Last week, I had the good fortune to speak at Brighton SEO and to attend sessions held by other speakers. My session was on using data to drive compelling, link worthy content.

The slides are now available on Slideshare and are embedded below:

Why data for content?

Link building has changed. It has evolved into ‘brand signal’ building and is about creating content, tools and resources that make people talk, link, share… this leads to citations, an increase in social shares and ultimately to links.

Data is an awesome basis for compelling content. If you release unique, interesting data, you become the source of that data. Good bloggers, journalists and writers all know to cite their sources. If you’re that source, you’ll benefit from being cited (which often means linked to).

Isn’t unique data REALLY expensive?

Not necessarily. Of course, in an ideal world, you will commission a market research company to come on in and ask millions of people a series of incredible questions and when the results come back, a boffin with a PHD in statistics will analyse it all and come back with some really interesting insight.

Meanwhile, however, back in the real world, most of us work with clients across a range of budgets and some too low to engage in this sort of activity.

But that doesn’t mean data driven content is out of the question. In my presentation, I went into 4 types of data available at a reasonable cost.


Asking 1,000 people a question can cost as little as $100 with Google Consumer Surveys. Want to try it at even lower financial risk than that? Here’s a $75 off Google Consumer Surveys discount code. Another great source is, which is slightly pricier but delivers responses more quickly.

I used Google Consumer Surveys as the basis for this piece of content, which resulted in coverage on news websites, some great inbound links and loads of social shares (on its original URL – This wasn’t a cost intensive exercise at all.

Getting the data is a small part of the process! Outreach, seeding etc are critical. But the most important part of the process in my view? Extracting the stories from the data and presenting them in a way that people give a crap about.

Google Analytics

I talked in my presentation at Brighton SEO about a study we created at Tecmark based on data taken from Analytics. Key points:

  • There are stories in your web analytics package
  • Don’t be afraid to give away some insight publicly. Your competitors might even link (believe it or not!)
  • Biggest challenge here is finding the right stories and, again, presenting them in a way that offers some real value and insight to other people in your sector and even beyond

Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act allows people (not just British citizens, but anyone) to request certain data from public bodies and authorities. This data is often data of public interest and can often be newsworthy. I gave some examples of FOI based stories making the news. A great recent example, however, is Huffington Post requesting information about websites accesses from computers in the houses of Parliament. That story was published on the Huffington Post itself initially but made headlines across the web, with coverage on the BBC, Sky and the Independent.

I referenced a great tool that can help manage the process of making these requests,

Key points:

  • Let’s not look at this as something we can use to manipulate search. That won’t work. This exists because the public has the right to certain data. Whatever you ask for should be something in the public interest
  • As with all of these methods, you need to extract stories people will give a damn about and that is far more challenging than simply obtaining the data

Updating Existing Data

This is slightly different, really. It’s not necessarily about finding brand new statistics, but about improving material out there already. This might take the form of updating a study you found and enjoyed where the data is from 2009. You can get 2012 data and you do so, you publish an up to date report. And the author of the original report could even be an excellent starting point for your outreach.

You can also improve the formatting of an existing report or study. Seen something that’s actually compelling but is difficult to read in text format? Create an awesome infographic out of it, for example.

Finally, I discussed putting a simple fact into a context that makes people care. This example is something you should definitely check out. It makes a simple fact something that we can all picture, we can all care about and feel inclined to share.


I briefly touched on some outreach methods that are worth exploring:

  • Finding people who will care using FollowerWonk and Technorati
  • Using Journalisted to find journalists who’ll care about newsworthy data
  • Contacting people by phone to increase your outreach success rates
  • Exploring with paid outreach methods such as Adwords, StumbleUpon Paid Stumbles and Outbrain

Key Points

Finding data is half of the battle. The true challenge is in telling stories off the back of it and getting these stories in front of the right people. And this is where you need a team made up of creative, intelligent people whose skillset is actually probably more similar to that of a traditional marketing or PR team than what we might have previously considered an ‘SEO’ team.


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