Lesson #14 - Creating Linkable Content

In this lesson we are going to learn about some ways to create content that people will want to link to. We'll also talk about ways to reach out to people and ask them to link to your content. But first, you need to have great content that really stirs up people's interest. Site owners are often quite stingy when it comes to linking. But, in many industries, if you can get even just a few good links, this can make a big difference in terms of rankings. Google employees have said many times that links are still a very important part of the algorithm. Google's Gary Illyes once said the following: Ranking without links is hard   We have talked previously about how in years previous, people would do all sorts of things to get links. The goal of the SEO used to be to get as many links as possible. But now, the goal must be to get as many truly natural links as possible. I thoroughly believe that the links that count the most are ones that people actually click on. So, how do we create content that actually makes people want to link and readers want to read the content? Here are a few ideas:  

Aggregate data

Putting data together is a fantastic way to get links. This can either be data that you have collected in your business, or you can gather data from other sources. Here are a few ideas for random industries that might help you think of ideas in your own niche:
  • A realtor could gather statistics on the crime levels for each neighbourhood in their city.
  • A plumber could create an article that talks about the most expensive repairs that they did in the city for the last year.
  • A chiropractor could gather patient data and determine which months are the busiest for them. They could create an article that describes the most common reasons for people to see a chiropractor in their city.
  • A dentist could put together data on how many cavities they have filled over the years. It would be neat to see if there was a trend towards more and more cavities each year.
I challenge you to think of something for which you could gather data in your industry. If you're stuck, leave a comment and I'll give you a few ideas.  

Write about a controversial subject

This is a tough one but it can sometimes attract quite a few links. What is everyone talking about in your industry or your city? A great way to find this information is to look at the following sources:
  • Twitter trends
  • Google trends
  • See if reddit has a subreddit for your city
I just went to reddit.com/r/ottawa (my city) and clicked on the "controversial" tab. One of the top stories was a news story about how an upcoming minimum wage hike could affect a particular camp because the camp won't be able to hire as many staff. This gave me an idea for writing an article about what industries are likely to be affected by this minimum wage hike in our city. This type of article would be a great one to write and then pitch to journalists.  

Create a tool or a quiz

You can hire a programmer to make a tool or quiz for you, but even a low tech quiz can get a lot of attention. For example, let's say that you are a mechanic. You could create a quiz called, "Can you fix this car?". The quiz could give some information on what the car's issue is along with photos. You could give users the choice of asking three questions out of a list of ten. Then, see if they can solve the problem after seeing the answer to those questions. This type of thing is great for going viral on social media. It's also something that you can do link outreach for (see below) and get more links to.  

Create lists

People love lists. A while back I helped a client create a list of where to pick apples in their city. This list was really helpful to people and attracted links. Try doing a search right now for where can I * in [city]. Google's autosuggest will give you some content ideas right away. I tried this for Austin and got the following: where can I I could create a past called, "The top ten places to volunteer in Austin" or "The best places to fish in Austin", etc. People are searching for this type of thing so that means that it will be useful to people. Once you've looked at the autosuggest results you can also hit enter and see what's in the organic results for more ideas:   If it makes sense for my industry, I could write a post about the top ten places to get free wifi in my city, or the best places to park near downtown. There are many other ideas that we can use to create content, but these should get you started.

Getting links on resource pages

Once we have our content created, we want to reach out to people and get some links. The tactic that we will talk about today is to find resource pages that are related to your topic and then reach out to those websites to ask for links. First, is it ok to ask for links? Yes! Asking for links does not go against Google's Quality Guidelines provided you are not offering anything of value in return. If the only way that you can get links is to offer payment or free product in return, then this type of link building is something that could lead to a Google penalty. This is why it is vitally important that we only ask for links to content that is truly amazing. You really do need to work extremely hard on the content that you are producing so that it is truly valuable to people.

Finding websites to reach out to

For this section we are going to use some search operators. Try doing a few searches like this: [keyword] inurl:links [keyword] inurl:resources (Note: inurl is a search operator that says to Google, "I only want results that have this word in the url"). Here is an example. Let's say that I wrote the article mentioned above that describes the level of crime in each neighbourhood in my city, Ottawa. I could search for the following: "ottawa neighbourhood" crime inurl:links This search brought up some pages from Ottawa community groups. I could reach out to them and ask if they would like to include my article on crime in the city in their list. I could also do a search without the word crime in it. You'll need to play around with different options. The goal though is to find pages that readily link out to other sites that have good information.  

