20 February 2014
Back in December, I talked about the need to “make use of a client’s linkable assets” to help them amplify their brand online.
Well, now the time has come to explain exactly what linkable assets are, how they are viewed, and how they work.
I found that there are a range of varying explanations available on what linkable assets are, making it difficult to pin down a concrete definition.
One of the main limitations of the definitions already available lies in their ambiguity. In fact, you could even argue that some of the definitions are tautological (a statement that is always true, such as ‘dogs behave in a canine way’). Whoever proclaimed that linkable assets have (you guessed it) ‘linkable’ characteristics must be a member of the ministry of the bleeding obvious!
The reason that this definition doesn’t work is that you won’t know if an asset is linkable until it becomes linkable! Unless you’ve got a crystal ball at your disposal, then you can’t predict whether this moment will ever come.
What has Will Smith got to do with it? Well I’m glad you asked.
I came across Will Smith’s interview with Jimmy Fallon on Monday night, and he was talking about why he thought he was so successful:
“Make sure that what you’re doing is a gift to other people that will help their lives be better. Many people that fail in this business start doing things for themselves.”
I think Will Smith just cracked linkable assets!
This is one of the inherent problems with how people view linkable assets, as many people judge the value of an asset based on how many links it can acquire. Not how it can help other people.
The beneficiary should always be responsible for judging the true value of an asset. Not the creator. This is true regardless of whether you’re talking about linkable assets, a sports car, or a three-course meal!
Understanding who and what will perceive an asset as valuable is also a difficult task. This is because not all end-users are homogenous; what one end user may think is the best thing since sliced bread, another might see it as a complete waste of internet.
Add to that the fact that an individual’s perception of value is subject to fluctuation, and you’ve got an even deeper level of complexity.
To illustrate, if the cost of a flight from London to New York was £600, then someone just wanting to go to The Big Apple for a long weekend might wait until the flights are a bit cheaper. Their perceptions of value are lower because the sacrifices (cost) outweigh the benefits (going to New York).
What if that same person needed to fly to New York to witness the birth of their first child? In this case the benefits (seeing the birth of your first child) would outweigh the sacrifices (cost), meaning their perceptions of value had changed.
So, how do you understand which people are likely to find your assets valuable? This is where segmentation comes in handy. With effective segmentation, you’re more likely to understand what a target audience finds valuable. You can see this in Google’s Affinity Segments, which are groups of aggregated users that have demonstrated a qualified interest in a particular topic.
If you’ve got a good understanding of the ‘who’ part of the linkable assets question, you then need to look at the ‘what’.
In my opinion, there are 3 characteristics that are pervasive across all linkable assets; these are as follows:
As a tangible example, the Adobe Flash install page is the second most linked-to page on the internet (according to the SEOmoz top 500 list).
I’d bet my house that this page wasn’t designed with the sole intention of amassing 2 million linking root domains. Adobe designed this page to be a valuable resource for anyone that needs to download the latest version of Flash (it would be rude not to link). This also highlights the difference between creator and beneficiary-perceived value.
Why is it a useful resource? Because the majority of websites wouldn’t work without it. This means it’s imperative for a site owner to have a link to this page because it ensures their site displays correctly. It also provides a visitor with a quick way of installing Flash to ensure that they get the best user experience possible. That takes care of characteristic number one!
With regards to characteristic number two, check! This asset is most definitely interactive because it provides the end user with something to do. Download the latest version of Adobe Flash. You may never refer to a download page as an ‘immersive experience’, but it does provide the user with something they can’t do elsewhere.
Last but not least is characteristic number three. Applied knowledge refers to the use of knowledge for the benefit of another party. I believe that all linkable assets use some form of applied knowledge.
In the case of Adobe Flash, it’s the applied knowledge that has gone into creating the asset itself. It could also just as well be the applied knowledge that will help someone to learn something new or see things in a new way.
The Guardian’s 5k running time tool is a fantastic example of a linkable asset founded on applied knowledge. This is because it allows you to compare your 5k running time against data from other runners in the UK. Paddy Moogan’s guide to broken link building also oozes applied knowledge. This just goes to show, if it’s based upon applied knowledge, then chances are it will be linkable!
You’re bound to come across some assets that have one or two of these characteristics, but genuine linkable assets have all three.
So, next time you’re looking at assets to see whether it may be linkable, you will need to ask yourself the following three questions:
Going back to what Will Smith said about gifts, his hip-hop dancing video is definitely a gift! You can check it out here.
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