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What Is The Role Of Content In Link Building?

In this article, we’re going to talk about the role of content in link building.

The reason why I want to explore this, is because content and link building are inseparable. And while many get this in theory, they don’t put it into practice.

Let me paint a picture for you that I see time and time again. People will often start with keyword research. They’ll research subtopics and create content hubs because structure is important.

They’ll hit the publish button and then be like… “Oh yeah, we’re going to need links to rank for these topics.”

Then they look at who’s linking to the top- ranking pages for their main topics. Then they export backlink profiles, filter prospects by metrics, and then do some sort of shotgun approach where they send a billion emails hoping for a 0.5% link acquisition rate.

Then to excuse themselves from blatantly spamming the population of a small town, they say… “Link building is a numbers game. You just have keep on sending those emails.”

Assuming you’re not paying for links or doing link exchanges at scale, your content should dictate your outreach pitches.

Your content is actually what gives you a good reason to contact someone and ask for a link. It sets context for your first conversation around a common interest or belief. A quick disclaimer: “I’m not saying that link building is not a numbers game.”

But I don’t think we should be bragging about 0.5% link acquisition rates because it doesn’t have to be this painful or spammy. And I’m not saying that paying for links or doing link exchanges are ineffective.

These are just against Google’s terms of service and we don’t practice that at Search-pilot. Plus, on a personal note, the harder link building gets, the more I love the game.

Alright, now let’s dig a bit deeper into the content aspect. Your content type matters in terms of success rates. As a very general rule of thumb, informational content like:

  • How-tos,
  • Tutorials and
  • Data studies

are going to be easier to get links to than:

  • Product pages like
  • Affiliate posts, or
  • Anything commercial for that matter.

Because there are a lot more opportunities to bake  “value” into informational content. And again, “value” should be tied to your pitch angles.

Whereas commercial content is tougher to insert  value, specifically for things like product pages, where the only real beneficiary of “value” is the recipient of the link.

Because this is only meant to be a foundational lesson, I won’t expand on baking value into informational content right now, that’s because, we need to understand:

Actually, seeing as a link is essentially an author sharing information through their website with web visitors, it’s easiest if we ask ourselves… “why do people share the things they share?”

So as an example, a friend might share the latest news article or recipe because they recently had a conversation about it. Parents share things with kids to sometimes pass down nuggets of wisdom.

Kids often share things with parents seeking wisdom or expressing a complaint.

In all of these examples, there’s a relationship.  If we put this in the context of link building, why does an author share another person’s page via, a hyperlink with their readers who are mostly anonymous strangers? And while there’s no set list of reasons, here are some common ones.

1. They link to pages to reference or support their point

Statistics are probably the most common. For example, if we look at the anchors report for our SEO statistics page, you’ll see that nearly all of our links are a result of specific stats that were mentioned.

backlink anchor report

2. They reference something they don’t need or want to expand on.

When writing about a broad topic there’s no point in expanding much about it, because it’s easier to direct readers to a place where they can learn more if they want to.

3. It makes them look good

People often link to things like high profile mentions because it helps them build credibility and social proof  with visitors.

Creating pages that mention and portray a person or company in a positive way is a link Building tactic on its own, often referred to as ego bait.

Basically, SEOs create contents where they mention influential people which often “baits” people into linking to them.

It doesn’t always work for mega lists, but it has worked exceptionally well for Inc’s list of the Inc 5000.

Inc. Magazine publishes a list of the top 5000 most successful companies in the US annually.

And as a result, they earn hundreds or even thousands of links every single year.

Inc. backlink profile

If you take a close look at the backlink for their 2021 list, you will find out that tons of those backlinks are from “homepages”, where companies are showing off their awards.

4. There is a relationship whether it’s explicit or implicit.

Implicit relationships are usually content super fans. And while it’s tough to build a content fan base, they’re super effective in link building, because they trust what’s written on a site without a shadow of a doubt.

When they guest post, they frequently link to you, when they go on podcast interviews, they frequently mention your content which often gets linked to in show notes.

Explicit relationships on the other hand are your online friends who you talk shop with. And what often creates these professional relationships is respect and admiration for each other’s work.

As a result, you want to link to each others’ content whether that’s on your own site or on other people’s sites.

This is one of the most powerful link building advantages you can have because the bottom-line is that you want to help each other succeed.

A few commonalities with most of these reasons are:
  1. People link to things to prove That they’re not making stuff up
  2. They link to things to add credibility to themselves or their companies, or
  3. They link to things they trust.

These are 3 main things you need to consider when you’re reaching out for links.

Because if you go in with your own agenda to satisfy your needs and only your needs, then your intentions will be quite clear and your chances of getting a link without paying for it, will be very slim.

This might seem all meta and unfortunately, knowing why people link usually won’t be enough to get you links. It’s just foundational for your outreach pitches. And this list is far from exhaustive.

You need to dig into the data and the best place to start is by analyzing how similar pages got their links. Because by understanding “how similar pages got their links” you’ll be able to understand “why similar pages got their links” which also helps to form your angles of attack for your link outreach pitches.

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