Broken link building

Sometimes a technique called broken link building can work well. However, this technique is overused a little so it may turn some webmasters off if done poorly. Let's say that I found a great resource page from which I want a link. What I can do is look to see if there are any broken links on that page. An easy way to do this is to install a free Chrome Extension called Link Miner. You can then click on the extension and it will quickly show you where the broken links are on a page. Here is an example. I have a tool that I created that allows people to search links against my disavow blacklist. This tool has attracted a lot of links. I just did a search for seo tools and came across this list of 250 free SEO tools. When I was on that page I clicked on my link miner extension and I can see that there are 24 broken links on this page: Now, a ward of warning - Sometimes link miner displays links as if they are broken, but they're not. You'll need to manually check the ones you are interested in. One of the links that is marked as broken on this page goes here: http://www.microdatagenerator.com/local-business-schema/ I can now write to the site owner and say something like this:

Hey (firstname),

Thanks for the awesome list of tools on https://www.webpagefx.com/marketing-guides/free-seo-tools-list.html. I was checking some of these tools out and noticed that you're linking to http://www.microdatagenerator.com/local-business-schema/ which sadly no longer exists. Just thought I'd let you know so that you can keep your list up to date.

I was wondering if you would consider adding my tool to your list? I created a free tool to allow people to check a domain against my disavow blacklist. You can find it here: https://mariehaynes.com/blacklist. I'd be happy to answer any questions about the tool if you'd like.



Taking broken link building even farther

Now that I've found a resource that no longer exists (at http://www.microdatagenerator.com/local-business-schema/), I can see if there are other sites that are linking to that resource. For this you'll need to use a link tool like Ahrefs, Majestic and Open Site Explorer. When I put this link into Ahrefs, I can see that over the years it has amassed 575 links from 111 domains:     Woohoooo! Now I can approach each of these site owners, inform them of the broken link and ask if they would add my tool to their list.

Recreate content

If you notice a broken link on a page, another thing that you can do is actually recreate the content that used to exist. This makes it really easy to reach out to site owners and request a link. Let's say that I was a plumber and I found a resource page that had a broken link that used to point to an article on how to unclog a toilet. I could look that old article up on archive.org which is a site that lets you see how sites used to look in the past. I could then take that content and rewrite it and publish it on my site. Be careful not to steal other people's content though!

Outreach tips

Link outreach is a skill that not many have mastered. Here are some tips that I can give:
  • Be prepared for failure. The majority of your link requests will fail. Some site owners will likely even get mad at you. If you manage to get a favorable response from even 5% of your requests, you are doing amazingly well.
  • Be careful not to spam. Only contact site owners if their contact information is readily available on the internet. Don't try to ferret out their email address by using a whois checker. Also, if you send thousands of similar emails out you're at risk for having your email address flagged as a sender of spam. It's best to be judicious on who you send emails to.
  • Try using the phone! Most of us really don't like to phone people, but I have found that this is one of the best ways to get a business owner to link to me.
  • Don't give up. I have created some amazing pieces of content that I simply could not get any links to. I urge you not to quit if this happens to you. Try another piece and reach out again.
  • Address the site owner personally. I own several sites and almost every day I get a form email saying, "Dear Sir" or "Dear Webmaster". The ones that I pay attention to are the ones that say, "Hey Marie..." and then follow it up with something that shows that they truly did read my site.
  • Avoid link building tools. You can find tools that scour the web looking for site owners you can contact and also scraping email addresses. It's super quick to create a large outreach list and reach out this way, but the yield is usually low. I prefer writing personal emails one by one. Yes, it's a pain, but it's much more effective.


This lesson's assignments are going to take a long time. I would urge you to try to think of a great piece of content that you can write using the ideas above. Again, if you can't think of any, leave a comment and I will help. Then, reach out and try to get some links. I'd love to hear about your success!

Recommended Reading

88 Content Creation Ideas for Better Business Blog Posts, Images, or Videos Out of Ideas? 13+ Tools to Spark Content Creation 20 Sources of Inspiration to Create Awesome Content The Broken Link Building Bible 28+ Stories of Failed Link Building Experiments  

Previous Lessons

Lesson 1 - SEO Basics and All About Links. Lesson 2 - Google Analytics Introduction and intro to Links Lesson 3 - Introduction to Google Search Console, Keyword Research and Title Tags Lesson 4 - Page Layout and Copy Lesson 5 - Links and Rankings Lesson 6 - Meta Descriptions, Google My Business, International targeting in GSC Lesson 7 - URL structure, Establishing Authority, Google Alerts Lesson 8 - Google Analytics Work, Structured Data and Guest Posting Lesson 9 - Status Codes, Google's Site Search and Broken Link Reclamation Lesson 10 - Internal Links, Homepage Canonicalization Lesson 11 - Robots.txt, noindex, content Lesson 12 - Competitive link analysis Lesson 13 - Panda and Penguin, thin content and http vs https