In most cases, how you present your content is just as important as what you write about.
Depending on how you structure your articles, what you include in them, and what media format you use to present them, your results will be different.
Some posts are great for spreading through social media, but they may not attract many backlinks. Others create a ton of engagement, but not much else.
Some can even help you begin a valuable relationship with an influencer.
My point is: All content you produce should be with an end-goal in mind. Know what you’re trying to accomplish.
One of the most common and important goals of content is to attract links. Links are still a major part of SEO and probably will be for the foreseeable future.
Backlinks to a post not only help that specific post rank better in search engines but they also help all other posts on your site. Get enough quality links, and you’ll be getting tens of thousands of organic search engine visitors a month to your site.
If you want great backlinks in the modern SEO world, you need great content.
It’s as simple as that.
That’s what I have for you today: a guide to the 9 best types of content that can attract not only a good quantity of links, but also high quality links.
1. People have and will always love list posts
I write a ton of list posts and find they work especially well as guest posts.
Just look at some of the posts I published on NeilPatel.com during June:
- 21 Resources For Mastering Online Marketing
- 15 Quick Tips to Convert Visitors Into Email Subscribers
- 5 Scientifically Proven Techniques to Attract a Loyal Audience
- 5 Copywriting Strategies That Will Improve Your Conversion Rate by 113%
But it’s not just me who loves them.
In an in-depth study of over 220,000 articles, Fractl and BuzzStream found that list posts were the most shareable.
These results confirmed an earlier analysis by Buzzsumo and Okdork of 100 million articles. List posts were only beat by infographics:
But what’s really interesting is that the popularity changes drastically by month:
The most important takeaway is that list posts are remarkably consistent, which will help you get more steady results from producing them. It makes it much easier to determine an accurate return on investment (ROI).
For one more example of list posts being a great type of content, look at the top posts published on Boost Blog Traffic:
That’s right, three out of four are list posts. Also note that they are long lists, and if you visited the articles, they are also really in-depth.
But I told you something at the start of this post: we’re looking for content that can produce links.
It turns out, people also like to link to list posts:
Other than its homepage, both Boost Blog Traffic’s top two posts (in terms of referring domains) are lists posts.
Why people love list posts: Despite the fact that a lot of people complain about having to read “just another list post,” list posts remain one of the most popular content types. That’s because lists have a few key things going for them:
- they make a specific promise: a reader knows how much attention they’ll have to spend on the article
- they are scannable: almost all readers scan articles. Since each list item is usually a subheader, it’s easy to get the gist of an article quickly.
- they invoke curiosity: it’s almost like a test. Can you guess the X ways to do something? Sure, you probably know one or two off the top of your head, but that leaves a big curiosity gap that you want to fill.
A final reason why list posts are great for you as a content creator is that they are among the cheapest to make. As you’ll see with some of the other content types, it’s not uncommon to spend thousands of dollars to create content that attracts a ton of links. It’s rare for a list post to cost much more than a few hundred (in expensive cases).
Here’s how you make a list post…
Step 1 – Pick a topic where more is better: The potential obstacle that you may run into is that most bloggers write list posts on a regular basis, whether on purpose or by accident.
What this means is that there is a ton of competition when it comes to list posts. Search for just about any topic, and you’ll find at least a couple of lists posts.
In order to get someone to link to you, you need to produce content that is worthy of linking. If you’re just producing the same lists as everyone else, it’s going to be a tough sell to get someone to link to you.
The solution? Go bigger, go better.
What sounds more impressive to you:
“6 Low-Calorie Snacks That Are Great for a Diet”
“The Complete List: 56 Low-Calorie Snacks That Are Great for a Diet”
Without even seeing each article, you can tell the second option is going to be more impressive.
What you want to do is find a topic in your niche where more is better.
Some topics do not work well for list posts. No one is interested in “60 Ways to Use Scissors,” or “25 Ways to Use a Spoon.”
In general, you want to find topics where list posts are already doing well. If you search a phrase or keyword and see three or four other list posts in the top few results, you’re onto something.
Ideally, you found shorter posts. Looking at the results above, I can tell it’s going to be harder to make a piece of content that is way better than any of the long lists. But it is still possible if you really want to target that keyword.
