for content and a great idea that will get links. Knowing that difference is really, really important. So we’re going to talk a little bit about how we can work that out.

III. It’s a big investment of time and budget.

Producing content, particularly visual content, doing design and development takes time. It can take freelancers. It can take designers and developers. So it’s a big investment of time and budget. If you’re going to put time and budget into a marketing campaign, you want to know it’s probably going to work and not be too risky.

IV. Think of link building as campaign-led: it starts & stops.

So you do a link building campaign, and then you stop and start a new one. I want to get away from that idea. I want to talk about the idea of treating link building as the ongoing activity and not treating it as a campaign that has a start date and a finish date and you forget about it and move on to the next one. So I’m going to talk a little bit about that as well.

Solutions

So those are some of the problems that we’ve got with content-driven link-building. I want to talk about some solutions of how to offset the risk of content-driven link building and how to increase the chances that you’re actually going to get links and your campaign isn’t going to fail and not work out for you.

I. Don’t tie content to specific dates or events

So the first one, now, when you coming up with content ideas, it’s really easy to tie content ideas into events or days of the year. If there are things going on in your client’s industry that are quite important, current festivals and things like that, it’s a great way of hooking a piece of content into an event. Now, the problem with that is if you produce a piece of content around a certain date and then that date passes and the content hasn’t worked, then you’re kind of stuck with a piece of content that is no longer relevant.

So an example here of what we’ve done at Aira, there’s a client where they launch a piece of content around the Internet of Things Day. It turns out there’s a day celebrating the Internet of Things, which is actually April 9th this year. Now, we produced a piece of content for them around the Internet of Things and its growth in the world and the impact it’s having on the world. But importantly, we didn’t tie it exactly to that date. So the piece itself didn’t mention the date, but we launched it around that time and that outreach talked about Internet of Things Day. So the outreach focused on the date and the event, but the content piece itself didn’t. What that meant was, after July 9th, we could still promote that piece of content because it was still relevant. It wasn’t tied in with that exact date.

So it means that we’re not gambling on a specific event or a specific date. If we get to July 9th and we’ve got no links, it obviously matters, but we can keep going. We can keep pushing that piece of content. So, by all means, produce content tied into dates and events, but try not to include that too much in the content piece itself and tie yourself to it.

II. Look for datasets which give you multiple angles for outreach

Number two, lots of content ideas can lead from data. So you can get a dataset and produce content ideas off the back of the data, but produce angles and stories using data. Now, that can be quite risky because you don’t always know if data is going to give you a story or an angle until you’ve gone into it. So something we try and do at Aira when trying to produce content around data is from actually different angles you can use from that data.

So, for example:

  • Locations. Can you pitch a piece of content into different locations throughout the US or the UK so you can go after the local newspapers, local magazines for different areas of the country using different data points?
  • Demographics. Can you target different demographics? Can you target females, males, young people, old people? Can you slice the data in different ways to approach different demographics, which will give you multiple ways of actually outreaching that content?
  • Years. Is it updated every year? So it’s 2018 at the moment. Is there a piece of data that will be updated in 2019? If there is and it’s like a recurring annual thing where the data is updated, you can redo the content next year. So you can launch a piece of content now. When the data gets updated next year, plug the new data into it and relaunch it. So you’re not having to rebuild a piece of a content every single time. You can use old content and then update the data afterwards.

III. Build up a bank of link-worthy content

Number three, now this is something which is working really, really well for us at the moment, something I wanted to share with you. This comes back to the idea of not treating link building as a start and stop campaign. You need to build up a bank of link-worthy content on your client websites or on your own websites. Try and build up content that’s link worthy and not just have content as a one-off piece of work. What you can do with that is outreach over and over and over again.

We tend to think of the content process as something like this. You come up with your ideas. You do the design, then you do the outreach, and then you stop. In reality, what you should be doing is actually going back to the start and redoing this over and over again for the same piece of content.

