10 Lessons We’ve Learnt from Failed Link Building Campaigns

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10 Lessons We’ve Learnt from Failed Link Building Campaigns

We have developed over 1000 content campaigns at WebStreet Strategies over the years. However, we would be lying to you if we said that each piece of content was a success.


The cyberspace is a finical place. You can never predict if the content you labor to develop will succeed. Often, what we expect to do WELL finally becomes a big hit. There has been a few times when we have anticipated that a content campaign will be a big success, but ends up achieving lusterless results.


While the whims of the cyberspace are outside the control of any single SEO, you can include or avoid certain elements to buttress your chances of success. After a keen analysis, we have highlighted the elements that tend to create successful content. Likewise, we have discovered styles among our content that did not to some extent hit the mark.


In today’s post, I will share the most important lessons that we have learnt from content failure. Keep in mind that these lessons are only helpful if you are using content to garner press pickup and links because that’s what the content we develop at WebStreet Strategies does.


1.   There exists such a thing as excess data points


For content with a lot of data underpinning, it’s quite tempting for researchers to publish all the data points they have gathered.


A perfect illustration of this is surveying. We have fallen down the rabbit burrow of not only publishing the entire data we collect in a survey, but also segmenting it by demographics, whether the entire data is compelling or not. While it can give writers a big volume of potential angles to select from, in many instances the result is unfocused content that lacks a cohesive narrative.


Only feature the most interesting and insightful data points in your content, even if it means putting aside a lot of the data you have collected.


An example in mind is a survey we conducted for a home security customer where we inquired from people about any sneaky behaviors they had committed. The juiciest finding (that out of 5 respondents, 1 had created a fake social media account to stalker someone – fancy that!) ended up being forgotten since we incorporated every data point in our publication, some of which was not exciting. If only we had cut down the content to the most appalling findings, probably it could have done far much better.


Moreover, the more the data you publish, the more time taken by publishers to edit it. One publisher said to us after we mailed an impressive amount of information. ‘’Make the story short so that it doesn’t take much time.”


Take this into consideration: A publisher should not take more than ten seconds of wading through your project to understand the most important data points. If a publisher cannot understand it quickly, how will readers?


2.   Turning published data into something interesting does not necessarily yield links.


If you intend to use data that has already been published, it’s only prudent that you feature a new finding or spin. Journalists don’t want to deal with statistics that they have previously covered.


A good example is a piece of content we published that delved into the reasons startups fail. We sourced majority of the data from CB Insights’ 232 startup failure post-mortems, which had been quite successful for them. (According to Open Site Explorer it features 195 linking root domains from websites including; Fortune, CNBC, BBC, Vox, Entrepreneur and Business Insider - Wow!)


It worked well before; therefore, it will just work fine if we repackage the data into a new and friendly format, right?


We put in hours and used the CB Insights list startups and also added a few more startups and created a beautiful and interactive node map that sorted out the startups in accordance to the reasons why they failed.



While our piece of content did not end up as a total failure, it failed to meet our expectations.


What were the main problems with our project?


  • We were not articulating anything fresh about the data.
  • The original publication on this data had acquired so much coverage that most authoritative and relevant publishers had come across it and/or republished it.


Of course, there has to be expectations. If you are intending to use existing data that has not received a lot of coverage, yet it’s interesting, this can be a good approach. The most important thing is avoiding data that has already been published widely in a similar way to what you want to gain by republishing it.


3.   It is not easy to create links with videos


Video content can be really good for viral sharing, which is ideal for brand awareness. However, are videos effective at earning links? Not at all!


Videos are probably the most viral content online – which is why SEOs assume great videos can attract dozens of backlinks. The prob is, publishers rarely attribute videos properly.  Rather than link to the video developer, publishers just link to You Tube or just embed it from You Tube.  While it’s very common to mention/link to a static visual content, this is hardly the case with videos.


I agree you can reach out to authors who embed your videos without mentioning or linking back to you and solicit for a link. However, this adds to your schedule an extra time to the already time consuming process of creating and promoting videos.


4.   Political themes are hard to manage


Majority of the brands do not wish to have anything to do with political matters at all, but to some publishers making the political content is attracting because it has a substantial potency of eliciting different reactions and also gathering lots of attention.

We have had various political themes go wrong regardless of firm promotional and execution efforts. It is difficult for us to allege why that happens, but our presumption is that most publishing firms do not pay attention to political content that is not breaking (it is always breaking). It is for that reason that we think that it almost impossible to contend with the fixed cycle of disclosing political information.

  1. Do not create content for a particular publishing company.

We have tried to reach out to the publishing companies during the production of content, presuming that if the publishing company finds possession over the subject matter and it is created to their stipulation the company will unquestionably publish the content.

Generally, we have found this move not working because it has a tendency of debilitating the publishing company who do not want to tackle the additional work of cooperating with you. This shuts you away in to a final result that might only work for their websites.

