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Glassdoor’s Backlink Brilliance: How A Content-Focused Culture Led To A $1.2B Acquisition

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Data gets links. Data gets shares. Data gets attention.

The brand that owns the data often is the brand that has a competitive advantage for generating press and owning mindshare. Data is often seen as a competitive advantage for brands as it relates to their ability to better serve customers, but it can also arm a brand with power when it comes to SEO and content marketing. When we talk about building an SEO Moat, few brands can say that they have a level of SERP dominance similar to the marketplace for job seekers and employers — Glassdoor.

In 2018, Glassdoor was acquired for $1.2B by Japan’s Recruit Holdings. Today, Glassdoor generates more than 2 billion annual visits, and more than 70% of those visits come directly from organic search.

I should also note… That’s just Glassdoor dot com.

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According to Similar Web, some of Glassdoor’s other domain extensions combine for over 276M annual visits. From Glassdoor India to Glassdoor Brazil — these sites are seeing millions in visits and capturing millions in terms of market value.

Here’s a snapshot of their existing international content moat:

Millions of people are visiting Glassdoor properties every single day.

And employers are spending millions to reach them.

So how did they do it?

They focused on weaving together the biggest story possible surrounding their brand.

In a 2016 presentation, the former chief reputation officer and SVP of corporate affairs, Dawn Lyon shared a slide showcasing the web that Glassdoor was weaving:

Events. Webinars. Blog posts. Academia. Social. Analyst relations.

And even influencer activation…

Were all a part of the strategy for Glassdoor to dominate the market.

One of the earliest pieces of content that helped Glassdoor dominate the market was their data driven content assets. If you own the data; you can create assets that stand out and bring to light facts and insights that journalists, reporters and bloggers will fight over. If the data is related to social issues, global problems or anything that truly can pull on the heart strings — the data you’re sitting on could push your brand into a position that most marketers only dream of reaching.

One of the data driven assets that helped put Glassdoor on the map was an industry report titled “Demystifying the Gender Pay Gap”. It was an economic research report that Glassdoor has commissioned and distributed effectively across multiple channels. That report was covered by the media, it was talked about at events, it was highlighted in webinars and it was even discussed by some big name politicians during round tables discussing the pay gap:

Data can be powerful.

Rich Barton acted as the co-founder & Chairman of Glassdoor from 2007 to 2018. If you’re not familiar with Rich; I strongly advise you to take the time to learn about his companies as he’s also the founder of Zillow and Expedia. All sites that have unlocked ridiculous value in the market through content and data. Back in 2017, Rich wrote a piece called the “New Age Of Marketing” and it speaks to the success that Glassdoor has had by thinking differently about how SEO should be done:

SEO and natural search results are in decline. And, as alternative search paradigms (mobile, Alexa, AppStore) grow, and as Facebook/Youtube/Snapchat radically increase the volume and diversity of “avails,” I would argue that we are entering a new golden age of marketing and branding.

Queue the return of Don Draper — or, more accurately, his grandson — who loves a good tagline, but also appreciates the beauty of a well-built spreadsheet. The future is a diverse and modern marketing team, made up of the clever analytical marketer who uses big data to make smarter decisions, the public relations expert who finds ways to help the brand tell great stories, the social media guru who knows how to stay on top of the latest channels and engage directly with consumers, and, yes, the artist/storyteller who can move people to tears.

This thinking mirrors how Airbnb was able to ride the pandemics wave.

While SEO is important:

It’s also important to build a strong brand.

In fact, a strong brand is often one of the best ways to secure an SEO moat that is close to unshakable. Glassdoor was able to build a strong brand on the back of data driven content marketing assets that shook up industries, made leaders care about their company culture and even get politicians talking.

Today, Glassdoor has over 520 million backlinks from 109,000 different domains… Since launch; it’s had over 3 billion backlinks from over 260,000 different domains. This growth in backlinks was achievable because of their commitment to creating data driven assets that turned heads, stroked egos and gave journalists something to talk about.

Here’s a few of their evergreen assets that generate the most links:

  • Best Places To Work
  • Top CEOs
  • Best Small & Medium Companies To Work For

Each year Glassdoor shares this information and guess what else happens each year?

The companies on the ‘best places to work’ list link to the report… The CEOs on the ‘top CEO’ list tell their teams to write a blog post and press release about their inclusion… And the best SMBs share the fact that they were included all over social media and their blog.

It’s a brilliant SEO strategy that guarantees links every single year.

But that’s not the only format they embrace.

Similar to the study they conducted about the gender pay gap — Glassdoor creates studies that have an editorial hook that a journalist or reporter would run with.

For example, they recently published a study titled:

  • Culture Or Cash: Survey Finds 50% of Employees Pick Culture Over Salary

That study went out as a press release. See below:

And it was linked to by:

Hubspot, Doordash, Yahoo, Talentlyft, Kforce, Recruiter.com,  Wework and much more.

This is the power of data driven content.

Another example of this is from Ehren Reily. Product Manager at Glassdoor. He gave a talk called “Growth Hacking Beyond Google” and shared a slide that talked about one of their other early content assets that took off in terms of putting the brand on the map. It was a data driven infographic that highlighted the ‘top paying companies for interns’ using a data set from Glassdoor:

This piece generated 3,765 backlinks from 344 domains.

Here’s the thing:

If you can do this consistently. It will grow your brand. People will take notice of your brand in the press. People will take notice of your brand in their feeds. And people will take notice of the fact that your brand is providing the data to support the news within their industry. In the HR industry; Glassdoor used their data to capture mindshare amongst their target audience.

This has paid dividends for them.

But it didn’t happen overnight.

The screenshots of slides… The references to Medium publications… The strategy screenshots… All of these ideas come from different periods of time in Glassdoor’s journey towards building a content moat. It’s not an overnight switch. It’s not a one hit wonder strategy. It’s an effort that requires consistency and a commitment to creating content that is excellent.

And to do that…

It all starts with your content culture.

Some organizations have it. Some organizations don’t…. All organizations can get there. But the question is whether or not you’re willing to view content like an investment or like an expense.

If you view it like an investment — You can play the long game like Glassdoor.

And if you play the long game… You can build a moat that others will study years from today.

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