Learning From Link-Building Content Failure
Sometimes our failures teach us more than our successes. Columnist Julie Joyce discusses how best to use content failure to your advantage.
Recently, I conducted a workshop on content for a company based in Prague. I felt nervous about it because my last experience speaking in the Czech Republic didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.
Why not? I have to admit that I didn’t take all the steps I should have to make sure that the content of my link-building workshop was what the audience wanted, expected and needed. I won’t say it was a total failure (as several people told me they found it beneficial), but overall I do understand that on some level, I failed the participants.
Why Does This Matter For Links?
You may be asking, “What does this have to do with link building?”
Well, it turns out that the ingredients for building and running a successful workshop are some of the same ones you need to create and promote great, linkable web content.
In the case of my workshop, I didn’t properly research my audience — and thus my content did not do what it should have, which was educate and fill a void. That is no different from the failures we see when we write content that is rejected or that goes nowhere. It’s no different from pointing a webmaster to your resource and being told that it’s “not the right fit.”
Think of pursuing a link as no different from any other method of getting someone’s eyes on your content. If it fails, your goal of creating something useful that people like won’t be achieved. You probably won’t get the same results (traffic/customers/conversions/views/links) that you would have if it had been successful.
Many times when we’ve been doing something for a long time — whether it’s building links, producing videos, fixing technical issues on a site or something similar — we aren’t able to slow down and consider the fact that we may be overlooking something significant.
I feel that this was the case with me, and it’s happened with the work we do for our clients. We’ve written what I thought were really good content pieces that were never placed or socialized because we missed something.
I was recently asked to contribute to a piece about the most common reasons content is rejected, and my answer was this: “The article is not in-depth enough, and we need to do more research.”
Fixing And Preventing Problems
Knowing that, why did I fail to do this myself? Why have I let it happen for our clients? Most importantly, how can I fix it and prevent it?
- The first step is always, always, always to dig further into the criticism, comments and rejection. Figure out what you could have done better. Don’t just get upset or offended. Step back and look at what people are saying, and try to see things from their point of view. In the case of my workshop, I could have wallowed in how bad I felt about letting the participants down — but instead, I decided to really read their feedback and carefully review how I did things in order to see where I went wrong.
- Secondly, plan on more time for initial research. I harp on this constantly with my team, yet I didn’t do it myself. I made the mistake of assuming that the way I did things would be similar enough to the way things were done in another country’s industry, and I should have spent more time looking at how they worked and what methods they used. I should have pushed for more information about my audience.
- Ask someone else to review your work, whether it’s the client, the webmaster where you’re hoping to place the content or a colleague. I don’t normally do this with my articles, but whenever I do, I find that the feedback makes them so much better. Usually, when we create content for a client, if I write it myself, I have my husband (our CEO) review it. If a link builder creates it, I always review it. Then, if we’re placing it on a site that doesn’t belong to our client, the webmaster obviously reviews it. Don’t assume that whatever you create is the best it can be.
A Quick Example
Note: We operate under a company-wide non-disclosure agreement, so I am not going to give the details of the client. That’s my choice as a business owner, but I hope you can still get some insight without knowing the client’s identity.
We recently created some content for a site that sells software. We’ve been successful with this in the past for that client, but our article was rejected. The reason? Despite our writing it for what we thought was the audience of that site, we’d made a mistake: We misunderstood the assignment; we thought we were creating content for a B2C audience, when it was, in fact, a B2B audience.
Pretty big (and stupid) mistake, right?
I’d even reviewed the site where the content would be placed. I’d read all about them, read many of the recent articles, yet still didn’t pick up on this fact — probably because I was so focused on making sure that we were getting all our facts straight for the article.
In this case, the webmaster immediately pointed out why it wasn’t going to work, so we knew the reason and corrected it with a second version of the content. In some cases, however, we really have to press for details.
What Basic Questions Should You Ask?
- Who is my audience? As you can see in my workshop example, I didn’t fully know the audience. I just thought, “Oh, they’re marketers,” but I didn’t think, “Well, they’re in a different country, where things might be done a bit differently,” so I truly didn’t understand who they were.
- What void needs to be filled? I had a recent chat with someone who asked me for a good article on best practices for internal linking and I couldn’t find anything, so I said hey, why don’t you create one? If you can’t find an authority piece for a topic, that’s a good sign that if you create it, it could be very successful.
- How should I best represent my content? Video, infographic, resource guide, list post? Again, this ties into learning who your audience is. See what types of content work best with certain audiences and verticals.
Additional Ways To Monitor The Success (Or Failure) Of Your Content
Surely you’re measuring the success of your content in some way, through looking at links built, new customers, conversions, email signups and so on. But you always need to make sure that you’re monitoring for mentions of the content. Failure isn’t always due to outright rejection.
- Make sure you have alerts set up for whatever content you create (including brand, URL and author, at a minimum), and read what people are saying about it. I always recommended using both Talkwalker Alerts and Google Alerts, but you should also monitor social media.
- Read the comments on your content or on pieces about your content, if there are any. And hey, it wouldn’t hurt to respond to them.
As they say, you can’t always see the forest for the trees. Some say that you learn more from failure than success, and one main thing I always emphasize to my employees is that by failing in some way, they’re much less likely to repeat the same mistake.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.