The best content marketers not only write great content but also know how to distribute it. In particular, the best content marketers are focusing their distribution efforts on leveraging the content for the purpose of voice/brand amplification, reputation management, and link building. The link-building focus is one that doesn’t get a lot of attention because the already busy content marketers often consider it a responsibility of the SEO manager.
The broken content-marketing-to-SEO handoff
If you’re reading this article, you likely already understand the importance of content marketing. Content marketing brings value in: garnering new organic traffic from search engines, helping site visitors spend more time on your website, giving a reason for site visitors to fill in lead generation forms (gated content), etc.
However, in most businesses, there is a breakdown between creating the content and fully leveraging it for off-site efforts, such as link building. Content marketers spend so much effort getting great content, that when they’re done they often don’t take the time to evaluate and pursue their options for getting that content published in other places. If they have a savvy SEO manager on their team, or in an adjacent team, they may be solicited for content that the SEO manager promises they’ll place on other sites. However, this is where the breakdown occurs; marketers are so busy, no matter where they sit in the marketing team, that content handoffs often fall short of their full potential.
Perhaps the content marketers are holding on to the best content for their own website, or maybe the content handoff is hindered by an SEO manager who is too busy to fully read and grasp the potential for the content they’ve been given. Both of these scenarios lead to valuable content getting distributed by less-efficient means.
Why content marketers need to refocus efforts on link building
Proper placement of content marketing assets on external websites, is valuable for a number of reasons. Of course, the most obvious and most discussed is that of link building. Link building is where you get external websites to link back to your website, hopefully with a keyword that you want to rank well for on search engines. Controlling the actual text that is used to link back to your site is extremely difficult unless you are the one that wrote the content and helped to place it on the external website… which once again reiterates the importance of your participation in the off-site distribution of your content.
Other values of off-site content placement include getting extra attention and content marketing support from your company’s leadership team, increasing your thought leadership profile, creating partnerships for future content distribution and lead generation, and further networking yourself to bolster your own resume.
4 tools to bolster content marketing efforts with increased backlink opportunities
There are dozens upon dozens of SEO tools out there, and many of them have at least some functionality dedicated to helping you discover current websites that are linking to you. That said, here are four tools that SEO managers love, which are easy enough for all on the marketing team to learn, and which go the distance for helping content marketers find backlink opportunities:
1. Screaming Frog
If the purpose of your content marketing efforts were only to find backlink opportunities, me suggesting Screaming Frog as a tool you should use would seem an outlier. However, before you spend time building your web publishing network and soliciting guest publishing opportunities, you first need to understand what SEO elements are part of your successful content.
As Benjamin Franklin shared, “There are three things extremely hard, steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Likewise, knowing why the content you’re producing is successful can be difficult, and thus replicating that success for other websites you’re publishing content on may seem daunting. This is why I suggest Screaming Frog.
Screaming Frog will do two things for you: Learning it will earn you the respect of your SEO team, and it will uncover things you’re doing well in top ranking content so that you can replicate it in the content you distribute on other sites for backlinks. If the content you’re distributing on external websites is well optimized, it’ll rank well for the other sites, making them happy to take additional content of yours and also improving the credibility of that external content (and incoming links) in Google’s eyes.
How to use Screaming Frog to know the strengths of your content:
- Download and install Screaming Frog. The free version will work great for you, though you may want to upgrade down the road for added functionality and customization (£149.00 Per Year). However, for the basic content analysis you’re running as part of this backlink project the free version works well.
- Check Google Analytics for your top performing content. Take the URL of one of those content pieces and input it in Screaming Frog.
- Evaluate your content. Screaming Frog shows you a variety of SEO related elements for your content. The tabs I like to use the most for evaluating a given page, to see why it is ranking well and what I could do to help it rank better, include: Internal, External, Page Titles, Meta Description, H1, H2, and Images.
Because teaching you how to use Screaming Frog would be a full article on its own, if what you’re seeing in Screaming Frog isn’t self-explanatory for you, I recommend you watch the below video that will walk you through the tool.
2. SEO Moz Link Explorer
SEO Moz is a pricey tool, starting at $80/month if paid annually, but does have some limited free offerings you can use to help identify backlink opportunities. One of these free tools is Link Explorer.
With Link Explorer you can plug in a URL, either your own website or that of a competitor, to see which external websites are linking into that given URL. As you can imagine, using Link Explorer to see what sites are linking to you, and seeing the page authority and domain authority are extremely helpful as you can now reach out to these sites for additional links, or reference these inbound link sources for added credibility when you are soliciting guest blogging opportunities on other websites.
The below example comes from an analysis of Kuali.co, my main employer’s website. Notice that there are several very excellent referring domains in here, many with a .edu domain name. However, the page authority of the actual pages linking in isn’t as high. It would make sense for Kuali to try and nurture relationships at some of these sites already linking to them to solicit links on other areas of those websites.
3. Google Analytics
Of course, the granddaddy of free web analytics tools, Google Analytics, will help you expand your content marketing efforts and garner backlinks by helping you find the websites that are already linking to your site, and by helping you evaluate the content on your site that is already drawing a lot of traffic. (See step 2 in the Screaming Frog section above.)
What are the most popular pages on my site?
To view what pages on your site are already drawing in the most traffic, you’ll want to pull up the All Pages traffic report, which can be found under Behavior, then Site Content and finally in the All Pages report.
The below All Pages report screenshot is from a client’s website. You can see that this given client isn’t doing much in the way of content marketing, though a recent newsletter they published is doing well. In talking with this client I would point out that their newsletter is keeping the attention of its audience, keeping people on the page for 181% longer than average, and I would point out that it has brought a lot of people to the site, with 810 entrances in the given period analyzed. These two findings would likely be enough to garner support for more newsletter creation and give me a page to analyze inside of Screaming Frog.
What sites are already linking to me?
Finding which websites are linking to you, and who is driving the most traffic to your site, is a great way to evaluate what future backlink opportunities you have. In her conversion tracking guide, Kristi Hines answers the question “What Content Has the Best Business Value?” by showcasing how you can use Google Analytics to determine which external sites are driving the most traffic to your site.
4. Sales Navigator for Gmail
Last, but definitely not least, is Sales Navigator, a tool that was recently acquired by LinkedIn. Sales Navigator, formerly known as Raportive (prior to the LinkedIn acquisition), is a plugin for Gmail that shows you a bunch of valuable information on people that you’re already having conversations within your Gmail account.
After you hover over the email address of someone in an email thread you’re exchanging emails with, it showcases all their LinkedIn information, as well as other valuable content, like “icebreakers,” that could help you identify sources for future backlinks. I’ve been surprised many times when I’m emailing someone and see that they are a contributor for a major news website. When you’re already having an organic conversation with these individuals it may make sense to let them know you’re an author too, and that you’d love to work on a collaborative article with them.
Are you crafting your content to keep up with search behaviors?
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