Link Building Does Not Equal Content Marketing – But Here’s How They Fit Together

Link building has gone through a lot in the past 18 months — and when content marketing became the buzzword of the day, there were troves of articles saying that content marketing is the new link building or that content marketing has replaced link building. That couldn’t be more false. Content marketing can build links. […]

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Link building has gone through a lot in the past 18 months — and when content marketing became the buzzword of the day, there were troves of articles saying that content marketing is the new link building or that content marketing has replaced link building.

That couldn’t be more false.

Content marketing can build links. Link building efforts can result in some great content. They’re not the same thing, but the two can work together to produce some seriously amazing results. But, first, let’s get on the same page about what’s what:

Link Building is acquiring links to improve your search rankings. It involves performing keyword research to determine what you want to target, finding sources related to those keywords (or identifying sites that are linking to your competitors), and then doing one-to-one outreach with those sources to obtain a link.

Content Marketing is creating content to move your users through your marketing  funnel. It involves creating buyer personas to determine who your buyers are, finding what they currently use to get content, and delivering content in their preferred medium to help them make a purchasing decision.

So, how do they fit together?

What People Want Is Typically What They Search For

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Most people are saying that SEO can’t exist without content marketing, and that’s true; but, it’s also goes the other way: content marketing shouldn’t exist without SEO.

When we’re building links, we think keywords. Those keywords should still be factored into your content marketing strategy. While, yes, they need to be supplemented with buyer personas and deeper analysis into what’s really driving your users to making a purchasing decision, keywords are still vitally important because they show user intent. People search for what they want.

It’s gotten easier to rank for long-tail keywords; most people will first find your content through a long-tail keyword search, and when you create a content piece centered around a keyword, you’re able to find sources willing to link to that topic.

People Still Link To Extensive Content Pieces

In link building, this looked a lot like a Google Search with [keyword + intitle:resources], finding URLs with followed links to outdated resources, updating said outdated content on your site with new, better content, and contacting the webmaster to link to you instead.

There’s no reason why that wouldn’t work for content marketing, too.

The only adage is before you go off and create this content piece, determine if this topic is something your users are even interested in. If so, in what medium do they prefer it? E-book? Webinar? Infographic? Blog post? Create the content in the medium they use most and use that as bait for the link source.

The kicker is that typically in content marketing, these extensive resources are tied behind a form submission.


Most resource listings won’t link to a piece of content that isn’t outright free, so you will have to balance between your biggest objectives. There are times when locking these behind a form are right, and there are other times when giving away all the goods for free works.

Promote Additional Content At The End of A Blog Post

The biggest way to get writers to cover and link to your content while you still providing a gateway to capture names and email addresses from your users for future lead nurturing is to provide both.

Write a substantial blog post about something trending in your industry, and at the end of that blog post, promote a larger piece of content that’s related to that topic. You’re giving away enough information for free to still attract links, and you’re giving users an easy way to sign up for more.


Don’t have an e-book or whitepaper already written? No problem. Schedule a webinar and use the form submission at the bottom of a blog post to encourage people to register for that.

A subscribe form on your blog is another easy way to get people in your funnel with minimal obligation from them. Pro tip: Have  the subscribe area follow them as they scroll down your blog posts so they don’t have to scroll back up when they’re ready to subscribe.


Leverage Influencers For Inclusion, Sharing & Coverage

One of the easiest ways to make link building and content marketing work together is by including the sources you want to link to you in your content.

This isn’t a particularly new tactic. We’ve been using egobait for years. If someone is included in a content piece, they’re more likely to share and link to said content — even if it’s behind a submission form. This tactic can include things like:

  • Interviews, quotes and advice
  • Including data (with permission) from a study someone has done
  • Expert profiles

Promote Your Content To Niche Writers

In content marketing, you’re writing content specific for your users; but, that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who will find it interesting. With any content piece you create for your users — webinar, e-book, whitepaper, graphic, some new thing we’ve never heard of — do your due diligence, and send it out to niche writers in the industry who may also find it interesting. Followerwonk is a great tool to help you do that.


Search Twitter bios with “industry + writer, journalist, blogger or editor,” and start building relationships with these people who could promote, include or share your content to earn links.

You can also use Followerwonk to analyze your own followers to see what writers are already following you: They already know you; they’ll be more inclined to do you a favor.

What else did I miss? How else can we make content marketing and link building work together?

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Erin Everhart
Erin Everhart is an experienced digital strategist, content developer and search marketer. She's currently the Senior Manager, Media Strategy for The Home Depot and has previously worked agency-side for mid-sized business and Fortune 500 companies. She speaks regularly on digital strategy, content development and inbound marketing at conferences nationwide. Follow her on Twitter @erinever.

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