Way back in the wild and wooly early days of digital marketing, before the SERPs were beset by marauding Pandas, Pigeons, and Penguins, linkbuilding was the "in" thing with SEO webmasters. From "linkwheels" to the black-hat link structures built on things like fake or adult domains, webmasters abused linkbuilding strategies to gain overnight rankings.
But Google didn't remain dumb for very long. In 2011, the first major Google Panda update cracked down upon thousands of websites who were built on faulty or negative link structures. Many sites lost out on huge revenue streams resulting from high ranking keywords overnight--just as quickly as they'd gained them.
The first reactions were of horror and terror, but people started realizing that with Panda, the Internet was getting better. Instead of link structures being the main foundation to build SEO value, Panda made it necessary for webmasters to shift focus to content. Now they had to post well-written, readable blogs and web content—optimized for the reader instead of the spider.
Let's look at why links are losing their value, and where you should be focusing your digital marketing efforts.
A Recent Link Building Study Tells All
Just recently, Moz published Skyrocket SEO’s Link Building Survey results for 2014. The survey encompasses the results of over 300 SEOs, all surveyed on questions about linkbuilding. According to Search Engine Land, the big question on everyone’s mind is just how are SEOs and agencies changing their link building strategies now and into next year?
It’s no secret that the penalties emanating from the Penguin algorithm and good old-fashioned manual actions have put a lot of us on edge. And Google’s recent additional algorithm updates caused a great majority of us to go on the defensive. It only appears logical that SEOs would be cutting their link budgets and focusing on other areas to avoid the possibility of a massive ranking hit due to penalties or a manual hand smack.
Google seems to be saying, “Folks, we want to see content over links. So, tread carefully when it comes to juicing links because if you misstep, we’ll force you to see why content is better.” Okay, so maybe we’re a little biased when it comes to investing in content over links. But here are the facts:
- According to Moz, although the ‘how’ to link building has evolved, the ‘why’ hasn’t changed. If your aim is to score big with decent organic search visibility, you need links. There’s no way around it.
- The latest Skyrocket SEO link building survey has revealed a “reclassification of the term ‘link building’.” Companies who previously spent over $10k per month on what they classified as a ‘link building budget’ are reclassifying and reallocating to content projects that still have an impact on link building efforts.
- According to the survey, the major trend now in force is for a harder push on content promotion and link building.
Managing Your Investments
The Skyrocket SEO survey brings to light one of the most viable and impactful facts for you as a business owner: link building continues to grow more expensive while more and more businesses realize the importance of content assets. Moz compared the 2013 survey results to those just in from 2014, and here’s a capture of what they discovered:
The winning formula for businesses is content plus outreach. In fact, a number of those surveyed felt paid links, article and web directories, forum profile links, and link wheels were all harmful to a site. As New Year’s Eve 2014 fell upon us, we all speculated that content would be the ultimate SEO and content marketing strategy. And we were spot on!
How to Invest In Quality SEO Content
One of the most important investments you will make as a business or brand is investing in high-quality content. Do not mistake this investment as the simplistic creation of the words your visitors will read because it encompasses far more than that. Almost anyone can write a standard landing page. But nearly no one can craft a search engine optimized, engaging, compelling, informative, and sharable landing page that incorporates links and stuns search spiders (in a good way)!
Quality content isn’t about a mere choice of words. It’s about crafting a work of art that impresses your audience while simultaneously impressing Google. It’s like a racecar—sexy to the eye and housing top-notch performance under the hood. It’s why content SHOULD replace links…and be the major and biggest investment of a website owner!
Let’s be honest; we all know why high-quality content is important. In fact, after reading this blog, you now know how and why it can boost your SEO and replace your ever-growing link building budget. The reasons for investing in quality content are visible, but how do you do it?
- Outsource: It’s one of the easiest ways to tackle quality content. Outsource to a proven and reputable service provider. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues who they rely on to fill their content needs.
- Educate: Knowledge is power. Regardless of whether you choose to outsource or in-house your content creation efforts, educate yourself about the different forms of content. Which ones will work best for you? How can you expand into multiple types of content to keep it fresh for your audience? Pro tip: A truly worthwhile service provider will be happy to be a resource.
- Invest Smartly: HubSpot hit the nail on the head in saying, “Everyone wants quality [content], but nobody wants to pay.” We’ll pay for link building because it’s a proven strategy, but we skimp on our content budget because…it’s just writing. But here’s the truth: cheap content is lousy content and lousy content is a waste of money. Invest in smart material with strong storytelling and interwoven SEO, and you will be investing smartly.
Once upon a time, keyword stuffing was the golden egg of SEO. Then, tactics like link building took over the story. Today, content has been crowned king, and the funny thing is the brands that have always pushed quality content have stayed the changing tides in stride. Isn’t it time you made the same smart investment?