Who else remembers the wild west days of SEO?

When genuinely linkable content was great to have. But hardly crucial.

When you could build a few tiers of Squidoo lenses and Hubpages, then launder a few bucks to the third world for thousands upon thousands of backlinks from every corner of the web.

Ba da boom ba da bing! Page 1!

This stuff worked brilliantly, and then one day it didn’t.

After half a decade’s mauling by Pandas and Penguins, we learned a tough lesson: the links that really count are not built. They’re earned.

That means catching the eye of the website owners and content creators with the power to make or break your campaign.

How do you set this up for success?

Here’s some of my favourite stuff to tilt the odds in your favour.

Be Prettier

Look – if you stuck a gun to my head and forced me to choose between strong copy and a slick design, I’d pick the copy every time.

But let’s get real here. How much content do you craft with a rifle on your skull?

If your answer isn’t “none whatsoever”, you’ve got bigger problems than SEO.

For everyone else, there’s a lot of reason to consider clever use of images.

They make your page a nicer place to be. They increase the perceived value of the piece. They make you more memorable.

Every one of these things make you more linkable. It’s a slam dunk.

But what if you don’t know diddly squat about graphics or design?

Then today’s your lucky day.

Because these freely available resources make producing gorgeous content easier for the layman than it’s ever been.

Need spectacular photographs? Unsplash is the world’s most popular library of free and amazing photographs. It’s a “do what you want” license that, quite literally, lets you do what you want.

Unsplash has become hugely popular, and a few of these photos have become widely used – perhaps overused. But the catalogue here is immense and there’s new stuff all the time.

Photographs this gorgeous can be used to good effect on their own. Or you can add text to them to create a title graphic.

As well as making your piece more visually engaging, the text on the title graphic can communicate a benefit or highlight a key takeaway.

On really long content, you might even want a title graphic for each section to help break up the text.

Here’s my go-to cheat sheet for putting together these title graphics on projects with no designer to turn to.

When you produce these graphics, you want to use a font that combines well with the rest of your website.

How do you figure out what font works with what?

I’ve tried to delving into the topic, only to discover that it’s far more fiendishly complicated than I ever could have imagined.

So instead I rely on talented designers who’ve done the work for me.

These websites tell you at a glance what you can pair with widely used web fonts:

Need some software to edit these images? The GNU Image Manipulation Protocol is the free and open source image editing package you can download and install today.

Sometimes a photograph’s just not the right thing. Instead, you can use other types of images, such as drawings, patterns and vector images from places like Freedesignfile. Not everything on here is free for unattributed commercial use, so be sure to check the license on each image.

Improve the Copy

This is the big one, but I’ll be brief.

Here’s more website copywriting resources than you can poke a stick at. Inside the link you’ll find a guide I wrote that’s meant to help you write great copy.

It’s divided into easy to grasp chapters that allow you to take things step by step and digest the information inside thoroughly and it links to many other really valuable resources that teach you the ways of copywriting success.

Be Clickable

A huge part of earning links is simply driving eyeballs to your stuff.

I mean, let’s face it. It’s hard to earn natural links if it’s not being seen.

A huge part of being clickable is taking control of how you appear on social media networks like Facebook or LinkedIn.

Ever share something, only to be confronted with an image drawn from the content?

This default appearance is something you can actually control using open graph tags. You can even use an image made just for your social media preview, that doesn’t appear anywhere on the page.

Wanna know more? Then check out this great guide to using the open graph protocol.

And here are some more ways to optimise your post for Facebook and LinkedIn.

It also pays to be more clickable in the search results, so here’s a search snippet preview tool.

Be Shareable

You have a better chance of being seen by the writers and bloggers with the power to give you the links you want if you’re more visible on social media, internet forums, subreddits etc.

So it makes sense to make your content something that people will want to share.

Here’s the low down on what makes content shareable in a thorough post by Steve Rayson.

Don’t forget to add sharing buttons! If you’ve got key takeaways in your content, you can add custom twitter sharing buttons to make each of these points painlessly easy to share.

keyboard close-up
Source: Pexels

Give More Value

Sharp words and pretty pictures. But ultimately, what really gets links is having something really interesting and useful to link to.

Adding expert opinions and quotes to your content is one of the easier ways to make your piece more authoritative and give readers more value. And if you’re lucky, your expert sources will help you promote the piece – they might even link to it.

Two of the best places to get expert quotes are the Help a Reporter Out email list, and the Sourcebottle publicity platform.

To really make your page extra linkable, create an infographic that summarises the central message and the data points that support it.

Check out this article for the full low down on crafting a great infographic.

No content is so linkable that you don’t need to hustle once it’s published. This is the real world, not Field of Dreams. If all you do is build it, they probably won’t come.

That’s especially true when you’re not publishing to a large and established audience.

80% of the work for landing links is not in crafting the content, but in promoting it.

But that doesn’t mean you can phone it in with your content.

It’s such a hard slog to find the writers who can give you the links you want, and then to put links to your best stuff in front of them in a way that will get them clicked.

Because this is so much work, you really want to set it up for success.

Good luck – now land those links! I’ll see you on page 1. 🙂

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

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