If you’re a digital marketer, you know that link building is like the holy grail of organic traffic, second only to publishing quality content marketing itself.
But earning inbound links with content marketing can feel like an elusive goal. How do you know where to start? What are the best ways to do it?
In this article, I’ll cover the basics of inbound links, why they’re important, and several specific tactics to help you start earn inbound links with content marketing.
- Inbound links build your brand reputation and authority for topics most important to your audience.
- An active blog is the cornerstone of any link building strategy.
- Visual content and downloadable templates are extremely shareable and effective at earning inbound links.
- Owning your niche by knowing the competitors and content that exist within it is key to strong link building over time.
What are inbound links?
An inbound link is a link from another website to your own website. Inbound links usually occur when another site is linking to your content as a relevant resource — as part of a blog post, for example. The opposite of an inbound link is an outbound link, which is when you link to another website from your site.
Let’s look at an example.
Below is a screenshot from one of my recent blog posts on perfecting your calls to action. You can see here that I included a hyperlink to the source of the statistic in the copy about how CTAs boost conversion rates.
That hyperlink sends readers to one of HubSpot’s blogs, which covers the research behind the 200% statistic. For Marketing Insider Group, that link is an outbound link. It’s a relevant resource for readers of my blog post. But for HubSpot, it’s an inbound link, a source of traffic to their site and one of the ways they have built such high domain authority.
Why you need Inbound Links for Content Marketing
Inbound links are an important driver of SEO rankings. When other quality websites are linking to your content, it tells Google and other search engines that your site is a reputable authority on that particular topic. Inbound links are one of the ways that Google looks beyond common tactics like keywords to determine the true value of your content. Over time, they help you rank higher across the board within your niche.
Inbound links are also a source of high-quality referral traffic. In some ways, they’re almost like an endorsement. Think about it this way: if you’re reading a blog post on a website you know and trust, and that blog links to another website, you’re likely to trust that new site as well. You might even explore their other content, or browse their offerings.
6 ways to earn inbound links with content marketing
So how do you earn inbound links? The truth is, there is no quick and easy way to do it. Earning enough inbound links to drive real results takes time and consistent effort. But there are ways to do it, and I’m going to explain 6 of them that I recommend.
An active blog
Consistency is one of the keys to content marketing success. It contributes to earning inbound links, too. Research done by Hubspot found that companies (of all sizes) that published 11+ blog posts each month earned twice or even 3x as much inbound traffic.
Image Source: Hubspot
There are a few reasons behind this. First, publishing a higher volume of optimized content earns better organic search rankings over time. This helps to increase brand awareness and overall presence.
Once your brand is more visible, that deep library of content indicates authority, thought leadership, and reliability to users and other brands that visit your site. It makes them more likely to see your content as trustworthy and shareable for their own sites.
Evergreen content is optimized SEO content that has no expiration date. It is built around your core content pillars and, when crafted the right way, stays relevant to your target audience for years to come.
Evergreen content can serve as the backbone of your larger content strategy, establishing your authority on the topics and themes most important to your brand and earning compounding traffic over time.
Image Source: Cognitive SEO
Evergreen content can help you earn more inbound traffic because other brands love to share content they know won’t quickly become outdated or irrelevant for their own audiences. It also establishes your reputation as a go-to resource for topics in your niche, meaning sites that share your content once will likely return again when they need resources for other content.
One savvy way you can earn a boost in inbound links is to create content around trending topics in news and pop culture. Specifically, creating infographics and other visuals related to the topic can be a sure way to get people sharing your content. Why? Because they’re creating their own content related to the same topics, and your visuals can add to it.
The key is to find an authentic way to link the trending topic to your industry and your audience. Let’s look at an example. When Marvel comics was gaining huge popularity as the movies were released, organic search agency Fractl created an infographic for real estate resource website Movoto that showed the homelands of famous Marvel superheroes.
The infographic absolutely took off — it gained exposure for Movoto on sites like MTV, Yahoo, Business Insider, People, Glamour, The Huffington Post, and more.
Image Source: Fractl
This tactic not only earns inbound links but it’s also a fun and creative way to diversify your content and engage new audiences.
Speaking of infographics, they’re one of the best strategies for inbound link building no matter what topic they’re covering. Infographics have the much-needed ability to make complex content understandable and easily digestible for users. They’re a great tool for sharing detailed statistics, step-by-step how-to material, highly technical information that needs visual support, or a high volume of information in one place.
They’re also a way to get your content directly in front of additional audiences in addition to the link you earn back to your website.
Marketing Insider Group decided to take the infographic approach in our guide to creating the perfect blog post. With so much information to share about both the anatomy of the perfect blog post and our 20-step checklist, we knew we needed visual support in order to include all of the information in one post.
Both infographics are downloadable and easily shareable, meaning other brands could both link back to the post and share the images directly on their own sites.
Downloadable tools and templates
Brands create content to help their audience solve problems and accomplish important tasks. One of the surest ways to do this is with actual tools and templates they can use in their own roles. That’s why list posts that link to downloadable content is so popular — there is high demand for it and it creates tons of value for the user.
And guess what? Every one of those tools and templates included on a list post is an inbound link for the brand that created it.
Marketing Insider Group creates list posts like this all the time, most recently for content marketing templates and content calendars. These tools and templates may not all be created by us, but if our audience knows they can come to our blog for needed resources like these, they’ll keep returning for more. That’s why they’re worth publishing, and why creating tools and templates that fit into posts like these can earn you inbound traffic.
Guest posting on other sites in your industry can be a really effective strategy for inbound link building. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, too. You’re providing value to the site you partner with and to their audience, gaining exposure for your brand and building authority, and earning an inbound link back to your site.
But how do you start guest posting? This is where it gets tricky.
Ideally, you’ll be asked to guest post on other sites for brands who you’ve built a relationship with or who know you as an expert on a topic they want to cover. But this takes significant time and an established reputation.
Another way to start guest posting is to reach out directly to other brands to see if they want to feature your content. Lots of people take this route, and it’s not a bad strategy if you do it right.
Or you might find broken links on other sites, reach out to the owner, and suggest one of yours.
The biggest key to success here is to make sure the content you’re offering to guest post is high quality and relevant to the site you’re pitching. But there’s much more to it. Neil Patel put together a really helpful guide to guest blogging that I recommend checking out for a deeper dive.
Own your niche
Making inbound links something you earn consistently and at high-volume really requires owning your niche — the relevant topics that are most important to your brand and your audience.
While the tactics I covered above are all actionable ways to earn inbound links, there are some larger strategic steps I recommend taking as well. These will give you a more holistic understanding of the content landscape for topics and themes you want to build authority and earn inbound links for.
First, performing a competitive analysis helps you understand where your competitors are beating you out for rankings — and thus likely inbound links, too. SEMRush’s ultimate guide to a competitive content analysis is a great resource that takes you through the process.
Once you know the content your competitors are creating, you can use the skyscraper method to create better versions of it. For this, I recommend the in-depth guide from Ahref’s.
Pair these strategic steps with the tactics outlined in the previous section, and you’re sure to start seeing results — AKA more inbound links from sites you’d recommend in return.
Earn inbound links with content marketing that delivers
Earning inbound links with content marketing means creating consistent, high-quality content that adds value for your customers. Marketing Insider Group’s team of writers and SEO experts can deliver you optimized, ready-to-publish content every week for an entire year (or more!).