Content providers, be warned. Backlinks can be bought, but they can end up doing more harm than good for your brand

Stomach tucks, executive office furniture, even – God help us – penile pustule removal… all of them can be found on the backend of many a blog. They are the comments awaiting approval, the scourge of content providers and the most irritating element to not only generating content, but also, crucially, getting that content out there.

So why are they there in the first place, and what should you do about them?

Here’s a scenario content providers large and small are familiar with. You’ve created your blog through WordPress or another format. You’ve invested time and money on it. You’ve worked hard to create content that you think will appeal to your target audience. You’ve made good use of images, you’ve utilised video and yet the engagement you’re after doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, because although you know you’re getting reads, you’re not getting that proof of engagement  in the shape of comments you had been hoping for.

The importance of user-generated content

User-generated content is one of the holy grails of social media and content marketing. It’s a way for companies to spark conversations and then be a part of that conversation, while also allowing customers to have their say. Done well (for example, Coca-Cola on Facebook or über-blog The Huffington Post), it gets people talking – and drinking and reading and buying.

But those sorts of super-success stories are the exception rather than the rule. In most cases, generating user-generated content through posts and comments can seem elusive to the point of being impossible.

There are a number of reasons why. It could be that your content simply isn’t as engaging or as well-presented as you think it is. But chances are, it owes a great deal to the ‘1% Rule‘. Put simply, the rule states that for every person actively creating and/or uploading content, there are 99 others who simply receive it, read it and may even act on it, but they don’t add to it.

Which means that while your message may well be getting across, you have no tangible evidence that it is reaching your target audience.

Of course, in this day and age of measurables and an all-consuming need to be able to demonstrate return on investment, that isn’t enough for some organisations. So, almost in desperation, they turn to buying backlinks as a means of spreading the word.

What are backlinks?

Backlinks are now more important than ever when it comes to search engine optimisation. As we explain in this Tick Content white paper, Google’s algorithm changes favour links from other sites when it comes to improving the search ranking of your own site. So some companies will happily pay money to ‘backlink farms’ that essentially spam other blogs with links.

The problem is that such an approach will almost always backfire. As every email account holder knows, spam is a massive pain in the proverbial and the chief reason why the ‘delete’ key is the most-overused on the old keyboard. The same is true for blog providers. Although everyone would love to be able to list dozens or even hundreds of comments for every story, do you really want to be promoting stomach tucks in the process?

Didn’t think so. So what do you do?

Create a targeted backlink strategy

The answer is to spend the time (and associated monetary costs) creating strategically targeted backlinks. Do your research to find blogs that operate in a similar field to yours (competitors exception, of course!) and write thoughtful, intelligent comments that have a legitimate purpose and reason for being there. In time, chances are those blogs will return the favour – and your search ranking will be boosted as a result.

At the same time, use social media to syndicate, syndicate, syndicate! Tweet about your latest story (you can do it two or three times without annoying your followers), use Facebook to drive traffic to it and adopt new social media platforms like Instagram to spread the word.

It may take a little longer, but such an approach will pay dividends. And, thankfully, there won’t be a penile pustule in sight!

Peter Applebaum