In addition to making a post longer, you can also make it:
- more detailed
- more visual/usable
- more accessible (maybe a printable or downloadable version)
You’ll need to look at each of the top ranking results and see what they are missing. Some things will be obvious, but you can also look at the comments of each article for hints about what is missing or what can be improved.
Really, you can pick any keyword or phrase that you’d like to target and check if it’s a good candidate. If you just want to find the keywords that work best with list posts, use the Adword’s Keyword Planner to look for the following:
- best [niche]
- [niche] tips
- ways to [niche]
Just from that search, you could create:
- The X Best Nutrition Books
- The X Best Nutrition Apps
- The X Best Nutrition Bars
And you could replace “nutrition” with other niche-related keywords to get more ideas.
Step 2 – Write your list, and format it: Creating the post will take up most of your time. First, decide how you’re going to improve on what’s out there.
Remember, your list doesn’t necessarily have to be longer. If you can make it more valuable in other ways, do that.
Research has shown that lists with 10 items receive the most social shares by far. In fact, they get 4 times as many shares as the next closest list number – 23. Other top performing results were 16 and 24.
That being said, there isn’t a great sample size for longer posts, and from past experience, we know they also do well.
Here’s how I suggest you lay out your posts:
- Your list
Use your introduction to explain to your readers why this topic is important and how the list can help them. Use the conclusion to highlight the best items on the list and to engage your readers.
I see too many writers simply throwing a list at their readers and then getting surprised when their results are poor. It should be just like a conversation: you greet someone, and you say your goodbyes at the end.
2. Go beyond expectations with guides
I honestly don’t think there is another marketer who has invested as much time and effort into creating “definitive” guides as I have.
Take a look at the Quick Sprout sidebar if you don’t believe me:
Each of these guides are tens of thousands of words long and have a customized design that helps them standout from other guides.
When you write one of these guides, your goal is to create an “ultimate guide.” If the topic you’ve written about comes up in a discussion in a forum or on social media, you want people to be able to link to your guide and say “this is all you need.”
If you do that well, you will attract a ton of links and, subsequently, traffic:
Before you get too excited, I need to give you a quick reality check.
Creating a guide of this level is not easy.
It will either take you several (possibly over a hundred) hours to create or it will cost you thousands dollars to have someone else create it for you. If you cut corners, you won’t get the same type of results as shown above.
With a long-term perspective, I think the ROI on these guides is fantastic. It works out to under $20 per link, and the guides drive a ton of traffic and considerably increase the value of your personal brand.
You instantly position yourself as a leader in your niche (e.g., SEO) by creating a guide like this. Create more (like I have), and you’ll be considered a leader in a broader subject (e.g., marketing).
If you’re considering making this investment, here’s what you’ll need to do…
Step 1 – Find a topic and define the scope: The topic and scope will help determine how expensive the guide will be to create.
Remember, this is an “ultimate” guide. It needs to contain everything on your chosen topic.
If you pick a really wide topic, such as “The Ultimate Guide to Marketing,” you would have to write hundreds of thousands of words.
It’s better to err on the narrow side (e.g., “The Ultimate Guide to Structured Data”) and have a guide that’s only 5,000-10,000 words but covers everything about the topic rather than go too broad and have to leave things out or send your costs through the roof.
Note that you can limit your scope in other ways as well. For example, I have created a guide for “online marketing,” but I wrote it for beginners. That way, I can cover everything that a beginner needs to know without covering everything that an expert would need to know.
Step 2 – Lay out the guide: If you’re going to hire a writer, now is the time. I recommend posting a description of the job on a job board such as ProBlogger.
Yes, it will cost money to post the job. You will also have to pay a decent amount for the writing.
This is because you can’t just hire an average writer—you need a great writer. Everything about your guide needs to be top-notch for it to work.
If you have a bit of a reputation in the niche, you might also be able to hire an up-and-coming blogger in your niche whose work you like.
While I contribute to my guides and help lay them out, most of the writing is done by a collaborator. For example, I co-wrote my guide to content marketing with Kathryn Aragon:
Once you know who’s going to write the guide, it’s time to lay it out.
Create an outline of the guide for all the main topics you’ll cover—similar to a table of contents.
