How I got links without link building

Linkbuilding is often seen as a separate activity within SEO. However, I believe that obtaining links should not be a goal in itself, where you go around begging for links. Links are the result of a valuable content strategy that adds value to the web. In this case study, you can read how I obtained links without linkbuilding.

Liever luisteren?

The idea behind links

Within SEO, it is commonly known that links are important. Google sees a link to your website as a recommendation. The more websites recommend you, the more relevant you are likely to be. At least, that was the thought. Unfortunately for Google, an entire industry emerged in which you could buy links and websites were created solely for link building. I don’t want to publicly name anyone, but believe me: there are plenty of fake websites that serve no purpose at all.

The most valuable links cannot be bought

I’ve never been a fan of link building. Not only because Google doesn’t allow it, but also because the links you can buy can be found in every link profile. Above all, I think the most valuable links can’t be bought. Think about it: if you work for a renowed health organisation, a federation for consumers or specialists in a specific industry or a student council, would you sell a link from your website to a random company? I don’t think so.

When would you link to a company? Probably when that company has made a remarkable discovery, presented innovative data, or created a really good and useful checklist/check-tool.

In my opinion, buying links is like putting a band-aid on your marketing wound: if you have to do this, you often don’t have a distinctive story and you’re probably not doing anything special to get noticed.

To demonstrate that you can also earn links in a different way, I am working hard on my own case.

My own case: how I approach it

In the blog post ‘How I do my own SEO’, I already mentioned that I want to position myself as an authority. I want to share knowledge in the form of content. I do this by writing blogs, recording podcasts, releasing a book, and speaking at as many relevant places as possible. My idea has always been: if I do it this way, it must result in valuable mentions and links. It helps that I have a different (innovative) perspective on SEO and do things differently than most SEOs.

Part 1: I create a lot of valuable content

Below you can see a lot of the content I create to share knowledge, tips, and tricks:

The most interesting thing is that I don’t share what everyone else is sharing about SEO. I have a very different opinion about it and that is what is the core of my communication. 

What I say in my book

My book largely addresses the issues with the current approach to SEO that no longer work. In my book, I debunk some myths and offer an alternative method to tackle SEO. This is a prerequisite for success: if you say the same things as everyone else, you won’t stand out. Therefore, you must find YOUR unique angle.

What I share in my podcast

This distinct approach to SEO is also reflected in my podcast. In episodes of 10 minutes, I address various topics. Sometimes, they are topics that the entire SEO world is talking about; sometimes, I share my own experience, and occasionally, I give a 10-minute speech to encourage people to do things differently. I’m not afraid to speculate and look ahead.

Blogging for other sites

Of course, it’s an honor for me to blog for other websites. In the past, I’ve written for Marketingfacts and Emerce. One of those blogs was picked up by the trade magazine Marketing Tribune, which wanted to publish it both in their magazine and online.

Posting on Linkedin

I post something on LinkedIn about twice a week. Here, too, no standard tips, questions, or tricks. Instead, I like to discuss a controversial topic or highlight a common mistake. By constantly picking a stimulating topic, my posts now have quite a bit of reach.

Voorbeeld post op Linkedin die 'viral' ging. De insteek was hier om een heilig huisje aan te pakken: zijn online marketeers wel échte marketeers?
Voorbeeld van Linkedin post met redelijk wat bereik. Het doel was hier om een gangbare gedachte te challengen en een andere invalshoek te tonen. Vragen naar de ROI van SEO is als vragen naar de ROI van 2 ons groente en 2 stuks fruit.
Voorbeeld waarbij titel vooral nieuwswaardig ingestoken is. Dit onderwerp was toen enorm hot en ik was één van de eersten. Een aantal dagen later zou deze titel niet meer gewerkt hebben: Dit is 'm, de chatbot van Google genaamd Bard, de tegenhanger van ChatGPT.

Part 2: I enjoy speaking at relevant events

As a result of all the content I create and share through LinkedIn, I often get invited to appear on other people’s podcasts or webinars.

In the carousel below, you can see that I have been a guest on the SEO Benelux podcast, the Inbound4Cast hosted by Jerrel Arkes, and I recorded a video talk with Christiaan Slierendrecht. Not included in the carousel due to lack of visual material is the fact that I was also invited by Nicol Tadema to participate in a webinar to talk more about SEO for recruiters.

This has in resulted in...

As you can see, I had to sow a lot first before I could reap the rewards. In my opinion, that’s an important aspect: there’s no gain without pain. Nobody will simply link to you or talk about you without a good reason.

Let’s take a look at what it has yielded. I track the links I’ve earned with my content in Google Search Console. You can see some of these links to my website below:

linkjes verdiend met goede content en inhoudelijke marketing
Links Belgian agency and Inbound4Cast
linkjes verdiend met goede content en inhoudelijke marketing
Links Nicol Tadema &SEO Benelux
linkjes verdiend met goede content en inhoudelijke marketing
Link to my website

In some cases, they are links from websites I have worked with. In two cases (so far), they are links for which I have done nothing: these websites have linked to me because they found my content (podcast) to be a recommendation or my vision to be intellectually interesting. Cool, right!

In addition to these links, I also have links from the websites where I have written for: Frankwatching, Marketingfacts, Emerce, and Marketing Tribune. I leave these out of consideration because they are the result of a guest blog on their website and not really “earned”.


Unfortunately, not everything results in a link to my site. The good news: I don’t mind at all. If we look at the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, we see that Google also places a lot of importance on mentions: are other experts talking about you? This is a sign of proven relevance for Google.

Below you can see which websites are talking about me and which I am very proud of.

Vermelding op SEO Brein
Mention SEO Brein
Vermelding op SEO Benelux
Mention SEO Benelux
Vermelding bij online bureau en op Emerce Digital Marketing Live
Mentions online agency & Emerce Digital Marketing live

The most valuable links cannot be bought.

As you can see, these types of links are not for sale. To earn the best links, you have to work hard, have a good/differentiated story, get yourself noticed, and above all, persevere. I did not earn these links directly within 1-2 days, it took much longer. All that time, you have to keep sharing interesting content, tips, tricks, your vision, and things to discuss.

The advantage is that these links are truly naturally earned. So, I don’t have to be afraid that they will be removed with every Google update.

If you think that no one on the web wants to link without payment, this proves that it is certainly not the case. However, it is true that no one wants to link to nonsense for free. So the question is: should you open your wallet or should you make sure to get yourself noticed?

Let's talk about SEO

Do you want to get more out of SEO and get started with People First SEO? I am more than happy to help you with this. Together with me, you will work on creating your ideal customer profile and determine where and when you can reach your audience with the right message. Some content items are suitable for SEO, while others can be used for demand generation and building authority. All the content you create must meet the requirements of the Google Helpful Content Update and contribute to E-E-A-T.

Lees verder

With the announcement of Generative AI in Search people say: there is no more incentive to create content anymore. Well if we create content for SEO reasons only, that is definitely true. But why do we only create content if it brings us visitors from organic search? Creating content for this reason only is a flaw in our marketing strategy and by doing this we are missing the bigger value of content.