Link building has always been, and remains, one of the most important elements of an SEO strategy. Links pass whatâ€™s known as â€œPageRankâ€ but more commonly referred to as â€œauthorityâ€ from one domain to another, serving as a kind of third-party reference that a particular website is credible (at least in Googleâ€™s eyes).
Most modern link building strategies focus on creating content that, for lack of a better term, houses a link pointing back to your domain, or, in the case of on-site content, naturally attracts inbound links on its own merits.
But is it possible â€“ or worthwhile â€“ to build links without content?
Link Building: 2017 Edition
Letâ€™s start high-level with why we use content to build links in the first place. PageRank and domain authority are about more than just the sheer quantity of links pointing to your site; in addition to the authority of the publisher linking to it, Google also checks the link for relevance and quality.
Basically, if a link is deemed valuable to other users, itâ€™s accepted and treated as worthyâ€”and oftentimes, the best way to secure that level of value is to use it as a citation in an article. Writing and promoting your content comes with a host of other benefits, too, so most optimizers default to producing content to build better links.
The Dangers of Building Links Without Content
First, you need to be aware of some of the general dangers and downsides that come along with building links without content:
- Editorial availability. Getting content published on high-authority, external sources isnâ€™t exactly easy, but itâ€™s certainly much easier than getting a link posted by itself. Publishers are hungry for content and actively avoid linking out as much as possible, which makes demand much higher for links in content.
- Spam triggers. Google is well aware of optimizers trying to cheat the ranking system by spamming links. If you post links to your site without any content backing it up, youâ€™ll run a much higher risk of triggering a red flag. If that happens, you could face a ranking penalty.
- Reputation sacrifices. When you produce a piece of content under your brandâ€™s name, you earn more than just a linkâ€”you earn more brand visibility, and a better reputation with your readers. When you post a link without any content, youâ€™ll sacrifice those potential gains.
- Contextual void. Posting a link by itself gives you no opportunity to contextualize the link and earn better referral traffic. For example, if youâ€™re linking to a buyerâ€™s guide for a product you sell, youâ€™ll miss the opportunity to passively sell to your incoming audience.
- Keyword opportunities. Anchor text for links isnâ€™t as important or as straightforward as it used to be, but itâ€™s still an important part of the link building equation. Building a link with no content means youâ€™ll abandon the opportunity to optimize for a specific keyword.
- Authority effects. Links without content might be seen as suspicious, or otherwise compromise your authority more than they would within content.