We’ve talked about how content marketing is great for building brand awareness and thatit’s an idea often missed by marketing teams fixated on SEO. Yet SEO is still a part of thecontent marketing game because it is so useful for building backlinks.Getting other sites to link to your content is a fundamental part of SEO. But how do you getsites to do that? Good content marketing, knowing the value of your content, and makingthe right connections is what you need. Here’s how you can use content marketing for linkbuilding in your organization.

Linking Fundamentals

Why are links important for SEO? They are a signal to search engines about the value of your content. On-page SEO and technical SEO makes your pages understandable forsearch engines and shows that you’re putting forth effort, but that’s not enough to get agood ranking. It will get you on the right pages, but it is links that get you higher on thosepages. The number of links going to your pages from other sites, your link profile, is a measure ofyour authority. This is the fundamental key that gave Google’s founders the inspiration fortheir search engine. They measured the number of links, then weighed the value of eachlink based on the authority of the linking site. The final result is used to rank sites. Google now uses hundreds of signals to perform the task of ranking sites but links are stilla fundamental component of that process. It cannot be ignored. If someone gives you alink, that means that they trust your site enough to link their name with yours. It is a form ofsocial proof that stands on its own on the web.It’s so powerful that some businesses do things to try to game the system. For instance,they may try to buy links on other sites to raise their profile. They might also buy additionalsites and create links back to their main site to try and create the illusion of value. Googlehas been wise to these kinds of tactics for years now. Playing link games like this is a sureway to get your site delisted from Google. This can kill a business and it can take monthsor even years to jump through Google’s hoops to get relisted. You have to earn your links. The way to do that is to give other sites something useful orvaluable for their sites. A great way to do that is to offer content to sites with good linkprofiles. In exchange for giving them some content, the other site then adds a link back toyour site in the post. This is called guest posting and it’s a common tactic for building a linkprofile. Yes, you could write content so good that others will love to link to you. But that doesn’t put the court in your favor. It puts your link profile at the mercy of the opinion of others. Pursuing backlinks by offering good content to others lets you build your link profile onyour terms.

Start With Good Content

So what makes good content for a guest post? It comes down to value and relevance.A guest post needs to be strong enough that other sites will see it as valuable. You don’t have to give your best content out, but you can’t give them trash either. Ideally, you wantsomething so valuable that you’d want to link to it yourself afterward. Relevance is the second factor. The other site has their own audience and content needs.You can write a great article and have it get rejected because it doesn’t meet those needs.The easy way to make an article relevant is to agree beforehand on which topic you’ll writeabout. While it is possible to shop an article with different sites, agreeing on a topicbeforehand will keep things simple. The guest site might have writing requirements you’ll need to stick to, like length, thenumber of required links, and requests for biography or photos. It’s up to you to decidewhich requirements are reasonable, but it needs to have a link back to your site somehowif you’re trying to build SEO. The link can be in the body of the article or the biography, butit has to be visible to the search engine. Some sites do not want to add SEO benefits to the sites they link. One instance might bebecause they’re linking to a competitor’s site. They can set an attribute on a link called“nofollow” to tell search engines to ignore that link for ranking purposes. If you want yourlink to count, this must not be on the link! Here’s an infographic about nofollow and why itis used.

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Finding Sites To Approach

How do you find sites to approach for guest posting? You don’t want your content to go tojust any site. Remember, Google weighs the value of a backlink based on that site’sexisting authority. If you’re an established brand and you get a backlink from a low-valuesite, you might be helping them out more than they help you.There are two techniques that we recommend to find sites to approach. The first is to lookat your competitor’s backlink profiles. Take the ones who rank near or above you and runthem through a backlink analyzer. There are several free tools to do this. Just search for“backlink analyzer”.The sites that your competition is already linking to are gold. Why? First, it means the sitesare accepting content in your niche. That takes care of the relevance problem. Second, ifyour competition is linking to those sites and they’re above you, then it may be a site thathas a lot of authority. Quality and quantity both play a role in backlinking profiles, but webelieve that a few quality backlinks are better than a lot of poor-quality backlinks. It’s worththe effort to court sites with greater authority. Also, as a bonus, these tools can tell you how much work you need to do to improve yourbacklink profile. If you have a similar backlink profile to your nearest competitor, you maynot need to do much to push yourself up a rank. You can also check that competitor’s on-page and technical SEO to see if that might be the difference. On the other hand, if you’relagging behind them then you need to pick up the pace on your link building efforts.

Connect And Offer Content

Once you’ve identified sites, you need to make a connection with them. Contact the ownerof a site and ask if they’re accepting guest posts and what their guidelines are. Be friendly.You’re offering them a piece of good content in exchange for helping your SEO. Done well,this is a win-win. You know how hard it is to write good content regularly. A guest postoffer can give a website owner a break!But what if your competition has backlinks to major news sites? News sites have some ofthe highest levels of authority on the web. If you can get a positive report, that’s a suresign you’re getting noticed. So how do you do this?You have to prove you’re an expert. Here’s one way to do that. There is a site called HelpA Reporter where experts can volunteer to be contacted by reporters to help out withstories. Most of the time they’re looking for quotes about something. A good overview ofthe process can be found here.If reporters know they can reach out to you as an expert on a topic, they’re more inclinedto accept things like press releases from your company, which is the usual way to getnoticed by the media. It’s still the same concept. You’re giving value to a reporter and, inexchange, they talk about you on a major platform. Even if they don’t give you a link, themention will help and, over time, your PR team can get a number of reporters to work withfor future promotional efforts.

It Takes Time

Link building takes time. Search engines have to notice the new link and recalculaterankings. It’s not an automatic adjustment. Plus, since so much of SEO is a black box,there’s no way to point to a particular link and say it changed your ranks by so much.Your rank on a results page is a lagging indicator. We recommend measuring your ranksmonthly to let the search engines catch up to your efforts. Finally, even if your link profile is great, offering content to other sites increases brandawareness and situates you as a trusted name in the field. If you’re getting recognition asa growing brand, it’s worth putting a writer or two on the task of creating content forbacklinks to keep the momentum going.