April 9, 2020

How to Effectively React to Link Building Successes & Failures

You’re never going to get every link building campaign right. Equally, when you do hit the jackpot, it’s still unlikely that you’ll have covered every possible angle you could have done with your work.

That’s the nature of the industry. With budgets to stay within, demanding timeframes to turn content around in, and each area of the creation process fighting for the most focus; the outcome rightly falls on delivering the best results possible in the most efficient way.

The good thing is that both the content ideas that failed and the ones that succeeded can present follow-up opportunities for you to uncover. In this piece, I’ve taken a look at the following areas and how they tie into content success and failure:

  • Changes in the news
  • What could you have done with more time?
  • Is the topic you covered timeless?
  • Re-spinning stories in a different direction
  • Repurposing content for use at a later date
  • Exploring alternatives to links

Successes

Your most productive link building campaigns can be a great source of inspiration for new successes. There are always ways campaigns you’ve produced can be modernised and improved; and you never know when the topic you’ve covered previously might resurface in the news:

Follow the News – What’s Changed?

Let’s say you produced a piece and conducted successful outreach. You were happy with the results and so was your client or the company you work for. Job done, right? Well, not always.

It might be that you can leverage all that work to enjoy success again. For example, if you produced a successful study into a niche area, there’s an opportunity there to potentially become a voice of authority for the media on the subject matter covered.

Try implementing the following techniques as a means to revisiting a subject you’ve previously covered, that’s now reappearing in the news:

  • Try setting up alerts in the niche you write within for your company or clients. This way, if a topic you’ve previously covered gets taken in a different direction, you can consider whether your piece could be referenced and built upon in a follow-up story.
  • Nurture relationships with your contacts in the press – if they used some of your previous work and you’re in touch regularly, you’ll be right at the front of their mind if they need a source or quote in the field.

Ask Yourself What You’d Have Done With More Time

Think about one of the best recent examples of a success story you enjoyed with your link building efforts. If you were to do that piece again now, what could you add to it?

No matter how comprehensive your work was the first time around, it’s unlikely that you were able to cover every possible angle with it. In fact, there’s a good chance that you had plenty of other directions to take your piece in; but time and budget just didn’t allow for it.

The good news is that if you’ve already enjoyed success with a piece, now is your time to revisit those ideas and take them forward. Think about it – if you’ve already generated strong links, there can be no doubt that people shouldn’t trust your approach if you want to revisit the subject being covered.

Some things to think about if you’re revisiting a successful piece could be:

  • Commissioning a survey: Consider whether you could conduct a study into the subject area that brought you success. Maybe there’s a different angle you could go with now via a survey?
  • Creating video content: If you’d created a video asset alongside your original content, would it have allowed you to target different types of publication?
  • Going bigger with your analysis: Perhaps you conducted a study around a relatively small dataset and enjoyed great success? What if you worked with 5, 10 or 100 x that quantity of data? Would the links increase in tandem with that effort?

Whatever you decide to do, it’s worth re-connecting with the people that covered your content first time around, as early in the process as possible. Explain your follow-up idea to them and gauge their interest early on, as you might be able to secure repeat placements alongside new outreach.

Consider Whether the Subject Being Covered Is Timeless

There are certain subjects that just repeat themselves every single year in the media. Sometimes, it will be a more serious topic. For example, data releases around weather and recycling statistics.

Other times, seasonal stories can be far more light-hearted, such as spiders ‘taking over the UK’ around autumn.

spiders in news

Whatever the topic, guaranteed repeat coverage of a specific topic presents an opportunity to connect with journalists on a subject they’re already planning to write about. If you give them a new angle to what they already have, all the better. Think about whether one of the following approaches could help bring you coverage:

  • Could you source quotes from notable voices in the field?
  • Could you generate unique research around the topic, in a way that’s not been done before? (For example, if you were looking at a data release related to weather, could you add value to that data by presenting an interactive data visualisation related to conditions in specific areas?)

Whatever you decide to do, the key is to present the journalist you’re outreaching to with something they couldn’t easily replicate themselves. They’ll be short on time and if the resources or findings you provide are valuable, they’ll be more inclined to use them as part of their coverage and credit you.

