Is Link Building Still Relevant in a SEO Strategy?

A decade ago, SEO was all about two things: keywords and links. Those in the website building and search engine optimization business were less concerned about quality content. Their strategy was to stuff as many keywords into the website and blog posts as possible – even if it didn’t improve the quality of the content (and, in fact, probably made it worse).

The other main tenant of SEO was linking. The idea was to get as many other websites as possible to link back to your site or blog post. SEO professionals would engage in serious link-building campaigns, offering to trade links with other companies in similar (and sometimes entirely different) industries.

But over the years, Google has gotten smarter. Its algorithm detects unnatural links and has cracked down on the old practice of link building and keyword stuffing. With every new Google update, the emphasis has been more on quality content. A blog post with 20 keywords and little reader value certainly won’t get Google’s attention and certainly won’t rank well in search.

So you may be wondering if link building is still relevant in an SEO strategy. The short answer is: absolutely. Links are an important part of your SEO efforts, but only when combined with quality content.

Research by Stone Temple Consulting on the relevancy of links shows that they are still incredibly powerful, but only when coupled with relevant content. Their studies find that links can’t “rescue poor quality content or cause low-relevance content to rank.”

Links should be part of your inbound marketing strategy. An inbound link (also known as a backlink) is akin to a “thumbs up.” It means another website found your content credible, interesting and relevant. Your content was worth sharing with a link on their own site.

An inbound link from a reputable, high-traffic website can definitely give your site a boost in terms of traffic and readership as well as search rankings.

How do you attract these inbound links? Quality and relevant content is the No. 1 way to improve your SEO.

Creating interesting content isn’t as hard as it sounds. Simply think about the topics that are most appealing to your audience. What problems can you solve for them? What information or perspective can only you provide? Those are great topics for your blog.

As an article from Forbes points out, good content follows some basic tenants: original, well-researched, engaging, thought-provoking, well-written and visually appealing. In a nutshell, would you want to read it?

Don’t just write one fabulous blog post. Post this great content regularly on your blog and then share it via your email newsletter and social media networks. If you want people to link to it, you need them to find it.

Also, make sure you return the favor. Link to other blog posts, articles and content in your own blog posts. It’s likely someone in your industry has written a terrific piece of content that’s worth sharing. Link to it. That author will get an alert of the backlink and if that person hasn’t been to your site before, you’ll attract a new visitor. They may even share your blog post or backlink to an article of yours at some point.

Just because of rules of link building have changed doesn’t mean you should drop it from your strategy. You simply have to refocus on building links with quality content rather than simply building links for the sake of building links.