Sit with a group of SEOs for long enough and the subject of backlinks will arise and someone will inevitably pipe up and say something like ‘it’s all about creating great quality content that people want to link to and share and that’s how you get high authority backlinks pointing to your site.’
When people parrot the ‘great quality content’ phrase after watching a Rand Fishkin seminar, it really annoys me because it doesn’t actually offer a solution. It has become a horrible cliché in the online marketing industry. It’s like saying the best way to create a painting that sells for millions is by creating a masterpiece that everyone will want to buy.
You may have heard Rand mention a few times that he has a magic button that allows him to quickly get 400 linking root domains and that button is the publish button on his blog. I don’t dispute for a second that Rand could get this many links by just hitting the publish button, but I bet it doesn’t matter if the content is good or bad, he is still going to get these links because he is a trusted source and an authority in his field as a result of being a total genius.
If Rand was to put a post on his blog simply saying ‘can everyone please link to this blog post, share this with all their twitter followers and I’ll love you forever’ accompanied by a picture of his face, I bet he could still get those 400 linking root domains.
So Rand’s magic publish button may work for him as he has a large cult-like following in the industry but the same method is not going to work for the little guy that is just starting out and has a limited budget even if he is able to write a masterpiece.
Due to the ‘great quality content’ phrase spreading throughout the community like a cannabis joint in the rehab section of a prison, people have now became fixated on the idea that for content to spread it has to be great quality, this is not the case and never has been the case.
Let’s take a look at old media for a second and think about what types of newspapers do well.
Do you think the bestselling newspapers are newspapers such as the Herald or the Guardian that both offer you great quality, well written articles that people want to read? No!
The newspaper that sold the most in 2011 was The Sun, followed by the Daily Mail and then the Daily Mirror.
They make their money by writing new stories such as the one about Prince Harry on holiday and print pictures of him bollock naked with his hand over his nut-sack. These are not a high quality well-written article that is truly worthy of sharing.
It’s trashy content but everyone has an opinion on it and when The Sun decided to write a ‘piece’ I bet they sold loads more papers and their website hits would have increased massively.
Let’s take another example from the Daily Mail.
Remember Samantha Brick?
Well she wrote an article in the Daily Mail talking about how hard it is being so beautiful. This article caused so much outrage that it was trending on Twitter and at first glance it seemed like a silly thing for her to do, but in actual fact, she knew exactly what she was doing.
Samantha has been in the business long enough to know that content that provokes a reaction, even a negative one, tends to spread and get people talking.
Samantha’s article doesn’t leave you feeling uplifted, well informed and enlightened eager to point 100s of backlinks to, but it does make you want to shout, scream and tell your friends about it and that’s why Samantha started trending on Twitter, got lots of high authority backlinks and made lots of money for herself and the Daily Mail as a result.
Start thinking about what types of content spreads online. Find inspiration in old news stories that spread and try to make it work in the online world.
Someone who writes great quality online marketing articles and provokes a reaction at the same time is Michael Gray.
I don’t know if Michael does this intentionally or not, but he is really good at getting stuck right into Google and making people angry at them in his blog posts and I bet this attracts a decent bit of traffic / backlinks. It doesn’t matter if it is intentional or not, the net result is the same – backlinks and social shares.
Although making people feel angry can be a great way of causing content to spread, it probably isn’t the best idea in most situations but if you sell to a niche that doesn’t mind a bit of controversy then it might just work.
Making people happy and making them laugh will also work. Think about emotions or feelings that motivate others. Sadness is probably not a good angle to take as people are usually much less motivated to do anything when sad or depressed.
Also, you want to build relationships with people that can help your content spread once you have created it. It will be much easier to get your content to spread if it is seeded properly by people that have a large following.
I bet whenever Rand Fishkin puts out a tweet it gets loads of RTs before anyone has even had a chance to judge the content because he is so trusted within the community.
So the next time someone tells you that the way to attract backlinks and improve your search engine rankings is by creating high quality content you can call them a parrot and then tell them that although high quality content can sometimes attract backlinks the real focus should be on creating content that spreads and it could even be the trashiest content ever.
Find me on Twitter – @gorcampbell