SEO: Painting the Painting

Have you ever seen that painting where in the painting there is someone painting the same painting you are looking at and in that painting, of course, you can just about see the artist painting the same painting and that goes on for eternity? Me neither.


But that is something like what we’ve got going on here in blog form. These days if we like what you’ve written we will feature guest blogs and this one by Matthew Leach from our friends at Lakestar McCann is about using content to link-build (whilst simultaneously using content to link-build). See where I was going at the top now? It’s good stuff, enjoy.


SEO: it’s not just the content that counts (it’s what you do with it!)

by Matthew Leach

“Content is king” is the new reality for the SEO world. As a new graduate working in the industry you can expect to hear this, a lot.

For the most part this is true. Long gone are the days in which link building was straightforward, and infinitely scalable.

Google is constantly updating its algorithm (the process by which it determines the ranking of websites for any specific query) to penalise exploitative “black hat” marketing techniques; something that has had a tremendous impact on the shadier portions of the industry.

As Google’s ability to identify and reward good quality increases, it becomes more and more essential to ensure that strong content is at the centre of any SEO effort.

However, it’s never just a case of “if you build it they will come”. Great content that no one will ever see is even worse than terrible content that has gone unnoticed; at least the latter does not represent a significant input of wasted effort.

The more effort that we place into a single piece of content, the higher the risks of failure become, and the more vital it is that it is given every chance to succeed. In practice, that means that every piece of content we produce is allotted additional resource for supportive activity.

This is not a process which begins with a completed piece of content; it is essential that the targeting and outreach for a piece of digital media be considered from the very inception of the project.

So what are the golden rules for great outreach?

  • Contact the right people – The content needs to be produced with a target audience in mind. This is not necessarily the same thing as targeting the client’s target audience directly; it may often also involve reaching out to those people whom the eventual target audience consider to be influential, especially if they might have a particular interest in the content. For example, with this recent infographic we reached out to authors who had written about marketing to women, or who had linked to previous content with similar themes, rather than pursue links from specific sites. Conversely, targeting the wrong people can only generate hostility, and no one likes to have their time wasted. Instead, look for people who have shared similar content in the past, and if necessary produce content specifically to meet their needs.
  • Build relationships – No one will link to your content just because you ask them to. You need to stand out from a sea of spammers who have contacted them before. You need to persuade them that you care about them and their audience and demonstrate the value of your content to that audience. Don’t be afraid to cultivate contacts in target niches without any immediate link building goal in mind. Once you start to develop contacts you will find that opportunities start to present themselves.
  • Don’t just take; give back too – A key component of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines states that paying for links violates their guidelines, which can lead to a penalty action. However, this shouldn’t be taken to mean that outreach should be a one way process in which we demand links from others and never give back. Think what you can offer to others, whether in terms of advice, feedback, or exposure. You may be able to offer them another piece of content to meet their own needs. You might be able to arrange a guest blogging opportunity for them, or you might be able to crawl their site to look for broken links.
  • Get people engaged in the content you are producing – it’s often much easier to find people willing to spend hours offering help and advice on a project at an early stage than to find people willing to spend a few seconds to link to content that they have had nothing invested in. As discussed before, ideally, outreach will start before the production of content and feed back through into the creative process.

Content outreach is often frustrating and time consuming. You might have days in which it seems that no one is listening to you. But this is a necessary part of the job – if it was easy, anyone could (and would) be able to do it, and without putting that work in, you risk producing the best content that no one will ever see.

Trust me, when you finally negotiate that amazing link or social share for a piece of quality content that you have helped research and produce personally, you will feel on top of the world.