Bridging the Content Marketing / Link Building Divide

  • May 19, 2016


    The online world is changing and is changing fast. A key skillset for digital marketers these days is the ability to adapt. One of the key drivers of change in this ever shifting digital environment is the capricious Google algorithm.

    Despite the dominance of social media, it is still search engines like Google that we tend to turn to when looking for specific information, services or products. And search engines still rely heavily on links to rank sites.

    But after a series of infamous algorithm updates (that still continue to this day) we find ourselves in a world where unprecedented levels of scrutiny are put on establishing the authenticity of these links. Content and context is now everything. Get this wrong and you could all too easily find yourself getting slapped down by a Google penalty.

    Herein lies the balancing act for today’s digital marketers; how to bridge the gap between a strategy that focuses on high quality content, whilst still delivering you those all important links.

    Old Habits Die Hard

    In times gone by, creating a digital marketing strategy was really all about SEO and link building. Sure, you had to build your website and get all the onsite stuff right, but after that it was all about the link building. By creating more keyword-rich links than your competitors you could drive a larger volume of search engine traffic to your site and outrank them on Google.

    Those days are gone, but old habits die hard. While Google shouts from the rooftops, warning digital marketers to stay away from so-called ‘black hat’ tactics, there remains a lot of evidence that these tactics can, at least for a period of time, still work.

    The problem is Google’s Damocles axe that hangs above your site’s rankings. A tactic that may work very well today can spell disaster for your site after the next round of Google updates. There have been some pretty high profile cases where this has been the case.

    But if Google keep moving the goalposts then how is it possible to create and implement a strategy that is truly future-proof?

    Two Sides of the same Coin

    The real trick to link building in a post-Penguin world is to create better content. It really is that simple. Of course, creating better content means spending more time producing that content, which inevitably leads to a lower output, which in turn means fewer links, right?

    Well no. This is the nub off the issue and the bridge that can turn your content marketing strategy into an effective link building campaign as well. The reason is that link building and good content marketing are just two sides of the same coin. Nail the latter and the former will follow naturally.

    It’s all about re-calibrating your priorities. Here are some ideas to get you thinking.

    • Keyword Research
      Keywords are still important indicators to Google so understanding what words and phrases you want individual webpages to rank for is still crucial. Tools like SEM Rush and Google’s AdWords are perfect for this.

    • Keyword optimisation and distribution
      It’s important to never force keywords into your content. If your keywords aren’t coming up naturally in your content then you need to be asking yourself whether that content is relevant enough.

    • Content Creation
      Switching from a link building strategy that relies on numbers, to a content marketing strategy that focuses more on quality and promotion, is a steep learning curve for some but it’s crucial you make that transition. Your backlink portfolio will thank you for it in the end.

    • Backlinks
      Make no mistake, links still help your site rank but if you are only focused on amassing as many of them as possible you could be dooming your site to a penalty. A good place to start is by conducting a thorough audit of your existing backlinks. From this you should be able to establish the kind of links you want to be earning and those you should be avoiding like the plague. Webmaster Tools can help with this but for real scrutiny you’ll need to sign up for something like Majestic Site Explorer and export your entire link portfolio to Excel where you can properly sort and analyse it.

    • Social Media
      It’s easy to forget the power of social media when you’re completely focused on getting Google’s attention. Creating a buzz with the right people on the right social platforms can not only see your content gain traction across social media, but also earn tons of genuine backlinks as a result. There’s also a lot of evidence to suggest that Google’s ranking algorithm is paying a lot more attention to social signals.

    • Metrics
      Google search rankings are a very important metric but they shouldn’t be the only thing you are looking at. Try measuring how much traffic you are getting from social media and how this correlates to the size of your social media following. If more followers are meaning more quality traffic then maybe you should be putting more of your efforts into growing your social presence.


    There are no quick wins here. Building a body of content, both onsite and offsite, should be as much about brand building as it is about link building.

    If you can create good enough content, your link building should naturally start to merge with your content marketing anyway, becoming just one tactic in an overall brand building strategy.

    Create good enough content and put it front of the right people and you can even start to earn those links without asking for them; a strategy that is a million miles away from the black-hat link acquisition methods of times past.

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