Then, create an outline for each of these sections. Treat them as separate pages/posts.
Once you’ve done so, write the individual articles as you usually would. Just keep in mind that quality comes first.
Step 3 – Find a designer: Most writers and marketers might be able to put together a simple custom image when needed, but for a guide like this, you need a whole different skill set.
You’ll need custom images, fonts, backgrounds, plus an experienced eye for laying it all out in the best way:
Again, you can’t cheap out here, or the quality of your guide will suffer.
I personally like Dribbble to find a designer, but you can also find good ones on Upwork and Freelancer if you don’t mind wading through the low-quality designers.
Step 4 – Promote it (easy if you did the previous steps right): If you have a truly great guide, it’ll take only a bit of promotion to get it out there and spread awareness.
A good place to start is Reddit. If you’re not familiar with Reddit, it’s a massive site where users can vote on links to content. Since your guide is so awesome, if you post it in the right community, it’ll get a ton of upvotes and traffic. Before you try, though, learn how to use Reddit the right way.
The next thing you should do is promote your content in a similar way to the Skyscraper Technique. There will be other guides to your topic, but yours will be the best by far. Email anyone who has linked to inferior guides, and tell them you have one that is way better.
Finally, email blog owners who have an audience who would be interested in your guide. For a guide to SEO, don’t email other SEO bloggers—they won’t be very receptive. Email bloggers who write about building online businesses, e-commerce sites, niche sites, etc. These aren’t direct competitors, and they’ll likely love your guide and link to it in the future.
3. Make a work of web art (aka infographics)
No, infographics aren’t what they used to be, but they can still attract a ton of great links.
Infographics are currently the most viral type of content you can produce. When they were a novelty, they used to go viral fast because people were fascinated by infographics. Today, you’ll have to produce a higher quality one for it to get traction.
Recently, I analyzed the results of my infographics. Although the results of my newer infographics (in the last two years) weren’t even close to the two years prior, they still drove 21,582 visitors and 371 backlinks from 34 unique domains on average.
Not a bad return.
Until that diminishes a lot further, I’ll continue producing infographics on a regular basis.
Step 1 – Pick the right topic: Infographics are great because they can communicate almost any type of message. However, I’ve found that infographics that are based on data or those that break down a topic step-by-step work best.
Researching the data you need can take quite a while, but it’s worth it.
Step 2 – Find a great designer: You can go about this in a few ways. You can either hire a designer who specializes in infographics (from Dribbble or similar), or you can hire an agency.
Visual.ly is the most popular agency when it comes to infographics, but it’s not cheap. Expect to spend about $1,000 on average for an infographic.
You can usually save money with your own designer, but you may have to do a lot of the legwork yourself.
Additionally, consider if you’d like to take your infographic to the next level by making it a “gifographic.”
Gifographics are just like “gifs” you see all over the Internet. They combine animations with infographics. These will attract extra links and social shares but cost more to make. Here’s an example of one.
Step 3 – Promote it: Unless you have an audience the size of mine at Quick Sprout, your infographic won’t be linked to unless you get it in front of the right people.
Refer to the section on promotion in this guide to creating a popular infographic.
4. Make an influencer look amazing
What is a link from me worth? Or any other influencer in your niche?
Although it’s just a single link, it’s an extremely high quality one. In addition, it would get you exposure to thousands of people in your niche, many of whom may link to you in forum or social media discussions or blogs of their own. That one link will likely turn into several more.
What if you could force an influencer to link to you?
You can—you just need to make them look amazing.
Here’s the plan…
Step 1 – Pick an influencer to target: There’s no shortage of popular bloggers that give out advice. Your first job is to pick 5-10 influencers you’d love to connect with and get a link from.
Order them from most to least favorite. With this strategy, you can only really target one or two influencers at a time, but you can repeat this strategy as many times in the future as you want.
Step 2 – Follow his/her advice to the letter: When you reach a certain level of popularity, your blog becomes an echo chamber. You’ll get a ton of comments and emails saying “great post, it was really helpful,” but you never know if your work is actually helping your readers.
Every once in a while, an email or comment comes along that puts a smile on your face. Not only did this person apply your advice, but he or she got great results as well.
This is what you’re going to do. Pick one or two major pieces of advice, apply them, and document everything from start to finish. If possible, put any techniques they have created into practice.
