The Disconnect Between Content & Natural Links

by Jon Cooper

There are two types of link builders: ones who love content for building links naturally, and ones who think it’s complete BS. As a blogger who lets his content build links for him, and as a site owner with a library of content that hasn’t attracted a single natural, quality link, I’m on both sides of the coin.

The reason I can be on both sides is because:

Link building with content is completely niche dependent. [tweet this]


It’s so true, yet when so many people see a list of link building tactics, they think that every single one of them can be applied to them. If it can’t, then they think that particular one is complete garbage.

So before I go any further, remember that every situation and industry is completely different than the next. While one thing can be applied to one niche, it might not be applicable to another. 

Analyzing your niche

Since link building with content is completely dependent on your niche, you need to find out your niche’s link happiness rate, or the rate at which niche related sites naturally link out to others.

Here are some indications of a high link happiness rate in your niche:

A lot of quality content is produced on a regular basis – This is obvious; the more quality content (and not Textbroker type content) that is produced, the more opportunity there is for getting linked to.

There are a lot of blogs & forums – This shows that there’s more discussion in your niche. If more people are talking, then there’s a higher likelihood that your content could get referenced.

The ratio of external to internal links on blogs is high – Is your niche full of link whores? I say this because there are some industries with a lot of content, but the webmasters & bloggers only link to themselves.

Side note: If this is the case, then there’s a way around this: get them to guest post on your blog. Do whatever you have to do to make it happen. If they only link to their own stuff, try & get it some of it on your website.

The social activity is high – Although social doesn’t directly correlate to links, it’s a quality indicator that shows that there’s genuine conversation by actual people in your industry.

There are established industry thought leaders (with consensus) – I say with consensus because there might be some “leaders” that think of themselves as a thought leader, but everyone else in your niche doesn’t think so.

Again, no direct cause & effect here, but if someone’s killing it in your niche as a thought leader, then it means you have the possibility of becoming one over time.

There are established authors & personas – Do you see faces & names or labelless content? Do you see rel=author being implemented by actual people, or no one at all? The more people centric your niche is, the less amount of close minded SEOs there are.

The level of excitement of the niche is high – Do people actually like writing & talking about your niche? Are there industry conferences (like Malofiej in data viz) where people get to share their thoughts & show off their work? If people get excited about the context of your niche, then they’d be more willing to link out to something cool & interesting.

A low barrier of entry to understanding the content – Does it take a rocket scientist to breakdown what you’re talking about, or can the average person understand what you’re talking about?

Side note: If you use a lot of industry jargon, make sure you help the newbies in your audience understand it. If it’s linking to an article all about the term, or if it means pausing & describing what that term means or even putting it in parenthesis, do it (a glossary in your site’s navigation is another kick ass idea).

Low amounts of link spam – All niches have spam, but in terms of relativity, just how many websites depend on link spam to rank? 5 out of 10 websites ranking without link spam is much better than 9 out of 10. This shows that there’s a lot of opportunity to actually do it the Google approved way.

The disconnect

As much as there is a disconnect between understanding if your niche can actually produce natural links, that’s the not the disconnect the title is referring to.

The disconnect is understanding that natural links don’t come from a “build it and they will come” mentality. [tweet this]


Eventually, it does mean that the Publish button equals links, but that not only takes time, it takes a crap load of hard work BEYOND the content (as seen in my new “Deceiving Rand” meme).

Original photo attribution.

It means identifying, stalking, and continuously impressing influencers.

It means finding the people you want to have as brand evangelists and going all out for them.

It means understanding that natural links come from a sense of trust of knowing what you’re linking to is quality, and that this trust takes A LOT of time to build up, just like your audience.

Photo attribution.

It means that you have to do something that sets yourself apart from the competition, because no one will do anything for you unless there’s a reason behind it.

It means understanding that people are behind links, and that you’re catering to their content needs.

Closing thoughts

You’re right, maybe in your niche it’s near impossible to build links naturally. If that’s the case, then scratch it off the list & move on. But just because it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else in a different situation.

If you’ve analyzed your niche and found that there is opportunity, don’t forget to spend as much time on your content as you do with people.

What are your thoughts? What did I miss? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. They serve me no purpose other than getting to know you personally & helping us all gain more knowledge & understanding on this topic.

Lastly, subscribe to my blog via RSS.

This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 129 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper is a link builder based out of Gainesville, FL. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter @PointBlankSEO.

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The Disconnect Between Content & Natural Links - Point Blank SEO