Content Marketing vs Link Building

10 mins read

There are many blogs and SEO companies that all say different things to get ranked on the first page of Google. Over the past 12 months we put all these theories to the test. We’re going to put all these SEO theories to bed once and for all and deliver you the facts from over 12 months of research. We collaborated with SixtyMarketing who shared a lot of their data and research through their WordPress website design and website maintenance client they have built up over the past few years.

Over the past 12 months, myself and the guys at SixtyMarketing have worked on 15 websites to generate this research. 10 websites have equal national keyword and competition difficulties and 5 websites were for local search terms only, again with the same difficulty. Below is the strategy and results for each site:

Site 1 (national) – 100% blogging and content marketing + 0% link building.

Site 2 (national) – 90% blogging and content marketing + 10% link building.

Site 3 (national) – 80% blogging and content marketing + 20% link building.

Site 4 (national) – 70% blogging and content marketing + 30% link building.

Site 5 (national) – 60% blogging and content marketing + 40% link building.

Site 6 (national) – 50% blogging and content marketing + 50% link building.

Site 7 (national) – 40% blogging and content marketing + 60% link building.

Site 8 (national) – 30% blogging and content marketing + 70% link building.

Site 9 (national) – 20% blogging and content marketing + 80% link building.

Site 10 (national) – 10% blogging and content marketing + 90% link building.

Site 11 (local) – 100% blogging and content marketing + 0% link building.

Site 12 (local) – 80% blogging and content marketing + 20% link building.

Site 13 (local) – 60% blogging and content marketing + 40% link building.

Site 14 (local) – 40% blogging and content marketing + 60% link building.

Site 15 (local) – 20% blogging and content marketing + 80% link building.

Please note that all websites have been fully optimised onsite with roughly 15-20 main landing pages for services/products. Each web page was optimised for different keywords.

The Ranking Theories

It is an SEO minefield out there, one blog tells you something and another tells you something completely different! If you are trying to optimise your website yourself without any experience or knowledge and just relying on information you read then you’re doomed! Here are the most common factors that blogs and tutorials tell you to focus on Some are right, and some are not as important as you may think and you shouldn’t waste too much time on them, at least not to begin with.

  • Social Media
  • Email Marketing
  • Google Adwords
  • Blogging
  • Content Marketing
  • Press Releases
  • Infographics

Your Top Priority – Link Building

Building quality backlinks in the right places at the right times is the best way to spend your efforts. There is a lot of talk online that link building is either dead or it shouldn’t be your main focal point for Google rankings. From the 12 months of research we have done, they are wrong! Inbound marketing is key for successful search engine rankings.


We applied the same inbound marketing strategies to all 15 websites to give us accurate results. The link building techniques we applied to all sites were as follows:

  • Social Media accounts x 5.
  • Local citations.
  • Quality, niche directories.
  • Guest blogging.
  • Small amount of relevant blog commenting.
  • Small amount of forum contributions.

We applied these techniques to all the above websites, the only variation was the amount of time we were allowed to work on each site as stated above. This means some websites got more inbound links quicker than others.

We also stuck with a 3:1 ratio where for every 3 links we built, 2 would be a keyword/long tail keyword variation anchor link and 1 would be a brand anchor link (either Brand Name or

We researched every website for quality by looking at DA (domain authority), PA (page authority) and content quality. We checked the DA and PA using this free tool. Each website must have a minimum score of 30 DA for us to contribute to.

Secondary Priority – Blogging & Content Marketing

Creating excellent content on your blog on a regular basis has been deemed the top technique to get ranked on many SEO blogs. This isn’t as important as you may think for reach the top spots on the search engines. What we have been told to do is come up with expert advice, reviews, tutorials, and latest news, this is usually followed with the usual quote of ‘content is king’. Well unfortunately, this is not the case, it’s just not as simple as that!


It doesn’t matter if your content is the most useful piece of information ever written, if you can’t get it in front of the masses and the influencers, it’s pretty worthless. What you are basically doing is talking to an empty room where nobody can hear you. Fair enough you might say it passes traffic and even link juice through to your main landing pages or ‘I can get the traffic through content marketing’, but it’s a lot of time and effort for very little reward.

So if we go into content marketing to get this superb post in-front of people. Content marketing usually means submitting your post to multiple social media accounts, niche blog networks and also contacting other bloggers notifying them about your post. All this can lead to more traffic (to your blog post only), social shares and hopefully backlinks (again, to your blog post only).

Now here is the best case scenario for getting you amazing blog post in front of loads of people, getting tons of backlinks and social shares… zero ranking improvements for you targeted keywords.

That’s it! From our research and also Moz released a post very similar to our results. Blog posts are great for answering users questions but they are not great for selling your services or products. A huge amount of time is required to write 1500-2000 word piece of content that’s exceptional, to get it in front of 1000’s of people, then keep it up to date with new information. This shouldn’t be your focal point to increase your targeted keywords and to increase sales. Blogging and content marketing is a long term game.

The Results

We found the below results and timescales for the below websites. Remember, all websites were focused on the same difficulty search terms in roughly the same sort on competition level. Results are based on any of the keywords, or keyword variations in the top 5 positions of Google UK’s search results over a 12 month period.

Site 1 (national) – 1 keyword.

Site 2 (national) – 4 keywords.

Site 3 (national) – 9 keywords.

Site 4 (national) – 9 keywords.

Site 5 (national) – 23 keywords.

Site 6 (national) – 26 keywords.

Site 7 (national) – 35 keywords.

Site 8 (national) – 42 keywords.

Site 9 (national) – 38 keywords.

Site 10 (national) – 33 keywords.

Site 11 (local) – 5 keywords.

Site 12 (local) – 11 keywords.

Site 13 (local) – 19 keywords.

Site 14 (local) – 19 keywords.

Site 15 (local) – 14 keywords.

As you can see from the results, the websites that have a good ratio of link building slightly higher than blogging return better results.

Websites that have high blogging ratio over link building returned low top 5 results. The same applies to a high ratio of link building to blogging.

Until you are established on Google you should focus 70% of your efforts on link building and 30% on blogging & content marketing. This will give you the best return for your time, cost and efforts. Once you have established your brand, business and website on Google with strong positioning you can then start branching out on other forms of internet marketing.

Possibly with a higher budget from your returns you can invest more into an equal share of all internet marketing techniques to truly establish your brand, business and website online. If you are just starting out with minimal resources, time and budget then a 70 (link building) – 30 (blogging content marketing) ratio delivers the best results to begin with.