Running a successful website is far more complicated and difficult than it seems. This is true even for the most interesting, beautifully designed websites with more than decent content. The main reason for this is the fact that web users are overwhelmed by the sheer number of websites out there, and it takes quite a bit of work to get traffic to your website.

There are a number of ways in which webmasters do this, but when it comes to getting organic search traffic, the last decade or so has been dominated by link building, since getting links to one’s website makes given website more visible in search engine results pages.

More recently, however, we have been seeing content marketing taking over and, these days, it seems that switching from link building to content marketing has become a no-brainer.

But, why exactly should you replace link building with content marketing?

Google is Getting Smarter

Anyone who has been doing link building for more than a year will tell you that things used to be so much simpler back in the day. You’d decide on a few keywords, have a gazillion boring 500-word articles written that spam this keyword, find someone with a nice network of fake blogs and start getting (or buying) endless links.

And it worked. It worked because Google hadn’t yet introduced its numerous algorithm updates all aimed at finding such “fake” links and devaluing them.

Over the years, however, Google did introduce a number of updates to its search algorithms, and it did become much better at recognizing links that were built this way. As a result, many websites that ranked well got penalized and are nowhere to be found today.

This has resulted in link building becoming more evolved, but it is still link building, in the sense that you are “forcing” it, in a way.

On the other hand, content marketing is truly, 100% organic. It is all about producing content that other people will link to themselves. It is about producing content that gets people talking about the brand. This is the kind of exposure for your website that will never be penalized by Google.

In fact, it is the kind of exposure that will only get more valuable as Google rolls out more updates in the future and devalues link building even more.

Link Building is Getting Difficult (and Expensive)

We have already touched upon this previously, but it has to be mentioned again – link building is getting more and more difficult. Whereas you could build a dozen links in one day just a few years ago; nowadays, it takes much more, or at least it does if you want to do it the least incorrect way.

Today, you can only go for websites that are 100% bona fide, that do not sell links and that are associated with either companies or real people, if you want to be sure the link is good. Moreover, such link building opportunities all require stellar content that you could have published on your own website as part of your content marketing strategy.

As a result, link building has become extremely time-consuming, and you need people who really know how to do it. In other words, link building has become expensive. Once again, if you want it done right.

Content marketing, on the other hand, is all about creativity and, with some luck and/or hard work, good content marketing does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Young, local creatives are always on the lookout for a gig or two, and they often deliver work that is just stupendously good. And this goes for more than just writers. This goes for animators, video artists, and illustrators.

Link Building is Boring

Link building can be interesting and exciting. It can even be beautiful.

It can.

Most often, it is not. Most often, it all boils down to finding guest posting opportunities, sending outreach emails, figuring out keyword combinations that work and optimizing the most minute details of your work. It is also more likely than not that you are not really giving it your all when creating content needed for link building.

It is just the way things are. Unless you have all the time in the world and all the freedom in the world, link building can get tedious really fast.

Content marketing is diametrically different. Content marketing relies on you being as creative and as inventive as possible. Its effectiveness depends on how out-of-the-box you are willing to work and how much passion you put into what you are doing. When you free yourself from thinking about content marketing in terms of text and articles, this will become even clearer to you; opening a vast world of video or even interactive content to explore.

Of course, it should be pointed out that content marketing also involves quite a bit of hard work and technical stuff such as content auditing and re-writing, but there is definitely more creativity involved in it than in link building.

Instead of a Closing Word

The scales are already obviously tipping in favor of content marketing; there is no doubt about that. That being said, it would be almost irresponsible to suggest there is no place for link building in modern digital marketing.

In fact, it is in combination with content marketing that link building shows its greatest potential for the future. Namely, link building definitely has a supporting role to play in content marketing, raising awareness of the stellar content that is being produced and making sure internet users actually get to consume such content.

Sometimes even the greatest content needs a bit of help to find the right consumers, and this is where link building will always find a role to play.

Just don’t make it your primary weapon.

About the Author: 

Leslie Gilmour is the creative force behind Cube SEO. You can follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.