Strategic Content Ideation for Links
During my time at Page One Power I've had the pleasure of filling a variety of positions and roles. I've done link building, writing, research, team management, project management, client interfacing, content marketing, and managed content marketing projects.
Where in the past I was largely focused on client efforts, I've been given the opportunity to help establish and grow this community, Linkarati. This website takes up a healthy percentage of my overall thoughts, time, energy, and resources.
I've done just about every function there is when it comes to building links to content. I've assisted in ideation, creation, editing, outreach, competitive analysis, paid promotion, building relationships, finding broken links, community engagement, etc. If there’s a way to build a link to a piece of content, I've probably been involved in it at one time or another.
Today, I want to share a little bit of my personal experience in content planning, specifically content designed to build links, traffic, and authority.
Because as much as it’s great to say “create interesting content your audience will engage with,” that doesn't really mean anything.
Concepts are great, strategy and tactics are better.
I’ll cover content ideation in four stages: philosophy, ideation, planning, and identifying promotional opportunities.
Creating and Documenting Content Philosophy (and Strategy)
Having a core philosophy guiding your content is incredibly, incredibly important. If it weren't rude, I’d be writing this in caps.
You absolutely need to have a discussion and decision about why you’re creating your content. What are your goals? This will absolutely help you define content strategy, ideation, creation, and promotion. Common goals for online content include:
- Online visibility
- Social shares
- Message dissemination
- Customer education
- Thought leadership
- Direct sales
You don’t need to choose a single goal, but you should know your priorities. Often these elements fuel one another.
If you haven’t made created a document outlining your content philosophy then you’ll eventually go off the rails. You’ll lose your tone, purpose, message, your very focus while you create content.
Worse, you’ll be ineffective with your content, because you won’t have a specific goal. You won’t be able to consistently measure results if you aren't in fact aiming for specific results.
For this piece we’ll assume that the main goal for the content is links, traffic, and authority.
But I implore you, if you’re involved in content creation online, make sure you've discussed strategy. Make sure you have some sort of outlined and recorded strategy. Make sure everyone understands goals, scope, and project parameters. You’ll be happier for it.
Content ideation is the fancy way to say creating a content idea and then testing that idea’s validity.
Content ideation is all about creating a multitude of concepts and then taking the time to research and plan how you’ll meet your content goals with each idea. Whichever idea appears to offer the most opportunity for success is the idea you’ll typically pursue.
There are a multitude of ways to come up with ideas for content. With the goal of links, traffic, and authority I have a few go-to methods which help me establish baseline ideas that I can then explore and expand as needed. Specifically, I keep a variety of tools near at hand:
- A document of article ideas I jot down as I go (sometimes with a brief description).
- A keyword document which contains keywords important to my industry, along with which content is currently ranking for which terms (helps me define gaps in our content).
- A campaign outline so I never forget our campaign goals, strategies, and philosophies.
- A content inventory which helps analyze what’s been well received in the past (done via URL Profiler).
- BuzzSumo to see what content is performing well socially.
- Open Site Explorer – specifically, I look at competitor’s top pages
- SEMrush to explore competitors and which keywords are driving their traffic.
I’ll also keep an eye on other popular blogs and websites, which is great for constantly generating new ideas. I recommend subscribing to a wide variety of newsletters within your industry for a constant influx of ideas and new content.
And if you're working in a team, don't forget the classic method of brain storming - or as we like to call them, brain hurricanes.
The goal in the ideation stage is to come up with as many potential ideas as possible. Don't worry too much about efficacy - try to keep it loose but relevant. First worry about how many ideas and concepts you can generate. You'll separate the wheat from the chaff later, and you never know where an idea will lead.
Once I have an idea I think might be viable I like to play the “who would this help?” game.
Specifically, I’m considering what value this would add to my industry, and why my peers, audience, and other websites would consider linking/promoting. Primary considerations are:
- The uniqueness – what gap does it fill?
- The value – what need does it meet?
- The audience – who does it help?
- The angle – how does it approach the problem?
- The tone – does this match brand values? Should it be personable for sharing?
- Shareworthiness – why would someone share?
- Publication date/timing – is it topical? Is there a necessary deadline?
As you can tell, each and every one of these considerations will affect how you approach the content.
The end goal for ideation is to have a complete plan for moving forward. You’ll want to give yourself every opportunity for success that you can. Any issues should be plotted and solved within the ideation phase.
During this stage you should be testing the quality of the concept, and why that specific idea is worth proceeding forward with.
The most important aspect of building content designed for links is to be sure there is an incentive for another website to link. Sounds obvious, but in my experience it's not specifically addressed often enough.
You should have clearly defined, before you even create your content, the unique selling point. You should be able to say “this content should receive links from other relevant and authoritative websites within my industry because of X.”
If you’re moving on to content creation/execution but still don’t have an answer to any of these questions, you’re setting yourself up for failure. The last thing in the world you want to do is waste valuable time, energy, and resources just to find you've created something that hold little or no interest for your audience. Or worse, content that your competitor’s already done, and done well.
Always, always qualify your idea before proceeding into content creation!
Identifying Promotional Opportunities
Identifying promotional opportunities within your content before creation is absolutely foundational to creating link-worthy content.
The more avenues you have to promote your content, the more visible it will be, and the more likely it is to receive links. The more links it receives, the more traffic your content will receive and the more authority it will generate.
Of course you can and should always outreach to relevant websites to let them know your content exists, after you've created it. But you should also identify and consider natural promotional opportunities within the content itself.
Here’s a list of promotional opportunities I look for while in the content ideation stage:
- Can this content be created with another party?
- Would another website have a vested interest in the content?
- Can this content leverage another company/website’s audience?
- Who will be mentioned in this piece?
- What other content will we link to?
- What communities will this content help?
- Will this content be of particular interest to a social platform?
The goal should be identifying places you can include others in your work. People are often disinclined to help you promote your work unless they have some sort of vested interest. If they, their work, tool, product, or company is mentioned, featured, reviewed, etc., they’ll be much more inclined to help promote – even if it’s only a social share. Whatever promotional angles you can find are worth noting.
Of course if you have any sort of established relationships those should be considered in your promotional opportunities as well.
Simply taking time before diving into creating content for considering promotion will often give you the insight you need to know whether or not a piece of content is worth pursuing.
Putting It Altogether
Content ideation is one of the most important stages of producing successful content.
If you don't take the time to do content ideation properly, you're building a tower of content on a wobbly foundation. Sooner or later, it'll all collapse.
Ideal content ideation will consist of:
- A core philosophy and strategy guiding all content creation.
- Many ideas generated by a variety of tactics and tools.
- Discussion around those ideas based upon merit, value, audience, angle, tone, and whether it's shareworthy.
- Examining the best ideas for natural promotional opportunities, which will give your content the best chance for success.
Intelligent, highly sharable content doesn't just happen. Can you get lucky? Sure. Can you get lucky consistently? No.
If you want to create content that actually meets a need, hits key performance metrics, and actually grows your business you need to be strategic with your efforts. And it all starts with content ideation.