One of the most controversial features being offered by intelligent link services is called Content Branding. From one perspective, this is an extremely creative tactic for marketers who promote content outside of their own website, but wish to maintain their own branding and an easy path back to their own digital properties. From the perspective of content publishers, this is often perceived as theft of their audience’s attention. Regardless, it can be a very powerful marketing tool.
What is Content Branding?
Content branding is a term for a tool that allows someone to display their own branding over someone else’s content. An intelligent link with content branding will send the user to a page with an overlay placed on top of the original content. This overlay often includes a call to action or some message that was set by the person who created the billboard link, even though they may not own or have rights to use the end destination’s content.
Here is an example of a link with content branding: http://to80.net/dnIqJ#http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/251737
In this example, the link was originally published on Twitter and it sends readers to a great article on entreprenuer.com. If you look closely, however, you will notice a small call to action in the bottom left, from the person who was originally linking to this article. This allows him to still benefit from his links to external websites, even though he is not associated with entrepreneur.com or the article.
How is this possible?
This is done by rendering the end destination in an iframe and then loading other type of content over the top of the iframe. Intelligent linking services that offer this allow you build a link to almost any external site. When one of your readers clicks on that specific link, they are brought to the specified page with your branded message layered on top.
Why is this helpful to marketers?
Content branding allows you to send someone away from your site or social media page while still maintaining a branded presence.
Typically, when you share someone else’s link, you’re sending traffic to their site while generating no traffic for your own in return. Content branding gives you the power to reel that person back in with your specified call to action.
While well known growth hackers and crafty marketers love this feature of intelligent links, content creators often take a different stance. The argument is that it’s “lazy marketing” to put your call to action on top of another person’s work. Some even argue that it’s a grey area of copyright and trademark infringement.
The marketer’s argument for this feature is that shared content, regardless of it being branded or not, is good for everyone and has no impact on SEO. Further, branding over written content isn’t the only use case as it could be extremely useful to brand your content that lives inside YouTube, Etsy and other (walled) ecosystems. Finally, a site that doesn’t want to be branded over has options to prevent it from happening.
If you are interested in reading more here is a very spirited conversation from early in 2015 that includes the CTO of an intelligent link company that provides this service – https://plus.google.com/u/0/+CarolLynnRivera/posts/N1UKbL4oNna.
Where can I get it?
There are currently only a few services providing links with the content branding feature. The services are Snip.ly, ClickMagick, and Clipids.
Note: In an earlier version of this article, we referred to this feature as “Billboarding.” We have updated this to “Content Branding” to be more consistent with the overall industry language.