Backlinks versus Content - Which is better for SEO

All SEO’s have, at one time or another, asked themselves “Which is better – Content or Backlinks”? The SEO team at Sundown Legal Marketing recently conducted a study comparing the effectiveness of adding quality backlinks versus adding relevant, robust content. The team selected three client websites for this study and tailored a unique SEO plan for each.

The team applied the following SEO plan to the three selected websites:

  1. For website A our strategy was to add backlinks only.
  2. For website B our strategy was to add content only.
  3. For website C our strategy was to add a combination of content and backlinks.

The SEO work for the three websites selected for the study was done during the same time period: February – April. Let’s take a look at the results for each website.

Work Completed for Each Website:

There are many other factors that go into Google’s algorithm (beyond links & content) that impact website traffic and organic placement, so our SEO team tried to keep everything else as close to uniform as possible. For example, the SEO team continued their SEO efforts with all three websites, which included siloing the pages on the main menu and correcting any 404 errors found in Google Search Console.

Website A (Backlinks Only):

In addition to the normal SEO tasks performed on all three websites listed above, the team created 5 separate and unique backlinks from industry related websites back to Website A. Each of these links had domain authorities of between 30 and 40.

Timeline:

  • These backlinks were obtained during the month of April.
  • There was no content added in the months of February, March, and April.

Looking at the weekly organic traffic for this website there was a spike toward the middle of April, but it was not sustained. However, overall traffic increased, and plateaued at around 80 sessions per week. Before the project began the traffic had plateaued at around 65 sessions per week.

Interesting to note here is that there was content added to the site in January, and that could possibly account for the slight increase of traffic in February. Also, this website plateaued at around 75 sessions/week during February and March (with one slight dip in early March), before spiking up after the backlinks were realized. This tells us that there’s a strong correlation between the backlinks being realized (picked up by Googlebot) and the increase in organic traffic.

Website B (Content Only):

Again, the SEO Team continued their normal tasks that we provide all of our SEO clients, which includes fixing any onsite health issues that are found, but in terms of backlinks, they added absolutely none. Instead, they only added content to this website – lots of content. In fact, during the months of February, March, and April they added close to 20 pages of additional content, each with an average of about 850 words. Here are the results:

Timeline:

  • These articles were added throughout the study February -April.
  • No backlinks were created during the study time frame.

There was a slight rise in organic traffic during February, but then a slight decline in March, then a gradual increase in April, and a huge boost in May. What did the Team do in April and May? They simply went back to adding content, but this time, it was their regularly scheduled 2-3 articles per month. It seems that Google slowly rewarded our content efforts by showing this website higher in the SERP over time. Indeed, here is our average position for relevant keywords we track for this website:

There is a great deal of volatility in the chart above, but at beginning of April, right after we finished adding the large volume of content pages, Google moved the average position of the website from about 21 to about 18.

During this time the Team did not add any backlinks to the website and only did the same amount of maintenance (fixing crawl errors, broken links) that we do for all our other clients, including the other two websites in this study.

Website C (Combination of Content and Backlinks):

You would think that a combination of the above two strategies would be the best strategy – and you would be right! For website C we added substantial content, and obtained substantial backlinks.

In March we obtained 5 backlinks, and throughout the course of March and April we added seven articles to the website, each with an average of about 850 words.

Timeline:

  • These backlinks were obtained during the month of March.
  • The content was added to Website C in March and April.

It seems that Google rewarded this website a little bit in March, and a lot in April and May. The weekly organic traffic plateau went from about 60 to about 100.

After reviewing the results of our study, it became apparent that in order to successfully rank a website, you must institute a broad-based SEO program, applying many different techniques.

We hope this has been an insightful look into the work of a digital marketing firm. If you need any assistance with generating more organic traffic, and being found by your target audience, contact Sundown Legal Marketing for a free consultation. We can be reached at (800) 649-1764 or by using our website contact form.