Scalable link building is the holy grail of search engine marketers. Crafting a piece of content that generates volumes of links and social shares is hugely important but incredibly difficult and elusive for most, especially for those without a built-in community, large email subscriber list, or large social media following.
Instead of grinding away churning out guest posts for a link or two off of a relevant, high quality site, a truly scalable piece of content would have hundreds or thousands of people linking to one piece of work. But there are other ways to get links besides article marketing. And I’m not talking online directories or article submission sites. And I’m not talking about video, images, or graphics, although these can be powerful ways to market your product or service.
There is such a focus today on content marketing. But what if you could create something so useful that people would freely share it and it could propagate to a targeted users throughout the Web? That is why creating a useful tool is so valuable. It can be a huge driver of inbound marketing traffic.
The Power of Tools
I previously wrote a post about my five favorite free link diagnostic tools. These companies create tools and gain exposure, data, and links, but don’t charge anything to use the tool. Some companies even turn it into a business and move beyond a free model, or try to as in the case with Blekko.com.
For example, SEOMoz went from being a SEO consulting agency into a digital marketing software company. They still have their SEO community they’ve built up over many years, they still do content marketing and conferences, but their ultimate goal now is to leverage their marketing into new paying subscribers for their tools.
One of the great things about online tools is that it is truly a scalable business with automation capability. If you have a useful enough product at a price people are willing to pay, you can increase your subscribers at a rapid rate without necessarily increasing your personnel at the same clip of a service business.
With paid tools, most also have a monthly subscription model. These aren’t click-in, click-out one-time purchase customers. If they continue to like and use your product and service, they are retained and continue to pay you each month.
Creating an online product that brings in paying monthly subscribers is a real challenge. But whether it is online education, training, analysis, information, testing, entertainment, or otherwise, the rewards can be huge and much more scalable than constantly hunting for your next customer.
More Penguin Proof
There has been a lot written about the needs to diversify your online traffic. You want traffic from email subscribers and social networks. You don’t want to put the vast majority of your eggs in the Google basket for bringing visitors onto your site. This was particularly driven home for many in the Penguin update.
With tools, once people know about your product, they likely will bookmark it, download it, otherwise use it and continue to share it. The tool is not likely to be so reliant upon search engine traffic for new visitors.
Use Tools to Boost Your Own Site
Besides just the sharability and links, free tools can also directly increase revenue on a site. For example, British airline Thomas Cook performed some research and found their customers, which were predominately a younger demographic, liked to share their vacation plans with their friends and family.
The airline created a “holiday gloating widget” that they added to their site flythomascook.com that allowed user’s to add the widget to their social network profiles and share the information, creating a sort of holiday envy, or vacation envy as we would call it here in the states.
The widget was downloaded nearly 14,000 times in its first six weeks and was Facebook’s second most downloaded application in October 2008. Not only did this widget help drive more sales, it also built more brand awareness and created a more meaningful relationship between the airline and their customers. It was a real win-win.
So instead of focusing so much on a content marketing strategy, perhaps more of a focus should be put into creating a useful tool, plug-in, or widget. Now that is scalable link building and adding real value to the user.