Google has made numerous attempts to set standards for online content.
Content marketing has taken over, and link building is no longer just a numbers game.
We’re not in the Wild West days of the internet any more.
We can’t play it fast and loose with SEO. No more sticking links in blog comments, stuffing keywords into every bit of text, and writing quick little blog posts under 500 words multiple times per day.
The focus has fully shifted to producing quality content.
The tide turned around 2013 and 2014. According to a 2014 CMI report, 70% of B2B marketers said they were already creating more content than they did one year ago, while 86% of all the organizations surveyed said they used content marketing.
Today, businesses of all sizes are turning to content marketing to increase their visibility online and drive business growth.
The Advantages of Content Marketing Over Classic SEO and Linkbuilding Strategies
Initially conceptualized as an offline branding strategy, content marketing itself has been used by the world’s most innovative brands to build trust and authority ever since the late 19th century.
Back then, it was still about storytelling and sharing valuable information. It was just done in different formats (read: not online).
With modern, online content marketing, the purpose remains the same, but the distribution channels have changed greatly. Namely, the ultimate goal of online content marketing is to distribute pieces of content across channels relevant to the industry and reach a carefully segmented audience.
Not only that, but the online distribution channels we use have undergone a pretty big shift in the last four to five years.
Rather than scattering links across the web to increase their quantity—which is what we used to do—content marketing focuses on improving their quality. This way, your website’s backlink profile remains in the target niche, thus sending specific authority signals to Google.
Of course, this only gains in significance with Google’s increased focus on the quality of backlinks, which is assessed through metrics such as Domain Authority, quality of content and quality of links on the page.
These evidently introduce new rules to the link building game, forcing webmasters to abandon traditional techniques that rest upon low-quality directory submissions and generic guest posting.
As opposed to these, content marketing offers several key advantages:
- Allows you to build natural links
- Increases diversity of your backlinks
- Puts your backlinks into a specific context
Content Marketing Leads to Natural Backlinks
Matt Cutt’s suggestion that the goal of link building is not to “make your links appear natural,” but to make sure they actually are natural seems to have been vague enough to inspire some interesting discussions.
This discussion in particular yielded numerous constructive answers including the opposites such as:
1. any backlink you pursue is unnatural, and
2. waiting for natural links is futile
The easiest thing to do is test both and see which one brings more results. Waiting for backlinks so they’re all totally “natural,” or doing a little pursuit. My gut and experience tell me the latter is the way to go.
Alternatively, you can look at the issue of “natural” links this way: You created an awesome, well-researched article on a burning industry issue and you know just the site that would be interested in publishing it. You reach out to the site and the editors decide to link back to the resource you created.
How valuable is that link? Is it natural?
I’d say it’s both valuable and natural, in this case. Thanks, content marketing! You now have a valuable, natural backlink within a nice piece of content on another site.
Content Marketing Leads to Backlink Diversity
Again, instead of constantly pushing the same old types of content for the purposes of increasing the number of backlinks, content marketing involves real creation. You need to produce valuable content.
The types of material that get the most backlinks tend to be: white papers, infographics, videos and ebooks. Generally, this is well-research material that has been produce with case. And, thanks to the amount of research or work that’s gone into this material, other sites won’t be able to produce something of similar quality.
Rather than producing their own version, they link to yours to back up the points made in their content and to give their readers more valuable resources.
This kind of robust content allows you to enrich your backlink portfolio in a natural and diverse way.
The importance of this diversity lies in the fact that “the more diverse, random, and diluted an inbound link profile is, the better,” as was noted by Neil Patel. His article explains the idea in more detail and I highly recommend you take a look at it.
Content Marketing Provides Context
As opposed to the ancient practice of publishing guest articles on websites only remotely related to your niche (if at all), proper content marketing ensures your backlinks will remain in the desired context.
After all, you’re only going to be actively building links on website that are highly related to yours now.
You’ll only be striving to have links placed on excellent websites with killer SEO metrics in your niche.
You’re not chasing after that cheap SEO boost you could have previously gained from placing thousands of spammy links.
When you have backlinks worked into another site’s relevant, quality content, you’ll now get a more rewarding SEO boost plus plenty of valuable, targeted referral traffic.
How to Bridge Theory and Practice in Content Marketing and Linkbuilding
From what I covered above, it may appear that you can simply go with a “build it and they will link to it” strategy. You know, creating an awesome piece of content and waiting for everybody to notice it.
Unfortunately, like all other similarly idealistic assumptions, this one doesn’t typically work.
In fact, content distribution is arguably even more significant part of content marketing and definitely the one that eventually brings you high-quality backlinks.
In relation to this, some experts suggest that content marketing is 30% production and 70% distribution, the latter being the key to your linkbuilding practices.
So, in order to actually get some backlinks with your awesome content, you need to increase your focus on distribution.
The proper way to do this is to analyze the audience you’re catering to, research the target market and invest time in creating pieces of content that have a clear purpose. Then, you’ll need to find the related websites where they’re likely to spend time, and strive to get backlinks there.
Therefore, content marketing is a strategic activity that involves several phases in order to eventually bring desired outcomes. One of the phases of content marketing is, indeed, linkbuilding.
Now, let’s talk about content marketing strategies and how they play into linkbuilding.
If you play your cards right, your chosen content marketing strategies can actually feed right into linkbuilding strategies.
3 Classic Content Marketing Strategies That Double as Linkbuilding
1. Creating linkable content.
The notion of linkable content can differ from industry to industry and you need to figure out what works for yours.
One of the ideas is to use BuzzSumo or any similar tool to identify the most shared content in a specific field and build upon it.
You may have heard of this strategy before—it’s the cleverly-named Skyscraper Technique, whose result should be a piece that’s more relevant than anything else written before. Naturally, such piece stands more chances of being linked to from other industry websites.
2. Seek influencer engagement.
Considering the fact that only 3% of people generate 90% of impact online, you definitely want your content to be endorsed by the already-established influencers in the industry.
This means you need to find the experts that already have a large audience and try to engage them, either through social media or through something called ego bait.
Ego bait is a content creation technique that allows you to:
1) create unique content
2) present unique perspective/offer new information
3) engage influencers on social media
4) potentially have your website mentioned on their websites and thus get high-quality backlinks
3. Do relevant guest posting.
After you’ve created a piece of content you want to promote, you can engage in guest blogging on sites that have the audience you want to cater to and link to your resource.
As long as the content is relevant enough for their audience, the editors will probably be willing to include a link to it.
The turbulent digital era enables virtually anyone—from big brands to a random guy sitting next to you on a train—to start publishing and create streams of loyal readers online.
In the sea of such content, the internet-centric businesses need something unique to improve their visibility online, build relationships and further promote their brands.
As a strategic activity focused on these goals, content marketing represents an efficient way to strengthen your business’s online authority and earn high-quality backlinks.
Bojana Dobran is a content specialist at Four Dots, an inbound marketing agency with offices in the US, Ireland and Serbia. With more than three years of experience in online marketing, she currently focuses on exploring the best ways to implement content marketing strategies in small to medium sized companies.