How to Get Big Links

Link Building - handwritten text in a notebook on a desk

In this series, I am going to be looking back at Mozcon 2017 and all the wonderful talk. For each of the talks over the three days I am going to turn it into a blog article for you to digest. As it’s against Mozes rules I won’t be actually posting the actual videos I will instead turn what the speaker has to say into words of how you can their topics and give you some real life examples from our business. 

Every day for the next 25 days or so I will post a new article about each of the subjects in order that they spoke.

The first speaker on stage after Rand’s welcome was Lisa Myers from Verve Search. Rand did speak twice once to open it and once to close the three-day conference. I will round up both his talks into one super article at the end.

Backlinks Word Written In Wooden Cube

How to get Big Links

Now let’s dig into Lisa talk on to get large websites to link to you.

In January 2015 she did an audit and identified that the time and effort to get links were decreasing and also the quality was decreasing.

She realised she had a choice to make – carry on and keep doing the same thing and hope for different results, I think this is the definition of mad or she could change her organisation.

By 2015 everyone was doing Content marketing, producing written content and static infographics. This still applies today, people still try and use the tactics and while some do get results, I have some of my best links come from the worst designed infographic, but at least there was unique and interesting data behind the graphic. Actually most of the sites that picked up on it, used the data but created their own graphic (it’s not one of my strongest points and at the time I didn’t have any designers at the agency), but the key here the data was interesting and a new take and the biggest publications picked up on it.

Lisa talks about how she realised that it was now a case of producing a piece of content usually got one link and if it was going to get one link it needed to be a very good link, this is how we approach link building but take it one stage further and her agency probably does something similar. As well as looking at the ‘SEO’ stats of a website we try and determine whether they are a true influencer in the niche. Are they the go to the site where everybody goes including other publications to get their stories.

Instead of trying to work on speaking to as many journalists as possible in the hope of getting a link but never really able to spend much time building a relationship with any of them, focus on the key players and build a relationship so the content is more likely to get covered.

Let me give you a real life example – we have just started working with a travel client who aims is to reach as many new people as possible to build brand awareness. We could spend hours every week trying to speak with a possible site and be hoping for the best, we will instead focus on one of the more popular publications and work with them, i.e. Joe or Ladbibble or one of these types of sites. Why these seem to copy each other’s content, or maybe change it up slightly, do it from a different angle etc but it’s still the same content. So by focusing on one of these, we could get covered in a number of high traffic sites helping the brand grow.

If we looked at the SEO number’s we would probably pass on these sites as they are low, but what we are looking for is influentials and reach.

Think like a 50 ads execs and execute like a geek

Lisa then goes on to say she restructure her agency to “think like 50s Ad Execs and execute like geeks”. Which sums up the above quite well. Using data to determine the key influencers in the niche you operate but then use the skills of the Ad executives to get the influencers on board.

Don’t be afraid to fail

She then talks about coming up with lots of ideas and more importantly bad ideas. We believe that if you’re just coming up with one of two ideas that are “safe ideas” that will work then you’re not thinking hard enough. The best ideas for some of our clients have started off as our worst ideas that have morphed into the great idea’s, but if I did not allow the team to come up with weird, wonderful and sometimes damn right strange idea’s then they wouldn’t have thought of the best ideas. We have a small ish room where two walls are painted with whiteboard paint and there is no such thing as a bad idea, it’s a bit like catchphrase but instead of saying what you see if, it says what you think. Chuck it all down and we worry about narrowing it down and at a later time.

I can’t take the credit for this, this was implemented at Ebuyer when I was there they had the room, how we here at Indago Media have evolved this is that we have the brainstorm for 1-2 hours, leave the room to have lunch or a break and then go back in that afternoon. First, we then covered if anyone has thought of anything new, then we start expanding on the existing ideas and cutting the ideas we don’t think has legs. This process we have found really helps with creating content for clients which work and get the desired outcome – links.

Original content

While everyone says your content needs to be original and in an ideal world it does, currently we are producing content at a faster rate than ever before.

More content is being created in 48 hours than what was produced from the beginning of time until 2003.” – Eric Schmidt


So trying to be original in this day and age is hard, and actually an old boss once told me, large companies spend millions on testing, learning and creating the best. While we don’t have the same budgets we can take what’s working for them and improve. This wasn’t in relation to content but the principles still apply. Let the big brands work out what your niche wants and then try and reproduce but better.

I often get asked by eCommerce clients, whats the point we can’t beat Amazon so why care about SEO and my response is pretty simple – because Amazon is so big, it’s fairly easy to beat Amazon at a specific niche. Amazon can not focus on every niche they operate in and so long as your not in the niche they are working hard to improve, then it’s fairly straight forward. I am not saying it’s not hard work and challenging, but it’s possible, by learning from what the big boys in your niche are doing it.

Rand over at Moz sums this up pretty well with his 10x rules for content. He isn’t saying don’t produce content even if someone else ranks for the term you want – just if you want to be number 1, you have to produce 10x the content if you want to rank number 1.

Some would argue Apple is producing original products, but they don’t I am Apple biggest fan boy. All my products are Apple from Apple Watch to Ipad Pro and Mac – even my 5-year-old has an iPad, but I would never really argue any of their products are that original. They take the best ideas of their competitors work on them till they have perfected it (sometimes wait too long till its perfect) and then release.

Being original is hard, but you don’t need to be – you just need to be the best you can be.

Lisa said that if your results are surprising then the better. This will get talked about a lot more on social more engagement more news stories picking it up and this is exactly what you want – more links. We wouldn’t every manipulate data just to get people talking about the content we are producing, it’s against our principles, but even if the overall data doesn’t say something surprising or interesting we try and find the little golden nuggets and share these out, things like how particular region does or country. People tend to care about where they live and can become quite vocal – plus it’s a great source for local link building and a whole new range of new links.

Sometimes SEO metrics aren’t always the best metrics for covering the success of a campaign. Going back to the Travel client, we could get them an amazing link on ‘x’ website, let’s say the BBC but if it’s on a page no body visits who cares. Ok, we might see rankings boost for them, but they want exposure. More traditional PR they want people to find out about their brand. Getting them mentioned in say the Lad Bibble, will not have the same impact on rankings as say a link from the BBC, but if it’s on an article which gets onto their social feed then it could suddenly mean a lot of people find out about their brand.

The important thing is clear KPI’s why are we producing this content. What is the ultimate goal – once you know this it’s so much easier to create content that works.

From testing both by ourselves and others in the sector, links are still a very important ranking signal and trying to rank without them is pretty hard, nearly impossible in very competitive niches, but it’s not like the old days where it was a volume game – now it’s all about quality and relevance. Getting these links do not have to be difficult, you just have to think differently and stop using the shotgun method of shooting and hoping and producing content that is almost certain to get coverage.

Please remember these are my takings from the conference and not those of Lisa, while I have used her presentation as inspiration and quoted her a few times the words are my own.

Please check back tomorrow to see Data-Drive Design by Oli Gardner or check out the full series here.

If you are struggling to build links, why not check out our series of articles to help you improve your link building success or get in touch and see if we can help you out.


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