Links have been an integral part of search engine rankings since Google created PageRank in 1996. In fact, using links as a measurement of a page’s importance was one of the major factors that allowed Google to come to dominate the search engine landscape. Despite the fact that links remain a core part of Google’s, and other search engines’, ranking algorithms, the idea of "link earning" has started to replace the concept of link building. This is partly due to the Penguin algorithm (why risk building bad links that will do more harm than good?), and partly due to the rise of content marketing and the focus on creating “link bait” content.
However, research has shown that hasn’t come to pass. Content that is highly shared on social media (a quick way to measure quality and value to an audience) does not really correlate to a lot of links. In fact, the vast majority of content published online never earns any links.
While good (or even great) content on its own is not enough to earn substantive links, it’s still absolutely required. So you need to learn what sort of content in your subject area builds a lot of links. After your link audit, you should have a good idea of what pages on your own site get linked to. Next, investigate the sort of content on other sites that your target audience finds useful, accurate and unique.
Tools like Ahrefs, Buzzsumo and Majestic let you search by topic to find articles that are highly shared and linked. This shows that there’s a lot of demand for this content, which will make building links a little easier.
When you have a few ideas that you think people will want to link to, create content of your own. You can leverage ideas for the pages that already have a lot of links to grab some low hanging fruit. Don’t just rewrite the content (known as article spinning), since both people and search engines will be able to tell that you’re not adding anything of value to the topic. That means fewer links and lower search rankings.
A few ways you can add your own take on older content are:
Remodel it: The easiest way to improve on a list is to turn it into an infographic. Infographics are some of the most popular content on the web when it comes to linking and sharing, and the visual component has a large influence over user experience and content consumption. Even if the old article doesn’t lend itself well to becoming an infographic, changing the layout and adding new images to the post can go a long way to improving its usability and shareability.
Enhance it: Some of the most popular content online are listicles (look no further than BuzzFeed for an example of the success of listicles), such as "top 10 winter fashions this year" or “10 ways to declutter your desk.” These articles are great opportunities to be rewritten because you can add items to the list, flesh out explanations, add examples for any list and link to source. Article with more details, examples and links are much more useful to an audience and more likely to get links.
Refresh it: Posts that get a lot of links fall out of date, sometimes quickly depending on the industry. Update any out of date points with the correct new information to make it more useful. For example, Google’s Penguin 4.0 runs in real time, which is a change from previous incarnations of the algorithm. There’s a chance that some highly linked articles on link audits and link building contain out of date warnings about Penguin penalties taking months, or even years, to recover.
You don’t have to use one of the three methods mentioned above when creating your own link bait content. What’s important is that it’s well-written, covers the topic authoritatively and provides some sort of novelty or unique perspective on the subject.