This advice can be from a blog, but it’s even better if it’s from a product. If you can share a success story from a product you bought, the influencer can also showcase your results as a testimonial in addition to a case study.
Step 3 – Tell them about your results: The last part of this strategy is to get in touch with the influencer. All you really need to do is tell them your results in a short email (or comment on a relevant page). In most cases, they’ll do the work from there.
Here’s a template you can use:
Subject: I just wanted to say thanks
I read your article about [topic] a while back and decided it was about time I took action on your advice.
So, I [briefly describe what you did].
Now, a few weeks later, I’ve seen the following results:
- result #1
- result #2
- result #3
It wouldn’t have been possible without your help, so I just wanted to say thanks.
Best regards,[your name]
Step 4 – Get great links: If you were able to show that you got great results by following your target influencer’s advice, most of the time, they’ll ask for more details. Give them the details, and suggest helping them write a case study if they’re interested.
Additionally, you can write a post about your results on your own blog and talk up your influencer there. Then, email them a link to the post. Although you might not get a link right away, the next time your influencer wants to highlight a success story in a post, they’ll likely link to you. In fact, it may happen several times in the future.
When done right, this strategy will lead to links over 50% of the time. Just make sure you follow the influencer’s advice as intended and get a great result before sharing.
Examples of this strategy in action: Just to help clarify things a bit, I found two cases of this strategy working perfectly.
First, Jimmy Daly put Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique into action. After he got some impressive results, he contacted Brian, and it led to this case study.
Not only did he get multiple links to his site, Jimmy also got his company highlighted in the article, which likely led to a lot more business.
The second example involves Ramit Sethi as the target influencer. Ramit is one of the most popular bloggers in any niche, and this technique can still work to get a link from him.
Chris and Kerry documented the results of applying a lot of Ramit’s advice, and once it was impressive enough, they were featured in a case study, which included a link to their website.
The bigger the influencer you target, the higher quality the link will be, but the more work will be needed to impress the influencer.
Alternatively, targeting a slightly less popular blogger can be a good thing because they’re more likely to link to you multiple times in the future as they don’t have a ton of other successful examples.
5. Show your community that you care
Your community is filled with influencers, small bloggers, readers, and hobbyists interested in your niche.
If you want to attract a ton of attention and links, you need to create something that all those people care about.
Step 1 – Find a complex problem that’s begging for an answer: By far the most common problem for bloggers and enthusiasts is that there’s not enough support for their passion.
They want to introduce others to their interest without looking stupid or weird.
In the marketing niche, for example, everyone is always looking for statistics so that they can back up their advice.
If you can find a particular aspect of marketing where statistics are lacking, you could be the one to create them.
Even large companies such as HubSpot continually invest in analyzing data to produce useful statistics for their communities because it works. Good data attracts a ton of links.
And I’m not the only one to link to them. The first article has links from 90 unique domains. And the Okdork analysis has over 460 linking root domains and over 23,000 backlinks. That’s from one article!
Step 2 – Invest time and resources: The reason that content like this gets so many links is because it’s really valuable. It takes a lot of time and effort to create.
Figure out what data is most interesting to your community and find a way to make it happen. You may have to survey experts one-by-one, analyze a ton of data (great in online niches), or conduct in-person product tests.
You may not have the skills to do the studies such as the ones featured above on your own. In that case, you can try to reach out to a collaborator that might have access to the data but hasn’t published it.
That’s what Noah (Okdork) did with his analysis. He saw that Buzzsumo had collected data from millions of domains and got in touch with them to get access to the research. Buzzsumo gets a lot of credit in the content, and Noah gets his awesome link-attracting article.
Step 3 – Pick out the most interesting data and present it: After you’ve put in a ton of work, it’s tempting just to publish it all, effectively saying “I’ve done enough, here it is.”
But if you really want great results, you have to keep going until your work is done.
Now, you need to present your data in an attractive way. Create graphs and charts of the most interesting data that gets your point across. This will help spread it on social media. For example, the post on Okdork had attractive graphs with embed codes for all the main points:
If you really want to go the extra mile (and I encourage it), think about creating an infographic from your data. The big benefit from this is that your infographic should get a lot of attention because it is all original data.
