Content marketing or link building? Perhaps both? As SEO specialists and digital marketers, we’re caught in a dilemma regarding these two strategies. As always, we only want the best for our clients.
But let’s face it: the SEO land is actually divided into two schools of thought, whether to stick with traditional SEO approach using keyword-marketing and link building, or pursue content marketing that includes several tasks.
This may start from creating quality content, to building an empire of the brand’s online presence through social media and leveraging the industry’s influencers’ network.
So, which is which?
With Google’s ever-changing search algorithms, our primary goal is to use a method that’s long-term, highly sustainable, and guarantees measurable results—something that’s Penguin update-proof, not just today, but for the future as well (and whatever animal-based term Google will roll out by that time). And on that note, the traditional SEO that includes link building isn’t the best-fit method alone.
Randy Fishkin of SEOmoz explained these two ‘lands’—link building land and content marketing land—previously in a Whiteboard Friday episode. It’s a thought-provoking strategy discussion among webmasters and marketers, where there will always be two sides of the camp. To agree to disagree with either of these two strategies will ambiguously lead us into a confusing conclusion that will entirely affect our clients’ online strategies.
Digging deep with Content Marketing and Link Building
Our premise to why content marketing will always triumph over link building doesn’t end there. It’s not a question of “which is which,” but rather “what’s your goal? Is it for short-term or long-term?” Once and for all, the former will definitely triumph over the latter if you’re shooting for the long-term goals and results.
In a nutshell, link building is the technical side of web marketing, where SEO specialists’ tasks involve this triple-braided cycle: keyword targeting, finding list of link opportunities, and getting links.
Boring? Nope, it’s not!
On their side, it’s hard work. And the results are guaranteed to come faster and applicable for the brand’s short-term goals.
On the other hand, the content marketing land is tedious, daunting, and complex that it requires you to hire not just the SEO specialists, but also writers, community managers, copywriters or if you’re in luck, a web marketer who knows the ropes of the trade in content writing, copywriting, and social media.
Too complex? Yes, and it is really hard work as you focus on inbound strategies.
The results don’t come overnight. Unlike link building, this would take time, but the results are best-fit for long-term goals and the content are highly Panda-proof. Yet for web marketers, it’s a challenging feat to educate small businesses and startups to embrace this approach because, as obviously stated, the results show up for quite some time.
In short, content marketing is quality content + efforts + time + add-on hiring-sprees equals long-term rewards, while link building is keyword targeting + getting links equals short-term results.
Why Content Marketing Remains King?
Our premise doesn’t imply that we get rid of link building, but we’re clear with this: content marketing remains king and we take link building as the queen on the chessboard.
They’re two different things, but can achieve almost the same goals. They’re generally exclusive, but not limited to driving traffic to website, building branding, and relationships to audience, increase conversions, and improving online presence. BUT, the effect of each one is entirely different—one is for short-term and the other one for long-term.
Search Engine Journal dubbed them as “Two different peas in a pod.” You see, it depends on what will work for you or your clients’ brands. Let’s explore why:
Google is smarter than you think. Search is becoming more human and natural, which is quite interesting for the SEO World, because finding a new automated tactic to get you on top of the search results isn’t feasible nowadays. If you’ve been hurt by Penguin and Panda updates, here’s what you need to do:
Focus on content marketing for SEO strategy. It’s much more defensible with the algorithm updates.
Be human as possible with the way you write content and leverage on other channels such as social media and inbound activities for scalability in long-term.
2. Quality content is link-able and likable
People want fresh ideas. Ever wondered why Mashable and HubSpot became popular?
Because they offer new and fresh ideas, which are easily linkable, helpful and informative to the readers. Building links would just follow along the way when you go for content marketing.
It’s pretty simple. When you post content, you can see how many links and organic search traffic it has generated—the number of social media shares and referral visits in the analytics dashboard.
3. Shareable and sustainable
Coming from the expert, Randy Fishkin said that just a single piece of content or a couple every year or two can be everything you need to make content marketing strategy sustainable for long-term.
While this tactic can create a division between two camps (a matter of quantity and quality of blogs posted and link building strategies), a great example from this point of view is an article from The Sales Lion by Marcus Sheridan on how content marketing has saved this brick-and-mortar business. He went from a pool guy to a marketing guy.
Marcus’ www.Riverpoolsandspas.com became the #1 trafficked swimming website when he changed his marketing strategy by becoming a storyteller of his brand. How? Simple. His post, “Fiberglass Pool Prices: How Much is My Pool Really Going to Cost?” written in 2009 is still shareable and sustainable until today and obviously answers the ‘mostly asked’ question of customers and always on page 1 of Google search results.
4. Customer-driven and solution-oriented approach
What can be more rewarding and fulfilling?
For us, it’s all about satisfying our customers and providing educational quality content that solves their daily concerns and questions about the products and services they want to purchase.
With content marketing, you can be as generous as you can on your posts. As often quoted in Copyblogger’s copywriting techniques, “Generosity is sexy.” Not only will it build your authority as an industry expert, but it will help you build an audience that will build your business for long-term. Know your audience. Be generously human on content and enjoy the process.
5. More channels to experiment and opportunity to explore
Content marketing gives you an opportunity to explore other online marketing channels until you find out what makes your customer tick and where they usually flock.
Are they Facebook-savvy customers?
Are they hanging out in G+ community?
Are they a bunch of readers and intellects, hungry for data and useful information?
In content marketing, it’s a requisite to do the following:
Identify your target audience
Best channel to leverage where they consume content
Create quality content that is: informative, educational, inspiring and valuable to the conversation
Interact with the community
And on that note, there’s no one-size-fits-all SEO tactic for small businesses and professionals when it comes to social media channels such as B2C or B2B niches, but since you’re not limited to the technical side of link building and keyword targeting, content marketing gives you the turf to explore.
Content marketing includes investing on content that’s well researched and written that could require a good copywriter days to create. Most importantly, it’s clear and directly solves your customers’ concerns.
Over to you: Will content marketing always triumph link building?
If we’re talking about long-term goals and building brand’s authority, definitely! This is a pea in the pod that’s worth pursuing, especially when your site has been affected with algorithm updates from the past or you want it to be defensible with Google’s future algo updates.
But remember, the process of content marketing itself is laborious and requires lots of efforts and focus compared with link building, yet it’s one of the best investments in online marketing. What do you think of these two schools of thought in the SEO World?
Article by Dan Virgillito
Dan Virgillito is a professional blogger and content strategy consultant who loves working with startups, companies and nonprofits and help them tell their story better, engage fans and find new ways to drive business through content. You can learn more about his work and get in touch with him via his website.
Connect with Dan on Google+ / Dan Virgillito and Twitter / @danvirgillito