What you end up with is multiple pieces of content on your client’s website that are all getting links consistently. You’re not just focusing on one, then moving past it, and then working on the next one. You can have this nice big bank of content there getting links for you all the time, rather than forgetting about it and moving on to the next one.

IV. Learn what content formats work for you

Number four, again, this is something that’s worked really well for us recently. Because we’re an agency, we work with lots of different clients, different industries and produce lots and lots of content, what we’ve done recently is try to work out what content formats are working the best for us. Which formats get the best results for our clients? The way we did this was a very, very simple chart showing how easy something was versus how hard it was, and then wherever it was a fail in terms of the links and the coverage, or wherever it was a really big win in terms of links and coverage and traffic for the client.

Now, what you may find when you do this is certain content formats fit within this grid. So, for example, you may find that doing data viz is actually really, really hard, but it gets you lots and lots of links, whereas you might find that producing maps and visuals around that kind of data is actually really hard but isn’t very successful.

Identifying these content formats and knowing what works and doesn’t work can then feed into your future content campaign. So when you’re working for a client, you can confidently say, “Well, actually, we know that interactives aren’t too difficult for us to build because we’ve got a good dev team, and they really likely to get links because we’ve done loads of them before and actually seen lots of successes from them.” Whereas if you come up with an idea for a map that you know is actually really, really hard to do and actually might lead to a big fail, then that’s not going to be so good, but you can say to a client, “Look, from our experience, we can see maps don’t work very well. So let’s try and do something else.”

That’s it in terms of tips and solutions for trying to make your link building more sustainable. I’d love to hear your comments and your feedback below. So if you’ve got any questions, anything you’re not sure about, let me know. If you see it’s working for your clients or not working, I’d love to hear that as well. Thank you.

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How to Earn More Links and Social Shares: Insights From 759 Content Marketing Campaigns

Posted by kerryjones

Is there a formula for wildly successful content marketing campaigns? It’s a question we ponder a lot at the Fractl office.

We do have our own tried-and-true formula that we continually tweak based on our observations of what does and doesn’t succeed. To help us spot trends that shape this formula, we collect data about every content marketing campaign we create for our clients. But we don’t keep this data to ourselves – sharing our internal data with the marketing community helps others create better content based on what’s worked for us.

We did this a few years ago using a set of 345 campaigns, and now that we have double the number of our campaigns under our belt, we dug into our data again. This time, the sample size was 759 campaigns that launched between 2013 and 2017.

As part of our analysis, we looked at the relationship between campaign performance, measured by the number of placements and social shares a campaign earned, and the campaign’s attributes, including emotionality, the target audience size, and timeliness. “Placement” or “pickup” refers to any time a campaign received media coverage. In link building lingo, a placement may refer to a link that is dofollow, cocitation or nofollow; we also count client mentions without links as placements.

Campaign performance was grouped into three buckets:

  • High success: more than 100 placements and/or 20,000 social shares
  • Moderate success: Between 20–100 placements and/or between 1,000 and 20,000 social shares
  • Low success: Fewer than 20 placements and/or fewer than 1,000 social shares

What sets apart our top performing campaigns

Our campaigns that were either emotionally resonant or surprising were significantly more likely to yield a high volume of media placements and social shares than content that does not include these elements.

The chart below shows the prevalence of three factors across the different campaign performance groups.

As you can see, emotions and an element of surprise were far more common in campaigns that performed extremely well.

  • Seventy percent of high success campaigns had an emotional hook compared to 45% of moderate success and 25% of low success campaigns.
  • Seventy-six percent of high success campaigns were surprising compared to 54% of moderate success and 47% of low success campaigns.

There wasn’t as great of a difference when it came to whether or not campaigns were broadly appealing. We believe on its own this isn’t enough to hit a home run, but it’s telling that this trait was nearly ubiquitous among the top performers:

  • Almost all of our high success campaigns (96%) had broad appeal, compared to 81% of moderate success and 86% of low success campaigns.

Let’s take a closer look at how each of these three factors correlated to campaign performance.

