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



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.

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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.
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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.

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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.



Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a Content Marketer’s Dream: 7 Lessons



Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a Content Marketer’s Dream: 7 Lessons

Updated Nov. 22, 2022

Millions gather to view your content marketing on their screens.

Crowds line up over two miles just to get a glimpse of your content in real life.

That’s the stuff of content marketers’ dreams. And it’s the reality for marketers at Macy’s, the U.S. department store chain that has put on a parade in New York City every Thanksgiving since 1924.

I’m a big fan of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I traveled to see it twice, and I never miss watching it on television. And that’s before I realized it’s all content marketing. Here are some lessons that struck me.

1. Steal ideas – just make them better

Macy’s wasn’t the first department store to host a parade as a content marketing tool for the Christmas buying season. In 1920, the Gimbel Brothers department store in Philadelphia created the first one. Four years later – the same year Macy’s launched its parade – the J.L. Hudson Co. department store started one in Detroit. Though those parades continue today, Gimbels and Hudson’s haven’t been involved for decades. Hudson’s ceased its parade connection when it closed its Detroit flagship in the late 1970s. (The chain was later bought by Macy’s). And the Philadelphia department store was liquidated in the mid-1980s.

Original ideas are hard to come by (some say there aren’t any). Don’t spend all your time trying to create something no one’s done. Look for existing inspiration. You may find content that isn’t living up to its potential – and then you can take the opportunity to do it better.

You don’t need original ideas. Just do existing ones better. That’s what @Macys did in creating its New York Thanksgiving Day parade, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

2. Stick with what works, adjust what doesn’t

The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade stretched over six miles and featured nursery rhyme characters, store employees dressed as clowns and cowboys, and animals from the Central Park Zoo. A float carrying Santa and a reindeer-pulled sleigh closed the parade.

In the 21st century, the parade traverses only 2.5 miles to ensure a tighter show. It features multi-story-tall balloons that long ago replaced the zoo animals. It welcomes brands other than Macy’s into the act (think Pillsbury Dough Boy and Ronald McDonald). Marching bands from around the country, floats featuring lip-syncing celebrities, and live characters like the gang from Sesame Street expand the appeal.

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Santa’s sleigh and reindeer are far more elaborate now, but the jolly fella retains his almost 100-year-old place in the parade – the final act anticipated by young and old.

When you have an enduring content star, go ahead and tweak it. Don’t use the same old, same old content all the time. Each year, Macy’s creates a curiosity gap: What new balloons will debut? Which will be retired?

@Macys creates a curiosity gap every year as audiences wonder what new balloons will debut and which will be retired, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

What annual content can you create that entices your audience to return again and again? At CMI, for example, we create content marketing research reports every year. Some of the questions in the research questionnaire remain the same each year, but we add new ones based on our audience’s needs, industry trends, and global changes.

Think about how to freshen up your content by adding new ideas or trying different formats.

Think about how to freshen up your #content by adding new ideas or trying different formats, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For example, a B2B brand might add a new department focused on remote work to its quarterly magazine. A B2C brand might shoot short, tip-focused videos based on information from blog articles.

The opportunities to adjust your content mix – topic, format, etc. – are endless.

3. Look at things from a different perspective

Let’s get to the truth. Despite the name (and the turkey float), the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has little to do with Thanksgiving. It’s really about the shopping season leading up to the biggest gift-giving occasions of the year. The floats, balloons, and songs all revolve around the red-and-green holiday. In fact, the event’s initial name was Macy’s Christmas Parade. Macy’s, as a business, isn’t focused on the Thanksgiving holiday. Macy’s cares about the timing of Thanksgiving – a month or so before the gift exchanges begin.

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Think about traditional events or activities in your industry. How can you create content that turns them on their head? Let’s say your company has a booth at the same trade show every September. Instead of crafting another evergreen white paper to showcase your thought leadership, use the event as the exclusive release site for a must-have report on industry predictions for the coming year. Make that report the center of your content hub for the quarter, giving it life far beyond the two-day event.

4. Don’t go solo

Macy’s isn’t the only brand involved in the parade. McDonald’s sends up a Ronald McDonald balloon accompanied by his giant shoe car on the ground. Kraft’s Kool-Aid Man crashed the party for many years. Jennie-O’s Big Turkey Spectacular, Dreamworks’ Boss Baby, and Sinclair Oil’s baby dinos participate this year. And brands like Olay, Entenmann’s, Wonder Bread, and Lego host floats. Each branded parade entry is an example of sponsored content.

Image source

Each branded float in the @Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade is an example of #SponsoredContent, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

If a sponsored content model doesn’t fit your organization’s content strategy, you can still find ways to connect with other companies. For example, accept guest blogs on your site or craft guest content for non-competing brands that have similar target audiences.

5. Interact with your audience

In 2020, Macy’s used its Twitter account to engage with its audience before and during the parade. In addition to previewing that year’s attractions, Macy’s conducted a series of promoted tweets (that’s how they found me, though I didn’t remember to save one to share here). The tweet said Macy’s would send me a reminder about the parade if I picked my favorite parade activity and tweeted about it.

So I did:

Two hours before the parade started, I got this personalized reminder tweet:

When you try to engage your audience members on Twitter, think about inviting them into your account or brand. That requires more than clicking a heart or retweeting. Make it personal. Give them something fun or valuable to share. Follow up with more personalized content.

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6. Scrutinize your language

While I liked Macy’s approach to personalizing Twitter that year, I wasn’t a fan of its use of the word “diverse” in a 2020 tweet intended to celebrate Zeta Phi Beta, a Black sorority celebrating 100 years and making its first appearance in the parade:

TheJasmineBRAND grabbed the tweet before Macy’s removed it a couple of hours after it caused an outcry:

Poor, wrong, or ignorant word choices eliminate any value your content might have had and can hurt the brand. Proofread your content not only for spelling and grammar but also for intent, interpretation, inclusivity, and so on. Macy’s misstep also teaches another writing lesson – creating inclusive and diverse content usually doesn’t require you to point out that it’s diverse and inclusive.

Creating inclusive and diverse #content usually doesn’t require you to point out that it’s diverse and inclusive, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

7. Start small

Macy’s didn’t set up a grandiose event in 1924. The parade entries covered only two blocks and included about 50 people. But that was enough to enthrall tens, if not hundreds of thousands, to show up along the six-mile route. Though the media barely covered the event, the audience response prompted Macy’s to announce a few weeks later that the parade would return the next year. (It wasn’t until the parade made its television debut almost 30 years later that Macy’s got national attention and drew in millions more fans.)

What are your content marketing dreams (i.e., big goals)? They may seem overly ambitious, but is there a minimum viable content product you could really create that might lead to making those dreams come true? Start planning today.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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