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Linkable Content vs. Shareable Content: When and How to Do Both

shareable content vs linkable content

Your content strategy should include specific goals for everything you publish. Consistently creating new, valuable content is incredibly important for SEO, lead generation and general visibility, but there's just so much content currently being produced that "publishing for the sake of publishing" simply doesn't cut it in many industries. The best content is both valuable to users and specifically designed to help you achieve your goals.

Two of the most popular goals for content include generating backlinks and getting social shares. The content you create in pursuit of these two goals will most likely have specific and opposing characteristics.

What is Shareable Content?

Shareable content is any type of content that compels someone to show it to another person. In the most general sense, content can be shared in person, through email, through text message and chat apps, or through any number of different methods that humans use to communicate.

For marketing purposes, however, shareable content is most often associated with social media. Shares are one of the most sought-after metrics on social media because every share potentially broadcasts your content and business to the feeds of hundreds of new people. In this way, shares provide much higher potential ROI than other social engagement metrics such as likes or even comments.

Of course, you must first determine if getting shares on Facebook, Twitter or any other social network can truly play a part in helping your business achieve big goals like increasing sales and growth. While many B2C businesses can leverage social shares into leads and sales somewhat easily, it could be much more difficult for B2B business that offer complex or expensive services to find ways to create relevant shareable content and then turn those shares into leads.

For example, shareable content could be a cornerstone in the marketing plan of a businesses in the makeup industry, but a tech firm that designs complex components for electronics might have a more difficult time creating content that is relevant to their business, highly shareable and helps generate leads. Businesses like these may see a better ROI by spending their marketing budget on more targeted, specialized strategies or ads. Of course, good content agencies can often help these types of companies get creative and generate content that does achieve these goals.

What Types of Content Get Shared?

Take a look at the most shared content on Facebook from 2017, according to Buzzsumo:

Most Shared Content on Facebook 2017

Judging from this data (and from what you probably see in your own personal news feeds), some of the most shareable types of content include:

  • Videos, especially music and animal-related
  • Lists, especially the type of entertaining lists found on sites like BuzzFeed
  • Quizzes, especially quizzes that allow people to categorize themselves, such as a Myers–Briggs Type Indicator or a Harry Potter sorting hat quiz
  • News-related articles or posts about trending topics
  • Controversial studies or opinion pieces (of course, you'll have to be very careful about creating this type of content if you decide to use this approach)
  • Memes

What Makes Something Shareable?

While it's impossible to predict the shareability of any given content with 100 percent certainty, most shareable content has one or more of the following elements:

  • Entertaining - This one probably goes without saying, but content is much more likely to get shared when it's fun and entertaining.
  • Emotional - Content that elicits an emotional response has a higher potential of getting shared. Many brands have found success by occasionally creating content that is heartwarming, inspiring or even sad or angering.
  • Easily "Digestible" - Content that gets shared on social doesn't usually demand a great deal of attention or thought from the user. Videos are entertaining, articles aren't too long and are often entirely summarized in the headline, and quizzes are fun and easy.
  • Surprising - Content often gets shared by someone simply because it surprised them.
  • Presents a Defeatable Challenge - One type of content that many people can't resist is a quiz they know they can ace. Consider the "16 Grammar Mistakes" quiz from the image above. It's likely that this content was shared so often due to people posting their successful results.
  • Validates an Opinion - Who doesn't like to be right? Content that validates a person's existing opinion about a topic has a much higher likelihood of getting shared by that person than something that opposes their views. Of course, this is contributing to networks like Facebook essentially becoming an echo chamber, but it's true nevertheless.
  • Presents a Unique Solution to a Problem - Any content that helps someone solve a problem, save time, save money or improve their life in a fun or interesting way is likely to get shared. The advent of "life hacks" is proof of this.

Drawbacks of Shareable Content

Besides being potentially difficult to execute in some industries, shareable content often has one big downside from a marketing standpoint: it isn't usually evergreen. Up-to-the-minute articles about trending topics may not have the staying power to get lasting value out of. For example, consider all the content that was shared related to "the dress" or "Yanny vs. Laurel". These two cultural moments - huge on social media for a matter of days then almost immediately forgotten about - resulted in tons of content that got many shares but will likely have very little value as time goes on.

In other words, shareable content isn't often used as a reference. That's where linkable content comes in.

What is Linkable Content?

Linkable content is anything that's likely to be linked to from a different website. Businesses strive to create linkable content because backlinks are one of the most important search engine ranking factors. Because of this, increasing the number of backlinks to a site is one of the most sought-after SEO strategies, and it's one of the top reasons any business gets into content marketing in the first place.

Content that generates links is often published in the form of a blog post, news article, PDF or other type of site content. Again, though, you must determine if building your backlink profile through content will serve to achieve your overall business goals. Depending on your type of business, you may find that trying to create linkable content doesn't get you as much business as a simple ad campaign or other marketing tactics that take the same amount of time and money. If your business model relies heavily on search, though, you'll definitely need to try creating some linkable content.

Types of Linkable Content

Unfortunately, the internet is too vast to determine the most linked-to content of all time - or even of the last year. However, the types of content that are most likely to encourage links are fairly well known. They include:

  • Infographics
  • How-to guides
  • Original research/case studies
  • Long-form, in-depth blog posts
  • Videos
  • eBooks

Elements of Linkable Content

Why does one site link to another? Well, content is most often linked to because it's being referenced as a source of information in another piece of content. Your content may also be linked to because the linking site wants to provide their readers with additional information that can't be found on their own site. Either way, a site will link to yours if it finds your content valuable and relevant to them in some way - and if you've promoted the content well enough for them to find it in the first place.

Linkable content usually has one of more of the following elements:

  • Evergreen - Content that will remain relevant and interesting for years to come is linkable simply due to its staying power. The more time content stays relevant, the higher chance it has to attract links.
  • In-Depth/Data-Rich - Content that dives deeply into a subject is more likely to get links than a brief summary or surface-level exploration, especially when presenting original research and data. One exception here is when an article simplifies a complicated topic - it's possible that these types of simplifications can also get plenty of links.
  • Authoritative - When linking out to another site, content creators usually want to find the absolute best source for what their link is trying to convey. This is why respected publishers like Time or the New York Times get so many links.
  • Educational - Content that teaches a reader or viewer how to do something can often be linked to from other relevant content as an educational supplement. For example, a news story about a new health study may link to your video describing how to do a proper sit-up.
  • Valuable - The most linkable content has clear takeaways. It serves a clear purpose and fulfills a specific need.
  • Includes Different Media Types - Blog posts that include many different types of media such as infographics, video and images are more likely to get links than those that are just text because they often provide a more well-rounded and "whole" exploration of a subject.
  • Well-Designed - No matter how good your content is, other creators may be apprehensive to link to it if it isn't designed well. The most linkable content has a sleek, professional and modern design.

Creativity is Essential

Of course, these are just general guidelines and there aren't any hard and fast rules. It's certainly possible that a short quiz could get a ton of links, and an in-depth, data-heavy report could be widely shared on social media. There's also plenty of overlap between shareable content and linkable content - just because something's intended to be shareable doesn't necessarily mean it won't get any links for instance.

Ultimately, your content strategy will succeed if you stay creative and keep your specific goals in mind. And don't forget, both linkable and shareable content will still need some promotion if it's going to take off.

T.J. Anderson

Posted on 4th June, 2018 by T.J. Anderson

About T.J. Anderson

T.J. Anderson is a Chicago-based content editor and writer, as well as an SEO and marketing specialist.

View all posts by T.J. Anderson