The Real Truth About Content & Links: No Nonsense SEO! “Content is king, and you should only focus on publishing high quality content that other websites will want to link to.” – SEO gurus. “Links are the most important ranking factor and nothing else matters. The big players buy authority links to rank because that’s how you truly shoot up in the SERPs.” – SEOs that know what the f#ck they are doing. The content vs links debate is one of the most talked about in the SEO world. There are arguments about it every day on SEO forums and blogs. If you have been an avid reader of my blog for some time, you know that I am 100% no BS and tell it like it is. I’m also very vocal about how links are still king, but I don’t discredit content. In fact, it was content marketing that helped me scale my agency to seven-figures. I’m just tired of some SEOs attempting to blow smoke up the backside by saying content alone will rank a website. That approach will result in a bunch of blog posts that won’t be read by anyone but your employees and family members. Let’s get real about SEO and cut the sh#t… You need to publish content on your website to give visitors something to engage with. You can’t expect them to immediately buy whatever it is you are selling. It takes multiple interactions with your company before they pull out their wallet. But, in order to get them to your website you need to rank in the SERPs for relevant keywords. You accomplish this by building authority links to your website. No matter what the gurus or Google employees say, links are the biggest ranking signal. They always have been and they always will be. The recent article about Google ignoring authority links for the circle jerk crew like this one are laughable at best. The people that virtually blow Google’s d$ck – Gary Ilyes and Barry Schwartz are clueless. They are such bullshitters. Oh, Google can ignore links from the most trust worthy sites on the planet? Ok. Sure. Let me break it down to you and explain how this game REALLY works.. The TRUTH: Why Content is Important Ok, so all the SEO gurus claim that content is important, and it is, but they aren’t shooting straight with their reasoning. They suggest that if you publish compelling content then relevant websites will link to it and you will see quality links filling up your profile. Yes, it can happen, but you need eyeballs to see your content before that can happen. Simply pushing the “publish” button won’t do anything. You could write an epic blog post and then throw $1,000 in Facebook promotion behind it to drive traffic, but the odds of scoring authority links are very rare. You can collect emails and make sales, yes, but the probability of receiving a natural link from Forbes or Inc. this way is rare. It’s important because it gives your website some “meat” and something for visitors to engage with. Also, it helps when buying links. A writer or editor is more likely to link to a website that has good content over a thin website. Does Content Truly Provide “Value”? Value in terms of allowing you to provide information to your website visitors, yes. Value in terms of attracting natural links? Yes, to a degree, but you have to be realistic. Let’s assume you are a local law firm in Los Angeles and you publish a blog post about the importance of having an estate will. That’s a great piece of information, and local Los Angeles people looking for information on estate wills would find it interesting. But, would it be interesting enough to secure a link and mention from Forbes or Inc.? Not naturally, that’s for sure. But, break out the wallet and someone there will get creative and write a piece of content around it, giving you one of the most desirable links out there. There is a massive confusion when it comes to the “value” of content. There is plenty of value, but not in the sense that the SEO gurus speak of. Let Content Work for You (While You Also Build Links) Let your content do work while you build links. What do I mean? As you build links on authority websites you are going to start to receive a much larger amount of referral traffic. A single link on a site like Forbes can send thousands of curious visitors to your website a day. So, in an attempt to convert some of that traffic to email subscribers or customers, you need content that has very strong calls-to-action. The initial quality of the content will pull the reader in, and it allows you to showcase your products or service, while also providing information that will be seen as valuable. At the end of the content you need to incorporate a call-to-action to convert that reader into something of value to your business. That is the true power of content. You Need Authority Links (But You Also Need Content to Justify These Links) My agency sells links and I don’t hide that fact at all. We sell a lot of them, to large companies and we are also the behind the scenes source for some of the largest SEO agencies and PR firms in the world. Everyone knows the power of authority links, but not everyone is prepared to be in a position to secure them, even if they have the money. Money is just half of it. Forbes isn’t going to link to a landing page selling a fat burning pill. But, if the website is built out with quality content, it would be possible to get a link from Forbes about an article that talks about how to fit working out into your daily schedule. Publishing quality content on your blog allows you to buy authority links. You could have an unlimited budget to buy links, but a thin website with no value and you won’t score any links. Authority Links Build Brand Awareness Also Look at some of the most successful SaaS companies or SEO tools. You will more than likely see a section on their website that says, “As Seen On,” listing all of the prominent media placements they have secured. Authority links help you build instant brand awareness and social proof. If you are a new startup and your potential customers see that Forbes and Inc. wrote about you, it creates instant credibility and trust. Think of authority links like stepping blocks. Once you build a foundation, it allows you to secure more easily and keep scaling that branding