Seriously stop obsessing over backlinks, quality content first

What are you currently spending your time doing? If your spending hours on backlink building then I’m sorry to tell you, but you might be doing it wrong. A couple of years ago I was doing the same thing, looking at Moz Rank, Ahref Domain Rating, finding new sites to get backlinks to, obsessing over dofollow/nofollow, etc. I would spend many hours each week doing this. But I learned the hard way and below is what I advise people to spend their time on.

Spend the bulk of your time creating quality content followed by promoting that content. Then you can build backlinks.

Quality content first

That old saying “Content is King” still applies. However, you can’t just stop there. The second part that most people slack on is promoting. You might be writing killer content but if nobody sees it then what good is it doing?

We live in a social world and you should be utilizing social media and other outlets to get your content seen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend any time on backlinks, but in my book content is king, content promotion is queen, and backlinks are the court jester.

Content is king (image source: imgflip)

It is so important to prioritize our time as there are only so many hours in a day. Many of us juggle thousands of tasks each week. I keep getting tons of questions from people asking me what my backlink strategy is, and to be brutally honest, the first response is always, create amazing content. I do build some backlinks, but that is the last thing I think about in order of importance.

Content is king, content promotion is queen, and backlinks are the court jester. 👑Click to Tweet

Yes, backlinks are still useful and keeping your backlink profile clean is very important. Google’s search engine is still just an algorithm, a computer program that is determining whether you should rank or not. So in that sense, yes backlinks will always still be there.

A couple of high authority backlinks can definitely change your position in SERPs overnight, I have seen it first hand. Can Google determine whether your content is killer? No, but social media can. Let people drive your traffic.

So if you asked me right now if I would spend an hour building backlinks or an hour writing another blog post, I would say writing without any hesitation.

Don’t be afraid to delete content

Sometimes you go down the content rabbit hole so far you start worrying about what will happen if you change or delete content. Don’t do this! Otherwise, you’ll end up years later with a bunch of outdated content that you don’t have time to update.

Be aggressive with your content audits. The other day I trashed 37 blog posts and 136 drafts.

  • Using tools like Ahrefs and Google Analytics can help alleviate the stress (as a writer, it’s always hard to delete words, but look at the data).
  • Add 301 redirects and merge content if applicable. Five amazing posts are better than 20 horrible ones. But don’t just 301 everything by default, because you could destroy your anchor text with backlinks that aren’t directly related to that piece of content.
  • Don’t forget to clean up old media on your WordPress site for performance reasons.

Reaching 100k+ visitors a month without building a single backlink

I wrote a guide a while back about how I took my authority niche site from 0 to 100k+ visitors per month in a year. And guess what? I didn’t spend one minute building backlinks.  I never sat down and created a profile just to have a follow link back to my site. I never went hunting for links and never sent a single email asking for a backlink or share.

no backlinks
Img src: ChainCC

Now I didn’t ignore backlinks on purpose, I simply didn’t have any time to do any outreach for backlinks. Because I was building an authority niche site, not just some crappy Amazon site, I wanted to focus on quality content for an entire year. And the results were nothing short of incredible. Now of course, that involves keyword research. But that is also without any paid advertising. It is 100% organic traffic, based solely on good content.

niche site traffic
Scaling organic website traffic

If you are curious, I published around 250 posts in a year. While that may sound like a lot, I outsourced almost all of it. Make sure to read my niche guide for more on how I did that. The main point here is, backlinks aren’t always necessarily required to be successful. But, they will also come naturally when you have enough high-quality content.

I keep telling people this. If you create amazing content and promote it, the backlinks will follow! Trust me. Stop obsessing over your backlink count.

Backlink profile after a year

Now the interesting part is the backlink profile on the site after a year of never building them. According to Ahrefs my niche site wound up with 471 backlinks spread across 94 domains, and the homepage has a DR of 49. So obviously, backlinks will come if you push out quality content. This is by no means a huge backlink profile, but for never doing anything but focusing on content, it is awesome progress on a brand new site.

backlink profile
Ahrefs domain authority

And as far as growth goes, you can see below… the backlinks just keep coming in on a regular basis as more content is published.

consistent backlink growth
Ahrefs referring domains

Will I be spending time eventually on building backlinks to the site? Yes, of course. But always in moderation. I will never be spending as much time as I used to on backlinks.

Tricks to better content and promotion

So at this point, you’re probably thinking well that is awesome for you but that doesn’t help me. Well, I am going to share with you some of my tricks and hopefully, you will see as much growth as I have. Note: I will be constantly updating this post with promotion strategies, so make sure to bookmark it!

