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How to Get Other Sites to Link to Your Content (and Why You Should)

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How to Get Other Sites to Link to Your Content (and Why You Should)

Content marketing as a strategy centers around the idea that providing value to readers will eventually convert them to customers. But, content creation isn’t just about the direct funnel from Google to your site to sales. Your content can and should help your peers, too – even those who might be seen as your competition.

A more collaborative attitude can lead to ‘authority links’ – where a piece of content from an organization with a certain amount of clout links to your content for supporting evidence or further information.

Authority links are great for boosting your search engine optimization (SEO) and improving your brand awareness, which in turn helps grow your email list and the return on your lead generation – and the good news is you have more control than it might seem over whether you get those links or not.

It might feel like you’re just blogging into the ether and nobody is sharing your content, but fear not: there are ways to get other sites – great, popular, well-ranked sites – to link to your site, and it’s not as hard as it might seem.

Why You Want Authority Backlinks

Any link to your content will improve your SEO – boosting your content up the ranks of a Google search, for example – but the ‘authority’ part isn’t an empty qualifier. The more highly-ranked the linker is, the more that link means for your ranking, because according to the logic of search engines, quality sources only link to other quality sources.

Authority links are also one of the best types of traffic generators, something akin to everyone’s favorite sales and marketing tool: word of mouth. While they may not drive traffic back to your site in the same volume as advertising or social media, they carry the weight – or authority – of a recommendation.

When a customer sees a link to your content on another business’s page, that tells them that A) you have something important and relevant to add to the conversation and B) you’re a reliable source of information, according to someone whose content they already trust. They arrive at your page ready to hear what you have to say.

Of course, for this to work, you’ll want to make sure that the links you receive are coming from an equally reliable and relevant source, which leads us to the next point – figuring out where to aim when seeking authority links to your blog posts.

Where to Get Backlinks

As with so many elements of life, your first port of call in seeking authority links will be Google. Just like you’d use it to find relevant, reliable sources when creating your own content, you can also reverse that process and use it to search for similar, applicable content on other sites. This is a great way to get a sense of who might be interested in adding a link back to your site.

When you have a long list of potential link sources, it’s time to do some deeper research to see which businesses align best with your messaging – authority links are a partnership of sorts, so think about what brands you’d want to partner with. Of course, culture and brand values will come into play, but there are more concrete considerations as well.

Here are a few things you should take into account when deciding whether or not to reach out to another business and request a linkback:

  • Audience: You’ll want to seek out brands and businesses that have a similar target audience to yours so the traffic they drive your way will already be receptive to your message. This can include companies in your same industry, but it can also include brands that share a demographic with yours – say, other millennial women-owned businesses.
  • Industry and Service: A more formulaic way to figure out where to aim for links is to look at the industry you’re targeting and then narrow the search even further by service. For example, if you’re looking at the beauty industry, both big names like Sephora and smaller companies like Thrive Causemetics will fit the industry bill, but if you offer a particular service – like cuticle rescue or specialty manicures – you’ll want to narrow further to the nail care sector.
  • SEO: Before you do the legwork to try to get authority links from another brand, make sure it’ll be worth your while. Use SEO tools like SEMrush to check details like their site’s authority score, organic and paid search traffic, and backlinks. This will give you a sense of how great their online authority is, which will tell you whether you want to try and absorb some of that authority for your site.

With those three elements in mind, it’s time to get started on your approach!

How to Secure Backlinks

Now that you have a list of other brands and companies you’d like to link back to your content, there are a few ways to convince them that it’s worth their time.

1. Publish Valuable Content

The number one rule of content marketing is always to publish high-quality content. Your posts should add clear value to the conversation, no matter their subject. They should be interesting, educate readers, and ideally fill a need with the information they provide.

If your content isn’t high quality, with compelling imagery and graphics, other sites won’t want to link to it – and even if they did, the people who clicked those links wouldn’t stick around to read it, let alone convert to sales.

2. Implement an Outreach Plan

Send an email to the company’s support channel or, if you can find individual contact info, to their content manager. It’s always good to start with a compliment or two, but make sure to be specific by referencing a particular piece of their content and pointing out what you admired about it and why. This not only butters them up but also shows that this is a thoughtful message, not an indiscriminate email blast.

Next, share a link to and a summary of your own content – the piece you’re hoping they’ll link to – and explain why you think it will add value to their site. Maybe it digs deeper on one angle of a subject they’ve covered more broadly or serves as a unique, well-executed example of something they’re teaching their readers how to do. Make your case!

Lastly, if the brand is one of your top choices, you can offer them something concrete in exchange for a link back. Some ideas include: offering to write a blog post on a subject that benefits them; suggesting a link exchange, where you link to the content of their choice in one of your blog posts; or giving them a chance to publish one of their articles on your blog.

You can also offer to interview one of their subject matter experts (SMEs) for an article, which gives them even more authority and also incentivizes them to promote on social media.

Remember how we said this is a partnership of sorts? The ‘of sorts’ part is up to you: it can be as transactional as a simple link exchange or as involved as a co-produced webinar or co-branded resource. How deep you want the relationship to be will likely depend on the company’s relevance and status in the three areas mentioned above: audience, industry, and SEO.

You probably won’t hear back from everyone, but you definitely won’t hear back if you don’t reach out, so give it a go! You might even find you’re able to establish a longer-term relationship with one or two brands, one that benefits you both.

3. Use Backlinks Tools or Services

There’s a tool or service for just about everything, and that includes accumulating high-quality, relevant backlinks. Look for tools out there that will help you get in touch with other content managers so you can get access to more backlink opportunities. Look for agencies or Slack groups that make the process easy and that are transparent about their terms. You want to make sure that you aren’t involved in anything that encourages link stuffing or too much promotion because those efforts could negatively impact your SEO.

Authority links to your content from relevant businesses are great for improving your brand awareness, boosting your SEO, and bolstering your lead generation efforts – and you don’t just have to hope and pray for them to happen! With a little thought and research, a willingness to reciprocate, and some proactive engagement, you can increase your authority links significantly and start seeing the rewards of a collaborative mindset.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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