An emotional hook

Campaigns with an emotional hook earned 70% more media pickups and 127% more social shares on average than campaigns that lacked emotional resonance.

Creating an emotional response in viewers is crucial for driving sharing and engagement. This is clearly demonstrated by our campaign data, with emotional resonance being a key factor in our top campaigns and emotional campaigns performing far better on average than non-emotional campaigns.

In our research on viral emotions, we found certain emotional reactions are best for getting content to spread:

  • Keep it positive. Creating a purely positive emotional reaction works best for garnering attention and igniting shares. Why is this? People want to share things that make others feel good.
  • Put the audience on an emotional rollercoaster. Complex emotional responses are also extremely effective for striking the right emotional chord. Consider pairing contrasting emotions, such as hope and despair or admiration and sadness, to pack the greatest emotional punch.
  • Pair negative emotions with surprise. Avoid rousing strictly negative feelings. Surprise is crucial if you’re hitting the audience with a negative emotion, such as fear or anger.

An element of surprise

Surprising campaigns earned 39% more media pickups and 108% more social shares than campaigns that weren’t surprising.

Surprise doesn’t necessarily mean shocking. Novelty, or newness, can also elicit feelings of surprise; incorporating information that isn’t widely known or new data are effective ways to play into this because it triggers a feeling of “I didn’t already know this,” which draws interest and encourages sharing the new information with others.

Furthermore, surprise or novelty can greatly improve your outreach efforts. Since newness is a pillar of newsworthiness, publishers are eager to get their hands on exclusive stories. This is why offering the media something never published before is essential for effective PR outreach.

Broad appeal

As I mentioned previously, broad appeal on its own isn’t going to have a huge impact on campaign success. However, universal appeal still plays a role in getting a campaign in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Campaigns that appealed to a wide audience earned 38% more media pickups and 96% more social shares on average than campaigns created for a niche demographic.

Creating broadly appealing versus niche-focused content is a choice of fishing in a big pond or a little pond. You’ll have a larger volume of outreach targets and greater potential audience reach with a broadly appealing campaign. On the other hand, niche campaigns have limited reach because they’re much harder to get picked up by widely-read general news sites that want stories with mass appeal. Instead, you can only pitch the handful of publishers that cover the niche topic.

For this reason, we often create tangential content, or content about a popular topic related to a client’s vertical, for many of our clients whose goals include a high volume of links and media mentions. This being said, it’s possible to get a ton of media attention and engagement with niche-focused campaigns, which I explore later in this post.

When a combination of emotions, surprise, and broad appeal was present in a campaign, it supercharged the results.

So we know emotions and surprise work well on their own. However, when these factors were paired together with a broadly appealing topic, we saw even greater success.

Campaigns that were both emotional and surprising earned 199 pickups and 23,730 social shares on average. Incorporating all three made the biggest impact on the average results; campaigns that were emotional, surprising, and broadly appealing earned 207 pickups and 25,017 social shares on average.

We know audiences are drawn to emotionally resonant, universally appealing, and surprising content, but these traits play a big role in campaign success before the public even sees the content – they’re crucial for getting your outreach pitch read and acted upon.

Content with these three traits has strong headline potential, which publishers immediately pick up on when they read a pitch. In other words, it’s going to be easy for publishers to write an irresistible headline if they publish your campaign. Without a great headline, it’s much harder to draw clicks and views to a story, which are required initial steps for getting others to link to and share the content.

Can’t picture how a single headline can be emotional, surprising, and have mass appeal? Here are examples of headlines from our campaigns that hit all of these factors:

  • Drinking from a refillable water bottle could be worse than licking a dog toy
  • More American high school students smoke pot than binge drink, report says
  • Here’s which states post the nastiest tweets [From this campaign]
  • Online fast food calculator reveals how long you need to run or swim to be guilt-free (and it’s more than you think)
  • The surprising reason why most men cheat

If you were browsing your social feeds and came across any of those headlines, they’d be hard to resist clicking, right? Here’s a look at the campaign behind that last headline.