Once you’ve published your content, it’s pretty easy to promote it. Essentially, you can email influencers and go to forum and Reddit communities and say something along the lines of “I spent X hours creating Y for people in this community like you. Please take a look.”
Most will take a look, and if you’ve chosen a good topic, they will love it and spread it for you.
6. Tools rule in terms of value
It’s tough to define what a member of your audience would deem valuable, but it correlates with the usefulness of your offer to them.
Blog posts can be very valuable if they help a reader overcome a big problem.
This very post could be worth tens of thousands of dollars to you if you actually implement the advice. I’d say that’s valuable.
But many blog posts aren’t actionable even if they’re well written.
On the other hand, tools are almost always useful because they have a specific purpose and use.
How many bloggers or businesses do you know that have created tools for their audiences?
My guess? Not many.
Not only are such tools useful but they are also rare, which makes them even more special.
Let’s look at a few so you have a clear picture of what I’m talking about.
Take a look at the tool from Keywordtool.io:
This was made back in May of 2014.
According to Ahrefs, at the time of writing, it had over 25,700 backlinks, coming from 3,860 linking root domains.
Can you imagine getting this many links from a series of blog posts, no matter how “epic”?
This keyword tool takes a simple concept, but it executes it well. You enter a keyword into the text box, and the tool will generate a list of keyword suggestions based on autocomplete suggestions.
Basically, it goes to sources such as Google, enters your keyword, and then looks at the suggestions that pop up.
If you hire a typical developer, this kind of a tool would take about 2-3 weeks to create and cost around $5,000 (my estimate).
Based on that cost, the creator has been able to get links for 19.4 cents a piece. Or, in terms of linking root domains (LRDs), it’s $1.75 per linking root domain.
And these aren’t low quality links. On top of that, I’m sure he’s been able to sell a good number of premium memberships (a few extra features), while also drumming up some advanced keyword research projects for other businesses.
One more example (a personal one…): If you go to the Quick Sprout homepage, you’ll see the Quick Sprout tool, which you may or may not know about.
It takes your domain name and generates an incredibly detailed SEO and site performance report:
It wasn’t cheap to make. In fact, it cost me over $100,000.
I include it here to illustrate that you can go as big or as small as you’d like with tools.
Small tools that cost a few hundred or thousand can still get a great amount of attention, but bigger tools usually get more.
Even though the tool is free, the leads that it has generated have already produced several times what I paid to have it created.
That’s the most important conclusion here: Tools can be used not only to get backlinks and traffic but to also produce revenue.
Blog posts convert at lower rates, and while they can produce a solid return on investment (ROI), it doesn’t compare to tools.
Are tools perfect? It’s only fair that I tell you about the potential downside of tools as well.
First is the potentially high cost. You’ll need to invest quite a bit before you ever see returns.
Secondly, results are never guaranteed. Not all tools are well received or popular, so you risk creating a tool that your audience doesn’t love.
However, if you really understand your audience and apply lean marketing principles, you can reduce the risk of this considerably.
7. Viral story videos (almost commercials)
I think many people forget that videos and commercials are still a form of content.
Yes, people don’t like most commercials they see on TV, but smart marketers have figured out that there are certain types of ads that people love.
They’ll share these, link to them, and help them go viral.
My favorite example of this is Dollar Shave Club’s ad campaign.
Their first video came out of nowhere and was enough to establish the company as a household name:
This wasn’t a typical commercial about shaving blades, with all sorts of close-ups. You know the ones I’m talking about…
Instead, it’s an immensely entertaining video starring the founder.
They don’t include the standard platitudes that viewers are sick of hearing. Instead, they’re authentic.
I strongly encourage you to watch the full video now, before moving forward:
This video alone has received almost 22 million views along with 9,520 backlinks from 1,760 domains:
It’s true, creating a video like this isn’t cheap.
It will cost tens of thousands of dollars, and that’s why most businesses don’t even attempt it.
However, if you have the budget, it’s a great option. Just remember to also budget for the initial promotion (that hopefully pushes the video viral).
8. High quality images are more valuable than ever before
I’m not sure why this idea did not take off in the past.
It’s not new.
