Here’s a hypothetical situation for you (which has all the chances to be real).
You’ve created a set of posts for the purpose of skyrocketing your content performance. These posts are entertaining, have outstanding visual appeal, and speak to the interests of the public. In a nutshell, they look really promising, and you’re excited about it.
However, for some reason, your posts bring you social shares but no backlinks. Your audience seems to be interested in spreading the word about your new content but not linking to it.
So, what happened?
Most likely, your main focus shifted on creating shareable and not link-worthy content, which is a very common mistake. While social shares are good, they are not really what you’re looking for if your goal is to build links.
So, today, I’ll try to clear that confusion as we take a closer look at what link-worthy content is in general and which types of content can help you build quality links.
The Characteristics of Link-Worthy Content
From our little introductory story, it’s easy to guess that people share content that they find entertaining but would rather link to something that gives a reason to do so.
Basically, this is how things go. Link-worthy content is usually considered as something more mature and insightful. Such content usually has more depth to it.
However, there’s more to link-worthy content than just delivering value and useful insights. Vertical Measures made an interesting survey asking marketers to define link-worthy content. Here’s what they had to say:
- 69% would link to content for citing or referencing the source
- 67% of respondents link to content to provide additional information for the readers
- about 60% insert links because the source has the high authority or is trusted
- 53% link to content because its relevant to their website
- nearly 20% of respondents insert links purely for the purpose of sponsorship
From these results, marketers value the following characteristics of content that also make it link-worthy:
As you might have guessed, not all content can possess these characteristics. But there are some content types that have proven to be effective for link building. Let’s take a closer look at them.
1. Listicles with Data and Stats
To give you some context, take a look at the article from HubSpot’s blog with the top email marketing statistics. This is a simple checklist of the most credible data collected from different resources. From the first look, there’s nothing special about it, and yet it has an impressive number of referring domains, according to Ahrefs:
However, HubSpot is a very popular resource and there are plenty of websites that would link to it because of its authority in the industry. But would such content work for a smaller website?
Let’s take a look at the following example of an article with a list of 15 A/B tools from OneHourProfessor. Even though this website’s domain authority is not as high as HubSpot’s, this article has still managed to get a decent number of referring domains:
Why do people link to such content so much?
Indeed, these are simple articles that collect statistics from Google search results, which you can find either way. But who wants to waste their time collecting all that?
This is exactly the reason why posts like this perform so well in terms of link building. People like to get essential information all in one place and are usually quick to share such content rather than link to every separate research or study.
You may have also noticed that some posts with statistics and data roundups resemble listicles. Indeed, this format is not exclusive to lifestyle blogs and news websites but can also be used to share lists of tools and stats. But in this case, such an article would require more in-depth research.
How to write a link-worthy listicle with data and stats?
Sure, there are a lot of websites that post similar articles and have higher domain authority, which people would be more likely to link to. But there’s still something you can do to outcompete your rivals.
Go ahead and browse the topics in your niche that used to be popular but are now outdated. Pick a few relevant topic ideas and take a look at who’s ranking at the top 10 in the corresponding queries. For instance, if you choose the topic of internet statistics, you’ll get the following results:
Now, browse these results to find those, which only have content. You also need to view the Domains column to check how many websites link back to them.
Next, study the content from the websites you’ve picked and look for something your rivals might have missed or did not include. For instance, your rivals’ email marketing statistics roundup might include general data but doesn’t say anything about mobile email marketing statistics.
In the end, when your article is ready, pitch it to those websites that link to your rivals’ outdated posts. Make sure you mention why your content is superior and would be more attractive to the readers of the website you’re pitching your article to.
2. Case Studies
For some industries, the most important characteristic feature of content is its credibility. You might have noticed that in manufacturing, electronics, SaaS businesses, and so on, there is an ever-growing interest in content like case studies supported by relevant data.
One of BuzzSumo’s own case studies is great proof that this content also performs well in terms of the number of referring domains:
You can also see that, even though the article was posted four years ago, the number of referring domains is rising even today:
There are three good reasons why, in some industries, content, such as case studies, performs so well:
- Credible proof. Other resources would be much more interested in linking to case studies because they provide real-life proof that a certain methodology, approach, tool, or other phenomena, described in this content actually works.
- Unique approach. The data that you include in your case study is exclusive and describes your unique situation, making such content novel and exciting to read.
- Relevance. Other companies from your industry and niche would be interested in linking to content that caters to their interests, bringing you more relevant and meaningful links.
Surely, even considering all the benefits, writing a good case study will take you quite some time. Besides, the topic of your case study should resonate with your audience and make them want to link to it.
How to create a case study people would link to?
As you might have noticed from our example above, it tells the story of how BuzzSumo became the success it is now. Steve Rayson, the director of BuzzSumo, even starts the case study with a story of the company’s early days.
Why should you do the same?
Telling your story provides context for a case study and allows the reader to see the results of your work in dynamics. Especially if the results of your case study show drastic changes, the contrast will be even more noticeable.
However, it is important to note that your story should be memorable and, well, different. Don’t make another random case study just for the sake of building links. Investing in such content would make sense only if you have some outstanding results to show. Needless to say, these results should be backed by credible statistical proof.
On top of that, if you want to create a case study that will definitely secure good links, you need to ask the websites, whom you’re pitching this content, if they would be interested in linking to it. This way, you validate the idea before you bring it to life. And, of course, checking your competitors and how they use case studies for link building wouldn’t hurt as well.
