Is Link Building Becoming Content Marketing?

by Jon Cooper

Recently I’ve read numerous posts & watched a few webinars about link building, and one of the most talked about & successful forms of link building is known as content marketing. Content marketing describes using great content (link bait) to attract links & use in outreach. Every time I find a new post about link building it’s always on this subject. With things like Google’s recent freshness update, I’m starting to realize that the term “link building” is slowly becoming “content marketing”. The label is changing as we look towards things like social media leverage to get the links we need.


As I mentioned before, Google’s made a huge change by implementing what they called a “freshness update”. The official update reports that the new change effects 35% of queries (which is not the same thing as keywords). This change has impacted mostly the big head keywords & keywords that are based upon freshness, such as news & celebrity websites. In a nutshell, the most recent content on the subject will be showing up in the SERPs, which sometimes mean those 2 year old posts you built a few great links to won’t have the same power it did a week ago. What this means for you is that in order to stay on top of the SERPs for some of your keywords (not all of them, but some), you’re going to need to constantly write great content on those subjects.


With this new update & the overwhelming success of strategies like infographic creation, I truly believe the cut & dry form of link building is slowly going away. Google can finally pull the amount of social metrics it needs to judge content on its popularity, which is taking away from old forms of static links from relatively unimportant websites. I’m not saying link building is going away, and in no way will it ever truly go away, but as a link builder you need to start thinking of “what type of content can I create to get me the links & the social traction I need to rank?” instead of “what new sites can I find & contact so I can spend 30 minutes pursuing 1 average link?”


This revolution of content marketing has changed the term from “link builder” to “link attracter”. Although there’s nothing wrong with going out & contacting individual webmasters about pursuing links, which in my opinion is still one of the top ways to get links, you need to first think in terms of content. Trust me, I know more than anyone how sick you are of hearing things like “content is king!” and “the number one link building strategy is creating great content!”, but if you haven’t started taking pride in your content, you will be left behind.


Instead of telling you what’s attracting links, I’ll show you. I recently came across this awesome infographic that’s relevant to link building, because as we said, link building is turning into how we can market our content, and one of the best ways is through StumbleUpon.

Stumbleupon: The Life Cycle of a Web Page

Graphic via Column Five Media


I recently saw an interview of the founders of Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, the founders of The Minimalists, a blog who built an audience of 100,000 in just 9 months. I went into the video thinking about which type of traffic building technique they implemented to get readers to their blog, but I was dumbfounded when the only thing they talked about was their content. I think Corbett had to bring up the idea of building traffic to their site before they even mentioned it briefly. What they talked about most is living every single they preached on their blog, taking their time to craft the perfect piece of content (even if it meant hours & hours of their time), and taking the time to engage with all their readers. Not once did they talk about any form of building links to their website to help them rank & build traffic through search engines, which ended up being one of the ways their readers found their blog. They weren’t “link builders”, they were “content marketers” who took their time creating great content.


Maybe 5 years ago you could get away with creating crap content, because you could just rank by submitting mass amounts of articles to scummy article directories, getting paid listings in high PR directories, or spamming forums, but in today’s search environment you just won’t get by. Whether that example was extreme or not, we need to start drastically changing our ways to get the links we want. I recently read a tweet (sorry, I don’t remember the person who tweeted this) that talked about news stations spending 15% of the time creating the news and 85% of the time getting it out to people. What we need to do is the exact opposite: Spend 85% of our time creating the best content possible, and 15% of the time pursuing links.


Thanks for reading! Please leave any comments or questions below, I can’t wait to hear what you have to say. What you need to do now is subscribe by RSS and follow Point Blank SEO on twitter.

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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  1. Jon Ball says:

    I can see how this trend might eventually make link building obsolete in some instances. But with so many millions of keywords content marketing might only apply to the most competitive for quite a long time.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      That’s a great point, I failed to address that, but even smaller less competitive niches could use content marketing to get the links they need. Just 1 piece of efficiently marketed content in a smaller niche could make you rank at the very top of the SERPs, so it might be smart to look into it no matter the size & competitiveness of your niche.

