Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from Swet in California, who asks:
“What matters the most in SEO: quality of content or quality of links?”
Great question, Swet!
It’s all about the quality of your content and not the quality or quantity of your backlinks. But that isn’t just from an SEO standpoint; it’s from an all-channel standpoint.
Lots of people will disagree, but the bottom line is that you have to provide a quality experience on your website if you want quality backlinks.
If you take the other route and you do get a ton of traffic from the quality backlinks, that traffic is useless if your website’s content doesn’t satisfy the visitors’ needs.
Backlinks are important because they help to build trust and authority for many search engines.
Quality backlinks also bring you new customers, readers, and leads, because they come from topically relevant sources such as major media, trade publications, and niche blogs.
But what good are backlinks if the experience on your website is poor and your visitors just bounce?
That is why quality content is more important than backlinks (whether good or bad).
- Copy: The text on your pages, wording choices for navigation, categorical structure, breadcrumbs.
- On the page.
- The background.
- The layout of the content itself.
- In some instances, the product you manufacture and sell direct. The content is your official product page and because it is yours and yours only, and that content is link-worthy.
It is also important for all of us to remember that SEO is only a small part of the picture.
Yes, SEO brings in traffic and sales, fills our email lists, and builds brand recognition.
But quality content will convert PPC, influencer, affiliate, and social media traffic, keep your email list engaged and also remove competitors from specific keywords that backlinks cannot rank you for.
Companies should never rely on any one channel — including SEO — for revenue.
Another thing you may want to consider if you have to choose between the two is that without quality content, there is no justifiable reason for you to have quality backlinks and the search engines will catch on to your game.
Once the search engines find your link plan, you will get devalued or penalized for a unnatural link scheme.
In order to get a quality backlink, you have to do something or create something noteworthy and provide the website a resource that is worth linking to.
And this is what your content does. It is the foundation that brings you conversions, readers, and of course, quality backlinks.
Think about it this way. If you build a ton of quality backlinks and the content of your website is garbage, you just wasted all of the effort and likely damaged your website’s brand.
Once you do have quality content, visitors may remember the experience they had previously and skip over you in the future.
All the traffic in the world doesn’t matter if you cannot convert your traffic into leads, sales, subscribers, or increased pageviews. Bouncing visitors just cost your server bandwidth and advertisers that would normally spend higher CPMs for your ad spaces.
That is why quality content is much more valuable than quality or any type of backlinks. I’ve also personally been able to rank websites based on quality content, site structure, and external linking.
Once we get those first few rankings, we normally start getting sourced and the site’s backlinks begin growing naturally.
Once those links start coming in, that is when it becomes even easier to get more backlinks by pitching journalists and other high quality sources.
As I said, plenty of people will disagree. But the bottom line is that you have to provide a quality experience on your website if you want quality backlinks.
And if you take the other route to build backlinks not based on the merits of your content, that traffic is useless once your website’s content fails to satisfy the visitors’ needs.
Focus on your content first, then building quality backlinks to it.
I hope this helps and thank you for reading!
- A Link Building Checklist to Earn More & Better Links
- How to Maximize Link Building Impact in 4 Steps
- Link Building for SEO: A Complete Guide
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!