For someone that has spent a good amount of time working alongside link builders and content creators, it’s easy for me to see the value in both of them. I was part of the Vertical Measures link building team for a year and a half and became very familiar with the daily grind of contacting webmasters and either being rejected, ignored or rudely replied to.
For the last six months, however, I have been a member of the content team where I’m in charge of handling a number of different pieces of content. My transition between the two teams couldn’t have come at a better time as many in the industry are beginning to shift their focus from link building to content.
Now, I’m not going to be the one that says link building is dead because it’s not. Link building is just evolving. It’s beginning to fall under the umbrella of content, which is a good thing! Why? Well, in 2015 and beyond, content marketing is expected to continue to play a huge role for online companies.
Before I explain how you can start transitioning your strategies to content marketing from link building, I feel we need to learn a little bit more about the history of the two and how they ended up where they are today.
A Little Link History
In 1998, link building became a strong tool for anyone in the online marketing industry. According to Inbound, the link building industry was projected by Rand Fishkin to be worth upwards of $500 million at the time. However, as more and more link building companies and individuals began scamming and abusing the system by building pointless spammy links, Google caught on and started altering their search algorithm to deter those in the wrong. This became known as blackhat link building.
In 2012, when Google unveiled their infamous Penguin update, shady link building tactics began to catch up with webmasters to the point that their sites were being punished for too many exact match keywords, excessive directory placements and a plethora of other no-nos. Since then, Google has only dropped the hammer down more on link building to the point that the amateur online marketer would view it as a dead process.
Google’s adjustments and updates forced marketers to reconsider their strategy of how to reach customers. Algorithm updates like Penguin and Panda required webmasters and marketers to look at both their own website quality and outwards to their backlink profile. Hummingbird came along and completely changed the search algorithm itself – honoring the changing trends of customer search patterns, namely mobile voice searches and semantic phrases/questions. Outside-the-box thinkers paid close attention to what Google was doing and began made a strong push to focus on content marketing around 2010.
So, Why Content?
Flash forward a few years and here we are in 2015. A new era for online marketing. An era that demands quality, useful, audience-directed content that not only answers the questions of Googlers but is optimized to be found. It’s as difficult and tedious as one could imagine but those that have been practicing and preparing for this transition for years should have no problem moving forward.
However, if that isn’t the case, it’s not the end of the world. Starting to produce consistent content can be quite the task but you will reap the rewards once your efforts start to gain some traction. Of course, it’s important to remember content marketing isn’t a 30 day ROI; it’s a long lasting culture shift and philosophy.
To begin production, it’s recommended that you work on a content strategy. Basically, a good content strategy will help you realize your goals and proactively deliver value to the audience. A content strategy will help you:
- Establish your organization’s goals
- Identify your audience and their needs
- Analyze competitors and their online presence
- Refine your editorial style and online voice
- Create a repeatable, scalable blueprint for content production
Once the strategy is completed, it’s time to implement it. You can start by creating a content calendar. Typically, content calendars will plan out content production for 6-12 months in advance with broad strokes, and look more detailed at 90 days out. This will include articles, free guides, white papers, infographics and videos. Creating a year’s worth of content can be a mind-numbing task so we recommend assembling a team that can assist your company in finding relevant and useful topics for your prospects and current customers to read, digest, and ultimately lead to more conversions and more sales.
How to Combine Link Building and Content
In any content piece your team produces, you should be adding both external and internal links.
Good external links add credibility to your content. That means a link from a .gov, .edu or a trustworthy news source. On the other hand, links from Wikipedia or an untrustworthy blogger don’t carry the same clout in Google’s eyes, or your reader’s.
The real key, though, is the internal link. That internal link (a link to another piece of your own content that is relevant or even a service your company offers) will provide your readers with another opportunity to delve further into your site. If the aforementioned piece of content is shared anywhere on the internet – this includes any social media platforms or blog – the internal link will provide the same effect traditional link building once delivered.
This approach is known as Link Earning and it’s a much more Google-friendly, whitehat-style of link building. It provides the reader with important, applicable information while meeting Google’s standards. What this specific strategy also does is allow you to focus entirely on the value of your content while building links and relevancy for your customers at the same time.
Now, there are plenty of other link building strategies but with content marketing being so influential, why not take advantage of the two-for-one?
Looking Into the Future
There’s no doubt about it: content marketing is the real deal. You need to make it a New Year’s resolution to begin your company’s expedition into the realm of content marketing. But like what was mentioned earlier, that’s doesn’t mean you have to entirely give up on your online marketing strategies you currently have in progress. You just need to tweak them to stay up with the times. But always remember, the times they are a changin’!
Want More about the Future?
If you want to dive deeper into what the future looks like for both SEO and content marketing, we just released a free download that goes into those topics in depth: The Future of Content Marketing in 2015 & Beyond. There are expert contributions from industry leaders like Robert Rose, Michael Brenner, Andrew Davis, and more along with a checklist of 40+ items to remember as you step into 2015. Click here to download.