29 Sep 2011

Link Building vs. Link Attraction

September 29, 2011Content Marketing


It is probably safe to assume that your business objectives depend heavily on search engine rankings and exposure through links from other websites to your own. As readers of this blog know, a major contributor to search engine rankings is the number of quality links to your website. On top of that, links from reputable sites to yours help increase traffic to your site. Needless to say, links to your content provide a major benefit to your efforts. So you have to find a way to get people to link to it.

Link Building with Content Marketing

Theoretically, and largely in practice, links are where humans identify relevance page to page because if they like it, they will link to it. Many businesses, however, have had to develop links “unnaturally” by relying on proactively creating backlinks or — gasp — paying for links. Some have resorted to spammy techniques in order to obtain a quantity of links on the cheap. It turns out that spam is a really good way to annoy a webmaster (and Google or Bing), and it won’t help your reputation. To do link building the right way, you have to get personal.

I’m suggesting that you focus on link attraction rather than rely solely on link building. If you generate awesome content and then promote it, you’re going to attract natural links. In effect, if you develop really compelling material, links will follow as the content gets shared. That’s link attraction. It’s really quite simple, and it serves as one more very strong case for taking care to publish magnetic content. The process of promoting and distributing your content gives you an edge in link building because in those cases it’s reaching a targeted audience that will be compelled to share your page by linking to it from their site.


However, link attraction often requires patience.  Yes, most likely you will receive some links immediately from your promotion efforts, but we have seen content receive new links years after it was originally published.  Think about it, people will not always be ready to link to your content when you want them to, instead they link to it when it suites their purposes. So be patient, the links will come.

Link attraction plays a key role in making a link request, too. You won’t attract a link without providing some kind of value to the site that you want to link to you. The right way to request a link is to research bloggers (or webmasters) that are writing on topics in your industry. If your content can respond to the issues they address in their content, you can offer up your page as a solution. A link request (I just linked to a 5 year old post) that is targeted and customized will answer the question, “Why should I?” before the webmaster or blogger has a chance to ask.

The way I look at it, the right kind of link building is all centered on creating excellent, quality content that has inherent value to the person linking to it (and their audience). The industry term for this kind of content is “linkworthy.” I like to think of link building as a rewards program for your content. Do it right, and you’ll get rewarded with relevant, traffic driving links to your content. High quality links are the right way — and the best way — to make your content rise in search engine rankings.

A significant part of content marketing involves achieving these links. Link building has traditionally meant that you reach out to a website and ask them to link to you. Part of link acquisition today has included paying for links because website owners understand the value of having links. But this often leads to bad practices and low-quality links. In fact, Google will penalize websites that both sell and buy links. The best alternative to paying for a link is generating linkworthy content.

Think about it. If I contact you and ask you to link to my web page, the first thing you’re going to think in the back of your head is, well, why should I? Compelling, relevant content already answers that question. If my content adds value to the audience of the website I’m reaching out to, then it will benefit the website by enhancing the content on its page and, ultimately, the experience for its visitors. The content stands out as interesting to their audience so they should be willing to link to it.

Top-notch content makes the strongest case for getting natural links, that is, links from genuinely interested website owners or editors. Linkworthy content generally gets more links from a variety of different sources, which is enormously valuable to your rankings and overall success. And the traffic that those links generate typically attracts a better potential customer. Put the effort in at the content development stage to make your content rock, and the links will follow.

Have any great “link attraction” examples you would like to share?

Note: the above is excerpted from my book Accelerate! Grow Your Business Through the Convergence of Search, Social & Content Marketing. It is a 250 page, step-by-step guide that any organization can follow to kick their content marketing strategy into high gear. Buy your copy today!


  • josh bachynski Sep 29, 2011

    I’ve always been partial to viral video, movies, short advertisements, infographics, games, pics, blogs, podcast, etc. – going social with it, and watching the viral links propagate.

  • Duncan Sep 29, 2011

    I was wondering about this. I am curiously really how much money people are paying for a link from a High ranking website. I am sure the price varies but do u hv any idea what someone is paying for a link, from say, an average PR 4 or 5?

  • DM Cook Sep 29, 2011

    Fantastic overview of where linkbuilding fits in to the greater scheme. I liked the image too :)

    I’m not so sure that anchor text is such a big deal though. While it DEFINITELY helps to have your links be anchored with the right text, I’ve seen plenty of sites do fine simply by being linked in the “right kind” of places. Keyword ranking has a lot to do with the content of your actual site, too– don’t forget!

  • Arnie Kuenn Sep 30, 2011

    I agree with DM, I would not be so worried about anchor text any more. Google and Bing are much better at detecting the over use of anchor text these days. Natural links are always best.

  • Dave Sep 30, 2011

    Wow. I’m amazed at a couple of people who are pointing out that anchor text isn’t that big of a deal. While it is important to have varied anchor text in back links and on-site content has always been important, the anchor text is still the single greatest Google indicator.

  • PeteS_UK Oct 04, 2011

    A lot of people advocate gaining links by spinning and syndicating articles.

    I am not happy to follow that practice for the very reason that it is not natural and often proliferates poor content. Having said that the advocates say it works really well.

    How can a link attraction strategy really compete?

  • Ellie Kurz Oct 05, 2011

    It is just the creating of this great, link-worthy content that is so difficult…

  • Jon cooper Oct 05, 2011

    Awesome post, this got me thinking. I’m also a link building blogger, and I’m having trouble forcing the point of link attraction. There are so many great examples showing this stuff really works. Arnie, would vertical measures be interested in trying an experiment alongside my blog? My blog is point blank seo (see link on my name), and I’m going to try a link building challenge. I’m going to post great content, linking out to a lot of others, and doing zero outreach. This will show the value of not only great content, but also of linking out in terms of link attraction. Any other blogger out there can join if they’d like. What do you say? Also, my blog is down for the next 24-48 hours for server maintenance, so bear with me.

  • Arnie Kuenn Oct 06, 2011

    Hi Jon – not sure exactly what you are proposing VM or other bloggers are to do within your test. Can you provide more clarification and a link once your blog is live?

  • Jon cooper Oct 06, 2011


    Sorry I wasn’t as clear as I could of been, I’ll shoot VM an email instead of leaving a public comment. And my name should now link to my blog (pointblankseo.com).