If you want to earn any kind of meaningful organic rankings in search engines, you need to have links pointing back to your site from high-authority domains. That’s an inarguable and objective reality; Google and other search engines are built on a foundation of measuring “authority,” which is an evaluation of your site’s trustworthiness.
This trustworthiness is determined by seeing what other sites have cited you as a valuable resource; the more links you have and the more trustworthy those sources are, the more trustworthy your site is bound to be. At least that’s how search engine logic goes.
You can use this to your advantage by getting more links — but of course, Google is sophisticated, and not just any links will do. If you’re suspected of manipulating your rankings with link schemes or any other questionable tactics (such as spamming), you’ll be penalized rather than rewarded with higher search positions.
Today, there are two main ways to get links “naturally,” without risking penalization — link building and link earning — but which one is better?
Link Building in a Nutshell
The practice of link building is all about creating your own links, pointing back to your site. You can’t just post links at your own discretion, but you can use tactics such as guest posts to naturally include references back to your own domain.
The idea here is to earn guest features on external publications, writing content that’s valuable for their audiences, which includes a link that references content on your site. The more you do this, working with bigger and better publishers, the more you’ll gradually earn authority and ranking power.
Link Earning in a Nutshell
On the other hand, link earning is about attracting links naturally from other people by. The idea is to create a piece of excellent, valuable content on your own site and promote it across the web and social media, attracting shares and links like a magnet as people find it and reference it.
If one of your pieces is exceptionally popular, you could earn hundreds to thousands of links from its syndication, but of course, making a piece of content go viral isn’t easy.
So which approach is the “better” of the two? Let’s take a look at the balance between these two approaches in different dimensions of value for your brand:
· Function. First, both strategies have the power to earn more links pointing back to your domain, possibly from high-authority sources. This makes them both useful as standalone strategies, or working together.
· Reliability. When it comes to reliability, link building has an edge over link earning. While it’s possible to study what factors make a piece go viral and achieve peak circulation around the web, there’s still no guarantee that even your best piece of content will earn as many links as you think it’s going to, or as you think it should. Link building almost guarantees you a link every time you make a post, making it the more reliable of the two.
· Consistency. Over time, link building is also a more consistent strategy. As you continue your work over the course of weeks and months, you’ll see a solid trajectory of growth from your link building efforts, while your link earning efforts will grow in fits and spurts, making it less predictable and harder to track.
· Effort. Both strategies will require effort on your part, in different ways. With link earning, you’ll pour a significant amount of effort into one piece of content, which may earn you thousands of links in one go. With link building, you’ll need to keep your effort up consistently over a prolonged period of time, meaning overall, link building will probably demand more effort from you.
· Timing. In link building, much of your potential for success will come from your ability to build a reputation, personal brand, and rapport with higher-authority publishers, but building that clout takes time. You have to start by working with lower-level publications, gradually working your way up the ladder of authority, which could take months or even years. Even though it’s less consistent, link earning can help you start seeing results practically right away.
· Control. That being said, link building does give you more control over which publishers you work with and how you scale over time. With link earning, your links could come from anywhere or nowhere — no matter how long you’ve spent on your campaign.
· Raw potential. No matter how much or how little effort you put into a post through link building, you’ll still earn only one link from it. A piece meant for link earning could generate thousands; in terms of raw potential power, link earning has the advantage.
· Risk. Finally, though both strategies are practically risk-free if you implement them correctly, link earning is the less risky of the two approaches because all your links will be built by other people. They won’t just “look” natural — they will actually be natural.
The Bottom Line
Both link building and link earning are viable strategies. Each one makes it possible to earn new links pointing to your site without worrying about the risks of a Google penalty, but obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.
Depending on your individual brand needs and the resources available to you, my recommendation is to use both in balance with each other to achieve the best path to long-term success for your domain.