Published on October 28th, 2020 | by Sumit Bhowal0
Should You Earn or Build Backlinks to Your Site?
Anyone who’s spent time learning about search engine optimization (SEO) understands the importance of backlinks. Without backlinks, it’s almost impossible to develop the authority necessary to earn high rankings for keywords relevant to your brand. But there are many different approaches to acquiring those links, and it’s not clear that there’s an objectively “best” method.
Two competing ideologies in the link acquisition world are link building and link earning. But how are these strategies different, and how should you use these for your campaign?
The Importance of Backlinks
No matter what, if you want to see results in SEO, you need to have backlinks in place. Google and other search engines tend to rank content based on two main categories of factors: relevance and authority. The relevance of an entry refers to how closely it matches the user’s query and intent. The authority of an entry refers to its authority, or trustworthiness.
You can increase the domain authority of your site, and the page authority of your individual pages, by establishing links to them. The more links you have, and the higher the authority of the source hosting those links, the more your authority will grow. As you earn or build more links, your authority will increase, and your rankings in search engines will rise as a result.
It’s practically impossible to increase your search engine rankings without links. The question, then, is what’s the best way to get them?
The link earning approach is all about naturally attracting links to your onsite content. You’ll create high-quality posts on your website, filled with original research, statistics, or other noteworthy details, and distribute those posts on social media and through other channels. If other people read your content and like it, they’ll be likely to build links pointing to it, serving as citations or references for further reading.
This approach has several advantages:
- Practically no risk of penalty. As you’ll see, building links can be advantageous, but if your links look unnatural, suspicious, or otherwise not valuable to web users, they could attract a Google penalty. If you’re only earning links by creating valuable content and distributing it to other users, there’s practically no risk of a Google penalty.
- Minimal effort. Make no mistake; developing the high caliber content required to attract links naturally takes a lot of time and effort. But for many SEO practitioners, this is still less effort than link building requires. Accordingly, link earning can help you save time and money while still helping you establish new links.
- Diverse sources. Link earning, when executed properly, can help you earn links from a broad mix of different sources. You’ll get links from websites that don’t accept guest authored articles, and similar sources you might never reach with link building. Even better, you won’t have to look for these sources; they’ll find you on their own.
The alternative approach is link building, the process of manually placing links on other sources. There are several tactics worth considering here; for example, you could donate or volunteer for charities to earn a mention on their donor page, or place your own link in forum comments.
However, the best modern approach is to build links with the help of guest posts; you’ll contribute content to a high-quality external publisher and construct a natural link back to your own work.
This approach also has many advantages:
- Consistency. Link earning is beneficial, but it’s wildly inconsistent. Just because you develop good content doesn’t mean people are going to link to it, and you can’t always predict which pieces of content are going to “land” with your audience. One piece might attract dozens of links, while another falls completely flat. With link building, you’ll have a much more consistent approach.
- Control. Link building also grants you more control. You’ll be able to decide exactly which sources you want to work with, and you can target higher-authority publishers. In link earning, by contrast, you’re basically rolling the dice.
- Scalability. Link building is a more scalable strategy. Over time, you’ll be able to work with bigger and more prominent publishers, reliably. You can keep pushing to get your domain authority higher, whereas with link earning, it’s much more common to get stuck on a plateau.
The Right Approach
As you might have guessed, the “best” or “right” approach to link acquisition is typically a balanced mix of both link building and link earning. With link earning, you’ll get more natural, less risky links, and with link building, you’ll get more consistent, controllable results.
Try to get the best of both worlds in your campaign, and tweak the balance as needed to optimize for better results over time.