Content marketing strategies are constantly evolving and adjusting to match trends in technology, as well as consumer expectations. However, through all the changes to SEO and content marketing, there’s one aspect that’s always remained more or less the same: the importance of link building.
Link building, keyword optimization, and of course, high-quality content are the cornerstones of SEO and content marketing. No matter how much blogging fads change or website designs improve, it will always be important to establish relevant inbound links to boost your content’s credibility in the all-powerful eyes of Google.
In fact, a survey by Google Search Quality Strategies revealed that the two most important signals for ranking a website during searches are link building and quality content.
In this guide, we’re talking about how valuable link building is, as well as the nitty-gritty details of building natural links, tried-and-true strategies, and the results you can expect from a solid plan.
Link Building and Content Marketing Stats
To help you understand how important link building is, here are some significant statistics. These indicate that without link building, your content/website will struggle to compete with others for ranking space.
- 75 percent of SEO is actually off-page.
- 35 percent of clients will spend $1,000 or less a month on link building alone.
- 90 percent of the participants (in 2016 State of Link Building Survey from Moz) said that they employ content as a link-earning tactic.
- The longer your content is, the higher its chances are of getting backlinks across the web.
What Is Link Building?
In a nutshell, link building is the process of getting other relevant websites to link back to your own website or content you produce. Each link you acquire acts as a stamp of approval or endorsement of sorts. Getting more inbound links from relevant, credible websites is extremely important when it comes to ranking well on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Why Link Building Is Important to Rank Content Higher in SERPs
Think about the number one job of search engines – they need to crawl through hundreds of thousands of websites to find the best information for searchers and their queries. As they crawl through the internet, they examine links between websites. This helps them identify which sites are popular, trustworthy, and well-connected.
Once a search engine has indexed your website, they determine if it is of sufficient quality in multiple ways. One of the biggest indicators of quality is how many links it has on external websites (and whether those external links are good).
If your website has more backlinks on high-quality external sites, search engines will likely view your site as high quality and trustworthy. Now, not all links are “good” links. In the world of link building, the relevancy of inbound links reigns supreme.
Think of it this way:
Say there’s a new restaurant in town. One of the local auto mechanics is raving about how great the menu is. While this may be good for boosting awareness, this auto mechanic is not a culinary expert. Therefore, their endorsement of the restaurant isn’t necessarily indicative about how amazing the food is.
On the other hand, if a chef is giving the restaurant praise on their menu, this endorsement is going to hold more weight than the mechanic’s.
To go a step further, there are certainly degrees of “relevancy” when it comes to linking. Say a 17-year-old prep cook is raving about how amazing the new restaurant is. Even though their endorsement is relevant – and will certainly hold a bit of credibility – it won’t nearly mean as much as a chef’s praise whose been working in the culinary industry for 30 years.
This is essentially how Google views inbound links on a website. If a bunch of established websites in your niche are linking back to yours, this tells Google that you know what you are talking about because X website said so.
The Problem With Unnatural Links
Because link building is so important to SEO, some websites attempt to buy external links or build artificial connections with other sites to manipulate their search rankings. Google has evolved to recognize these “unnatural” links, and sites can actually be punished in their rankings for using fake links.
Unnatural links include:
- Links for links (excessive link swaps)
- Paid links
- Exchanging goods or services for links
- Automatically generated links
- Web-directory links
- Footer Links
- Contextually irrelevant links
- Shady redirects
- Bookmark sites
- Links with commercial anchor text
- Sitewide footer links
What Are Natural Links?
So, if you need to stay away from artificial, unnatural links, how can you build “natural” links?
The key is to form links organically. That means your company isn’t publically placing them. You’re not tracking the links, and you’re not paying to have them sponsored or placed in certain content. They’re genuine and out of your control, and therefore the most natural.
In essence, a good, a natural link should be there primarily for the purpose of adding genuine value to the content and user experience. If it’s blatantly obvious that a link is placed for the sole purpose of advertising, it can cause issues.
How Does Content Marketing Differ From Link Building?
Think of content marketing and link building as two different tools in your arsenal that work best when paired together.
Content marketing is all about creating and distributing valuable content, and link building is the process of getting other sites to endorse it by linking to it. The more valuable content you are creating, the more links you’ll likely get back to your website from other sites in your industry.
Both of these tactics have different goals, but they both work toward increasing your credibility and boosting your SEO value. Anyone who says you need to pick between the two strategies doesn’t understand that they work together to form a larger, more effective strategy.
How Does Link Building Help to Achieve Business Goals?
We’ve already talked about how link building can help you achieve higher search rankings, but let’s take a step further:
How can SEO link building help you achieve your business goals on a larger scale?
Telling yourself you simply want to “get more links” to your website isn’t looking at the bigger picture. Think about why you want more links and how improving your search rankings would improve your overall business plans.
