/How to Build Inbound Links With No Outreach

Content Marketing

How to Build Inbound Links With No Outreach

Inbound link building is a huge part of SEO and content marketing; it boosts your website’s authority and helps improve its search engine rankings.

Most of us see link building as something you must actively work at, reaching out to journalists, writers, and website owners to ask them to link back to your article. But is it possible to attract links organically without any outreach?

There are plenty of big brands whose online content attracts links easily. Think Nintendo’s latest game launch or Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 list. But how can smaller brands create content that brings in links without asking for them?

What kind of content attracts links?

Many types of content attract links organically, but one strategy we use is creating content that would be useful to someone who is carrying out research. Think about the kind of resources you’d be looking for if you were writing an article about a particular topic, and then create that resource.

For example, you’re writing an article about side hustles and you want to learn about the average earnings of someone with a side hustle, or the demographics of people who have side hustles. You might search keywords like:

  • Side hustle statistics
  • Side hustle average earnings
  • Side hustle report
  • Side hustle survey

All of these keywords are likely to bring up results that offer useful data points, interesting insights, and statistics that you could use in your article. You could then link back to the resources you used to credit them for the information you used.

Here’s an example from a Guardian article:

A link to a source used in a guardian article - root digital

Now imagine creating one of these useful resource pages that someone else could use and link back to. This could be through original research, analysing complex datasets to make them easier to understand, or compiling data and presenting in a way that is more engaging than other pages.

An example of a page we used this method for is this piece for Self Financial. This page has attracted 88 organic backlinks from 67 different domains. It involved creating an original survey of over 1,000 Americans to find out all kinds of interesting information about side hustles, who has them, and how much they earn.

How to find inbound link opportunities

There are a few things to look out for when identifying opportunities for content that will attract organic inbound links.

Search volume

Using a tool like Ahrefs, check the search volume for the keywords you’re planning to target to make sure they’re receiving enough searches to make them worth targeting. The search volume you’re looking for will vary depending on how competitive the topic is, but for low-competition, long-tail keywords, look for between 50 and 500 monthly searches.

You should also consider terms that may not receive search volume yet but will likely start generating it soon. For example, when ChatGPT launched, there was limited search volume for keywords relating to it, but we anticipated that the search volume would start to increase. This meant we could create an article with a head start on the keywords.

Link volume

Use tools to check the link volume of the pages that are currently ranking for your chosen keywords. If a lot of the top-ranking sites have received a lot of links (say, 100 or more) from different domains, this indicates that the topic drives links.

Be sure to check these links to make sure they are from good quality sites, contextual, and referencing interesting insights from the ranking pages. A page with a lot of links from spammy-looking sites is a red flag.

Non dominated SERP

Sometimes you can come up with a good keyword idea that has a healthy search volume, but the SERP is dominated by one or two pages from high-authority sites. Generally, these sites can scoop up a lot of the link volume in the topic meaning any competing pages (like yours) will struggle to gain links against them. 

Often these dominating pages can come from highly-trusted organisations like the U.S. Census Bureau, the Office for National Statistics, or a site that has particular expertise in the subject you’re targeting.

Competitor authority

Along similar lines to the previous point, check the authority of the competitors that are ranking for your chosen keyword. If there are a lot of very highly authoritative sites ranking, and your site is fairly new or lacks the same level of authority, it’s unlikely you’d be able to compete.

Try to target keywords where the SERPs contain sites with similar authority levels to yours ranking in good positions. This is a sign that a page from your site would be able to compete in the SERP.

How targeted the ranking pages are

See whether the ranking pages are heavily targeting the keywords you want to use, this generally means using them in the page title and the URL, and as the main topic of the page. 

If you have found a keyword that gets a good amount of search volume but none of the ranking pages are targeting it heavily, this might give you an opportunity to rank and collect links by creating a targeted page for the keyword.

Create content that ranks well

If you’re planning to outreach your content and request links directly from other websites, then your page’s initial rankings might not be so important. However, if you want the page to attract links naturally, it needs to be visible to whoever’s searching for it. There are plenty of ways to structure your content and include elements that help with ranking, let’s take a look at some examples.

Choosing the right topics

Start by choosing your topics carefully, and carrying out detailed keyword research. Doing this helps you to target keywords that are most likely to receive search volume, and then you’ll be able to create content around these. 

Using tools like Ahrefs, you can look for keywords that receive a good amount of search volume. As we mentioned earlier, this amount will vary depending on how competitive your keywords are. Long-tail keywords about specific topics generally attract fewer searches but are easier to rank for, whereas broader keywords will attract a lot of searches but might be difficult to rank for, especially if your site is relatively new or small.