The strategy is to create a whole bunch of custom images that bloggers in your niche would love to use.
Once you do, you let them know about the images and say they can use any of them free as long as they link back to your site, giving it credit.
If you’re a blogger, you know how hard it is to find great custom images, let alone free.
That’s why this is such an easy sell.
But now, I think this strategy is more effective than ever before.
There have never been more bloggers creating content on a regular basis. That’s one factor that raises the demand for images.
Additionally, most of those bloggers are realizing that quality is the most important factor in their success. That applies to both their writing and the images they use. This creates even more demand for high quality images.
If you can provide that, you will be successful.
Stock images suck, go for custom: There are tons of free stock image sites out there with the same old pictures of models dressed up, faking some pose.
There’s a reason why readers hate these: they look fake and unrelated to the content.
You could customize those stock images, but that’s more work than most bloggers are willing to put in.
Your best bet, when using this strategy, is to create a ton of custom images relevant to the topics that bloggers in your niche write about.
Here’s an example of one that I used on one of my past posts:
As you can see, it doesn’t necessarily have to be complex to look nice and enhance the content.
Take image building a step further and make images for stats: One specific approach you could take is to create images, essentially mini-infographics, that summarize important industry stats.
This approach has one huge bonus.
Think about a time when a blogger is searching for a good stat to use.
They head to Google and search for something like:
content marketing challenges stats
A good portion of the time, they will look for good images to include with the stats they find (I know I do):
If they see a good one, they’ll click on it and go through to the page that hosts it:
In this case, that page would be your gallery.
As long as you ask nicely for a link in exchange for the picture, you’ll usually get it.
The big benefit is that it’s easier to rank in image searches than regular results.
On top of the links you get from emailing specific bloggers, you’ll get links naturally from people who find your image gallery through this process.
But don’t rely on image traffic: If you want to control your ROI from this project, you need to promote your gallery to bloggers yourself.
Make as big of a list of bloggers as possible, and start emailing them with a message like this:
Subject: I made a free gallery of custom (niche) images
I know that it’s tough to find or create great images to use in blog posts, so I thought I’d do something for the (niche) community.
I’ve hired a designer to create a ton of custom images, some of which will probably be perfect for future posts you write. (I can’t use them all myself!)
The only catch is that I’d appreciate a link back to the gallery when you use a picture.
I’ll also be removing each picture once it’s used a few times so that none of them become too common.
If that sounds like something you’re interested in, let me know, and I’ll send you the link.
9. Stats will drive the future
The final type of content that isn’t created as often as it could be is a list of stats.
Good bloggers love stats and will link to a source when they use a particular statistic in their content.
If you collect a ton of stats on different topics in your niche, they will often link to your page as a reference (on top of the original research studies).
For example, in a health niche, you could create stats for things like:
- junk food consumption in 2016
- average amount of protein in diets of different countries
- number of vegans in 2016 (or over the years)
- average minutes of exercise that people get per day
Think of stats that bloggers will be looking for.
To make it even more effective, conduct original research: The real power comes when you conduct your own surveys and data analyses.
Then, when a blogger wants to cite a stat from that research, they will link back to your site every single time.
You can easily get hundreds of links (or many more) if your research provides a useful, interesting result.
One business who does this sort of thing is Buzzsumo.
You may remember them because I wrote a post that summarized their research on over 1 billion Facebook posts.
Since they emailed me their findings directly, I didn’t link back to a specific page on their site. Instead, I just linked to their homepage multiple times, which is even better for them.
While I can’t say exactly how many links that research got them, I can confidently say that it’s in the thousands by now.
That kind of research is difficult, but if you’re willing to put in the effort (and maybe hire a data scientist/programmer), it’s possible.
Why did I give you nine types of content that attract links? Why not just one?
Because not all content types will produce the same results in every niche.
I recommend that you try each type of content mentioned here two to three times over the next few months, then track how much you spent to create it and what results you were able to achieve.
Based on that, you can focus more on the most effective types of content for your website.
Remember that great content will continue to attract links over time past your initial promotional efforts—as long as your site is growing.
If you can publish great content on a consistent basis (for at least six to 12 months), you’ll likely see your results explode.
When done right, each of these types of content can attract hundreds (or thousands) of links and lead to greater profits.