How to Replace Link Building with Content Creation


These days the decade old “SEO is dead” meme gets frequent publicity again. Why is that? Google attempts to make SEO so hard that it’s better for most people to buy Google Adwords instead.

For those who still want to rank in organic search Google has also a use: they have to create free content for Google to monetize.

After all there needs to be something Google can wrap their ads around. So Google competes directly with SEO practicioners now for attention. They only way Google can profit from them is the content creation part.

Despite ads taking more and more screen real estate there are still some organic search results on Google. When it comes to the so called long tail of specific three, four or longer search queries these can be still profitable to dominate. Automated keyword fluffing (creating extra pages based on search queries people used for example) won’t suffice anymore though. One thing that Google obviously wants to kill off is link building without creating written content.


Google Needs Original Content While You Need Links

By now almost all built links have to use the nofollow attribute according to Google so that they’re worthless for SEO. It’s logical. Google doesn’t earn a cent from you building links to an empty site. They want your free content instead.

Google wants original written content they they can spider and index.

That’s why they hate press releases, widgets and infographics. They get reproduced all over the Web without giving Google something really new to index. The contrary is the case: Google has to tediously sort out the original sources and find the right site to rank for a given piece of content.

Google even attempts to fool webmasters by telling them that “great content” and “quality sites” are the main ranking factors while in reality they still rely on counting and assessing links.

The art of SEO today is to give Google the content they want without giving up on the links.

To make link building Google-compatible you need to replace it with content creation. In order to make content creation work for your site to improve its rankings you need to create content that gets links. “Just create great content and they will come” is a myth spread by Google.


Content Marketing vs Publishing

Some people in the SEO industry give up altogether and rebrand themselves as marketers of some kind. For example a lot of former SEOs claim they are doing content marketing now. What they often did until recently was mostly things like writing guest posts or creating infographics, two kinds of link building Google doesn’t like now and requires you to use nofollow on.

To succeed with Google SEO you need to become a publisher these days.

What’s the difference between simply publishing and content marketing? Well, in content marketing the content is just a tool to market something. In publishing the content creation is the purpose of the whole process.

In SEO you do publishing adapted to the needs of a special kind of readers, those who are able to spread the word about it and link to it. By linking to you these people make you succeed on Google and other search engines.

My advice is always to become as Google-independent as possible so don’t make the mistake of pleasing Google as your only strategy.

You need to rethink your SEO strategy by making it connect-centric despite this. In the short and middle term the goal is to get links through the content to rank on Google. The long term goal is to get and keep a faithful audience that will stay with you whether you rank on Google or not.

So how exactly can you replace old school link building or even transitional tactics like guest posting, blogger outreach or infographics with content creation to get organic links?


Hire writers with audiences

Let people write for you who got a following. That’s what I do for and my other blogging clients. I often get approached by companies with nascent blogs that do not have an audience yet. I have one on my blog and on social sites where even more people follow me.

So whenever I write for a publication nobody knows yet I make it credible by writing for them and by sharing the post.

There is no faster way to get people to listen to you. As there are many

  • bloggers
  • curators
  • social media power users

among my following this is directly leading to more shares and links.


Create evergreen content

Do not cover the latest big thing, but provide time tested resources instead. Most people new to blogging make the mistake of covering just the newsworthy stuff: breaking news, the latest social network or the newest gadgets. That doesn’t work in the long term. Nobody will link to it a few months later.

Evergreen content is often about timeless problem solving.

What’s evergreen? Topics like:

  1. How to be happy.
  2. How to find a partner.
  3. How to become healthy and fit.

These are timeless problems to solve. I often made the mistake myself. I covered the latest trends just to witness them fade soon. I often had to delete the articles altogether as they were misleading after a tool folded for example.


Foster onsite content

One problem of shortsighted content marketing for SEO is the issue of giving away content to place it elsewhere so that you get a link. Guest posting and infographics are good examples here. Even in case you display an infographic on your site it’s about the other sites that embed it. In case it ends up on Mashable and the likes you have reached your goal as a typical short-sighted SEO content marketer.

The problem is you are creating content off site, elsewhere on the Web.

Offsite content is even more of a problem with guest blogging. What you rather need is to create the content for yourself so that people link to you. You could even stop Google from indexing it as long as people link to it!

There are lot of old school onsite SEO content creation techniques to get links.

One of my favorite ones is to look up Q&A sites and related forums and find out what people are asking. Then it’s about answering on your site in a FAQ section for example and making people aware that there is a resource that provides a solution. You can simply answer the question on these Q&A sites or forums with a short summary and point to your site for further reading.


Encourage curation

Content curation gets coverage everywhere these days. It gets recommend as a way to provide your audience with daily updates without having to create everything itself. It’s sound advice.There are even tools by now that automate the process.

Curators are your ideal visitors when it comes to getting links with content.

To attract curators you can make your content easily curated by offering a summary of each post at the beginning and adding hashtags on social media like Twitter.


Do not make the blog the “content reservation”

Many business owners assume that they can move the content creation part to the blog. There a kind of “content reservation” gets established while their site itself remains still empty. They only employ the sales oriented copy there and show images of products. That doesn’t work.

You can’t send away everybody to read a separate blog and then miraculously expect that the site itself will get all of the credit too.

Of course, a blog can make people link to your static site too and the branding effect is not to be underestimated but you have to add content to your main site as well. Use the blog for spreading onsite an offsite content.

The blog is the interface between social sites and your not so social sales oriented site. It allows to convince and convert those yet undecided. A blog is mostly serving informational needs though. I can read your blog for years and still not buy your stuff or even know what you sell.

Create rock solid resources on you main site that get updated regularly. Announce the updates on your blog.


Combine text and visual content

This is not another Captain Obvious type of advice that you need to add images and videos to your content strategy. You do. That’s not the point. The point is the combination of both text and visuals. Many publishers seem to have the “either or” mindset.

Publishers will create a video or infographic and try to promote it as is, without an explanation, without a story, indeed without any meaningful text at all.

You have to add visuals to get the attention of people, you have to add text for Google to index. Also of course most people on the Web are in a hurry so they won’t view your whole 15 minutes video. They could skim through your text version though.

Why should someone link to a video or infographic on your site when they can link to YouTube or Daily Infographic instead?

Many bloggers have perfected the art of creating context for premium content. They get popular with a video or infographic they republish or embed while even high-profile content marketers like Red Bull get almost no social media love when publishing some of their own content on their own site.