Link Building vs. Content Marketing

Content marketing is the new way of link building if not the new link building by itself. That’s the popular notion shared among SEOs and digital marketing experts worldwide. But how true is this and what’s Google’s take on this? Last time I checked quality content alone can’t make your blog or website pages rank, it’s the backlinks (Through the process of link building) to that particular content that enables it to rank high in search engine result pages (SERPs). Common sense dictates that for a quality content to be found and shared, it must be ranked high in search results. So how will that quality content get ranked high in search results without any link building efforts or if it does not have any quality backlinks to it? The argument here is that since the inception of the Penguin 2.0 update, site owners have been discouraged from acquiring links in an unnatural manner.
For digital marketers that do things by the book and hate the link schemes or any other form of buying links to improve PageRank, it is quite a catch 22 situation. But what is mostly disturbing and confusing is that content marketing is disguised as the new link building. There is no denying that quality content that triggers sharing can build links naturally, but in contrast quality and relevant backlinks can make that content rank high in search results, making it reach influential people in the industry that will share it and in turn build links natural. This implies that you have to rank first before that quality content can reach the target audience and to rank you need quality backlinks. So which backlinks are the most important in this case, pre-backlinks that makes the content rank initially before it can be shared or the post-backlinks that comes as a result of the content ranking high and reaching the relevant audience who will share it?

The above scenario shows two factors that are very closely related when coming to the new way of link building post Penguin 2.0 update and content marketing, the decision on which of the two is more important is still not very clear to the majority of SEO professionals. The fact of the matter is quality content is the best way to build natural links as Matt Cutts explain in this video, but for that quality content to be found it has to rank initially and reach the targeted audience. Social signals have an effect on the performance of the content in the search results, but social signals do not have the same big impact as the quality and relevant backlinks. There a lot of thin content pages in search results ranking very high due to the fact that they have quality and authority backlinks pointing to them, outranking quality content pages that do not have quality backlinks.

The only way content marketing can hold it on its own as a ranking factor is to make sure that it is independent of backlinks. At the moment it is in the mix of the rankings factors because it is believed that quality content will trigger sharing and build links naturally. So it is still under the umbrella of the backlinks factor. Quality content alone without link building is a recipe for failure if you want your content to reach the target audience. Content has to be part of any SEO strategy in this age of the Penguin, but the quality, relevance and authority backlinks will always be the number one ranking factor, at least for the foreseeable future.

You can dispute my theory in the comments below. Let’s have a conversation about this burning issue that’s making life difficult for many SEO professionals.

AVATAR Social Media Report – 13 September

“Social networks aren’t about Web sites. They’re about experiences.”
Listen to the latest Social Media Report as it was broadcasted on Kaya Fm on Friday the 13th of September. We have a look at the hottest topics on the social networks and the most trending topics.

Catch up on the latest trending conversations on the social media platforms every Friday between 3pm and 4pm on Kaya FM.

AVATAR Social Media Report – 6 September

“Twitter is not just a Web site and not micro-blogging, it is an entirely different medium … The way in which information travels on Twitter — the shape of it — is different to anything that we’ve previously known.”

Catch up on the latest trends and popular topics of conversation between 2 September and 6 September on the the social platforms.

Listen to the AVATAR Social Media Report on Kaya FM this Friday and stay on top of the most popular conversations on social media.

AVATAR Social Media Report – 30 August

In the week, ranging from Monday 26 August to Friday 30 August, the following conversations were the most popular and trending on the social media platforms as broadcasted by Kaya FM.

Listen to the AVATAR Social Media Report every Friday on Kaya FM between 3pm and 4pm.

The digital marketing agency is dead, long live the digital marketing agency

Rapidly changing technology means that engaging with people has become increasingly complex. The explosion of the search, social media and the vast amounts of data around consumers has left some people in marketing wondering if they should become more like chief information officers (CIOs) and vice versa. This has a ripple effect on agencies and brands. This is because marketing is increasingly becoming about measurement, engagements, conversion and building communities which is all driven by technology. Agencies in the age of the hippies helped many corporates understand the relationship between trends and marketing and using the then cutting edge technology of television to build brands. Today nothing much has changed. The only real difference is that the platforms of marketing have evolved from one directional to bi-directional. Power has shifted to the consumer because they have the control.

Even in today’s world, many agencies are still obsessed with the age-old idea of a one-dimensional big idea for an above the line campaign, with digital stuffed in as an afterthought. Making creative ads for the sake of making creative ads longer makes the cut. Many agencies are failing to find the links between the different attributes of marketing channels and producing measurable results that continue the consumer journey beyond first view of the ad.

The agencies that will survive the digital revolution are agencies that are able to generate great ideas and strategically integrate paid, owned and earned media channels with the big idea. This really means that the idea of a separate media agency and creative agency is being challenged by that of the converged agency. Great creative must be able to maximise the potential of a large number of platforms and adapt to the changes that come with technology. Silos are clearly an increasing problem from a client perspective. The converged agency or digitally focused marketing agency must have its focus on every marketing channel and create strategies that are fully integrated and leverage the unique strengths of all of these channels.

If we look at the history of the older digital agencies out there, many started with web design and development as a main focus in the mid to late ’90s. Over the years, technology evolved and they added things like ORM, and social media to their armouries. These agencies exist because they were able to fulfil a need that the traditional agencies did not fully understand .

Furthermore, many big brands were still confused about whether a website belonged to the IT department or the marketing department. This model of growth that digital agencies grew is unsustainable with specialist agencies as an exception because the scope of marketing is far greater than just technology platforms. That’s one of the reasons why there is such a large emphasis on technology platforms and less on content which should actually be the other way around because content with context is what the game is all about.

Traditionally digital agencies would have separate departments for different functions such as SEO, PPC, Media, Creative, Analytics etc. The converged agency will challenge this model because of increasing interdependence of variables marketing channels. For instance, there would be social media and content for SEO and digital integration on above the line campaigns.
This demands more open collaboration between individuals that have a broad strategic understanding of marketing and technology. The challenge is that these types of individuals are few and far between, which means the converged agency must have a clear training and retention strategy. Furthermore, the internal focus of this collaborative team should not be the brand but the needs of the people buying from brand or using its products. Well-crafted content should fulfill these needs with relevant engagement on the appropriate platforms.

The converged agency is clearly an integrated communications partner but the bigger question is, are corporate structures ready for this type of world when many marketing and digital managers still work in silos? Silos are simply treason to good ideas because they limit scope of thinking from agencies. It’s not only agencies that are going through change but corporate chief marketing officers too. I would even argue that CIOs need to start chatting about collaboration and challenging structures to accommodate the challenges that technology is creating in the marketing mix.

In conclusion, one thing is clear: the structure and the converged agency is based on content marketing attributes as discussed above and will become the core competency of the converged agency because people are occupying the space usually reserved for brands by moving to the centre of the engagement. The converged agency sounds like a very hard type of agency to pull off in the context of many agencies today but Nelson Mandela once said “It always seems impossible until it’s done”

by Zibusiso Mkhwanazi

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