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Storytelling 101: What Defines Good Content for Off-Page SEO?

ByThomas Stern, Last Modified
Jun 30, 2015
> Marketing

The concept of link building and content creation being separate entities is archaic.

Isolating the power of well-developed content to drive a link-building strategy is crucial to success. Any marketing program that fails to cohesively build these programs is stifling its search rankings by underutilizing its off-page SEO.

It’s important to note that the key term here is “well-developed content.” And that’s what trips some marketers up. What is truly good content, and how do you use it to build a brand in a natural way?

At first it might seem the concept of quality content is subjective. That’s wrong. Well-developed content is formulaic and simple in concept; it's executing the concept that's the challenge. You can break excellent content down into three parts:

  1. It provides a service to a user base.
  2. It creates brand authority by placing brands as an expert in that field.
  3. It looks and feels natural.

While there are many different types or categories excellent content can fall under, let’s focus on the two areas that play off each other best: tools and articles.

Related Article: Why Links Will Always Matter in SEO Marketing

Storytelling 101

Writing articles, narratives or op-eds for high-domain websites and reputable news publications is one of the best ways of building links, while simultaneously branding a company as an industry expert. This works especially well for niche-industry companies where experts are in short demand.

This strategy works well when the link fits naturally within the article and acts as a resource for readers.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to get a link for a client in the biomedical manufacturing industry, and you’re doing this by having a staffed journalist write a story for an online news magazine like The Atlantic. Your story is about a new type of prosthesis that is bringing mobility to people who live in a war-torn Afghanistan village.

Maybe you’re linking back to a specific web page discussing prostheses that supports an argument you’re making. Perhaps you are using an expert within the company as a quoted source to talk about the challenges of making such a device. Or you could write a resource page for the client to put on its website that gives you exactly what you need to support your story, and then you’re able to link back to it.

The key objective here is to make the story feel incomplete without that link. The more useful the link’s landing page is, the less likely a reader or editor is to pick out that link as part of a marketing strategy. Disguising the link is crucial for landing SEO presence on major publications’ websites.

This strategy isn’t like plastering listicles on 100 ‘mommy blogger’ websites to build up search ranking. The objective isn’t even to get people to click on the link; the goal is for that link to exist and share power through the website’s domain authority. The more invisible the link is the better, because once the editor or reader knows the story has had some form of outside influence, even if the story is written ethically and is accurate, the entire article’s integrity is put into question and you burn that domain for future links.

This method takes skill, time and writer influence. You can’t run a link building campaign on this alone, but writing high quality, in-depth and influential feature stories builds brands into experts in their field. The expert status drives customer interaction and brand recognition, alongside increasing SEO presence by piggybacking on the publication website’s domain authority.  

It’s the future of link building.

Related Article: 6 Toxic SEO Habits You Should Stop Today

Being Useful and an Expert

Companies are sometimes hesitant to invest resources on projects that don’t give an immediate boom to revenue, but online resource tools should be the exception because they build a brand’s expertise while simultaneously furthering its link building ambitions.

This method works well in niche, technical industries. The trick isn’t to design the tool around what will get the most views or shares, but focus on what people need and what the client themselves can do for those people.

For example, take the unsexy world of medical billing and patient information regulation. It’s a dull industry, but it’s also vital for medical practitioners and complicated for everybody involved. The laws governing the industry are also changing fast. Companies in the medical field routinely have to worry about ICD-10, meaningful use, the Affordable Care Act, and HIPAA compliance. And some people involved in the industry struggle to keep up.

The best way to help people in this situation is by creating a tool that educates them, such as an ICD-10 survey, the industry community to see what people know and where they are vulnerable. By gathering the necessary information and compiling it into a useful resource, industry leaders, the media and others will link to the survey and build brand reputation as an expert. Those links will further any SEO strategy that might be taking place and drive more tangential engagement.

If people know a brand as helpful and an industry expert, even if they don’t use that service, the name sticks. Tools like surveys or data bases are long term game plans. People will convert to a new product or brand when they're ready, but reaching them through marketing isn’t always the best way. A genuine connection by helping them can work better.

Thomas Stern
Thomas Stern
See Thomas Stern's Profile
Thomas Stern is senior vice president of client success for ZOG Digital, a leading digital marketing and technology company. Stern has provided results-driven strategy for numerous digital marketing campaigns, working with brands such as Allstate, Whirlpool, Amtrak, Verifone, and National Geographic. ZOG Digital’s discovery marketing solutions include search engine optimization, social media marketing, paid advertising, and design and development. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @ZOGDigital.
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