  1. Write posts that help solve a problem
  2. Write list posts
  3. Focus on evergreen content
  4. Re-sharing old content with 3rd party content
  5. Mention other people on Twitter
  6. Floating social bar

Here are some tips on content creation that have consistently worked for me.

1. Write posts that help solve a problem

Think about why people Google for a second. Most people go to Google or Bing (I won’t leave you out Bing!) because they are trying to find an answer for a problem or solution. So write posts that help solve those problems. This applies to any niche or category!

I have worked in all sorts of boring niches for clients and trust me, you can always find a way to get creative with any niche. I used to work for a pain management company where we had to market “back pain,” “neck pain”, etc… and we found ways to make it interesting.

This entire woorkup blog in fact is based on this strategy. People are searching for a problem and my posts try to provide solutions.

2. Write list posts

This has been proven time and time again by other internet marketers and case studies; that lists posts always do well! People don’t have time to read and are always looking for that next product or solution they haven’t tried yet. List posts usually get more shares on social media as well. Am I a big fan of list posts? No, but sadly data doesn’t lie. If you want traffic and shares, list posts work in any niche!

sorry list posts
Img src: Memegenerator

Here is a funny comment from a blog post on CopyBlogger about why list posts will always work.

I’ve never seen so many lists in my life. It’s getting so bad with the lists, I’m almost to the point I don’t want to read a post if there’s a list. Of course, I’m still writing posts like that, because it works! — MacStansbury

Most of us marketers are probably in the same boat. We might not agree with lists posts or like them, but sometimes you have to write what works. That doesn’t mean you can’t create an awesome list post.

Here is an example of a well-written list post: 17 things we’ve learned building WordPress plugins. Not only did we share actionable content for people from our own experience, but there is content in there that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s not just rehashing the same old crap. It’s also 4,500+ words long. So while it’s a list post, it has depth to it.

3. Focus on evergreen content

If you notice on this blog I removed the original publish dates from my posts and replaced them with last updated. I do this on all my sites. This is because I try to focus on evergreen content.

What is evergreen content? Basically it is content that is always applicable. So in a year from now, my tutorials for content and social promotion would still work. That is because I spend time going back and updating old posts to make sure they are always fresh. Always build upon what you have already worked hard on writing. You can check out my post on how to remove publish dates on your WordPress posts.

Here are some tips on content promotion that have consistently worked for me.

4. Re-sharing old content with 3rd party content

Don’t miss out on extra traffic, growing your audience, and great opportunities by not strategically reposting/resharing your content. If you pour your heart and soul into an article, by all means, people will want to read it! Help them see it. The saying that always comes to mind is “work smarter, not harder…”

The problem is, no matter how well you choose the times to share your blog post, whether it be early morning or evening, not everyone will ever see your post. You will catch those that happen to be glancing at Twitter, that happens to be browsing Facebook.

That is where SmarterQueue comes into play. It allows me to add my evergreen blog posts into a queue that rotates and shares out forever. This gets the maximum eyeballs on your content.

smarterqueue

Basically how it works is you set up categories, throw it in your queue, and say “re-queue after posting.” I recommend getting at least 50 posts on your site before doing this as you don’t want to share the same content too often. Check out my in-depth SmarterQueue review and see why it is better than Buffer, Edgar, and HootSuite. It supports Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram… with more networks coming soon!

Next, you have 3rd party quality content. This where people screw it up. You can’t only share just your content. In fact, I try to share 30% of my content and 70% other content.

The problem then you have with that is time. Well, guess what? There is a tool for that too. Quuu is a hand-curated content suggestion platform that connects to your Buffer queue, allowing you to grow a relevant social media following across your entire social landscape. Select categories/interests that matter to you, and they queue relevant suggestions to your Buffer.

quuu

There free plan allows up to 2 curated posts per day, and 5 categories. You can then pair it up with the free Buffer plan and boom! You now have kickass 3rd party quality content being shared for free. I have used Quuu for over 6 months now and never once had an issue with the quality. It is great. They also have an option to manually approve if you are nervous about that.

So, after you combine SmarterQueue with Quuu, you now have a 100% automated social media profiles with amazing content. Check out my Twitter growth below. Between January 1st and January 31st, I gained over 700 followers. There are some other things in play here, so stay tuned for an in-depth post I have coming out soon about the smart way to do social media automation.

twitter growth
Social media automation growth

Below are a few examples of Tweets that were sent out by Quuu, totally automated:

One got 12 RTs and 17 likes, the other 11 RTs, and 13 likes. So as you can see, the engagement on these is super high. And the greater your engagement, even on third party content means more people that see your name/brand, follow you, and in turn, click into your website.

5. Mention other people on Twitter

If you spend all this time writing a great post, mention people and influencers in your tweet. Adam Connell mentioned my strategy in Step #9 of his post on how to get more Twitter followers. Check it out!

