Lee Odden

Tips on Content Centered Link Building

Lee Odden     Link Building, Online Marketing, SEO

Yesterday, Junta 42 announced their latest list of top content marketing focused blogs (Online Marketing Blog came in at #2 in between Copyblogger and PR 2.0) and it reminded me yet again of how important content is for SEO. It used to be when discussing search engine optimization services 5-6 years ago, we’d focus on keyword optimization of content and getting links as independent tactics. Today, it’s a different story.

Of course many of the basics of SEO still apply, such as keyword research, on-page optimization of existing content and solving crawling issues. But attracting links and creating new content are no longer separate tasks. They’re interdependent.

The success formula for content centered link building is simple:

  • Establish distribution channels such as blog/RSS, email list, social networks, social content
  • Plan content creation with the audience and keywords in mind
  • Promote the content socially, via email, RSS or other outbound methods
  • Watch the links roll in

It’s also important to monitor interactions with the content being promoted in order to secure additional links either through commenting on blogs or participating in discussions that have been instigated by what you’re promoting.

There’s a lyric from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” that reminds me of the interplay between content and link building. “If you don’t create useful content, you won’t attract any links. How can you attract links if you don’t have content worth linking to?”.

Take the desire for higher search engine rankings and traffic out of the picture and it still makes sense to focus on content that’s good enough to share and to inspire others to link to. Whether you drive traffic to the site from offline marketing programs, paid search advertising or social media promotions, you still have to “deliver the goods” once visitors get to the web site.

At the same time a site is evaluated or “scored” for search engine readiness, the opportunity to create a content promotion program tied into the marketing plan is what gives a web site a competitive advantage for both promotion and link building. Planning, creating and promoting content of particular use and interest to a target audience is a far cry from sprinkling keywords on web pages and submitting to directories.

Companies venturing into the SEO world are in fact, venturing into the content marketing world. It’s the reality of how both search engines and consumers will best respond to web site marketing efforts. Great content is an essential part of effective link building and even more so if you have content distribution channels established.

In other words, creating useful content should be followed by promoting that content to facilitate distribution and awareness. Publishers (MSM, blogs, web site owners, etc) aren’t going to link to content they don’t know about. Seems pretty logical but many online marketers seem to be stuck like a record on “create great content and links will come naturally”. Good luck with that in any competitive category.

Focusing on a success formula that ties new content creation with the advertising/PR/communications that are part of a normal company marketing plan into SEO, social marketing and content distribution channels is a link building win all around: consumers, search engines and the company.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Lee, I totally agree that this is the direction SEO is going in. I’d take it a step further and even include article marketing in that mix. All of these link/content combo tactics are a win-win for users/website publishers and truly, Google.

    Google’s original patent was based on the idea that inbound links represented some sort of popularity among web users. But now, possibly a more accurate form of measurement of a website’s popularity isn’t necessarily basic, old inbound links. It’s the Web 2.0 version of inbound links — RSS subscribers, social bookmarks — you name it. It’s exciting to see that SEO can and is being affected by that.

  2. I like your point about how important it is to “deliver the goods” with useful content for site visitors. Having an obsession with traffic to the detriment of quality content is a long term losing proposition.

    There is a truism in traditional CPG marketing that you can always buy trial, but you can’t buy repeat. The product must live up to a consumer’s quality and value expectations if you want true product loyalty. I think the same principle holds true in online marketing as well.

  3. Hey Lee

    Congrats on your #2 spot. I coouldn’t agree more and of course at PRESSfeed we preach content, content, content all day long. Good content in RSS Feeds is a proven method to build links and boost your search ranking.


  4. Excellent post (and love the Pink Floyd reference).

  5. Congrats on the #2 ranking. Oh, and we want more of Pink Floyd references, hehe

  6. More Pink Floyd references duly noted. Thanks for all the great feedback.

  7. Lee…thanks for the mention and congratulations. You are correct about SEO firms heading into the content marketing field. SEO firms that don’t have a firm handle on the skills it takes to create great content won’t be around for much longer. I’ve talked with a few SEO firms recently that are hiring journalists (trade journalists no less), to their teams. The ride should be fun. – Joe

  8. I agree with The success formula.

    “The success formula for content centered link building is simple:

    Establish distribution channels such as blog/RSS, email list, social networks, social content
    Plan content creation with the audience and keywords in mind
    Promote the content socially, via email, RSS or other outbound methods
    Watch the links roll in”

    The hardest part of seo linkbuilding is being patient to see results. It is exciting see the “links roll in”

  9. Alright … Now you have convinced me that I should pay more attention to what you say …

    Hell, I lived on Floyd and … well, nevermind … for practically two decades …

    Yeah … Content is King

    Motivation to get the pudding … ?

