Want to dominate the first page of Google?
Of course you do.
But you won’t rock the search giant’s rankings with a few web 2.0 links and directory submissions.
In fact, even publishing extremely long and high-quality content has become commonplace.
To stand out, you need to get really creative.
You need to create true skyscraper content that knocks your competitors’ content out of the park.
In this post, I’ve compiled four ultra-creative link building strategies that will snag you plenty of juicy, editorial backlinks.
Here we go!
4 Creative Link Building Techniques That Go Beyond Quality Content
1. Develop a free tool
The content that performs the best online is always incredibly actionable.
Most blogs these days know that, and expect the same from their contributors.
Just look at the SEMrush blog guidelines—they want content that’s “educational” and that uses “screenshots” to teach the reader.
However, even when you create in-depth content that solves the pain points of your audience, most readers won’t take action.
Indeed, Jakob Nielsen demonstrated long back how the 1% rule is prevalent in online communities—90% of users are lurkers, and 9% contribute occasionally.
This is where developing a free tool comes in.
Instead of “telling” your audience to perform certain actionable steps, you “show” them the solution.
Neil Patel has long believed in tools as a “content type.” He announced his revamped SEO strategy where he planned to spend more on technology than writing blog posts. One part of that strategy involved acquiring the keyword research tool Ubersuggest, and making it more powerful while giving it away for free.
Free tools are easy bait for bloggers and even journalists to include in their articles.
Just look at CoSchedule’s free Headline Analyzer—probably one of the best examples of this technique in action.
It has over 191,000 backlinks and ranks in the top spot when I search for “headline analyzer.”
Moreover, barring two other similar tools in the top 10 results, all the other search results also mention it in the content!
Pretty phenomenal, right?
Now, I know you might be thinking that developing a tool will cost you a fortune.
But don’t fret.
You can start with something as simple as developing a helpful calculator that’s relevant to your audience. If you use uCalc to develop it, it’ll only cost you $7-$15 a month.
The Alcohol by Volume calculator by Brewer’s Friend is a great example of the type of thing you could create for your own site.
And, this calculator has collected over 450 backlinks, which isn’t bad at all!
2. Turn conventional wisdom upside down
Until Brian Dean came out and branded writing long-form, high-quality articles as “skyscraper content,” the norm in the industry was writing 800-word articles.
The term didn’t even exist until a few years ago, and just look at the number of search results it gets now!
You can see the results below to get an idea of the popularization of his branded search term.
Brian regularly gets mentions for his popular Skyscraper Technique, with backlinks to his piece. It currently has more than 3,000 backlinks, over 1,000 social shares and 300+ comments.
And all he did was offer new, unconventional wisdom to his audience!
Similarly, self-made millionaire Ramit Sethi offers unconventional financial advice.
He doesn’t shove the usual “cut back your expenses on lattes” advice down your throat. He doesn’t like to tell people to stop doing things that make them happy.
His smart investment strategies and other “getting rich” psychology-backed advice earned him a spot on CNBC, and he now ranks #1 for a number of very profitable keywords including “how to get rich” and “how to be rich.”
To emulate this strategy, you need to make a compelling argument for your audience that disobeys conventional wisdom.
Also, understand that you’ll need data and substantial evidence to back up your observations.
Mark Schaffer did this really well with his content shock article. It took the content marketing world by storm as he saw content production jumping tremendously ahead of consumption.
What industry shift can you see happening in the next five years?
Go write a piece on it, and get people talking!
3. Create an industry job board
You’ve probably heard of the ProBlogger job board.
It’s the go-to place for marketers and recruiters to hire bloggers and writers, and has become a popular resource for the content marketing industry.
It also gets regular mentions in articles, as you can see from the search results for “problogger job board:”
And it’s generated over 140,000 backlinks—insane, right?
Another great example of a job board on a much smaller scale is GrowthHackers’ job listings page.
It lists a lot less job opportunities, but still has 77 total backlinks.
With a job board, there are chances that it might get picked up by universities and career pages, as well as job aggregators and RSS feeds which will further extend your brand footprint.
Besides earning backlinks, keep in mind that your job board can also turn into an income stream. ProBlogger, for example, requires job posters to pay $70 for a 30-day listing.
Here’s a detailed guide on how to get started with creating and promoting your job board. Note that for this strategy to be successful, you’ll need to have an engaging community (or create one first).
If you’re on WordPress, here are a few different plugins you can use to build your board.
4. Break out a story and distribute it using social media advertising
In general, social sharing is considered an effective link building strategy 68% of the time.
However, paid advertising is generally considered an advanced strategy (although it might deliver better results when you have an existing audience).
Facebook and Twitter are the perfect places to put your content in front of the audience that can refer your content and amplify its distribution.
For Twitter, you can do something like Larry Kim.
He created a Twitter list of influencers in his niche (here’s how to target individual users on Twitter). And on a budget of $300, he promoted his newsworthy article to them.
He got mentions from a slew of brands and even appeared on national television.
Larry did something similar on Facebook too.
He created a case study on fake news and how its spreading can cause a danger to our society. He promoted the article on a budget of $400.
Besides great engagement, his story also got picked up by the likes of Business Insider and Forbes.
A lot of this success was due to Larry’s smart targeting strategy for his advertising.
He knew that liberals would be interested in the story. But he chose a subset of this liberal audience that would also be interested in “Star Trek.” It ensured that his budget was effectively spent, targeting around 1.1 million people in total.
Now, I know you might feel like it’s difficult to come up with an interesting angle that appeals to influencers.
However, even with a decent article, you can get some quality link love just by putting it in front of an audience that’ll really appreciate it.
That can include your email newsletter subscribers and an approximate $50 investment into well-targeted Facebook and/or Twitter ads.
Once you have an audience, they’ll do the heavy lifting of distributing your articles, and the increased exposure will result in natural, organic backlinks.
Creating high-quality content is just one way to build backlinks.
In SEO today, you need to find newer and more creative ways to go about it.
I hope you’ll find these four strategies valuable!
And once you’ve put them into practice, make sure you’re keeping track of all the new backlinks you’re getting with Monitor Backlinks.
With this tool monitoring your backlinks, competitors and keywords in real time, you’ll always know when your strategy is working (and when it isn’t!).
Anthony Bergs is the Chief Marketing Officer at Writers Per Hour. He is a contributor at SEMrush, Smart Insights, Post Planner, Native Advertising Institute and many other reputable publications. And he’s passionate about SEO, social media and startups.