It’s an age-old debate among internet marketers and everyone has a different opinion: How much weight does Google place in content and link building? The simple — and true — answer is that they both matter. Even Matt Cutts of Google says that it’s a trade-off and you wouldn’t want to focus exclusively on one or the other.
But if you’re a storage operator hoping to improve your brand recognition and online visibility, chances are you don’t have devoted content or link building teams to take care of these projects for you. So, if you had to choose between creating regular content or building solid links back to your site, which one will Google be more likely to reward? Let’s find out.
Google uses two major factors to determine how your website appears in search results:
Your perceived authority or your credibility in your industry. Google wants to know that you have the answers your customers are looking for.
Your perceived topicality or your relevance to your customers. Google wants to know that you’re engaging in the conversations that matter to your customers.
Both content and links can play into these factors. For instance, by earning great links to your website from reputable, industry-related sites, Google is more likely to believe that the web finds you to be a helpful resource. Earning a link from a moving company, your local chamber of commerce, or (one of the best links of all) a college’s .edu website establishes your authority. Otherwise, why would these websites want to send users your way?
Let’s look at another example. If you were to write a blog post on a highly searched term that attracted tons of interested readers who then spent time looking around your site, Google is more likely to believe that your content is on a relevant topic rather than outdated and off-putting to your customers.
Without content there’s nothing for other sites to link to; without link building there are users who may never find your content. Both are important. In an ideal world, you’d have time, money, and energy to do both well.
There are a few ways to earn links that signal your authority to Google. You can establish relationships with webmasters, editors, and PR strategists to find out what they’re looking for and try to fill that hole for them through your website’s content. Oftentimes going this route will require some content creation on your part, whether you write a guest post or simply contribute quotes and your expertise.
Link building can also be done naturally. If you write a piece of content that another website finds appealing, authoritative, and relevant, they may link to it on their site or within a blog post, thereby sending their users your way and giving your site some link juice.
When you link build correctly, or if you hit a stroke of luck, the payoff can be great. Your domain authority, one of the many numbers Google uses to determine your rankings, can increase. Other sites will then be more likely to link to you after seeing that you’re receiving links from other reputable sites.
The problem is that link building often takes many, many hours of work and organization. On top of that, you generally have to provide something that other sites want, so you likely won’t avoid writing content by focusing on link building. While link building is a worthwhile cause and definitely something to dig into, keep in mind that there are entire companies dedicated to link building for other businesses. Unless you’ve got a team, a plan, or a knack for link building, the sheer amount of effort it takes to succeed may be enough reason to focus on content instead.
There are many reasons to focus on link building and time and effort shouldn’t necessarily deter you from giving it a shot. But if our focus is to determine whether you should exert your efforts generating content or building links, there are some important points that are hard to ignore:
You’ll notice in my blog posts that I link to other articles around the web that support my points or provide further reading. It’s a common practice to provide additional resources or present credibility for your users when you write a piece of content. Though this step doesn’t typically require any work from the site earning the link, it’s a natural way for them to receive some link juice to their website. How do writers choose where to link? They look for good-looking sites with authoritative, relevant, and valuable content.
If you were to spend some time crafting content like that, there’s a chance someone else could find your content when they’re researching and decide to link to it. This process is natural link building and, apart from actually generating the content, takes no effort on your end.
Great content can naturally lead to links. But links don’t necessarily lead to great content. Since most link building involves some sort of content, focusing on link building without a foundation of good content could hurt you in the long run. Not to mention, Google is getting better at tweaking their algorithm to show the absolute, most relevant content to their users. If you spend your time writing great content, even if it doesn’t lead to links for months or years, you could reap the benefits the next time Google pushes out an update that rewards content and penalizes short-term schemes.
Link building is all about relationships. And as you know in both your personal and professional life, oftentimes relationships are good — but sometimes they aren’t. The typical process for link building involves you reaching out to several companies, making a pitch for why you’re someone worth working with, and coordinating with them from there to get the link you’re looking for.
A lot can go wrong in that timeline. Even if you do everything right on your part and create the content or resource the site is looking for, all while following their parameters and meeting their deadline, it isn’t until they actually get around to linking to you that you can reap the rewards of your labor.
Content, on the other hand, is usually in your own hands. You can play it by ear and post something whenever you’ve got some free time, or you can go all out and make an editorial calendar that you can share with others so they know when to expect new content from you. Either way, the bulk of the process is something you have control over, which is something to keep in mind if you have limited time to go back and forth with a company that may or may not follow through on your initial agreement in a timely manner.
One of the most important reasons to make sure you’re providing great content is that it can help your customers. Whether it’s with helpful pages on your website, blog posts covering storage-related topics, or even interactions you have with your customers on social media, the content you produce can help them find answers and view your facility as a trustworthy business.
Time and time again Google proves that it cares most about you helping your customers. And while link building can inadvertently help your customers if it leads them to a resource that you’ve provided, a bare link to your site isn’t as helpful if there isn’t some useful content behind it.
Think about how you would like a business to treat you. If they could choose between ignoring your needs to potentially earn more business or proactively provide the resources you’re looking for, which would you prefer? Don’t be the business that throws your customers under the bus for the chance at a slight bump in rankings. Focus first on your users and what they’re looking for. Once you’ve taken care of that step, then you can think about promoting yourself.
Of course I wouldn’t recommend that you ignore link building entirely. I even wrote a blog post providing some link building tips for getting started. Your business’ visibility is important, and a large part of that success involves getting links to your site.
However, your efforts are probably better spent creating content that’s useful and interesting for your customers. As for specific recommendations, I’d say that you should take care of the following before rigorously chasing after links:
Audit your website for any poor-quality content and missing content needs. Add pages to address specific questions you know users will have and think about what your customers would want to see when they find you online.
Get involved in the conversation wherever your customers are. An obvious target is social media, but there can be other places, too. Find where your target audience is and contribute content that’s meaningful to them.
Consider posting regular articles to your facility blog. You can do it yourself or you can hire someone to do it for you. No matter which route you take, blog writing doesn’t have to be scary. Plus, it can encourage your customers to return to your site and show Google that you’re regularly contributing to the knowledge pool.
If you really want to challenge yourself and try to benefit from both great links and great content, try pitching each piece of content to one new source. If you write a blog or press release with the intention of sharing it on your site, try reaching out to a related site to see if they’d be interested in posting it (with a link to your storage facility’s site, of course).
The worst that will happen is they won’t answer, and then you have a great piece of content you can post on your own site. As you consider dabbling in the world of link building, create content that could attract new leads, make your current customers happier, and potentially boost your rankings in Google’s search.
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