Campaign example: The surprising reason why most men cheat

Client vertical: Online pharmacy

The campaign

We went straight to the source to conduct a survey of people who have cheated on a significant other. This was clearly an emotionally charged subject that would intrigue a large segment of the population. Furthermore, the campaign offered a fresh take on a topic commonly discussed to the point of oversaturation by big publishers that cover relationships. By coming at it from from the angle of “from the mouth of a cheater,” which isn’t often covered and definitely not in a data-centered way, the campaign had a strong surprise and novelty factor that went over well with both publishers and audiences.

The results? 175 placements, including features on Fox News, The New York Post, Cosmopolitan, and Men’s Health, and nearly 40,000 social shares.

Pro Tip: When you pitch an idea to a publisher, they picture potential headlines. It shouldn’t be overly complicated to communicate that your idea is emotional, surprising, and broadly appealing. Try the headline test: Consider how all three factors would fit into a headline by writing a few mock headlines that concisely capture the selling points of the campaign. Does it make for the perfect eye-catching headline?

How you can still score big without emotions and surprise

Of course, there are exceptions to the rules. Here’s how you can still earn a lot of media pickups and social shares with content that’s neither emotional nor surprising.

Exception #1: Target one or more niche groups

Our high performing campaigns that appealed to a certain demographic or fan base were less likely to be emotionally resonant or surprising than those that appealed to a wide audience.

Successful niche campaigns were mostly educational and informative rather than purely entertaining, and many of these campaigns were data heavy. It’s no surprise that passionate niche groups are eager to learn more about the topics they care about.

Campaign example: The rise of the freelance worker

Client vertical: HR and payroll services

The campaign

We analyzed 400,000 freelancer resumes to uncover new insights about the freelancing economy. While this topic isn’t universally appealing, it did have overlapping appeal within several niche audiences, such as HR and recruitment, freelance employees, and the general business community, which led to 269 placements including Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Fox News, plus more than 20,000 social shares.

Pro Tip: If your campaign topic appeals to several niche groups, you can increase your chances for media coverage on a variety of niche publishers, thus expanding your potential reach.

Exception #2: Incorporate “geo-bait”

Based on our data, we found that campaigns that were absent of an emotional hook or element of surprise but did have a strong geographic angle still performed quite well.

Since our identities are closely tied to where we come from and where we live, campaigns based on geographical areas (countries, cities, states, regions) play into the audiences’ egos. In Fractl terms, we call this “geo-bait.”

Campaign example: Which states use the most solar power?

Client vertical: Home improvement

The campaign

Using data from the US Department of Energy, we looked at which states were producing the most solar energy and installing the most solar panels. There wasn’t much surprising data here, as environmentally progressive states topped the rankings (hello, California), but incorporating fresh data and featuring a ranking of solar-friendly states helped this campaign earn more than 200 placements. In addition to the geo-bait angle, this topic had strong appeal to the environmental niche, which helped it get picked up by green publishers.

Pro Tip: Geo-bait campaigns are especially appealing when they compare or rank multiple places.

Other key factors that affect campaign performance

Adding three magical elements into your content won’t automatically lead to success. A handful of other variables can make or break your campaign, some of which will be out of your control. So which variables in your control can increase your chances for success?

Exceptional outreach

Even the best content will fail to get any coverage if your outreach game is weak. This means absolutely no mass pitching your campaign to a long list of publishers. Not only do you need to choose the right targets for outreach (a.k.a. publishers that actually publish stories about your campaign topic), you need to choose the right person at that publication (a.k.a. the person who regularly writes about the topic). That way, you’re not alienating writers with irrelevant pitches. You also need to send compelling, personalized outreach pitches to each target (don’t worry, we have a checklist for that). By sending solid pitches, they’re more likely to open your emails in the future.

