There’s a long standing debate in the search marketing industry about links versus content. Which is better?
On the one hand there’s the perspective that if you create great content, people will link to you naturally. That’s true, but it’s a bit misleading.
On the other hand there are those that say links are the answer. You can get pages to rank well based purely on links. Again, that’s entirely possible, but such a statement does not give you all the facts.
When I read or hear people ask whether links or content are better, I liken such a question to asking, “What’s better, air or water?”. Links and content are both necessary for competitive search marketing efforts. Emphasizing one over the other depends on the situation. Excelling at both is the ideal.
The thing to understand about optimizing for search engines is that there are many ways to solve the visibility or ranking problem. There is no “one right way” to SEO. There are fundamental concepts that persist as being true, such as the need for a site to be crawler friendly and all content reachable via links, a logical site structure with relevant content and the need for inbound links from relevant sources. What differs over time and as the search engines update ranking methodologies is the execution.
The links attracted by great distribution of quality content creates a very desirable link “footprint” that is rewarded by search engines. To think this will happen naturally in any reasonable amount of time is shortsighted. To try and create the link footprint automatically is easily detected by search engines as manipulation. Unless you’re in the MFA and “churn and burn” business, automated linking solutions have no place in a search marketing program.
If you create great content and no one knows about it to link to it, you’re spinning your wheels. A combination of content as well as social networking, link networking, public relations and gaining editorial visibility as well as viral and individual link solicitations will all work together synergistically. Building a community of consumers of your content as well as relationships with the media in your industry is the distribution network necessary to gain the most link value out of creating great content.