    Only if you want to eat …

  10. Nice post! The ideas and insights are very worth reading. You really gave me valuable information. Thanks for sharing it!

  11. Great post. I came across once a story told by one online marketer. His first online project was to build up a blog on a very popular TV series (can’t recollect the name of it… eastenders?;)) and he wanted this blog to be the best of its category. He spent lots of time on gathering information on the series, watching every episode over and over again in order not to miss any detail and on writing the blog. He concluded this story with the words “Each visitor agreed that it was the best blog on this series, all 5 visitors”.
    Again, it shows how important is a distribution of a content. Creating great content is only a half way to a success.
    Thanks again

  12. Lee, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am by this post. I mean, I’m ECSTATIC.

    Because Brain Traffic focuses specifically on content strategy and web writing, we’re on the front lines of the fight to create useful, relevant content that people will actually READ. You can optimize for links all you want, but if your content sucks, your time and money has been wasted.

    Yet another argument for full-on collaboration between IA, content strategy, SEO and writers early in the project cycle.

    This post is getting distributed to all my clients!!

  13. Congrats, Lee, well deserved. SEO isn’t something I fully understand, but your writing about it makes it easy for me to learn!

    I love it that you explain it well and that finally people are realizing that it’s more important to focus on providing valuable, relevant content in your niche rather than trying to game the spiders.

    And it also really helps to be strategic about repeating your keywords and know which ones to target. I posted about your great post here, Lee, thanks so much, so that all our Build a Better Blog readers will come over here and learn at the feet of Master Lee! Blog on!

  14. Joe, Ela, Kristina and Patsi, Thank you for stopping by and your comments.

    Optimizing web sites for improved traffic/sales is more about marketing than technical trickery and yet it seems many SEOs are stuck on those old/outdated ideas.

    On the other hand, creative content producers seem to think their creations possess a gravity of their own for attracting audiences.

    It’s the combination of creative, technical and social that makes successful “SEO 2.0” programs work. It’s the agencies (like ours) and clients that fully embrace the content creation > content promotion model see no risk, high impact and long term benefits.

  15. Correct Lee….hence the content+marketing. One without the other just don’t work.

  16. Great post Lee. You really make it clear how essential content is and the need to continually provide great content.

    Kathleen Gage

  17. Sphunn purely for Pink Floyd reference.

  18. I love your Pink Floyd The Wall reference and remember that scene where the teacher is circling the table well! It is this interaction of two key concepts that marks out today’s blog marketing from yesterday’s cruder internet marketing. Content enrichment and linking to increase search engine optimization is by nature a far more beautifully subtle approach than the old plan of throwing flashy banners at similar sites.

    I feel we have yet to see blog marketing and bookmarking strategies really come into their own: increased use of video presentation and testimonials will herald a new dawn, as will increased sharing and interaction between bloggers allowing for a more poignant community of comments linking to other posts and comments and increased sharing of blog posts and related articles.

    As I research blogging, I like to comment usefully, bookmark the site, and then, if I feel the blog has real interest I will refer to it in my own blog posts in the hope that over time the blogging community as a whole will interact on a much more giving and profound level.

    At present people tend to click into a blog, read a post and leave without comment. Emailing the blogger is good practice also, to share tips and tools, arrange an ad swap or a reciprocal link, or to write guest posts on each other’s blogs. Be bold, bloggers!

  19. Hi Lee…

    Congratulations on your ranking! Great stuff!
    I was pleased to read your comments about improving traffic and sales is more about marketing than techie stuff. Not being a techie, and treading incredibly unknown waters for me when thinking about keyword optimisation… I was relieved to hear from you that content and publicising the content is so important.

    Jeanne May

  20. Quite often we hear our B2B clients demand SEO services. They forget that content is just as important as optimizing for search engines and get caught up in keywords and PageRank. Once a potential customer finds your site, you need to have the information they’re looking for. Design your site for people first (good content, design, usability) and follow best practices for search engines and you’ll have a winning combination. We like to call this website optimization instead of SEO.

  21. Sarah has summed it up 100% – clients never realise that good content is vital – why would you link to a page that is not meaningful.
    Great post – very insightful!

  22. Hi there,

    can anyone advise if there is much difference between seo methods for Google and Yahoo ?


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