Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Popular question, but for marketers and SEOs, there’s a different version of that question.
“Which comes first, content or links?”
It’s a question often asked.
There’s no doubt that both are important for any site. A link strategy will send readers to your site, and deep content will grow your audience and ultimately conversions.
But there’s a problem here. Which do you start with?
It’s hard to build tons of links and create comprehensive, long-form content at the same time, especially if you’re a solopreneur or a small business.
Ideally, you want to do both at once, but what if you can’t?
Some case studies below will give us some insight on what the data has to say about it.
Hopefully, these insights will help you improve your own strategies and help you make a decision for yourself.
Content vs. Links
If you’ve already picked a side, try to forget about your decision. Both have pros and cons, and there’s a huge grey area. Generally, there are two schools of thought.
Opinion #1: Content first
1) Content should come first because good content is naturally valuable. It’s like the phrase “build it and they will come.”
This has a few advantages. Good content will help you build an awesome long-term strategy. If your content is evergreen, it theoretically has an eternal lifespan. And that’s good. Really good. You want people to keep visiting your content. That means you’ll establish yourself as an authority, and that content will keep reaping rewards for you. This is known as cornerstone content.
It’s the idea of creating content that acts as a representative of your site. It’s content that people will link to year after year.
2) Starting with content provides value.
There’s an obvious criticism with a link-first strategy. If you start off with a heavy link strategy but no content, you really have no reason for anyone to link to your site. On the other hand, if you create amazing content, you give people a reason to care about your site, to keep visiting your site, and to share your site with others.
People love good content. Really outstanding content that provides value. If you provide that kind of content, you’ll create a foundation for your site’s future.
3) Content gets people talking.
If one person likes your content, they’re likely to share it, and that’s where the power is.
Think about this metric: 1 in 3 people visit a site just because someone recommended it to them.
The best way to get people to recommend a site is to just have an awesome site!
Content helps you do that. It’s one of the best ways to get people talking about your site. Those are a few of the reasons that content lovers argue their point of view.
Case Study 1:
Brian Clark of Copyblogger started with just two blog posts and a free report. This became his cornerstone content.
That content still gets tons of attention. In fact, if you Google “Copywriting 101” right now, you’ll see that same blog post in the number one position.
That “Copywriting 101” post is even included in Copyblogger’s free membership program:
When Brian wrote those posts, you can bet he was thinking about the long term.
So writing a super long and detailed article might not propel you to fame right away. But it will become an invaluable resource for you, and it’ll prepare your site for long-term success.
Opinion #2: Links first
1) The other school of thought says links should come first because they give you an audience. There are also several advantages with this approach. Content is no good without an audience. Even if you have a number of pages with excellent content on your site, it’s all useless if no one’s reading it. Your audience is what brings your content to life. Links help give you that audience. The right network of backlinks will expose your site to thousands of people from all over the world. Just publishing content on your site won’t do that all by itself. That’s the strongest argument for starting with links.
2) Links help with your SEO.
There’s no doubt that you can focus on SEO with your content. Keyword optimization and comprehensiveness are two of the ways you can do that. But all things considered, linking is a more scalable strategy. For example, you can link to the same content more than once. But you can’t write the same piece of content more than once. You can also update your content as you get more links. This will allow you to take advantage of Google’s love of fresh content.
Basically, you can scale up your link strategy as your site grows.
3) Linking can establish you as an authority by association.
Remember, 1 in 3 people visit a site on the basis of recommendation alone. There is a lot of power in social links. That goes for links too. If someone visits a site they like and sees that site linking to your content, they’ll automatically think of your site as an authority. It’s the equivalent of getting a shout out from an influencer in your niche. This is an extremely effective way of getting lifelong fans, and it’s something that’s much more difficult to do with only content.
If you’re still confused then what you need is a data-driven analysis of these two methods, which always helps!