Should you focus on links or content in your site’s SEO campaign?

Link building vs content marketing

This is a bit of a “chicken or the egg” scenario. If you were to ask this question to SEOs back in 2012, many of them would have recommended you to focus on a link-driven SEO campaign and have content as a second priority. In fact, many SEOs used to get content developed solely for appeasing the search engines, rather than using the content to provide value for the website’s audience.

Nowadays this isn’t the case. I’m going to share what I have seen from the testing that I have been doing on my own niche sites and even on this website.

Links still play a huge role in SEO, but I am starting to see a bigger shift towards the content that is being published on the website. When I look into my Google Search Console, I typically see an increase in the keyword visibility after I have published in-depth content on the website.

If I publish content that is around 700 words or longer, I can usually start to see the site gaining traction with visibility after a few days if the site already has links or some kind of authority in the domain.

I’ve been testing this with brand new domains and I haven’t been able to get the site’s content to rank without the site having any links. But once I do get links pointing to the site (especially from an aged page), then I have noticed that the site’s ranking performance starts to increase.

Should you completely disregard links in your SEO campaign?

No way. As I said, the content that I published on the websites started to gain alot more traction after there were links pointing to the domain. The links didn’t have to point to one specific URL.

In the old days of SEO, specialists would usually point numerous URLs from external sites to specific pages in order to get them to rank. But from what I have seen, some of the pages can rank well if the domain has enough authority and there is more relevant content on the website.

Should you just focus on a content campaign?

I do believe that content is becoming more important over time and I am seeing those sites that do invest in a content-driven strategy increase in their competitiveness very quickly. A content-driven strategy allows the site to rank for niche keywords, which can then be shared by the visitors of those keywords and helps the site to rank for more generic keywords.

SEO specialist Matthew Woodward famously displayed this in his Zero Backlink Experiment, where he successfully built his blog (which also teaches people how to rank websites using methods such as private blog networks) by publishing valuable content for his audience. On his site, you will find guides and income reports that provide very insightful information.

Ryan Stewart, who is the founder of the SEO agency Webris has also built websites and e-commerce businesses simply by focusing on a content-driven strategy. He successfully built a site that generated over 15,000 visits in a month over a 30-day timeframe, simply by focusing on emerging keyword trends and delivering content that was valuable for a scalable audience.

SEO specialist Robbie Richards also explains this in his article as well.

Jason Acidre (aka, Kaiser the Sage) built his SEO following and also his SEO business off the back of providing valuable advice in his blog posts on his site.

The common trend is that publishing valuable content earns visibility. Google has been saying for years that “Content is king”, and now alot of those sites (and even agencies like Distilled, who focused on content-driven strategies) are starting to yield the fruits of their labour.

These SEOs that I’ve mentioned have the skills to build a successful and profitable SEO campaign by using methods that aren’t white hat, but have successfully proved that publishing valuable content can lead to improved rankings, visibility, an engaged following and ultimately will allow you to build a very profitable business, granted that it is also combined with good on page SEO.

Links are important. But you need valuable content to drive the link acquisition strategy.

If you look at any industry. Whether it is entertainment, sports, gossip or news, it is driven by informative content first. It is promoted thereafter.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

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4 thoughts on “Should you focus on links or content in your site’s SEO campaign?”

  1. Hey David, Thanks for the wonderful advice. I am a web developer by profession and a novice in SEO. Your advice means a lot to us newbies. I have a question. After doing my homework, I have decided, I’ll be focusing on Content Marketing for the next few months. Now, I don’t have a good link profile so I am thinking of using a bit of grey hat SEO, building links using comments.

    (Searching for comment opportunities is how I found your blog but ended up reading, following you on twitter and asking questions because you made my life a bit easier today)

    Now having accepted, “I’m guilty”, can you please advise if following is the right approach?
    I will be Adding backlinks (5/10) a day from related blogs to my niche.
    Will be producing High Quality content side by side (6-7 articles/Month ).

    Should I worry about Google penalties?

    1. Thank you for your question and your comment. It’s good to hear that you are going down the road of content marketing. To be honest, when content marketing is implemented well, it works like a charm. The truth is if you want to get good links to your website, your site needs to have good content that will incentivise people to link to it. Or, you, your site or your business provides a value proposition that will incentivise people to link to your site.

      If your content is good, you have the ability to scale the activity in the future.

      Links in comments can work well depending on the niche. It is a tactic that has been abused for a long time. However, if you engage with the blogger (like you have done on here), then there is a chance that you will get your comment accepted. If you share a link to a useful resource, then it is likely that the link will get accepted as well.

      Just keep in mind that most of the blog comment links are nofollow. However, the links in some of those articles can contribute to additional traffic.

      I had one of my sites in the past that generated 90% of its referral traffic from one single blog comment.

      The other thing is try to keep the links natural. You can check out my post that shares the link building tactics that I use.
      60 natural link building tactics

      White hat link building training videos (YouTube)
      As long as you try to provide value and avoid spamming sites, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting any Google Penalties.

      I hope that this helps.

  2. Hello there,

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    We are in the midst of updating our broken link resources to include current and up to date resources for our readers. Our resource links are manually approved allowing us to mark a link as a do-follow link as well
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