You know the great thing about Antiques Roadshow? Aside from finding out that grandma’s ugly ceramic cat collection can actually bankroll a Caribbean cruise. It’s the idea that maybe; just maybe somewhere in our lives there are things that, with a little bit of lemon pledge and a new coat of paint, could actually become highly valuable.
The same thing might be true of your website.
The idea of creating great content for links isn’t new; Eric Ward was defining linkable content 8 years ago. More recently, Garrett French made a killer blue print for how to conceive, create and promote linkable content. Moreover, on Search Engine Journal, Loren Baker has educated readers on the importance of building natural links to interesting and relevant content & Ann Smarty has written about attracting links with HOW TO content.
So why are there so many sites that still aren’t buying in?
Maybe the idea of creating a library or searchable database is too daunting? Maybe in-depth research coupled with the time and effort required to create and market great content just seems like too much work. But unless a site features a billion-dollar brand name, funny pictures of cats or the contents of Lindsey’s Lohan’s trash, people probably aren’t throwing links at it. So what’s a small commercial site to do?
I say, grab a dust rag, head into the basement and see what you already have that, with a few creative modifications, can be turned into something brand new.
1. Product Pages
Most product pages are not particularly linkable. They have prices, specs, not a lot of content and are often buried on dynamic URL’s somewhere in the bowels of a website. But a product page can actually be made into a link magnet.
It helps to have a product which is truly unique, new, funny, dirt cheap or flat-out phenomenal. Take Baconsalt’s Bacon flavored envelopes a totally random but amusing concept. And the product page has picked up about 65 backlinks. Not too shabby, for paper that tastes like processed pork.
The best way to make product pages more linkable is to pick 1 or 2 products at a time and focus on those. If your products are usually presented on dynamic URL’s create new static pages with unique content for promoting your “featured products”. This will help you pass the most link power and avoid canonical issues.
The next step is to tell people about it. Yeah, you could use a press release or an email blast, but blanket communication tends to get ignored and the attention from a press release will likely be marginal at best. You’re better off talking to people on a one to one basis. With a focus on only a couple of products you can spend more time finding people who have written about or linked to similar items. Contact bloggers in your niche, who you genuinely believe would take interest in what you are offering. This doesn’t translate to paying for a blog review or going on a comment spamming spree. This is about research and trying to appeal to people as human beings. Sure, that takes time but then, all good link building does.
2. About Us/ Company News
Unless you’re McDonalds and your company news is that you’ve merged with GM to build a car that runs on special sauce, people probably don’t care. If you have a company blog which is filled with internal news about products, policies or staff changes is it any wonder there are no comments? It’s not exactly what you’d call engaging. And if your “About Us” page reads like the offspring of your resume and your sales guy there’s not much chance anyone wants to link to that either.
Company news which actually impacts people outside the company can definitely be linkable. For example, acts of charity matter to the people who benefit from them. Contests can matter to the people who are eligible for them. Company Awards are also a viable option. (Not your company’s many accolades though; no one really cares about those, at least not link-wise). However people may care what awards you’re giving out… see the difference? Try giving recognition to websites within your industry for their efforts, not competitors if you can avoid it, but quality blogs, hobby sites or informational networks. It doesn’t hurt if “recognition” comes in the form of a badge with a back link to you. If you’ve been thinking about getting involved in charitable work as a company, why not find a charity that has a worthy cause and a website where they acknowledge benefactors?
Also, think about your company’s evolution…not the glossy plastic rhetoric, your real story. If you have a company profile which is a tale of triumph in adversity, then tell it! If your CEO was once homeless, that’s loaded with human interest. Sure professionalism is important, but never underestimate the power of heartwarming narrative or the number of people who might be interested in a true-life success story.
Ok, so not everyone is lucky enough to have a company history that’s as inspiring as “Rudy”. You don’t have to. A company careers page can be linkable too, but not if it simply talks about how great it is to work for you. Don’t let it be enough just to post want ads on your careers page either, take the time to get the word out. Use static URLs to publish job openings and maintain a list of blogs, job sites or social media networks to alert when you have a position available. A lot of people are looking for work right now, and those who have jobs usually want to help their unemployed friends re-discover a regular paycheck. People looking to help others will often be willing to publicize (aka link to) a decent job opportunity.
Oh, and if a job notice does acquire back links, don’t just take the page down when the job is no longer available, 301-redirect that bad boy back to your main careers page. (This also goes for product pages that go out of stock or become otherwise become unavailable.)
3. Links Pages
I’ve seen links pages by a lot of names, in a lot of formats, and very rarely are they anything that could be considered linkable. And when a list of random links does have back links, they’re usually reciprocal from the websites listed on the page. In fact, if you have the Ellis Island of links pages, welcoming any link that needs refuge, you might actually be doing damage to your site’s neighborhood and contextual relevance.
A links page which is a well-researched and well thought out is absolutely linkable. A solid collection of resources is valuable on numerous levels, and can potentially acquire natural links on its own even after a promotional push. For instance, a travel site which links to every country’s customs policies, is offering users a compilation of practical information that might also be worth a link from hundreds of sites offering travel info or advice. Truth is you could already have the beginning of a real resource it may just need a little re-organization, and some spring cleaning. Well, empty the closet. Throw out the garbage, put the good stuff into some semblance of an order, fill in the gaps of what’s missing, and suddenly, you have something useful and linkable.
4. Articles/ Sales Pitches
First, the ground rules, do you have articles or sales pitches? Be honest, does everything with more than 300 words on your site have some plug about how awesome you are? Sorry, but if that’s the case, only your mom would find that link-worthy. If you have created article content that exists purely for educational, reference or entertainment purposes that’s great! You have content, but if you’ve never actively promoted it, then it’s still one step away from linkable. What separates good content from “linkable” content is the same as what separates the single from the “datable”. It must be on the market, accessible and actively seeking attention and new opportunities.
If you’ve invested the time into writing articles about your industry, then they deserve to be shared. Do a little bit of reading in your niche, are there others with the same content you have? Do you offer something new to the conversation? If not, you may not have to re-write everything; perhaps all it takes is adding a different perspective, or an analogy which makes a highly technical subject more accessible to laymen. Then, like any other form of linkable content, take your work to the streets. Well, the cyber-streets any way.
So at the end of all this, while it still may be tough to make people feel warm and fuzzy about linking to your home page the good news is you probably have more to work with on your site than you think. The bad news is a quality content marketing campaign is going to take time; there are no short cuts there. Promoting content will often mean writing to people one at a time, showing a real genuine interest in others, and building human connections even from behind a cold hard screen. But if you know how to work what you’ve got, then even with limited resources it’s possible to turn an old dusty armoire into a show piece. Or at least something worth building links to.
What are your ideas for updating standard content to make it more linkable?
Jennifer Van Iderstyne is the Online Marketing Director for Search Slingshot, an internet marketing company specializing in SEO reporting and consulting based in Albany, NY. Jen can be found on twitter at http://twitter.com/Vanetcetera
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