Credibility

You’ll quickly lose trust with publishers (and audiences) if your campaign includes questionable data and inaccuracies. Make credibility a top priority for your work and you’ll have an easier time becoming a trustworthy content creator and maintaining your trustworthiness in the long term.

First, you need to only use authoritative sources and data in your campaign.

What’s a good source?

  • Government websites and databases
  • Higher education sites
  • Peer-reviewed journals
  • Notable publishers with stringent editorial standards

What’s not a good source?

  • Websites lacking editorial oversight (in other words, contributors can automatically publish content without an editor’s review)
  • Branded websites
  • User-generated content
  • Studies backed by corporate

Second, your campaign won’t be trusted if it’s riddled with errors. Our editorial team ensures campaigns don’t get released into the wild with glaring grammatical and factual mistakes. Include editorial guidelines and a quality assurance check within your production process to keep campaigns error-free.

One final word of advice: evaluate whether a campaign concept will be emotionally resonant, surprising, and broadly appealing before you move it into production. Our ideation guide sheds light on how we do this by scoring our ideas based on a 5-point grading rubric.

What trends have you noticed about your most successful content marketing campaigns? I’d love to hear how your observations confirm or differ from what I’ve shared.

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Why It Can Pay to Get Links from Domains that Don’t Always Rank Highly – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Contrary to popular belief, the top ranking pages aren’t always the best targets for your link building efforts. There are good reasons to chase those links, sure, but there are also drawbacks — as well as some hidden alternatives you may not have considered trying. This Whiteboard Friday delves into the pros and cons of targeting high-ranking sites for links and why you should consider a link intersect strategy, targeting sites that rank for broader topics, and earning links from publications ranking beyond page one of the SERPs.

Why It Can Pay to Get Links from Domains that Don't Always Rank Highly

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about why it may not actually pay to get links expressly or exclusively from the websites and pages that are ranking highly for your keywords. There’s a bunch of reasons why behind this. There’s a corollary to it, which is high-ranking websites may not always be the best link targets.

Are these the *best* links you can get to rank for “target keyword(s)”?

So okay, let’s start with this question of when you’re trying to rank for a target keyword, let’s say you’re trying to rank for “stylish sofas.” You’ve decided you want to replace your couch, and you want something stylish. So you search for “stylish sofas.” The results that come up, we’re not talking about the paid results. That would be a mistake to try and get links from those. They’re pretty commercially focused. They probably don’t want to link to you, and I’m not sure it’s all that valuable, necessarily, at least from an SEO perspective. But are these links, the ones that rank in the organic results top five, are they necessarily the best links you could possibly get? There are some reasons for and some reasons against.

In favor:

Let’s talk about in favor of why these are good link targets. The first one is pretty simple and pretty obvious.

A. These pages get lots of real visitors interested in this topic who may click on/visit your site (if it’s linked-to here)

These pages get a lot of search volume, get a lot of search visits from this query. If you’re somewhere in this page, if my website is linked to here, that’s actually a really nice thing. Maybe someone will click on the top result and then they’ll find me and they’ll click on it and they’ll go to my page instead. That would be great. So if it’s linked to there, you could get direct traffic from those pages, so nice link to have.

B. Google has put some trust/indication of authority in these pages and sites

Google has put some sort of trust and a signal of authority for this keyword by ranking it here. It’s saying, “Hey, you know what? This top result and these top results are all highly relevant and authoritative for this particular query.”

So those are absolutely true things, but I think they bias SEOs and link builders to think in terms of, oh, if I want to rank well for this, these are the only things I should be looking at or the first things I should be looking at or the best places to get links from.

Against:

Here’s why that’s not necessarily the case, so some points against.

A. Ranking is not actually an explicit signal from Google that these are the best quality links

By putting a page here, in the top of the results, Google is saying, “We, Google, believe that this page will do a great job of solving the searcher’s query,” not, “We, Google, know that if you get a link from here, you have a very good chance to rank for this keyword.” That’s not explicitly or implicitly said. It’s not an implication. Google has never stated that publicly. I don’t think it’s necessarily the smartest thing to do in their ranking algorithm to have this recursive system that looks at who that already ranks is linking to someone else and replace them. That would be poor for Google’s own user experience for a bunch of reasons.