and awareness. If we are pitching a client to a writer as Fast Company and they visit the website and see the company has already been featured on Forbes and Inc. it makes the “selling” much easier because in their head, they see the company as being trustworthy. Why Build Quality Links? I don’t shy away from saying how links manipulate the SERPs, but there are other benefits to focusing on authority links over mass-links from other strategies. The days of link packages are over. If you are buying blog comment links and 40,000 Scrapebox link blasts you are in trouble. I always suggest buying authority links over anything else, and not just for the SERP boost. Here are several other reasons why these links should be your main focus: Authority & Exposure: It’s no secret that being featured by a website such as Forbes or Huffington Post carries a lot of bragging rights to it, which is sometimes just as valuable, if not more, than the SEO benefits. While the majority of our clients are buying links to push them up in the SERPs we occasionally have clients that come to us simply because they want to be able to brag about being on Forbes. They use this in their marketing as leverage. We have some clients that only run paid media through Facebook and AdWords and they want to get featured on authority sites so they can use it as visual authority in the ads. SO, build links for the SEO boost, but also to make your company more appealing. Quality Over Quantity: Authority links allow you to have a much simpler SEO strategy. It’s possible to rank a brand new website with just a handful of authority links, making it much easier to map out a successful SEO strategy. Back in the day, SEO agencies were just firing a bunch of link packages at websites, hoping to crack the algorithm. I promise you that a handful of authority links can rank a website. A dozen strong links will outperform a link profile that consists of 2,000 “diverse” links. It comes down to the authority. Google will weigh the authority links heavily, convincing their algorithm that your website is a trustworthy source of information. When your on-site optimization is strong with meaty content, you will rank with a small handful of the right links. Brand Reputation: Why do you think that authority links are a hot commodity in the reputation management world? Because content on these websites rank high in the SERPs. If someone has a lot of bad press, authority websites can be used to fill the first page with interviews and mentions by Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, etc. Building authority links also acts as a safety net down the road. As your business grows, you are going to have people write negative stuff about your company, even if it isn’t warranted. You will never please everyone and if you pack the SERP results with your own social profiles and mentions on mega sites like Forbes, it will keep any future negative information off the first page. Referral Traffic: Referral traffic is a by-product of securing links on authority websites. Websites like Huffington Post, Forbes and Inc. receive millions of visitors a day, and they are reading the content that your link is created around. If done right, you will see a lot of the readers click over to see what the link is referencing. Most people want links for SEO, but guess what? You can drive sales and make money just on the referral traffic alone. Even if a link from Forbes gave ZERO SEO benefit, it would still be worth getting, for the referral traffic alone. When you start to expand your thinking to really understand how link work, you will make better decisions and focus only on authority links. Generic Authority Anchor Text + Solid On-Site Optimization = Rankings: Exact match anchor text is one of the quickest ways to get your website slapped by Google. Want to know how to get around this and rank without spammy exact match anchors? Build authority links with random anchors. Examples: “Click here” or “as seen on this website” work well. If you create webpages that are properly optimized on-site, a handful of authority links can make it rank, without any exact match anchor text. This is another reason content is important. Google loves meaty content, so work in your keyword throughout a 2,000 word blog post, using several long-tail variations and then aim some juicy links at the page. Anchor text won’t get you penalized because it’s generic and it will still pass the authority and juice to push your page up in the SERPs. Search Engines LOVE Authority Websites Type in a question into Google, like “What is the best online invoicing tool” and look what pops up: The very first organic result comes from Entrepreneur.com. Why? Because Google views this as an authority source that is more trustworthy than other options out there. Out of 25,200,000 results, Google has ranked this article as the most informative and helpful. The more websites like this that link to you, the more authority Google will assign to your website. While on the topic of authority, don’t get stuck on Moz’s Domain Authority. Sure, you can use it as a guide, but it’s a third party metric and Google has ZERO input, nor do they use Moz’s data in any capacity. Final Thoughts Stop believing the bullshit that is constantly spewed within the SEO industry. I can promise you that the same SEO gurus that say all you need to do is publish content for links to come in are the same people behind the scenes orchestrating link selling operations. They know that authority links are the key to ranking, but they don’t have the guts to admit it. Most are spineless and have no problem lying to their followers. You need a mix of content and links, as I described above. While they work together, it’s important that you understand how each truly works. This will allow you to build an SEO strategy that will get you results in the SERPs and not just a blog packed with content and no traffic. If you have any questions about content marketing or link building, drop them in the comments below and I will do my best to help clear anything up. Thanks for reading, and if you appreciate my no BS approach, please give this post a share on social media.