I came across this great post on the YouMoz blog a few weeks ago and one line in particular really stuck with me, “…the interest in great content is to attract links, where as a lot of what Google is looking to eliminate are examples of where content is used to build links…” The author was talking about the Google Panda update which first rolled out late last year and took on sites with thin and low-quality content, scrappers and spam blogs. Link building tactics like article spinning, blog commenting spamming, buying pre-existing domains and posting content with links to your site can easily churn out dozens, if not hundreds of links, from just a handful of generic and boring content. As the other pointed out, “It’s a lot easier to build links with subpar content, as you don’t expect anyone to read it.”
But here’s the thing—links should be a byproduct of your content marketing. An incredibly valuable byproduct for sure, but if you are writing solely for the purpose of getting a link somewhere you are missing the overarching point of content marketing. Really great content marketing focuses on creating useful, informative, and engaging content designed to educate your target audience. What kind of information do they need? What questions do they need answers to? How can your expertise help them solve their problems? Your content marketing efforts should establish your brand as a trusted authority in your niche, be it enterprise software solutions or dog walking. It’s only once you’ve built the trust of your audience through consistently useful content that you can count on your content marketing to attract links and not just build them.
What’s the difference between attracting link and building links?
While active link building is an essential component of any SEO campaign, natural link building is equally important. Natural link building is exactly what it sounds like—it happens naturally. You didn’t set out to get a link from this and that website, but the owner of that site gave you one, much like I’m linking to the aforementioned YouMoz blog post. I found that piece of content incredibly interesting and decided to quote and link to it. I’m sure the author hoped that would happen when he was working on his post, but he didn’t send me an email asking me to promote his post; I found it naturally and linked to it simply because I thought it was great content. That is how attracting links works! Building links usually requires a little active pushing on your part. For instance, you might reach out to a blogger asking them to review your new product or you submit an online press release to a paid distribution site. You actively sought out those links.
Again, there is nothing wrong with actively seeking out links, but great content needs to be able to stand on its own two feet and attract links based on its own merit. Should you promote it? Absolutely! Even the best content can use a little push in the right direction and get help being found by your audience, but good content should be capable of earning a few links on its own, even if it something as simple as a reTweet.