7 Things Learned from Failed Link Building Campaigns
The Internet is a wide place. You can’t predict with 100% accuracy if your content will perform well. Sometimes what we think is going to do OK ends up being a massive hit. And there have been a few instances where we’d expect a campaign to be a huge success but it went on to garner lackluster results.
While you can’t control the whims of the Internet, you can avoid or include certain things in your content to help your chances of success. Through careful analysis we’ve pinpointed which factors tend to create high-performing content. Similarly, we’ve identified trends among our content that didn’t quite hit the mark.
1. Too much data.
Only include the most insightful, interesting data points in your content, even if that means tossing aside most of the data you’ve gathered. Furthermore, the more data you include, the more time it takes for a publisher to wade through it. As one journalist told us after we sent over an epic amount of data: “Long story short, this will take too much time.”
2. Cool things doesn't always yield links.
The majority of the data we used came from CB Insights’ startup post mortems list, which had performed really well for them. (As of the time we're writing this, according to Open Site Explorer it has 197 linking root domains from sites including BBC, Business Insider, Fortune, Vox, CNBC, and Entrepreneur — impressive!)
It worked well once, so it should work again if we repackage it into a new format, right?
3. Hard to build links with videos.
When you think of viral content, videos probably come to mind — which is exactly why you may assume awesome videos can attract a ton of backlinks. The problem is, publishers rarely give proper attribution to videos. Instead of linking to the video’s creator, they just embed the video from YouTube or link to YouTube. While a mention/link to the content creator often happens organically with a piece of static visual content, this is often not the case with videos.
4. Tough to pull off Political ideas.
We've had several amazing political ideas fail despite solid executions and promotional efforts. It’s hard for us to say why this is, but our assumption has been publishers don't care about political content that isn't breaking (because it's always breaking). For this reason, we believe it’s nearly impossible to compete with the constant cycle of breaking political news.
5. Don't make content for a specific publisher.
We’ve reached out to publishers to collaborate during content production, assuming that if the publisher feels ownership over the content and it’s created to their specifications, they will definitely publish it. In general, we’ve found this approach doesn’t work because it tends to be a drain on the publishers (they don't want to take on the extra work of collaborating with you) and it locks you into an end result that may only work for their site and no other publishers.
6. Hyperlocal content is a big risk.
If you focus on one city, even with an amazing piece of content featuring newsworthy information, you're limited in how many publishers you can pitch it to. On the flip side, we’ve had a lot of success with content that features multiple cities/states/regions. This allows us to target a range of local and national publishers.
7. Be realistic.
We’ve found newsjacking is hard to pull off in an agency setting since you have to account for production timelines and getting client feedback and approval. In-house brands have a more feasible shot at newsjacking if they don’t have to worry about a long internal approval process.
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