We’ve talked about how content marketing is great for building brand awareness and that
it’s an idea often missed by marketing teams fixated on SEO. Yet SEO is still a part of the
content marketing game because it is so useful for building backlinks.
Getting other sites to link to your content is a fundamental part of SEO. But how do you get
sites to do that? Good content marketing, knowing the value of your content, and making
the right connections is what you need. Here’s how you can use content marketing for link
building in your organization.
Why are links important for SEO? They are a signal to search engines about the value of
your content. On-page SEO and technical SEO makes your pages understandable for
search engines and shows that you’re putting forth effort, but that’s not enough to get a
good ranking. It will get you on the right pages, but it is links that get you higher on those
The number of links going to your pages from other sites, your link profile, is a measure of
your authority. This is the fundamental key that gave Google’s founders the inspiration for
their search engine. They measured the number of links, then weighed the value of each
link based on the authority of the linking site. The final result is used to rank sites.
Google now uses hundreds of signals to perform the task of ranking sites but links are still
a fundamental component of that process. It cannot be ignored. If someone gives you a
link, that means that they trust your site enough to link their name with yours. It is a form of
social proof that stands on its own on the web.
It’s so powerful that some businesses do things to try to game the system. For instance,
they may try to buy links on other sites to raise their profile. They might also buy additional
sites and create links back to their main site to try and create the illusion of value. Google
has been wise to these kinds of tactics for years now. Playing link games like this is a sure
way to get your site delisted from Google. This can kill a business and it can take months
or even years to jump through Google’s hoops to get relisted.
You have to earn your links. The way to do that is to give other sites something useful or
valuable for their sites. A great way to do that is to offer content to sites with good link
profiles. In exchange for giving them some content, the other site then adds a link back to
your site in the post. This is called guest posting and it’s a common tactic for building a link
Yes, you could write content so good that others will love to link to you. But that doesn’t
put the court in your favor. It puts your link profile at the mercy of the opinion of others.
Pursuing backlinks by offering good content to others lets you build your link profile on
Start With Good Content
So what makes good content for a guest post? It comes down to value and relevance.
A guest post needs to be strong enough that other sites will see it as valuable. You don’t
have to give your best content out, but you can’t give them trash either. Ideally, you want
something so valuable that you’d want to link to it yourself afterward.
Relevance is the second factor. The other site has their own audience and content needs.
You can write a great article and have it get rejected because it doesn’t meet those needs.
The easy way to make an article relevant is to agree beforehand on which topic you’ll write
about. While it is possible to shop an article with different sites, agreeing on a topic
beforehand will keep things simple.
The guest site might have writing requirements you’ll need to stick to, like length, the
number of required links, and requests for biography or photos. It’s up to you to decide
which requirements are reasonable, but it needs to have a link back to your site somehow
if you’re trying to build SEO. The link can be in the body of the article or the biography, but
it has to be visible to the search engine.
Some sites do not want to add SEO benefits to the sites they link. One instance might be
because they’re linking to a competitor’s site. They can set an attribute on a link called
“nofollow” to tell search engines to ignore that link for ranking purposes. If you want your
link to count, this must not be on the link! Here’s an infographic about nofollow and why it
Finding Sites To Approach
How do you find sites to approach for guest posting? You don’t want your content to go to
just any site. Remember, Google weighs the value of a backlink based on that site’s
existing authority. If you’re an established brand and you get a backlink from a low-value
site, you might be helping them out more than they help you.
There are two techniques that we recommend to find sites to approach. The first is to look
at your competitor’s backlink profiles. Take the ones who rank near or above you and run
them through a backlink analyzer. There are several free tools to do this. Just search for
The sites that your competition is already linking to are gold. Why? First, it means the sites
are accepting content in your niche. That takes care of the relevance problem. Second, if
your competition is linking to those sites and they’re above you, then it may be a site that
has a lot of authority. Quality and quantity both play a role in backlinking profiles, but we
believe that a few quality backlinks are better than a lot of poor-quality backlinks. It’s worth
the effort to court sites with greater authority.
Also, as a bonus, these tools can tell you how much work you need to do to improve your
backlink profile. If you have a similar backlink profile to your nearest competitor, you may
not need to do much to push yourself up a rank. You can also check that competitor’s on-
page and technical SEO to see if that might be the difference. On the other hand, if you’re
lagging behind them then you need to pick up the pace on your link building efforts.
Connect And Offer Content
Once you’ve identified sites, you need to make a connection with them. Contact the owner
of a site and ask if they’re accepting guest posts and what their guidelines are. Be friendly.
You’re offering them a piece of good content in exchange for helping your SEO. Done well,
this is a win-win. You know how hard it is to write good content regularly. A guest post
offer can give a website owner a break!
But what if your competition has backlinks to major news sites? News sites have some of
the highest levels of authority on the web. If you can get a positive report, that’s a sure
sign you’re getting noticed. So how do you do this?
You have to prove you’re an expert. Here’s one way to do that. There is a site called Help
A Reporter where experts can volunteer to be contacted by reporters to help out with
stories. Most of the time they’re looking for quotes about something. A good overview of
the process can be found here.
If reporters know they can reach out to you as an expert on a topic, they’re more inclined
to accept things like press releases from your company, which is the usual way to get
noticed by the media. It’s still the same concept. You’re giving value to a reporter and, in
exchange, they talk about you on a major platform. Even if they don’t give you a link, the
mention will help and, over time, your PR team can get a number of reporters to work with
for future promotional efforts.
It Takes Time
Link building takes time. Search engines have to notice the new link and recalculate
rankings. It’s not an automatic adjustment. Plus, since so much of SEO is a black box,
there’s no way to point to a particular link and say it changed your ranks by so much.
Your rank on a results page is a lagging indicator. We recommend measuring your ranks
monthly to let the search engines catch up to your efforts.
Finally, even if your link profile is great, offering content to other sites increases brand
awareness and situates you as a trusted name in the field. If you’re getting recognition as
a growing brand, it’s worth putting a writer or two on the task of creating content for
backlinks to keep the momentum going.