Finding a balance between keywords that receive enough monthly searches but are not too difficult to target can require some careful judgment on your part, but it’s important to find keywords that will work for your site.

Identify where you can beat competitors

When deciding on a topic to target, take a look at the pages that are currently ranking in that space, and determine whether you can compete with them.

Some strategies you could use to outrank and outperform against your competitors include:

Providing more up-to-date data

If your competitors are using an outdated version of a dataset, but a new one exists, using that can help you become a better source. Alternatively, you may be able to carry out original research and produce new data yourself.

This example page from Status of Women ranks highly for a number of keywords relating to household incomes in the U.S., but its data is from 2013, showing a clear opportunity for a page with more up-to-date information to rank here.

status of women data root digital

Creating more engaging visuals

Some data-focused content pieces can lack interesting images or visual elements that make the information easier to digest. Displaying information using charts, graphics, and engaging designs makes your piece much more useful than a wall of text that’s difficult to read.

Include unique insights

With some topics, you’ll see that the ranking pages consist of lists of the same statistics in a slightly different order, with no real unique value. It’s fine to use data from existing research, but be sure to add value of your own.

You could do this by drawing comparisons, showing how something has changed over time, or combining two existing statistics to create a unique insight.

The example below is from a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Survey report which contains useful data but isn’t very easy to read and doesn’t pull out any interesting insights. This is a great example of data we could use and repurpose into more easily accessible information.

Consumer Expenditure Survey data - root digital

Build your brand

Well-known and trusted brands typically receive more links than newly launched or lesser-known sites. Taking time to build your brand by posting quality content regularly will give you the foundations to attract links for your articles later on.

Consider outreaching some of your content to journalists and publications to get your brand’s name out there. If a particular writer has discovered your content through outreach, they may be more likely to link to you again if they come across your work organically. 

Strong brand awareness can add credibility to your work, meaning that writers and bloggers may eventually seek you out as a source. Be aware that your approach may differ depending on the industry you’re working in and trying to gain links from.

Optimise your content with E-E-A-T

To attract links to your content, you need to demonstrate that you are a trustworthy and reliable source of information.

E-E-A-T is a component of Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. It is not a ranking factor but feedback from Google’s Quality Raters helps Google measure the success of their algorithm updates.

So, what does E-E-A-T stand for?

  • Expertise – Demonstrates the author’s understanding of a topic through their education, knowledge, and previously published articles.
  • Experience – Shows the author’s first-hand experience of the topic through personal experiences or original research.
  • Authority – Establishes the author’s credibility, reputation, and reliability through their credentials and the quality of their work.
  • Trustworthiness – Shows the author’s integrity and honesty through the neutrality and transparency of their work.

Demonstrating these points in your content helps you to prove the quality of your site’s content, and makes it easier for you to attract natural links.

Create linkable assets

A linkable asset is a piece of content designed to earn backlinks, typically by offering something high-quality, informative, and useful to readers or journalists.

In this context, we’re aiming to build the most citation-worthy content that ranks for a particular SERP or set of SERPs. To make our page stand out and make it one a journalist or writer can use, we want to make sure our page is as engaging as possible and has the core data points someone would be looking for within a source.

Importantly, we need to make sure our data is visible. If a journalist or writer has to spend longer than 5 seconds getting to grips with the page and the structure, you’re already fighting an uphill battle – and Google will work that out before too long.

Examples of linkable assets

Linkable assets can include things like:

  • Images that summarise a topic or story – These make it easier to visualise and understand the topic that your article is about.
  • A large dataset – This could be a data table, a unique survey or study, or a large report. 
  • A more engaging analysis of an existing report – You don’t always need to carry out a large research project. Sometimes using data from another source and presenting it in a more engaging way can still earn you links. Just be sure to link back to the original source yourself.
  • Callout quotes – These help to make particular data points stand out in your content, making them easy for a writer to grab and use in their content.
  • Key statistics – having these at the top of your page allows journalists to find content extremely quickly, and if you’ve anticipated well enough, it’ll help them find the data-points they were searching for in the first place.

Tips for finding statistics and data to use in your content

If you’re creating content based on statistics and data, sometimes it can be difficult to find information that competing pages haven’t already used. Your best bet for attracting links is to add value that other pages don’t have, so journalists and other writers will pass their links to you.

Below are some search techniques for finding data to use in your content:

Be smart with your searches

Instead of searching for broad terms like ‘U.S. house prices’, narrow down your searches to terms that will bring up useful datasets. Try searching ‘U.S. house price report by state’ or ‘Average house prices U.S. 2024’. By using these more specific phrases that include modifiers like ‘report’, ‘data’, and ‘2024’, you can narrow down your search and steer away from outdated, unhelpful, or irrelevant results.

