8 minutes

Content Outreach Best Practice: Aim For Coverage, Not Links

What does success look like to you when conducting a creative content campaign? If your eyes light up at the promise of a plethora of backlinks, it’s time to reconsider what your end goal should really be. The ins and outs of digital PR best practice are always changing, but we wanted to put in our two pennies and share the NORTH-standard…

We all know that links may be able to provide improvements to search performance as part of a long-term SEO strategy, but when you take a look at what really lies beneath the surface, are these newly acquired links even relevant to your business objectives?

Approaching content creation with links as your end goal is a cardinal sin in today’s customer-centric era. Not only are you shooting yourself in the foot when trying to make meaningful connections with your target audience, you’re potentially taking your business two steps backwards, rather than forwards, towards your company’s strategic goals.

That’s why we believe that link acquisition driven through creative content should always part of a wider, carefully considered plan that benefits the whole site and delivers on your long-term marketing objectives.

And the best way to do this? Thinking beyond the traditional mind-set of an SEO, and merging it with the mentality of a true PR professional. It’s no longer time to aim for links, but to aim for coverage.


Why A Link-minded Mentality Just Ain’t Best Practice…

1) Links Alone Are Not the Answer

Links, links, links may have been the answer to everyone’s prayers in a pre-Penguin era, but even today, some have difficulties shaking off the concept that links are the primary, and even only, solution to an effective SEO campaign. Other on-site, technical, and algorithmic factors, and our passion for quality, useful content require just as much, if not more, attention.

2) You Are Ignoring Wider Business Benefits

There is a reason that businesses have been aiming for press coverage for decades through the help of PR professionals, and today the process offers just as many benefits as it did back then.

If you are producing content for the awareness stage of the consumer journey, or want to keep the brand front and centre post-purchase, thinking coverage and not just links offers the ideal opportunity to create awareness and help shape positioning for your business or latest product offering.

3) The Boundaries of Link Acquisition and Creative Content Become Blurred

Traditional link acquisition techniques should still play a part within any SEO strategy. However, when it becomes the primary aim of a content marketing piece, the two tactics can become blurred. Often, there are detrimental effects for both, as it can be easy to lose sight of each of the tactic’s original objectives.


Be Customer Centric, Not SEO Centric, By Aiming Your Coverage

If the quality of your content is useful, and audience orientated, it will organically gain interest and integrate seamlessly into the user journey. This can lead to coverage in quality, high authority places.

If the content is strong enough, natural links can be earned as a bi-product that most SEOs can only dream of.

But quality, useful content, doesn’t just come from nowhere, it comes direct from the interests of the customer. Sometimes it takes just as long to carry out audience research for your content marketing campaign than it does to produce it. Without these vital nuggets of information however, you’ll be barking up the wrong tree.

It’s important to not only consider traditional persona information, but behavioural characteristics of their online consumption. When shaping your creative content strategy, always consider the following –

  • Where do they regularly consume their content?
  • Which influencers do they have a strong connection with?
  • Are there any content types which they find more engaging?

When developing an idea for a creative content campaign, it can also be easy to fall into the trap of focusing too much on your brand, when to put it frankly, no one cares as much about your brand as you do. Don Draper summed up this faux pas best when he said:

“People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.”

Your audience will not only be turned off, but your target publishers, too. Quite the opposite of what you want and something very much to consider as content amplification best practice.

No audience interest, no coverage, no fruits for your labour.

Don’t forget to let your coverage act as an enticing shop window for your all-conquering content. Give your audience a reason to find out more by offering more meat where the original piece is hosted.


Three Exceptional Creative Content Examples

1. Who Can Fix My Car – Your Road Trip Guide To TV’s Most Iconic Landmarks

What’s it about?

Providing a quick and simple way to compare the prices and reputation of garages and mechanics near you, Who Can Fix My Car, clearly understands where their audience’s interests lie beyond the world of cars.

Using the content method of the moment, video, combined with the more traditional format of an infographic, they outlined the iconic television landmarks for hugely popular shows such as Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Sherlock as part of a road trip.

Understanding that content must be useful as well as engaging, they signed off with some practical tips.
What kind of coverage did it receive?

Due to a combination of excellent execution, and an understanding of what excites both their audience and the internet in general, they caught the interest of high quality websites such as Lonely Planet, Life Hacker and Business Insider.

Did link acquisition follow suit?

The content piece received 19 domain links, including more niche publications such as Make Use Of and NerdHQ who may have had their attention drawn to the piece by higher tier coverage.

What you can apply?

  • Understand your key target market’s interests inside and out
  • If you have key publishers in mind, work out the kind of angles and subject matter they like to cover on a regular basis.
  • Be aware of trending and newsworthy topics. Don’t be afraid of pop culture as you can easily target a niche of dedicated fans who will want to share and discuss your topic in depth.

2. Dr Ed – Mind The Germs: Mapping Bacteria In The London Underground

What’s it about?

Research by online doctor, Dr Ed, revealed the most bacteria-laden tube lines as well as the grimiest stations through their extensive investigation, which was shared with the public via their informative landing page complete with visualisations of their findings.

What kind of coverage did it receive?

The findings created an epidemic amongst the press, with coverage achieved on publications such as Huffington Post, Metro, Gizmodo, Evening Standard and Time Out, to name a few.

Did link acquisition follow suit?

By effectively evoking emotion, this piece of content achieved 15 links on many of the publications listed above, in addition to creating more geographical specific opportunities on sites such as Notting Hill Post.

What you can apply:

  • Be prepared to go the long haul. Their research was thorough, but the results paid off. If you are going to do something, give it everything you’ve got.
  • Ensure you have an easy accessible, well presented landing page, where readers and publications alike can access for greater information.
  • If you taking the shock factor approach, always ensure it is accompanied with useful content.

3. Charlotte Tilbury – Queen Matte Revolution Lipstick

What’s it about?

Charlotte Tilbury showed that simple but effective content has the ability to generate coverage, as long as it is useful, visually stimulating and placed where your audience wants to consume it.

The launch of their limited edition, ‘The Queen’ lipstick, inspired by HRH herself, included sneak peek Instagram imagery, a beauty tutorial and a dedicated landing page.

What kind of coverage did it receive?

Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Hello Giggles and The Gloss where some of the many publishers that covered this story, along with legions of beauty bloggers.
Did link acquisition follow suit?

Each of the high authority websites which covered the story provided a link. The product was an instant sell out!

What you can apply?

  • Know which channels your audience are engaging with most, and create bespoke accompanying content for your central piece.
  • Never underestimate the power of an effective ‘how to’ or ‘tutorial’ style piece of content. It’s evergreen and only adds value to your brand.


Although it requires a more considered approach, and will take longer to establish relationships, you will see from the examples above that aiming to get content placed on a handful of high authority sites is a better long term investment for your content rather than purely chasing links. From there, your content should really take off from the syndication and visibility it receives, and links should naturally follow suit. Every example shown above highlights the benefits of this new standard of content best practice, and I guarantee that if you place coverage above links, you’ll see much of the same success.

When it comes to your overall vision for your content marketing efforts, make it the year we see the death of ‘content for links’ and instead, the year of ‘content for the customer’.

Remember, the point is to publish something that’s useful, informative, newsworthy, or controversial enough to stimulate interest, not to get links. Not only will your target audience feel more engaged with your output, but those that you are pitching to will understand that you are trying to genuinely interest them and the needs of the reader.

If you’re curious to learn more, check out our piece on why outreach marketing is about more than SEO and our guide to Ten Things Every Outreach Marketing Campaign Needs. If you would like to find out more about elevating your content, speak to the NORTH team today.