Links, Content, & Traffic: Piecing It All Together


A client recently asked how the links we were building to their site would result in new customers for their business. While a lot of what we do as SEOs is connected, we often only talk about it in its parts. We talk about content creation, or link building, or rankings. Each is a unique piece of the puzzle, however, they all work together toward the end goal of the site.

I thought I’d share with you what I told our client. It’s a nice refresher on why we do what we do, and how no one piece of the SEO puzzle is the “king” or “holy grail” of search.

The Content

While your company history might be meaningful to the CEO, it’s not likely going to attract a lot of links, unless maybe you’re Zappos and used as an example in every blog post about “company culture”. It’s just not going to cut it.

This is where linkbait comes in. But when I use the term linkbait, I don’t necessarily mean the latest, cheesiest infographic to make the front page of Digg and crash your server. All linkbait really is, is quality, relevant content that grabs the attention of the “influencers” in your particular niche and makes them want to share it. Where people seem to get hung up on creating content is in thinking that it has to be directly related to their industry. It doesn’t. Content that is related tangentially to your niche can still help build quality links.

The Links

Once you’ve got that great piece of content, you have to tell someone it’s there. There are people in every industry who are creating and sharing content online, you just have to find them and get the ball rolling with some self promotion. Reach out to them. Often times, all it takes is mentioning that you have a particular piece of content and making them aware of it to get them to share it. If you’ve created something truly valuable to the people you’re reaching out to, they’ll want to link to it and pass it on to their network. You’re not going to have to force their hand.

While a linkbait piece may result in a short-term increase in traffic from those that link to it, these visitors are not likely to convert. However, they themselves might also add a link from their own site or share it on a social network, and so on.
With good internal linking, the authority that a particular piece of content gains can be shared with the rest of the site. The key here is that the links to a specific page on a website help boost the authority of not only that page, but the entire site as well. Think of it as the old saying, “a rising tide will lift all boats.”

The Traffic

While we all know there is more to the ranking algorithm than just links, links are an important part. You’ve seen those pages that previously ranked #2, and with just the right link, have jumped to the first spot. And we’ve seen sites that gradually rise across all measured keywords as many pages on a site are simultaneously gaining authority.

Higher search rankings for commonly searched terms generally equate to more traffic from searchers, which is why rankings are still a factor that SEOs measure – even in a time of personalized search, Google Instant, and whatever the next novelty will be. The increase in traffic is not linear, though, and traffic can increase by multiples as a page ranks higher and higher.

The Result

The result, after all of that work, is that you now have several great pieces of link-worthy content on your site, they’re helping to raise the authority of the pages you want to rank, and those are bringing in the targeted traffic that is looking for your services.

And if you’d paid attention to the design of your site, usability, and landing page optimization, those website visitors will be walking through your front door.

Your Comments

  • Carly Messmer

    Great post, Dawn! I had to explain to a client last week that traffic derived from on-site content might not necessarily convert to a sale, but if it’s well written it will improve the site’s authority. It can be difficult for clients to see the bigger picture of everything interacting together – but I love when it all works. :)

  • Daniel Redman

    This must be a popular concern for a lot of clients these days. I had a similar convo that ended by explaining that GOOD content is the crux of this equation and the distribution is less of a concern. Give me something that has pandemic appeal and you can spread it with a smoke signal if need be.

    • Dawn Wentzell

      you can spread it with a smoke signal if need be

      Hah, I love that. And it’s true, but you do have to spread it. What Google says about creating great content and the links will just appear is bullshit. No one will link if no one knows it’s there.

  • Cijo Abraham Mani

    It is hard to convince a client about the importance of different internet marketing activities. If we take link building most clients don’t understand how a user gets benefited if we give an outbound link to another website. Relevant inbound links are a key factor that helps website to stay ahead of the competition by attaining higher ranking. The right mix of a set of activities increases the authority of any website in search engine.

    • Thos003

      If you can’t give outbound links than can you really expect to get inbound links?

      • Cijo Abraham Mani

        Thos003, You have asked the relevant question. A lot of clients think in the opposite way. A website should never be a dead end. It should have links to few relevant websites so that the search engine spiders can go to those website and crawl the pages on them. The relevant outbound links will be beneficial to your website visitors. Let us take an example: You are having a cruise website, linking to some travel website will always help visitors as they might be interested in those resources as well.

  • Jennifer@T1 Internet

    There’s a so-called guru out there talking about the linkbuilding/activity/content trifecta these days. Ryan something, I think his name is. People keep saying linkbuilding is dead, but it seems like it’s still an integral part of the strategy. I do agree that it is sometimes hard for clients to understand, though. It’s sometimes easier to justify an Adwords campaign in the short term than it is to sell someone on long-term linkbuilding. As always, thanks for the thought-provoking content.

  • Summer

    I think the number one thing I’ve learned in the field of SEO is the term “patience.” Yeah. Easier said than done.

    I recently wrote a couple of guest blog posts with a link to our homepage in the bio line. Are there any ways I can track what good this has done for us besides checking the page backlinks?

  • Josh Braaten

    Great post, Dawn! One of the downfalls of online marketing is that there are a lot more metrics to pay attention to along the way. Real strategy comes when you realize that all your metrics are connected: Links -> rankings -> traffic -> conversions. More people need to read posts like this rather than chasing after every tool that will positively impact a single aspect of online marketing. Thanks for sharing.

  • Dawn Wentzell

    Hey Summer. You can check your rankings for the keywords used in your anchor text, as well. I’d suggest using a 3rd party tool to minimize the affects of personalization rather than checking yourself.

  • Lee Pinsanietti

    Great article Dawn. I have a question concerning linking. If a site has only or mostly inbound links, I would say this is hurting them. However, how may outbound links would you need to have to still maintain a natural look and flow, but not appear to be engaging in link swapping? I know key is to keep everything as natural as possible, and try to engage your in and outbound linking to relevant sites, but sometimes this is not always possible.