Understanding the Relationship Between Links and Content


Shweiki Media Printing Company teams up with expert Alicia Lawrence, the Content Coordinator for WebpageFX, to present a webinar on the relationship between links and content.

Google has always been sensitive regarding their ranking algorithm. However, in March during a Q&A with Andrey Lipattsev, a search quality senior strategist at Google revealed the top two ranking factors —links and content.  Of course, for those in SEO, this is really just confirming what we already knew based off of experience. That is not the case for most business owners and marketers so I want to break down the relationship between links and content and what you need to know about using these two tactics to successfully rank in the search results.

Inbound Links

When talking to clients, I often get asked about the importance of links and content and what their budget should focus on. First, let’s talk about links.

An inbound link is when a site links to a page on your domain. However, not all links are good. Google sees a link to your site as a recommendation. For example, if the New York Times links to your site in one of their articles it would be equivalent to getting a recommendation from The President because the NY Times is a reputable site with a high domain authority. Domain authority (DA) is a metric by Moz that determines how how well the site ranks overall in the search engine. This metric can be viewed by downloading their Moz bar.

A link from a small town, new blogger with a domain authority of 30-40 is like a recommendation from a friend or teacher who has some influence. The more recommendations you can get, the better it looks to Google. However, if you have a link from a shady blog that turns out to be link farm ran by black-hat SEOs trying to game the system then it is a big red flag to Google. Shady, less desirable sites are referred to as “bad neighborhoods” because once you become associated with them, it is hard to get that stain off your reputation. Often SEOs approaching you who say they can build 30 quality links to your site for $500 are using links from bad neighborhoods. Any link worth having is going to cost a lot of money or work to get it.

Bad Neighborhood Links

There are ways to determine if a link comes from a bad neighborhood. There are two main areas to look at it in order to see if a site is good.

The first area you should check is the type of links found on the site linking to you. You can check this by clicking on the first few articles you see from the link. You are looking to see what type of links those are articles are linking out to. Google picks up on relevant link building so if they see a site doing irrelevant link building to spammy sales pages or pages with strong sales anchor text, then that will be a huge red flag to Google.

The second thing you should do to see if a site is spammy or not is plug the link URL into ahrefs.com. This site will tell you what kind of back links a site is getting from different IP networks.  We call them bad neighborhoods because a person will create 30-40 blogs and then link back to each other and try to build their domain authority. One example of a red flag is having 240 back links from one IP network.

Content Determines Domain Authority

While Google has hundreds of factors that play a part in their algorithm that helps them make this decision for the user, content is still extremely valuable in terms of a business site. Even if you are not a blog, magazine or newspaper, you are still a publisher when it comes to your website. In order to rank for keywords, you need to have content on your site that says you know about that topic, industry, product or service. Because there are so many sites on the web, Google needs a way to determine which ones would best fit the user’s query. Over the years, Google has found that having a lot of content usually means that the site is an expert because they know a lot about that topic. This does not mean you can post the same thing over and over again because Google has caught on and they punish duplicate content. Also, you must always remember to write for the reader, not just search engine robots. People want valuable, quality content that is easy to understand and comprehensive.

This presents a problem for smaller industries or companies that may think they have already exhausted everything they could talk about in regards to their product or service. If you have already written content on all the questions your potential consumers ask about, your product, company or industry then it is time to expand to peripheral topics.

Different Stages of Content 

There are different stages of content topics. Let’s say you are a college that offers cosmetology courses and have already written about the core topics or sales pages that have to do with your course on cosmetology and how to succeed as a cosmetologist. Next, we go to the second outer circle and cover niche topics that might not be your main sales keywords or have as much traffic but still are very relevant to what you do. The keywords you want are long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are usually three or more words such as ‘trends in cosmetology’ or ‘the evolution of lipstick.’  These topics are targeted at users who are either in cosmetology and therefore establishing your company as a thought leader in the industry or readers who may have an interest in cosmetology that have not yet taken the step to become a cosmetologist. Now it’s time to think about questions and scenarios where a cosmetology course could answer a problem but the person might not know that it could. For example, topics like ‘great jobs for moms’ or ‘second careers for teachers.’ Cosmetology may not be mentioned in those headlines or your keywords but you do mention cosmetology in the blog post as an option for those people to explore (and of course you link to your cosmetology program page for more info).

Ask yourself the question, “What problem does my product or service solve?” Write an article all about that problem and try to rank for the terms and questions that people with that problem type into Google. To learn more about the process to finding these types of topics and keywords, check out this post I wrote on SEMrush about The Stepping Stone Process.

If want you to succeed on the web, it is important to not stop creating content after you finish your core pages. Explore the topics in the outer two circles to help give you content for users in all the various stages of the sales funnel and not just when they are ready to buy.

Content as Bridges

I like to think of content (guides, blog posts infographics or videos) as bridges from where the consumer is in the sales funnel to the bottom where they now are persuaded enough to buy your product. Some consumers who could be potential buyers are not anywhere near your website island and they are not even aware that it exists. Instead of waiting for them to discover your goods, you are going to reach them by creating content that appeals to them right now where they are. Sometimes this means creating bridges that lead to more bridges before the reader is ready and educated enough to make an informed decision that they need your product to solve their problem.

Not only do these types of topics help you reach customers who are just at the beginning of the buyer’s journey but it also gives your site something very important—it gives it a resource that people want to link to! In the end, you are not just creating content that appeals to your potential customers, you are also creating content that publishers would be interested in linking to.

Let’s look at a case study of one of these topics: “Why Are My Leaves Turning Yellow” infographic which was created for Safer Brand’s blog. After creating it we got bunch of traffic, 48 link backs which is huge and close to 39,000 social shares. It is all because we appealed to a broader audience and used long tail keywords to target those types of readers who are interested in why their leaves are turning yellow. What product does that sell? In the article, one of the problems is a pest problem and the company actually has an organic gardening pest solution. We were able to link back to that product and that page was converted to sales.

Now keep in mind, a big factor in seeing successful results like this requires promotion.

Therefore, when you plan your SEO, build out pages that hit potential customers at all stages in the buyers journey and then promote those pages to get links organically. Remember, the type of content that does well in getting organic links is those that provide valuable information that publishers would want to tell their readers about or is very shareable such as guides, how-tos, interviews, lists or infographics. Keep the publisher you want links from in mind when you create your content. You can even pre-pitch the idea to them to make sure they would be willing to use it once it goes live.

You can also purposely build relevant links to those pages to boost their rankings. The best way to do this is by guest blogging or becoming a contributor to relevant resource sites in your industry. In this case, you have a little more control over the anchor text and page you link to.

Links and content are very important, especially now that it has been confirmed that they are the top two ranking factors in Googles algorithm. However, do not neglect optimizing the rest of your site either.

If you have questions, you can email me at [email protected] or visit webpagefx.com for more info on how we can help you get more revenue from the web.


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Alicia Lawrence

Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Yahoo! Small Business, and Advanced Web Rankings.

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