      Thanks Jon!

  2. Matt says:

    It’s interesting what’s happening. It seems that Google is just getting more and more nuanced and sophisticated all the time and is rewarding originality and quality more and more.

    In the end I think you can’t go wrong if you just keep trying to write the most informative and relevant content.

  3. I looked to guys at seomoz and distilled because I wanted to learn how best to use my time to benefit my clients and get them the best results possible. Telling me how to install ubuntu and start programing myself is fine but if I was after that I would just go to ubuntu.com?

    This is where your blogs different. You discuss strategies that can be applied to local business on tiny budgets. Some strategties I use already do. Others I had over looked and the fact your using them gave me the push that they just might work.

    That said I have to disagree with the infographics comments. I feel they aren’t being shared as much anymore. I feel they are outdated and have little to no benefit to the clients who commission them. I quickly scrolled pasted the one you have there because I have no interest in looking at pictures with made up statistics that have no meaning for me.

    They are costly to make properly and the have a high rate of failure.

    As for the minimalism blog have to taken a look that niche yet? There are hundreds of blogs that have been around from years each linking to each other on their blogrolls with their PR4 homepages. Just look at http://zenhabits.net/ the leading blog in that field. The homepage has a PR6 and it really wouldn’t be that hard to get a guest post on there.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Thanks for the awesome feedback, I try and be unique as much as possible.

      On the subject of infographics (*GASP* you disagreed with me! I will now try and make you look like an idiot or ignore you like most other bloggers (just kidding)) I’ve been talking to a few awesome link builders and they’re saying they still work. Regardless if they attract as much links as they used to, they still are more likely to get shared on social media sites than yet another static 400 word post, so it’s still got some traction & benefits.

      That’s interesting what you say about the minimalism niche. What you say makes sense considering The Minimalists success in such as short period of time, so I’ll agree with you to some extent, but no matter how uncompetitive a niche is, you still have to work and provide some level of quality in your content to get any results.

      Thanks so much Richard! Thanks for disagreeing with me, it’s nice to see a person who isn’t passively accepting everything a blogger writes 🙂

  4. I don’t disagree they don’t work entirely. I just believe they have a high rate of failure and the ROI isn’t that cracking for small business. If you had a $1000 a month budget for a client is an infographic going to get the best results for your money?

    I would much prefer to use your list of highly effective link building strategy over infographics any day.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      I totally agree with that, but at the same time if you have a budget to spend on link building & outreach, infographics are great (again, not for everyone though).

      The best part about those link building strategies I posted about are that they can apply to each & every website on the Web.

      I’ve also fielded suggestions about writing a post on how I would link build on a $50 budget (or some # along those lines), which I’m guessing you would love Richard!

  5. Sheri says:

    Wow, great post. As well written and researched content begins to attract links, our focus shifts to manufacturing and supplying the best we can on our sites. This truly makes the entire online space more valuable.

  6. Hi,

    Link Building become content marketing is true . Because now a days content plays more important role in website optimization. If your website content is fresh & original site get good response from crawler.
    IT is also helpful for link exchange.

  7. Tabrez Firoz says:

    Hey Jon,

    First time to your blog 🙂 and really enjoyed the article. Loads of good stuff.

    But hasn’t the shift to content marketing been in progress for the last couple of years? I mean we had QDF before and now with the freshness search algo. update, big Panda that supposedly kills poor quality content, the shift is now more vocal in a sense.

    As you have rightly pointed out, no more crap content works 😛 but IMO, packaging of content be it crap or good, speaks more of it going viral or not.


    • Jon Cooper says:

      Thanks for the insight Tabrez!

      I think you’re right; the shift has been going on for some time now, but the reason I’m addressing it now is that some people are stuck in the link building mindset that Link Building is not connected to anything else, when in reality it’s never been more intertwined with everything else you’re doing, such as your content & social media outreach.

  8. Yes. Link building is a good technique to market your online business. It is becoming content marketing as well because websites need fresh content to get a good response. So, it’s a good article man. Thanks for sharing it.

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