Other ideas for more targeted searches include:

  • [Topic] datasets
  • Latest [topic] trends
  • Annual [topic] report
  • [Topic] by [state, year, country, age, etc.]

Use a site search to find information from large organisations

Sometimes sites that contain a lot of historical data and reports can be difficult to navigate and make it tricky to find what you’re looking for. For example, if you wanted to find data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics about how many people work in a specific industry, you could carry out a site search on Google to find results from the BLS relating to this topic.

All you need to do is enter ‘site:’ followed by the URL of the website you want to search, followed by a description of the data you’re looking for.


site: workers by job industry

This will bring up a list of search results from the BLS that match what you’re looking for.

Look for PDF reports that contain data

Search Google using terms like ‘[Topic] statistics pdf’ or ‘[topic] filetype:pdf]’ – This kind of search can bring up pdf reports with a lot of useful data. These don’t tend to rank well as they’re often wordy and not very easy to read, with the key information hidden deep within the document.

Use these reports to extract data and present it in a way that’s easier to understand. You could also use the data to create charts and infographics, making a dataset much more engaging.

Find new versions of data that competitors have used

A lot of organisations and companies like the ONS or the U.S. Federal Reserve release regular data updates yearly, quarterly, or even monthly. If you see that a competitor’s page is ranking using data from one of these sources, check when the data was extracted. It might be that your competitor is using an old version of the data and a new one is now available. 

By using the most recent version of a dataset in your content, you’ll have more of a chance of your page ranking and being used as a source. Just remember that you’ll probably need to update this content with new data at least once a year if you want it to keep driving links in the long term.

Carry out original research

As well as collecting data from other sources and making it more presentable, another method we use to create linkable assets is original research. This gives us data points and insights that are unique to our content, making us the only linkable source for it.

Here are some examples of original research methods:

  • Surveys – A survey is a great way to collect people’s opinions about certain topics and can generate interesting insights about different behaviours relating to the topic. They are also relatively simple and low-cost to carry out.
  • Data scraping – Tools like Screaming Frog can be used to scrape useful data from websites and deposit it neatly into a spreadsheet. This could be data from things like TripAdvisor reviews, LinkedIn job posts, or social media posts. You can then use this data in a number of ways to provide unique insights through your content.

Data collection – This is a more manual method of collecting information from other sources. It could include getting quotes for travel insurance, prices for different car models, or compiling historical data from multiple reports. This method combines data from multiple sources, allowing you to present it as one comprehensive dataset.

Examples of content that attracts links with no outreach

As a digital PR and content marketing agency, we have worked on numerous evergreen content pieces that attract links without us having to ask for them. Below are some examples of the content we have worked on that has been successful in collecting links.

ChatGPT Statistics – Tooltester

We analyzed data from a wide range of sources including tech journals, news outlets, web traffic, and universities to compile a comprehensive guide to ChatGPT, how it was trained, how many people use it, and how much revenue it generates. This piece has gained backlinks from almost 200 domains in 12 months.

Referring domain examples:

  • The Guardian
  • HubSpot
  • Yahoo
  • TechRadar
ChatGPT users tooltester - root digital

U.S. National Debt by President – Self Inc.

Research for this article on the U.S. national debt involved extensive historical data collection from the U.S. Treasury to create a picture of the change in national debt during each president’s time in office. The data also incorporated historical events such as war and COVID-19 which impacted the national debt during each administration.

The piece has attracted 542 links from 215 domains since it went live in 2020, and has been updated multiple times with the latest U.S. national debt figures.

Referring domain examples:

  • New York Times
  • Yahoo
  • LA Progressive
Self Debt by President - root digital

Solo Travel Statistics – Radical Storage

We compiled data from a wide range of reports and datasets about solo travel to create a comprehensive guide to this topic including a look at female solo travel statistics, and generational differences around this kind of travel.

The piece has received 82 organic backlinks since 2022 with no outreach and has been updated with new data since it was published.

Referring domain examples:

  • The Epoch Times
  • Salon Prive
  • EU Centre for the Promotion of Imports
Radical Storage solo travel statistics - root digital

Key takeaway

Creating content that generates links without you even asking for them might sound like a challenging task, and it can be tricky when you’re just getting started. However, creating a solid foundation by building your brand and developing relationships with journalists and bloggers can give you the initial boost you need.

Remember to be smart about the topics you target and ensure you can rank for them organically to give yourself the best chance of driving links. When producing your content, create linkable assets by presenting engaging data, and incorporating original research and insights where you can.

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