NB: The publishing firms only care about acquiring views and the engagement on their websites, but not the generation of links for you and/or your customer.

  1. Overactive local content is very risky.

Focusing on a specific city, in spite of having an incredible piece of subject matter featuring interesting data, you are confined by the number of the publishing firms you are able to present to. And so, you are out of chance if none of the publishing firms pick up the content.

On the opposite side, we have had a great deal of success with the content that includes more than one geographical region. This gives room for us to aim at more publishing firms both locally and internationally.

NB: The proposal above is applicable to the campaigns where press mentions/ links are the primary objective– I am not saying that you cannot produce content for a specific location.

  1. Make multiple optical assets at all times.

One of the assets should at all times be an uncomplicated, stationary image.


Most of the sites have limitations to the particular type of media they can print out. Each publishing firm is capable of publishing a stationary graphic, but not everybody can engraft more composite content formats (luckily, some of the publishing companies can handle more complex formats).

In most instances, we found out that most publishing firms prefer the less complicated visuals. For example, there was this project where we were comparing IQ and reading levels throughout different countries on the basis of analyzing of five hundred thousand tweets. Our creative Director, Sammy Ryan, spent a conscientious amount of time & resources creating a synergistic map on the outcomes.

The publishing firms only featured a tableau dashboard screenshot that we had sent out as a trailer during the outreach.

  1. Becoming naturalistic about news jacking

News jacking subject matter requires going on air within 48 hours or less in order after the event in order for it to be well timed. Are you capable of creating something within the expected time to news jack?

We found out that news jacking is not easy to manage in an office setting, because you have to explain the production timelines and also acquire the customers’ commendation and feedback. In-house trademarks have more executable chances at news jacking that is if they have a long interior process of approval.

  1. Look out for fresh content formats and tools

Just because of using the new, cool tech does not get to make the subject matter interesting. We have found ourselves involved in the ’cool factor’ of the method or the format only to wind up with a draggy   (but attractive) content.

  1. Refrain from super niche themes

You highly increase the risk getting nothing when you opt for super niche. Hence, the more the publisher recites down a theme, the smaller the target audience becomes hence reducing the number of the websites that will connect.

For instance, there are a lot of people with  interest in music but only a few of them are interested in hip-hop music, and even fewer are interested in old school rap ,and eventually there are very few people who might be interested in the ‘90s classics, hence producing content about ‘90s classics will likely generate few to no connections.

Here are some queries to ask in order to ensure your theme is not so niche:

  1. Is there a huge number of printed content about your theme? Carry out a search for some of the keywords to determine how many answers come up in comparison to the high-level themes.
  2. In case there’s lots of content, does it get a lot of participation? Carry out a research in Buzzsumo in order to get the keywords that are related to the topic.
  3. Are the people eager to know more about the theme? Do a search on sites like Bloom Berry to determine the number of queries people are inquiring about the topic.
  4.  Are there communities available on the internet devoted to the theme? Carry out a quick research for “niche keyword + forum” in order to locate the communities.
  5. Are there more publishing firms that solely focus on the niche theme?


  • Do not create content on a theme you cannot believe in

There was this time we had produced a trenchant project concerning murder in the United States for a gaming client, the publishing firm we presented to took it on a light note because the customer was not   an agency on the subject area.

From that time, we clung to producing more lightsome content about partying, entertainment and gambling, which is extremely applicable to our customer and goes very well with the publishing firms.

It is ok to produce content that is related to the brand which is what we do frequently, but the link between your industry and the content topic should be evident. Do not leave the publishers questioning why your company is making such content.

  • Learning from being unsuccessful is important for a progress in development.

Failure is unavoidable; especially when you are experimenting with something fresh or pushing boundaries (two things that we try doing at our content marketing agency).The best thing with failure is that you have a tendency of having some of the greatest learning moments. Hence having a post-campaign recap of what worked and what didn’t is so significant.

Getting to know why the content is being declined by the publishing firms can be of great help –we gather up this data, it is priceless for distinguishing the things we can pull off during the production of content to increase the rate of success. In most instances when a publishing company gives you a negative response they give a brief account, if they do not, you can inquire for their feedback in a nice way. Gather and reevaluate the feedback from the publisher and reassess it from time to time. You are most likely going to note the reasons as to why the publishers reject your message. You can use the insights provided by them to rectify instead of repeating the same error.

One last thing for anybody producing message for customers: What ought to be done when your customers’ campaign fails? To reduce the risk to our customers, we substitute the campaign if it does not get any reporting by the publishers. We have rarely had to do this, this assurance gives you and your customer repose that even if a campaign doesn’t perform well that does not mean that the investment has been wasted.

What is your unique observation about your content campaign that either worked effectively or failed terribly? Does your observation mirror or contradict any of the 11 lessons I shared? I would love to learn from you as well. Remember, your contribution have made WebStreet Strategies the Best SEO Company in Canada!

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