Any digital marketing specialist can honestly tell that, among all the articles they post on their blogs, guides are the most frequent.
And there’s a good reason for that – guides provide an in-depth look on a topic, give a step-by-step breakdown of it, and are usually backed by credible data. Besides, since guides are often quite extensive, the readers don’t have to search for information on the topic anywhere else.
In terms of link building, guides are also an attractive content asset. For instance, the email outreach guide on the Digital Olympus blog performs quite well in terms of the number and the growth of referring domains:
The beauty of a guide is that it can be created for any topic, from how to choose the best webinar software to running an email marketing campaign. But it’s definitely not an easy task to write a guide that people will want to link to.
You have to keep in mind that writing a guide involves research, probably not as much as a case study, but you still need some empirical evidence to support your points. Apart from that, if you decide to ask an expert to write a guide for you, it will come out quite costly.
However, if you want to position yourself as a leader in your industry, investing in a detailed guide on a topic related to your niche is a must. Besides, if you manage to create a guide that brings unique insights to the table (such as Milosz’s HARO guide!), no matter how much you invest in it, its ROI will surprise you.
How to create guides that drive more links?
You can follow the same pattern as with the statistics roundups and listicles.
Let’s say you want to write a guide on email marketing. Check out what your competitors are writing on this topic and view how many domains link back to their articles:
Sure, your competitors might have good guides, but there’s always something they might have missed. You can take advantage of that and include all the information they skipped to your guide. And then, you can use it as your trump card when pitching your article to the websites that will link to it.
If you’re looking for a creative way to present data and make it more comprehensible, an infographic would be a great choice.
Infographics also perform quite well in terms of shareability because of their ability to deliver value through visual means. Besides, this type of content is also quite rare since only 49% of marketers say they actually create their own infographics, which means that others simply repost them from different brands.
The infographic from CashNetUSA is a good example of that. It has backlinks from 45 domains, all of which simply link to it either as evidentiary support for their own articles or are simply reposting it:
However, brands don’t always create infographics when they have done interesting research, there are other types of content for that. Infographics are also perfect if you want to repurpose assets that are not relevant anymore, but some outtakes from them can be turned into evergreen content. Such content assets usually include webinars, outdated blog posts, content from conferences – everything that would benefit from visualization to make it more engaging and, of course, link-worthy.
How to create a link-worthy infographic?
First off, you need to validate your idea for creating the infographic on a certain topic. There should be the need for content like this within your niche, otherwise, there’s no point in wasting time on it.
So, start by choosing a keyword related to the topic of your future infographic and see whether your competitors have already done something like this. You can also ask the websites that will link back to your infographic, whether they are interested in this type of content.
Once you have the green light, you can start developing your infographic. And there are three key elements you need to keep in mind:
- focus on the audience
- a story
Naturally, an infographic cannot be link-worthy if it doesn’t point directly to the audience it is created for, and which will link to it. Besides, your target audience will also impact the design of the infographic.
Once you have that in place, you need to organize the data in your infographic to make it tell the story. The flow of information should be logical and lead to a natural conclusion.
Lastly, you need to give your infographic ideas a shape with a creative and engaging design. Keep the focus on the easiness of perception, and also make the size of your infographic shareable, with no more than 600-1,000 pixels in width and up to 2,000 pixels in length.
Our last pick for link-worthy content is research. Serious websites and niche blogs love to link to articles with research to add credibility to their own content, that’s why such articles often have a decent number of backlinks.
Aira’s link building study is a good example that proves the link-worthiness of content with research. This article represents the results of Aira’s own poll on the most popular link building techniques among marketers, while also providing some expert opinion. And, considering that this is very niche research, it still has a good number of backlinks and referring domains:
Even though developing this type of content is quite time-consuming, it will also benefit your brand’s authority in the long run. And, if you make money blogging, investing in original research will definitely pay off because of its value and uniqueness.
How to improve the link-worthiness of your research articles?
As with statistics roundups and case studies, you need to validate the idea for research. Your main focus should be on originality, so you need to come up with a topic that either has never been covered before, not covered enough, or you have a unique approach that some peers in your niche could find interesting.
Next, you may face the problem of authority. There might be a few competitors in your niche that have established themselves as industry leaders in terms of research, and it could be quite hard to come out of their shadow.
So, if this is your case, consider creating joint research with them and build some links at their expense. Your competitors might already have a network of connections, which they use for link building, and, as they share the research with them, the link to your website will be there too.
However, if you want to create a research article all by yourself but don’t have enough connections to help you build links, you could benefit from industry groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. There, you’ll be able to find people holding the same interests, who will also be glad to share a link to your research on their websites or blogs.
Which Content Will You Choose to Build Links?
There’s no doubt that any of the above-mentioned content types are quite effective for link building.
Listicles with data and stats work quite well because people love sources with diverse information, which they can learn in one place without having to browse numerous pages on the internet.
Case studies and research have the same effect, only this time you present something of a unique value intended for a very niche audience.
Guides drive links because they provide an in-depth look on any topic, and they are also quite versatile and would fit any niche.
Finally, if you’re looking for more visual content to build links, an infographic might be a great choice for you. Despite everyone talking about the popularity of infographics, this content is still quite rare, which increases your chances of building high-quality links.
As you can see, there are quite a few content types to choose from, but, at the end of the day, everything will depend on your link building needs and the specifics of your audience and niche. One of the main characteristics of link-worthy content is relevancy, so keep that in mind when making your choice.