Link building

How to create and use data-driven content for link building


Whoever coined the term “content is king” didn’t warn us that all of the steps are necessary to create some kind of link-worthy content.

It’s easy enough to write your copy, post it to your blog, and call it a day, but the “king” part only comes when you structure your content to be found in the SERPs.

I have worked with many brands to create data driven content.

One, in particular, was a New York-based education company. I worked with the editorial team for 3 months to create long form ego bait content.

Not only did it gain 52 backlinks in a month, but it generated over 100 press mentions and attracted over 100,000 people to the website.

Find out how to create and use data-driven content for your link building strategy below.

Be the source

Creating your own data for an article is usually a big headache.

if you’ve ever tried to survey clients, you know what I’m talking about.


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But, as Loren Baker, founder of the Search Engine Journal puts it, “Be the source.”

When you create your own data, people will want to link to the place they cited.

Using tools like Google Trends (you can also subscribe to Google Trends) and Google Consumer Survey, you can research hot topics and create your own data.

Take Echelon Insights, for example.

They used Google Consumer Surveys to understand the Republican primary electorate. Echelon Insights found Donald Trump to be 32% in the lead in the first Republican primary debate.

This study generated links from leading sites like Wired, The Washington Post, The Observer and many more.

Choose your subject

Good data doesn’t always equate to good content.

You need to understand how to tell a story with the data you have.

First, you need to decide what your content is going to be about.

With data, it can be a chicken-and-egg situation – do you use the data you have to train your topic or do you pick your topic and then collect data around it?


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It may depend on whether you have pre-existing data or already have a newsworthy or trending topic in mind.

When I research the topics I want to cover, I start my research with Google Trends and BuzzSumo. These tools are designed for research and exploration of trends.

Gather your data

The first step in creating data-driven content is to collect the data.

I’m starting to put my data resources together, whether I’m doing a user survey or using my own data.

Important note: When you create content with your own proprietary data, it’s not about quantity.

For example, Shutterstock uses its proprietary data to create some really useful content with its 2017 Creative Trends infographic. This infographic generated over 50 links.

The traditional content strategy suggests that more content equals more leads, but that’s not true. You only need one major piece of killer content to achieve your goals.

Conduct surveys

A go-to place to collect fresh data, surveys are a fantastic way to collect information and get statistics and data on topics that you specifically want to focus on.

Think carefully about your questions before asking them. You want to get the best possible results for generating a variety of angles to use in your content.

Make sure your questions support your story and limit the number of open ended questions you ask. Like what I did here with our SEJ survey for an article I was working on:

Include a variety of demographic questions so that you can cross-reference the answers given with details about the respondents. This will allow you to create multiple sub-stories and angles to broadcast to the local press.

Ask your community

Do you have your own community of customers or fans?

Then ask them a few questions, quiz them, or send them a quiz to turn that data into content.

Like Moz does with his poll.

You can view the survey questions here. And the results of the survey here.

The results alone generated 32 backlinks.


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If you work for a bigger brand and have forums where your customers come together to discuss a range of different topics, this is a great place to start a conversation about whatever topic you want to create content on.

Many companies also have a large database of customer contact details and some regularly send out newsletters.

An easy way to get data is to email this database with a question set, survey or fill-out form and reward them with a discount code or raffle entry. once they have returned their responses.

If you have a large number of social media followers, you can use Facebook and Twitter polls to collect data.

Or just run a contest on your site to find the information you need using a data capture system as a form of entry.

Use your own data and reports

Many SaaS companies don’t realize the amount of data they’re already sitting on.


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You probably have analytical tools to track the success of your own website and marketing efforts. These tools could be used to give you useful information and data that you could use as part of your content marketing strategy.

Google Analytics is a good place to start, as you can look at different demographics of consumers, such as the age, gender, and location of your customers, as well as what industries they work in, what they buy. , the devices they use, etc.

You can also perform your own tests and experiments to generate data and information that will be of interest to others in your industry or to your customers.

Look for interesting angles

Once you have your data, you need to analyze it and extract the angles you want to use to tell your story and make your content as interesting as possible.

Analyzing data isn’t always easy, especially if you find yourself in front of a huge spreadsheet of numbers and statistics.


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Try to highlight all the key points and stats that support the storyline or headline you want to use and extract compelling information about your results.

Use conditional formatting and create PivotCharts to find correlations between different sets of data.

If you don’t get the answer or result you were hoping for, don’t force it, put it aside and focus on a different angle.

Once you have solid data, segment your results demographically. This will help you find a range of local angles that you can extract for your content based on gender, age, location, etc. – perfect for pushing towards regional press and publishers for additional coverage.

Visualize your data

The way you present your data is the key to your content’s success.

Data visualization is the first step in making your content engaging and shareable. But it’s not easy.

Ideally, you should work with a designer to visualize your data. But if you don’t have access to one (or don’t have the budget), you can do it yourself using a data visualization tool.


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This is one of my favorite visuals that comes from Podio data.

Once you’ve created your visual, you need to make sure that there is still content around it to tell your story and bring your data to life.

Always keep in mind how you want your readers to digest your content and that it needs to be responsive on mobile devices and tablets.

How to structure your content support activities

If the content is really a unicorn, as Larry Kim would say, you need to do all the supporting activities around that room.

Here’s how I structure my content support activities:

  • Collaborate with the public relations team to create a strategy. PR teams develop some of the highest quality bonding opportunities, but they leave plenty of opportunities on the table. This is where link builders come in to do manual outreach.
  • Conduct manual blogging industry outreach for backlinks and guest blogging.
  • Collaborate with other companies on a webinar to discuss the data.
  • Create a series of blog posts to give the data more context and optimize new search terms.
  • Use the data in presentations at conferences.
  • Recreate the data in infographics, tables and charts.

Awesome examples of data-driven content

Here are some pieces of data-driven content to inspire you:

The Guardian has really taken the lead with data visualization and dedicated an entire section on their site to it. It’s a great place to get inspiration on how you can turn your data into eye-catching graphics.


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Here’s another really cool example of a data visualization based on A Day in the Life of Americans:

You have no data?

Don’t have time to collect data yourself?

No problem!

There are many data sources that you can use and combine to create a whole new set of data.

For example, you can take two similar datasets that were created 10 years apart, and then compare and contrast them.


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Or, you can analyze someone else’s data and extract new angles that haven’t been used yet.

Here are some other resources for finding interesting data to use in your content or as a starting point for a larger portion of data journalism:

You can also just type in Google ” market study “or” datasets’ to find a range of different information available online.

Read this article for a case study and even more ideas: Building Links with Data-Driven Content (Even When You Have No Data)


Time range: Every 3 months

Results detected: 2-6 months

Average links sent per month: 60


  • google trends
  • Google consumer survey
  • BuzzSumo
  • Google analytics


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  • Good content has no shelf life. With high quality content, you will see a spike early on and again 6 months later when you start increasing your search rankings.
  • Data-driven content always works because you’ve created something people want. If you’ve done your research well, you should have powerful content.