Best practices rapidly change within SEO as technologies (and Google's guidelines) evolve. But one thing hasn't changed: the importance of links.
Links are still the strongest signal we can give to Google about the importance of our content and site. So, if you're working to increase search visibility, links need to be a primary consideration.
The water is muddy right now though with Google's war on spam links, and from what I've observed attending recent conferences I think a few messages need to be addressed within SEO:
- Links are still the core of Google's search algorithm.
- Link building and content marketing are fundamentally different.
- Content marketing is difficult to do well. SEO pros often don't have the required skill set for high-level content creation.
- Link building can supercharge your content marketing efforts.
- You can still build links even if you don't have great content.
1. Links are Still the Core of Google's Search Algorithm
Links are still immensely powerful.
This is confirmed by:
1. Moz's 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors.
2. Matt Cutts, Google's distinguished engineer, in two different webmaster videos:
3. Amit Singhal, Google's head of search.
But we're all aware of Google's recent crackdown on link building activities. We're aware that MyBlogGuest didn't really deserve the penalty, and that more realistically it was a PR move.
But because we represent real, legitimate companies who are looking to grow their online visibility long term, we need to make sure our strategies are safe, effective, and just as long term. This has led SEO professionals to search for new ways to ensure safe and powerful links are created.
Because links are still the core of Google's search algorithm, and we all know it.
This has led many people who were previously doing SEO toward content marketing, with their primary concern being links.
2. Link Building and Content Marketing are Fundamentally Different
Let's be honest: there are many right now who think that content marketing is the new link building, and have labeled it "link acquisition" or "link earning."
But content marketing is not link building. Nor is it even SEO – there's no guarantee that your content will be visible in search, nor is creating more content guaranteed to make your site more visible in search. And you're certainly not going to get the links if you don't do the work.
Content marketing is wholly different than link building or SEO. SEO is about increasing search visibility. Content marketing is about creating valuable content worth sharing.
You shouldn't be approaching content marketing from a link building/SEO perspective – it'll lead to terrible content, I guarantee it.
How often do we complain about yet another garbage blog post, infographic, roundup, whatever the current content flavor is? Content fatigue (and content shock) is a very real problem. We certainly see it more than most.
Your primary concern when building content should be providing value, furthering your brand message/values, and engaging with your target audience.
Sounds easy, but it's really, really difficult.
3. Content Marketing is Difficult to do Well
SEO pros often don't have the required skillset for high-level content creation.
Content creation potentially requires:
- Industry experts
- Technical (coders, web dev, app dev, etc.)
Content marketing requires the support of a host of people with diverse skills, including creative, technical, industry experts, graphic, etc. Without significant investment to ensure the content remains unique, valuable, and engaging, you're simply wasting your time, money, and resources.
Thinking a single person can do all this work is daft. Thinking that those skilled at SEO naturally have all these skills is just as bad. Will some be able to make the transition? Sure. Will all? Definitely not, nor should they.
SEO pros don't have to become content marketers.
4. Link Building Can Supercharge Your Content Marketing Efforts
Every content marketing campaign should involve SEO.
Creating amazing content isn't enough – you still need to market it. SEO can help increase the visibility of content, especially if your team has a strong link building background.
SEO pros have the skill set to:
- Find similar content and:
- Find people and websites who have shared, mentioned, or linked previously.
- Find people and websites who would be interested in sharing, mentioning, or linking.
- Outreach persuasively to generate links, shares, and mentions.
- Help determine future content ideas that have a high chance of success.
- Ensure best practices for search are used on-page and on-site, within the content.
- Leverage previous relationships and industry understanding (assuming they've worked in the niche before).
- Advise paid options as well – most SEO folks are capable when it comes to both social media and PPC.
If you're going to invest in content, you need to invest in visibility. Having an if-you-build-it-they-will-come attitude it today's content era is ridiculous, considering the amount of content produced and the very real content fatigue happening online.
Without intelligent marketing you're leaving valuable opportunities on the table. A good SEO can supercharge great content, promote decent content, and even salvage mediocre content.
5. You Can Still Build Links Even if You Don't Have Great Content
Content marketing and link building are definitely compatible, and can create a marketing flywheel.
However, that doesn't mean you have to be involved in content marketing to build links.
For many sites content marketing simply doesn't make sense – either due to their size, target audience, culture, resources, or products. There is no one-size-fits-all online marketing solution. But there's other ways to build good links that make sense.
Without content, you can build links using:
- Fresh Mentions
- Local links
- Broken link building
- Relevant niche or local directories
- Community engagement
Focus on the human value – build links that you would want even if Google didn't exist. Build links that are for the betterment of mankind, and the web. Build links that you wouldn't hesitate to show a friend, colleague, or even competitor.
Real link building has always been a creative endeavor, requiring added value. And content certainly isn't the only way to add value to the web.