One example of a way we revisited a successful content piece and enjoyed repeat success by covering a similar subject was around the topic of drink driving. For a client in the scrap car recycling industry, we conducted the following two studies, launching both in December, a year apart:

  • December 2018: We launched the findings of a survey we’d commissioned around drink driving, across the UK general public. The survey related to how many people would drive if they ‘felt’ okay to. The subsequent findings were picked up by several nationals, lots of local sites, motoring sites and BBC Radio Wales.
  • December 2019: We revisited the subject of drink driving, this time conducting a study into whether Christmas food containing alcohol could push you over the UK drink driving limit, if you’d had one standard drink. This campaign achieved over 100 followed links from local press sites across the country.

By taking a topic (drink driving) that gets revisited every year (around Christmas), we were able to achieve success in two different ways. This is just one example of the many things you could try if revisiting an idea.

drink driving coverage

Failures

Failed content pieces shouldn’t always be a complete write-off. There could be plenty of potential to revive an idea that failed or to take it in a different direction, to ensure that your work to date doesn’t go to waste.

Before you proceed, it is of course important that you can justify the time trying to revive the content. Weigh up the following ideas and think about what you could consider:

Re-spin the Story in a Different Direction

When you’ve put hard graft into any content piece, seeing it fail upon launch can be demoralising. Yet this can happen to any company, for any number of reasons, even with the best planning. For example:

  • A competitor could have beat you to the punch by a couple of days
  • The topic you thought was newsworthy may no longer be front and centre in the media
  • Something unrelated in the national news may be dominating attention
  • A new development to a topic you’ve been working on may have rendered your own piece irrelevant

Whatever the case, there are times such as these where your outreach is unfortunately likely to fail. So what can you do? One approach worth trying is to spin the story in a different direction.

We did this at Evoluted for a client we’d produced a study for. This was around MOT testing and the most common models that fail. Just as we launched the piece, we saw a competitor generating coverage in the news, which was naturally frustrating.

Rather than wallowing though, we thought about how we could take the subject matter and layer it with something different. Without this, the outreach clearly would have failed, since our original focus topic had been taken.

We settled upon adding a geographic angle to the content, by introducing statistics around MOT failures by region; with accompanying map visuals. This led to coverage on The Sun for our client and helped ensure the efforts we’d put in weren’t wasted.

the sun cartakeback coverage

Re-Purpose & Expand the Content for Use At a Later Date

There are certain topics and accompanying data releases that recur in the news several times a year. This means that if you don’t feel completely confident launching your piece – or you’ve tried and it’s underperformed – you can go again later in the year.

If you do plan to do this, consider the following points:

  • What did you leave out of your original piece, that may now help you explore a valuable new angle? (visuals, quotes, data etc.)
  • If the content was seasonal (and only valid once a year), could it be expanded upon and then re-launched earlier the following year?
  • Could you network/build a relationship with any journalists that regularly cover the topic and ensure you add in something that would be particularly useful to them?

Depending on the option you look at from the above list, it could be worth spending a few hours putting together an editorial calendar around the subject matter you covered. Within this calendar, look at things such as industry-specific events or days; as well as national data releases and holidays.

A piece of project management software such as Trello or Asana would be really useful for managing calendars such as this on an ongoing basis.

If You Didn’t Get Links, What Else Could You Do?

No matter how hard you try, sometimes the links just won’t come. At times like this, when you’ve also considered alternative options to revive a piece, sometimes it’s time to look elsewhere.

There are plenty of other ways a content piece can be successful. Consider the following:

  • Could you reposition your work to drive organic traffic and brand visibility?
  • Could the content be re-worked as an educational piece for your site or the site of one of your clients?
  • Could you put together a guest post around your work, that you could give to a site in exchange for the coverage that would provide?
  • Could you create a case study around the piece to discuss what did and didn’t work? This could be useful as an outreach piece, or simply for internal education.

It may be that there’s no potential in any of these areas, but it’s at least worth exploring them before the content is canned. It’s rare that there’s absolutely nothing that can be done with a failed piece.

Summary

I want to leave you with the following points to think about:

  • Timing is everything. From the time of day you conduct your outreach to the point in the year you launch your work; misjudgement can cost you dearly – make timing absolutely central to your planning from the off
  • It’s okay to fail – not every idea works. All you can do is plan with the best intentions and learn from your failures and successes to become stronger moving forward
  • Always be thinking about what you might have missed and how to fit the most valuable assets/information into your pieces with the budget available
  • Build strong relationships. These will strengthen your outreach chances. Whilst you obviously won’t always work with the same publications, it’s handy to have one string to your bow you can rely on

Thanks for reading!

Post from Sean Potter