B. Google and searchers expect that these pages that rank here are going to solve the searcher’s query themselves (not force another click)

Not they’re going to link to something that’s going to solve the searcher’s query, at least certainly not necessarily, and definitely that they’re not going to force you to make another click. Google wants to rank pages here that solve the searcher’s problem directly. So saying, “Oh, well, I don’t think they do that and maybe they should link to me to solve this aspect of the problem,” this is a spurious connection.

C. Of course, earning links from these pages, incredibly difficult

These people, especially if they’re ranking for a commercial, non-branded query, like “stylish sofas,” they really, really don’t want to link to one of their competitors, to someone who’s trying to actively outrank them. That would be pretty challenging.

I recognize that many times when link builders go about this, they look at, okay, this page is ranking. Let me see if I can find another page from this domain from which I can get a link. That’s not terrible logic. That’s a totally reasonable way to go about link building. But whether it’s the best or the only one is what I’m going to challenge here. I don’t think it is necessarily the best or only way that you should go about doing your link building for all these reasons we’ve just talked about.

Alternatively, links like these may be more achievable and provide more ranking value:

Now, what are the alternatives? You might be asking yourself, “Well, Rand, show me where should I be doing this if not from here?” I’m going to present a few alternatives. There’s obviously an infinite number of link building tactics you could pursue, but I think some of the smarter ones would be to think about some alternatives like…

1. Sites and pages that link to multiple high-ranking targets

For example, if one and three and four are all linked to by SiteA.com, SiteA.com seems to carry, not necessarily for sure, it could be correlation and not causation, but it’s certainly worth looking at as to whether Site A is relevant and provides high-quality links and could conceptually link to you and whether that’s a good resource. I think that link intersect concept is a really good one to start with. In fact, I think, from a logic perspective, it makes more sense that sites and pages that tend to link to these top results probably provide more potential power to your ranking authority than just the pages that are already ranking.

2. Sites and pages that rank well for what I’d call broader keywords/broader topics related to the space you’re in

So if it’s “stylish sofas,” you might look at keywords like, well, who’s ranking for “interior design” or “interior design magazines” or “interior design events” or perhaps it’s “decoration ideas.” If I can find the people who are ranking for those sorts of things, that probably is going to say those are the types of places that will link out to other resources that have more specific targeting, like targeting “stylish sofas,” and probably provide a lot of value there.

3. Influential publications and resources in the topic space that may not be doing good keyword targeting or SEO

I like going and trying to find influential publications and resources, that are in the topic space, that might not actually be doing good keyword targeting or good SEO, which means it’s hard to use Google to find them. You may find them ranking on page two, page three, or page four. You may need to do some other types of research, like look on Instagram and see what companies or what publications are using these hashtags and have lots of followers in this interior design or decoration or furniture space.

From there, that will lead you to influential publications in the space that maybe have lots of readership, lots of engagement on social channels or on their website, but haven’t done a particularly great job in Google. Those influential publications, I think Google is doing a very good job of identifying, “Hey, wait a minute. Here’s a bunch of publications that are in important in space X and they are all linking to this website, which is doing a good job of targeting these keywords. So, therefore, that’s who we should potentially rank.”

So hopefully, this Whiteboard Friday will help you to expand your link building opportunities and also to recognize why the top ranking pages might not always be and certainly aren’t necessarily the best link targets.

Thanks everyone. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SearchCap: Google Shopping ad updates, SEO ranking factors & nofollow links

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Google Shopping ad updates, SEO ranking factors & nofollow links appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Nofollow links are not useless: Earning them Is central to good SEO

Some SEOs discount nofollow links, but contributor Pratik Dholakiya argues such an approach could result in many missed opportunities.

The post Nofollow links are not useless: Earning them Is central to good SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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