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If you ask most people to specify the signals that search engines use in order to build their results, you’re most likely to get a reaction akin to:

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Confusion will set in. It’s not exactly common knowledge. Even people who work in the field of search engine optimization don’t know what the algorithm looks like exactly. There are only educated guesses/case studies. The only people who know the makeup of the algorithm work for search engines such as Google and Bing.

One thing is clear though: links are crucial.

If you want to rank in search engines, it’s vital to build a profile of natural, relevant, and quality links that point back to your site. Search engines treat these links as votes of confidence.

So this begs the question: how do you acquire links?

Well there are a plethora of ways. The three (general) methods most people talk about are:

  • Link building
  • Link earning
  • Black hat practices (spam)

Since I don’t endorse black hat tactics, I won’t expand any further. Today, I want to talk more about link earning, specifically through the prism of linkable assets.

What’s a Linkable Asset?

The definition of a linkable asset is fairly simple. It’s a piece of content on your site that other sitemasters in your niche might be eager to link to.

That’s it.

And the asset can take many different forms. For example:

  • Blog entries
  • Contests
  • Games
  • Resources
  • Videos
  • Etc.

Think of it this way: if it’s a piece of content made to get a whole bunch of shares on social media, it’s also a linkable asset.

What Do I Do When I Have a Linkable Asset?

So right now, I’m going to wade into one of the greatest debates within SEO.

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Here’s the catch: they’re both right.

If you’re unfamiliar with the difference–though some would argue there’s actually very little difference to begin with–here’s an elementary breakdown.

Link building involves the manual promotion of your site, specifically designed to accumulate links from other, relevant sites. The promotion is often done through a series of emails.

Link earning is, well…

 

Link earning is really simply running your website as you normally would, and then breathlessly waiting for the links to pour in.

Both of these are completely valid strategies, but for different circumstances.

Link earning makes much more sense when you already have an established brand and/or following. If hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people visit your site already, then it’s not as imperative to encourage those people to link to you. The law of large numbers suggests that many of those people will do so on their own volition.

If, however, your site has little to no brand reputation, then it’s much more important to engage in link building. You have to reach out to fellow webmasters/influencers and persuade them to link to you. Otherwise, they are far less likely to find you, regardless of whether or not your content is spectacular. If you don’t have the links to begin with, you won’t rank highly in search. If you don’t rank in search engines–which direct a majority of the traffic on the web–you’re getting a world class education in catch-22s.

When it comes to the creation of linkable assets, both link building and link earning are valid. It mostly comes down to your current following.

But Why?

So we’ve covered the what and the how. So now you probably want to know why?

Why do you need linkable assets in order for people to link to you?

Easy. It’s because you’re not just building assets – you’re building incentives and opportunities.

Here’s the dirty little secret of search engine marketing: no one wants to link to you.

That might be a slight exaggeration, but only slight.

There are a multitude of reasons why this is true. For one, inadvertently or not, Google has created a climate of fear, uncertainty, and doubt when it comes to linking, thanks to algorithms like Penguin. There are some webmasters who have been thoroughly convinced that all link building is unnatural.

The biggest reason, however, is because most webmasters understand the true value of the link. It’s not just to do with search engines, but with their respective audiences as well.

Let’s say you have two sites. Both of them have the exact same message, the same design, the same content. Everything is the same. Except site A links out to sites with no interesting content. Whereas everything site B links to is highly valuable to their readership. It either backs up a point they were making, or they’re simply trying to entertain their visitors.

Either way, you’re far more likely to trust and return to site B, right?

The more interesting assets you have, the more incentive you are providing for other webmasters to link to you.

Conclusion

Of course, interesting linkable assets don’t just grow on trees. They often require a significant investment of money and/or time.

Here’s the thing though: those investments are often worth it.

Anyone in the sphere of digital marketing knows that nothing valuable comes for free or with no effort.

But a linkable asset isn’t just about links. If it’s good enough to accumulate links, it’s also good enough to earn some social shares. It’s also good enough to represent your brand.

So why aren’t you building your linkable assets right now?!

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