This week’s Ask an SEO question comes from Bhargav in Hyderbad who asks:
“If I need to choose between backlinks or content, which should I work on first? Which will be more useful for website traffic?”
This is a great question that almost every business owner and marketing team asks.
The good news is there is a very easy answer.
Go with Content
If you have to choose between creating content and building backlinks, go with content.
Here are four reasons why:
Content Is for Your Users
- Backlinks are specifically for SEO purposes.
- Content is for your users to engage with your site, drive impressions for ad space, buy your products, and fill out lead forms. Without content, there is no reason for a website to be sourcing you (i.e., giving you a backlink).
The only exception is when you are the very first person or company to ever provide a specific product or service.
And at that point, it is likely major media and natural press, not backlinks from link building.
It is also worth mentioning that backlinks to category and product pages are not natural links and do not occur naturally unless you are the manufacturer.
And even then news sites will normally source the company and your homepage vs. a category page.
Content Is Why People Link
My second reason for saying that content is more important to choose content over backlinks is that the person needs a reason to link to your site “naturally.”
By creating informative resources, sharing data, ways to accomplish a specific task, or simply providing a cool and contextually relevant game or quiz, you have created a reason for someone to link to you.
It is the content that creates the reason for the link and helps make everything appear natural.
Content Defines a Page’s Topic
Third, backlinks do not always define what is on the page but backlinks do give a signal about what could be there when they are keyword rich.
Content, on the other hand, does define a page’s topic by using header tags, title tags, internal links, schema (although this is more technical SEO), etc.
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However, you must have a mix of the types of backlinks including:
- Keyword-rich, branded links, and citations.
- Dofollow, nofollow, sponsored, UGC, etc.
- News/media, bloggers and content producers, comments, and freebies from forums and communities.
- Directories, local guides, and industry resource sections.
Please note that the four bullet points above are all things that occur naturally.
I do not recommend building and focusing on any one or the other.
But if you do not have a natural-looking mix, you could wind up with a devaluation or manual action.
Content Helps with Site Structure
My fourth reason is that content can help you build site structure and architecture through internal linking.
This is different than rank sculpting, which is done for SEO only.
By building a natural internal linking structure you’re trying to guide people to resources and purchasing options from useful content like comparison guides.
That helps both website visitors and search engine spiders discover the most important pages and topics within your website in a natural way.
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Conclusion: Content Is Better for Your Website
Backlinks are important and do help you rank.
But content works across all channels from PPC to SEO, media coverage, and referral traffic.
Good content can also lead to backlinks.
If you have to choose between the two, I’d go with content.
Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!