By increasing your SEO efforts, you can achieve a number of other benefits, including:
- Broadening your targeted audience and referral business.
- Boosting revenue and conversions from organic search results.
- Establishing connections with other experts and companies in your industry.
- Building authority, trust, and relevance with others.
- Helping your company join big conversations about influential topics.
Instead of just thinking about how link building can help you rank higher on the SERPs, think beyond the search results and determine what your overarching business goals are. Chances are, a well-tailored link building strategy can help you get there.
Factors to Consider Before You Start a Link Building Strategy
There’s not a one-size-fits-all link building strategy.
How you foster organic hyperlinks back to your site depends on your specific business and what kind of content you produce.
Let’s say your website is all about plant care. If you suddenly get links on a website about dog food or plastic surgery, those links are likely going to serve as a glaring red flag to Google and viewers who think it’s random.
To reiterate, it’s essential that you value link relevancy. Therefore, before you employ any link building strategies, you need to consider the following questions:
- What does this website I’m linking to have to do with my topical range?
- Would real readers actually view this backlink as something helpful and logical?
- Above all else, am I actually improving the value of my content, or detracting from it with this link?
How to Create a Link Building Strategy
Creating a link building strategy that will work for your website isn’t as difficult as it may sound. Before you start randomly fostering external links, sit down and come up with a plan based on your goals.
Step 1: Ask Yourself, “What Does My Business Need?”
- Do you need to rank higher on Google?
- Bring in more conversions?
- Reach a larger audience?
- Rank for more keywords?
- All of the above?
Highlight your specific goals at this time, then use that as a starting platform for the rest of your link building strategy. Ideally, answers to this questions will determine which links you want to build.
For example, say you are a small web design agency looking to improve the rankings of your homepage. Your linking building strategy would likely involve producing guest posts on other web design blogs with a link back to your homepage in the author bio.
Or if you want to improve the rankings of a web design guide you wrote on your website, linking to this piece of informational content within the body of the article would be a good plan.
Step 2: Look at What Your Competition Is Doing
Chances are, the sites you’re competing with already have some sort of link building strategy in place. Now is the time to take a look at where their external connections are and how they’re benefiting the website.
Learn from their mistakes and successes as you begin building your own links. You can use tools like Ahrefs and Neil Patel’s Backlink Checker to see where your competitors stand.
By looking at their best-performing links, this should give you an idea of how you should approach your own strategy. Ideally, this will tell you which types of sites to target, how to use the best anchor text, how frequently you should be building new links, etc.
Step 3: Research and Choose Your Ideal Destination Pages
- What other websites have the most potential to grow and benefit yours?
- Where would you most like to see links to your website?
Don’t just start posting guest contributions and links to your content everywhere. Be choosy about where you want your link to end up and establish real, meaningful connections. Look into factors like how good the rest of their content is, what topics they write about, the appearance of the site, their reputation, etc.
Choosing target sites to build links should not be an impulsive project. Take your time here – quality always trumps quantity in link building.
How Content Plays a Major Role in Your Link Building Strategy
As we discussed previously, link building will struggle to be successful if it can’t play off excellent content on your website. Roughly 51 percent of content consumption derives from organic search, so if you’re not producing content that is interesting and discoverable on the web, you’ll struggle to foster links to it.
People don’t just magically find good content and link back to it. You have to produce it and put it in a position for people to find it. Only then will people begin to help with your backlinking strategy.
The Results You Can Expect From Authoritative Content and Backlinking
Consider the fact that 93 percent of experiences on the internet start with a search engine. The more you can improve your rankings on search engines and foster organic links, the better chance you have of reeling in more viewers and boosting conversions.
By implementing a well-researched, carefully chosen content and link building strategy, you’ll significantly improve your chances of ranking well in searches.
How Long Does It Take to See Results From Backlinking?
Once you’ve begun to build backlinks, it can take quite a while to see the results. Although there’s not a definitive answer to how long backlinking takes to improve your rankings, we do know that it takes a few days for the links to be indexed by search engines.
Generally, it’s a good idea not to expect a giant jump in your rankings for at least eight to nine weeks, maybe ten. If you finally make that big jump to the top rankings, you’ll know your backlinking strategy and content strategy is working well.
Your content marketing strategy might always be changing, but one thing remains true: content marketing and link building go hand-in-hand, and when used together, they can provide powerful SEO results.
No matter how much things continue to change over the next decade, it’s smart to prioritize your links and connections with other websites. Focus on producing valuable, shareable content, and you’ll still probably come out on top of your competitors (one way or another), even if they have the latest and greatest technology.
For any questions about link building and how to get yours up and running, send us a message today!
You can also take a look at our case studies and see how we have help clients improve their search rankings through various link building tactics.