This guest post is by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.
We’ve all been taught to create high-quality content to attract links. This argument is usually stated in the context of a blog that basically becomes an authority where you start to build a following around consistent, fresh content—think big sites like Problogger or Boing Boing.
This is not the technique I’m talking about.
Today, I’m talking about a link-building technique that’s bigger, better and quite possibly able to put you on the map faster than you would ever imagine. I’m talking about building a linkable asset—something you do by following the steps I’m about to describe.
First, let’s define “linkable asset.”
What is a linkable asset?
A linkable asset is a piece of content that is responsible for driving lots of links to your site. It could be an infographic that you update every year, but it’s usually much bigger and complex.
The Feltron Report is an annual report that’s like an infographic on steroids. It’s more than likely you’ve heard of the Felton Report. Its personal data from the life of Nicholas Felton, a designer and data guy, who’s been cranking out these reports since 2005.
SEOmoz’s Annual Ranking Report is another annual report that is a linkable asset.
Distilled’s SEO Guide to Creating Viral Linkbait and Infographics and Smashing Magazine’s The Death of the Boring Blog Postare also linkable assets.
What’s in a linkable asset?
These assets create a mountain of links back to the site, which means more traffic and jolt of exposure to your brand or blog that never dies. But they aren’t easy to create. They take planning, time and at least four or five of the following elements.
It targets a broad market
The first step in creating a linkable asset is to identify your audience. It must be massive because small, niche markets will cause your asset to fail.
You don’t have to think about your general customers. When I’ve worked on these projects, here’s how I’ve thought through the massive audience I need:
- Human beings.
- Men and woman.
- Men in the United States.
- Men in the United States who like movies.
You don’t need to get any narrower than that. In fact, “men in the U.S. who like movies” is probably a little narrow. So I might try a small test on an audience made up of “men and women in the U.S. who like movies.”
Here are other ideas you could target:
- Special interest groups: Republicans, Australians, gun owners or commuters all share a common pain point that you could address in a linkable asset.
- One-time events: Think 9/11 or the historic significance of Obama’s election.
- Holidays: Linkable assets tied into holidays like Easter or Hanukah seem to work pretty well.
- Basic survival stuff: Anything that impacts water, safety, food, or gas consumption.
- Predictions: Using data that points to a credible conclusion about a possibly good or bad outcome is good linkable content.
It addresses a pain point in a vacuum
What I mean by “addresses a pain point in a vacuum” is that your linkable asset will truly take off if you hit upon a topic that nobody else is addressing.
Beginner guides in new and emerging fields are good examples of this, as are “ultimate guides” that fill a space that is empty. The Authority Rules guide put up by Copyblogger is a free resource that filled an empty pain point, especially in a way that people weren’t entirely clear they even had.
You can hunt down some great data for linkable asset idea if you monitor these three sites:
Keep in mind that addressing a pain point is not an easy task to pull off because there tends to be a lot of competition in a given field to meet a pain point. That’s why you’ll see rushes to create the ultimate guide when the latest social media tools are released.
Mashable created an infographic called Global Internet Traffic Is Expected to Quadruple by the Year 2015:
This piece addresses an obvious need of companies looking to expand and grow—the infographic gives them they have some ammunition to justify their decisions.
We could learn a lesson from this infographic, since it is prediction-based. Even though that prediction is a few years out, the data is truly what is really important, but that is likely to change over time. The market may actually grow even larger, or shrink for some unexpected reason. You just don’t know with predictions, but in general they make for good social sharing.
It delivers evergreen content
In order to ensure that your linkable asset delivers content day in and day out, every year, make sure you choose a topic that will not go out of fashion in a couple of months.
For example, a prediction-style linkable asset usually doesn’t make the best example, because that content will go out of date eventually. Or they may even backfire if your prediction doesn’t come true. It will work well, however, if your prediction comes true, or if you can continue to update it every year.
Here are some examples for evergreen content:
- Annual report: The reason the Feltron report works even though it is not evergreen content is that it is updated every year and placed upon the same link as the other reports. The same is true about SEOmoz’s annual ranking reports.
- Guides: The guides that I mention above by Distilled and Smashing Magazine provide evergreen content in the form of “how-to” guides. Everybody needs this information and will for a long time.
- Widgets: Pretty much as long as there are human beings there will be a desire to be rich…or at least to know how long it would take you to become a millionaire. That’s why the Bankrate calculator has been around for a while and will continue to generate traffic.
- Tools: The classic example for a broad tool that is evergreen is Google’s keyword research tool.
It must be branded
At the end of the day, your linkable content must be about your brand. But more than just announcing your brand, it must be done in such a way that promotes adoption after someone reads, watches or uses it.
For example, my company announces that our survey tool is “Powered by KISSinsights.”
That’s the exchange we make for allowing someone to use the tool for free. You’ll also see copy that reads “Get this widget,” which helps promote the adoption and spread of the tool by encouraging people to embed it in their site.
This is what standard infographic branding element looks like:
But as you probably know, branding doesn’t end with a simple tag line that lets the consumer know the linkable asset is from you. You also have to make the design stunning.
Good graphics matter! Here are some simple tips to help your linkable asset great-looking:
- Create a seductive headline combined with a graphic above the fold that stops the reader cold.
- Put custom-made graphics throughout the linkable asset that are special to it. This will carry the eye of the reader down the page and further brand it.
- Use graphics-based headers.
- Break out of the typical blog template and use a format that is shocking or unexpected. Boston Globe shares pictures that are at 900 pixels wide.
It’s promotable to webmasters
When you create that linkable asset, you have to market it. It’s not true that if you build it they will come. Successful assets are given a big push by their creators, namely through emails asking if you will share the content.
That means that content must have zero commercial value, and a positive upside for you.
I’ve gotten requests from asset creators letting me know that they are about to let a piece of content “go live” and I and a select few have a privilege of leaking it early.
This strategy works because I like the idea of getting in front of the flood, because if you are viewed as one of the original promoters, you are likely to get a lot of the early links to your site via “hat tips.”
By the way, when you are pitching to webmasters, create a headline that is newsworthy. Webmasters love content that carries a feeling of cutting-edge news.
It’s easy to share
Nowadays most everything is pretty easy to share because you can build sharing into the assets—like buttons, for example, that share the content immediately.
What truly creates a linkable asset that’s easy to share is allowing the content to be embedded so people can share it on their own site, rather than just linking to it.
Creating a badge for accomplishing some sort of task is another great example of linkable asset that is spread by embedding the code. For instance, once you “finish” Distilled’s link bait guide, you can grab a badge that shows off your new knowledge:
Monitoring your linkable asset
The wonderful thing with these assets is that you can leverage their appeal throughout the year, or even over years. But you can’t know how they’re doing if you don’t monitor them.
Follow the progress of your asset by using these tools:
With these tools, you can keep tabs on where your asset is traveling across the web, and then make sure it’s linked correctly. If the link is broken, follow up with the webmaster to ask to have it fixed.
At some point you can re-purpose and re-introduce the content to get a fresh boost of eyeballs. But if you are not keeping track of all the mentions and links, then you won’t be able to find fresh places to promote it.
Can you see now how the linkable asset is a pretty big task? It takes time to create, and you may not succeed on your first try. In fact, the odds are that you will probably fail. But that’s why it’s important to share a prototype to a small audience to help you work out the kinks and see if it will have a wider adoption.
Have you created a linkable asset? Share your tips and advice with us in the comments.