Inbound links pointing to your site are a crucial part of ranking in Google and other search engines. That makes building links part of what every site owner needs to do. You can divide link building down into two basic areas, links that you build and links that you attract. Built links are gained by actively going out and adding or requesting a link from another site. In this post, we’ll discuss attracting natural links through content strategy.
Strategically attracting links through content, design, relationships and integrity can transform the success of your site.
You could divide the links that you build down further. Some built links are directory submissions, some are done through finding sites that allow you to add content and don’t notice the links. Some are done by simply contacting people and asking for them. Others are gained from link networks like the one Google just delisted.
I have nothing against building links. There should probably be built links in every link profile. There are high-end link builders who put great time and effort into effective link building strategies. There are good built links and bad ones.
Having got that out of the way, I want to discuss the advantages of attracting links through content strategy rather than building them through tricks.
Building Links Through Tricks
Brian Smithson - CC BY 2.0
When people build links they tend to do so where it is easy. Contractors seek scalable tactics that they can use again and again, that they can sub-contract or that can be farmed out to a junior. They do this so they can deliver links at a price the customer is willing to pay. Site owners doing their own SEO also tend towards easy to get, scalable links. They have time pressures, they have knowledge gaps and this link building task is just a means to an end. The quicker and more efficiently it can be achieved the better, right?
There is a problem with scalable link building though. This approach focusses on links that are easy to get and easy to repeat. For one reason or another they are usually the lowest value links. Worse than this, today’s tricks are usually the focus of tomorrow’s Google update. When Google further devalues the links you built or the domain you exploited or the link network you use, you find out that your rankings are built on sand.
Strategically Attracting Links Through Content
MyTudut - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Attracting links, and these days social mentions, through content is a much harder process but is vital if you are serious about your site. Its disadvantage versus building links is obvious. It takes more investment both in time and money and it is harder. Its advantages are perhaps less obvious.
Earned links are harder to replicate
If you can pay $5 for someone to build 500 links, it’s not a stretch to think your competitor could do the same and then where are we? Some computer program in the Phillipines just got an extra 10 minutes work, you and your competitor are down $5 each and you’ve both got more links from a series of unimpressive sources. Not everyone wants to put the effort into content and take the risk that even when created it does no good. Not everyone has any knowledge about their business, or their product, or the interests of their customers.
If you earn links through your content it is much harder for competitors to copy you. They are more likely to buy another few lots of $5 links and scratch their heads when their rankings drop.
Content can earn better links
Think of where you would really like to get links from. Really strong sites with trust and authority. If you have given any thought to link building or to your market at all online, you can probably think of a few sites that you would really like a link from. These are usually sites that aren’t going to link to you just because you ask. If that was going to work you’d have already done it, right? And so would your competitors. What would motivate them to link to a site? The answer to that question often involves developing content.
Content and future ranking factors
Look at anything about where Google is going with how they rank sites and you’ll find content is central.
- They are increasingly using social signals and content is the fuel for your social media.
- They are looking at user data and content that serves your users will help there.
Google’s aim is to provide the best results for the query at hand. They fail frequently but they constantly progress. Relying on tricks to hit yesterday’s ranking factors is not the way to stay ahead of the game.
I don’t want to be too simplistic here. Content is not a panacea and link building is not all bad. The term “content marketing” has sprung up over the last few years and gone from an SEO tactic to a whole specialism. It’s “content marketing” though. Not content writing and then sitting looking at a screen wondering when the benefit will come. Strategically attracting links through content is not a passive process. You still need to get out there and build relationships and find ways to give your content reach. You may even be using some old style link building tactics.
The difference between content and tricks comes down to this. Who do you want to share and link to your content?
5 of your potential customers?
25 of the alter ego accounts of your contractor?
Maybe you don’t care as long as your rankings go up. But if you are interested in where your rankings will be next year, I would care.