He also has some other amazing Twitter tips in that post. Also, my friend Tom over at Kinsta literally just did this earlier today so it is a great example. He reached out to Brian Dean at 9 am over at Backlinko to let him know we mentioned him in a blog post.

One hour later, Brian shared it on his Twitter and it resulted in 43 RTs and 57 likes. So as you can see, just one simple Tweet and asking for a share can do amazing things! Don’t be afraid to ask people to share.

Brian Dean tweet (source)

Also, I have had amazing success with this paired up with social automation. Mentioned a brand in an automated Tweet that you have scheduled up in a queue on rotation. I have some brands that always retweet it, every single month like clockwork. And we are talking Twitter accounts with half a million followers.

6. Floating social bar

Just like Social Media Examiner points out in Step #2 of their post on how to drive more Facebook traffic, it has been shown many times that a floating social bar will increase your shares!

There is a reason why Neil Patel, Brian Dean, and many other big-name marketers all have floating share bars.  Sometimes people miss your inline share buttons. I use our own Novashare plugin on all my sites, partially because it’s blazing fast, and it also has Twitter share counts.

That’s it for now. So stop obsessing over your backlinks and get out there and start writing more posts and promoting them! The backlinks will follow.

Summary

If you are obsessing over backlinks, you might want to pause and think for a second about how long you spend trying to obtain them each week. If you could push out more quality content and promote it at that same time, you might want to try that and compare the results.

My strategy is that backlinks come last, after I do the heavy lifting.  And as you can see, there are tons of ways to promote your content, and there is always advertising and boosting them on Facebook too if you have the budget. Although I’m a sucker for organic traffic.

What are your thoughts on backlinks? I’m curious to know how much time some of you spend trying to obtain them. I am however working on a backlink building guide because even though I don’t spend much time on it, I have learned a thing or two. So stay tuned for that.

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Brian Jackson

I craft actionable content and develop performance-driven WordPress plugins. Connect on Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter (twice a month, no spam).

18 thoughts on “Seriously stop obsessing over backlinks, quality content first”

    • Glad it clears up some things :) Backlinks are definitely important, but they are the last thing I work on. I find that with great content and promotion, a lot of backlinks just naturally come.

      Reply
      • Great article… Creating great content is not toooo hard for me, promoting…now that’s a different ballgame… Do you recommend promoting posts on fb or other social media platforms to promote an article?

        Reply
  1. Great article… Creating great content is not toooo hard for me, promoting…now that’s a different ballgame… Do you recommend promoting posts on fb or other social media platforms to promote an article? I see that you mentioned that.. On my FB I have 4k plus real fans, but my amazing articles real like 2 percent of them unless it’s promoted, which can get costly..

    Reply
    • I recommend testing what works best… For this site, Twitter works the best for me. For my niche site FB and especially Instagram does better. I am having to learn Instagram for my niche site because I am seeing good engagement, and have never bothered with Instagram previously lol. It really depends on your audience and where they hang out. FB is definitely hard to get organic reach no matter what niche… I would keep building up your fan base, sadly 4k is not enough anymore.

      Are you referring to the paid promotion option with quuu? If so, I do it once in a while for really good content. It definitely helps boost your reach. Although that is pretty costly too. I mainly use quuu for the 3rd party content sharing, which you can use their free plan and it works great.

      Reply
      • Got it… Great idea with quuu, but they don’t have my niche in their categories, not enough posts lol, well none at all… But I like their idea a lot.

        Do you send every single posts to your subscribers? Say you write 4-5 a week, which is a log, do you send it to them or do you just do selected few?

        Reply
  2. Hi Brian,

    I would say that it is an amazing post where you have revealed the importance of engaging content. I have come across so many bloggers who crazy in building backlinks for their low-quality, unessential content.

    I always prefer to write the blog post that would nudge the readers to read till the end and take action. Thanks for the awesome post. I would like to link it :)

    Reply
  3. I must say brian that this type of articles are the ones that made me fall in love with your blog.

    Always on point.
    Thank you so much!

    Reply
  4. Outstanding post Brian, thanks for sharing. And I couldn’t agree with you more, content before backlinks. I found that backlinks can be leveraged for visitors, but that too depends on the quality of your comment. I notice you’re also using Tweetdis, great plugin isn’t it?

    Reply
    • Hey Deon,
      Better late than never. :) Glad you liked the post. Yes, even today I still stand by this. Backlinks have their place, but if you have a backlink to a crappy piece of content, that’s not going to help you very much. I was using Tweetdis for a while, but we’ve now built this feature into our Novashare plugin we use on all of our sites. https://woorkup.com/novashare-review/

      Reply

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