Link Reclamation with Short Form Text

By on | Posted in Content Promotion

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Link reclamation is not an entirely new thing, but the tools that have enabled us to find mentions of the things we own online have only recently begun to proliferate.

Fresh Web Explorer, Image Raider, simply searching on Google by date, trackbacks in Google Analytics – these are all valuable tools to see where the things we own online have been mentioned.

If we use this knowledge to then find where we have not been appropriately linked to, we can capture authority that may have otherwise been lost.

To me, this is the new link building – capturing the divide between our content and the HTML code that creates affiliation in the eyes of Google. Otherwise, filling the gap between great content and user error.

Specifically, many ways of doing link reclamation have already been talked about. Image search for logos, brand search on Google, or finding people linking to our social profiles or YouTube videos, just to name a few. All of these are great ways of finding people who should have been linking to us.

However, there’s one more strategy that I haven’t seen mentioned that is stupidly powerful when a business has the opportunity: link reclamation with short form text.

Short Form Text: A Definition

Short form text, as I define it, is small chunk of content that you have created that is deemed worthy enough to mention, that may be plagiarized or referred to with or without a link. This can be:

  • A piece of valuable data that may be re-shared (16% of cellphones have poop on them, average person spends 5 years waiting in line, a 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversion rate)
  • A definition of a term/phrase that is somewhat ambiguous (content marketing, inbound marketing)
  • A quote/phrase that may be frequently reused (I don’t pay good wages because I have a lot of money; I have a lot of money because I pay good wages.)

Thanks to the power of Moz.com’s new Fresh Web Explorer and other tools on the market, we can track these kinds of short-form mentions quite efficiently. Knowing what we know, we can easily input all of the appropriate assets for our business, and then track when they have been most recently referred to.

Where they aren’t linked to properly, we can put in a quick request with the owner, prove ourselves as the source, and most likely get a link back to our website.

“What is Content Marketing” as a Case Study

A good example of an opportunity here falls with the definition of content marketing. On Content Marketing Institute, they have an evergreen article that ranks #1 for the term, and because of that, they get a large number of people looking up their site.

They’ve recently changed the specific content, but as soon as two weeks ago, they had a very clear definition of content marketing on the page. It’s emphasized, it’s somewhat brief, and because of that, people frequently cited the definition in their own pieces.

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

When I dump this definition in Fresh Web Explorer at the time of this writing, I see that it has been mentioned four times in the past month.

By the time you read this, that number may have unfortunately dwindled because of their decision to change the content on the page.

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If we refine the Fresh Web query further by adding the -rd:DOMAIN.com operator, we can find the specific instances where we have not been properly cited. For CMI, I see that this has happened three times in the last 30 days.

To find older mentions, we can dump the query in Google. For CMI, we see that there are over 150,000 mentions of the phrase. If we scrape these results and then run Screaming Frog to find where we haven’t been mentioned, we can again pinpoint spots where links to us should have always existed.

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Using Google’s “in the past month” search options, we can really unlock the power of the search engine to get us links. Using this, we can find slight variants on our short-form assets quite easily, and catch those clever plagiarizers who modify text slightly, but not entirely.

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This same technique can be used in non-time based search as well. Really, how you go about locating these mentions is up to your ideal workflow. However, by now, it should be obvious that the potential of this is quite large for those companies that have short-form assets that might be stolen.

Strategies for Best Utilizing Short Form Text

Having text that gets stolen outside the context of a basic scraper is definitely not easy to do. You need something remarkable and/or ambiguous enough that people might be confused by the meaning/go looking for it.

In the case of content marketing, that’s one of those examples. I think CMI was “successful” in getting their content stolen because they brought clarity and succinctness to the topic, by offering a simple definition that was highlighted on the site.

Compare this with Hubspot’s equivalent of the page for inbound marketing. While helpful, there is no obvious definition to be found that could be easily reused/distributed.

While it might not be entirely fair to compare the two pages, I’m going to.

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Clearly, CMI wins the day, even though the page is arguably a lot worse in terms of being useful/functional. The power of short form text is at play here – and CMI hasn’t even done link reclamation!

A Framework for Success

So, given what we know already, let’s run down some ways you might be more successful in using/build content like this for your site:

  • Create content that fulfills the S.U.C.C.E.S. framework in full – From “Made to Stick“, content that is Simple, Unexpected, Credible, Concrete, Emotional, and tells Stories. Almost every “stat” based short form content piece will have most or all of these characteristics. They aren’t easy to come by, but when doing data-based analysis, if you can create a title “hook” with “S.U.C.C.E.S.” in mind, you’re more likely to have a long-term linkable asset.
  • Answer difficult questions in a succinct fashion – “What is X?” for high volume terms are great places to generate ideas. There, people have no idea what the answer to something is, yet you come in with the answer. And while you might think you need a super-epic post to fulfill the query, that’s not necessarily the case – by highlighting your answer quickly, you’re more likely to get that answer stolen and/or linked to. By all means, add some depth on the back end like HubSpot does, but also make sure that you are being simple when answering the question.
  • Rank/link build for “What is X” type queries – Certain content types have high view:link ratos – and these are on the high end of those content types, because they often fit that “definitional” need. And while you’ll hopefully eventually get linked to simply by ranking, you will probably need to supplement your work to rank well by building links to the page in a natural way. Even if it doesn’t convert for the terms you likely need most, if you can get buy-in by proving that simply ranking will get you more domain lift, it will likely be worth the investment.

Sometimes the best way to build effective short form text content is to not do so deliberately. The optimal process is to build something remarkable, as you hopefully always aim to do, while also being cognitively aware of the potential of short form assets, and when one comes to you, use it to your benefit.

If you try to force a short term asset, you will likely not build one at all – you’ll just have text on the page that never gets stolen. However, each new website you work on should be audited for these kinds of short form assets, and if they exist, they definitely should be used to your benefit.

  • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

    Ross…this is truly interesting stuff. BTW, we added back the original definition because of your article here. Thanks for the nudge.

  • Spook SEO

    Very remarkable post, Ross. Indeed, it’s a principle in content marketing to never provide all the details in one place. I never imagined it from the point of view of creating semi-hidden definitions. Interesting!