Link building, SEO & branding

If you want to rank a site for a keyword that’s even remotely competitive in search engines like Bing and Google, you need links. Link building has thus been one of the important pillars of most SEO campaigns over the last decade. Getting links is a non trivial business, and because of that, the SEO industry has always jumped on every new tactic it discovered to get links at scale. The usual result is Google “killing” that tactic.

We’ve seen link buying, comment spamming, directories, etc. etc. It’s a long list of tactics that, in and of themselves aren’t bad, but when used at scale, go sour quickly. As they say: “too much of a good thing”. The latest tactic being hammered by Matt Cutts is guest blogging. As the owner of a fairly popular blog I can only agree with him: it’s gone too far.

In his post, Matt says:

In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well.

If you check the list of authors on this blog, you’ll see people that either work here, I’ve personally worked with in previous jobs / projects and / or consider good friends. All of them are people with an opinion I respect on their respective topics. I didn’t need Matt to tell me that, I’ve always thought that was the only way to do it, because I respect my own brand.

I’m currently on my way back home from Silicon Valley, where I’ve seen and spoken to people at 9 different companies, both large and small. These guys needn’t really think about link building. Most of them are building something so cool, that people link to it because they like it. That doesn’t mean you can’t or needn’t do link building. In fact I advised one of them to amplify their link growth by doing a specific kind of outreach.

Branding is the new link building

Admittedly, I never did do that much link building and have been doing less and less of it. I was thinking as to why I never did, and it’s actually rather obvious if you look at our client list for our SEO consulting (I don’t mean our website reviews, but the consulting where I come on-site and do training and strategic and tactical work). We work for big brands. Not necessarily big companies, but all of them truly brands with a product or service we believe in. In fact, we’ve stopped doing SEO consulting for companies whose products we don’t believe in.

If you’re not willing to build a product or service people love (or at least talk about), and to attach a brand value to it that people will relate to, do you really think you deserve to rank?

Content marketing without branding is…

Like an airplane without wings: it won’t fly. You can have the best airplane chairs in the world, if you don’t put engines and a wing on that plane, you’re not going to get very far. In discussing this topic I got the counter argument that the best content for any specific topic should rank. I think that’s bullshit. Search engine result pages based entirely on the quality of content would look like **** too, just like results based on the number of links are. This is not simple math.

So SEOs have a choice: now that Matt has said guest blogging won’t work anymore, are they going to try and find the next disposable tactic? Will they remain tricksters? Or are they going to become real marketers? I think that as an industry we’ve been relying on crappy tactics enough by now.

I’ve made my choice quite a while ago. We invest heavily in branding. We have, Erwin, our illustrator and Mijke, our designer, doing lots of work for that. Together they’re responsible for the fact that people recognise that Barry, our new developer, works at Yoast just by seeing his avatar. So branding is one of our tactics and probably the most expensive one at that.

We also sponsor conferences, we speak at conferences, we write great content, we do some outreach, we even write the occasional guest post. You see, all of those things are tactics. If we relied on any one of them too much, we’d be in trouble, but we don’t. And yes, I think good branding is just as important for SEO as link building is.

These tactics are part of our larger strategy that is aimed at making us a bigger brand in the spaces of SEO, website optimisation, conversion rate optimisation and WordPress. So, what is your strategy and your goal? Which tactics fit into that strategy?

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65 Responses

  1. JustinBy Justin on 21 January, 2014

    I saw that video today from Matt Cutts. I stopped accepting guest posts over a year ago because of the low quality from them.

  2. SteveBy Steve on 21 January, 2014

    Guest blogging will still work if you have content that is written for real people, who will interact and leave real comments and real social shares. You will want to almost audit your posts and accept from people you know or are well known for that topic (authorship will rule this). For people you do not know or are the first time wanting to post, remove the links if their are any, if they want to truly contribute to your site, the links will come later from people sharing out their useful content and getting their name out on the net.

    So Joost when can I start guest posting? :)
    @steveseeley

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 21 January, 2014

      Hi Steve,

      as far as I know, we haven’t met yet (if we have, I’m sorry :), so the chance of you posting here is, well… Zero. Other than that you’re absolutely right :)

      • SteveBy Steve on 21 January, 2014

        I was only kidding, but I am sure you picked up on that. Give it time and the bio’s at the bottom of guest posts will be treated like an article directory post is now…basically ignored and or penalized.

      • Denver Prophit JrBy Denver Prophit Jr on 22 January, 2014

        Hey! Thanks for the article. Can you go into more depth about brand building? Something more like downloading a google doc SOP format?

        Haven’t quite wrapped my head around brand building on the WWW. I was thinking the first step might possibly be to create an about.us page and a wikipedia branding page for google knowledge graph. Get that special right column result about the company showing up when the brand is searched.

    • AndyBy Andy on 22 January, 2014

      My points exactly. Guest posts should be done only if you have something fresh, informative to share with the audience and not just to grab fresh backlinks for your site or even worst to sell them.
      Greedy marketing agencies like the one exposed by SEL on Matt’s blog have ruined for all of us
      https://searchengineleaks.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/guestpostshop-bribing-bloggers-investigation/

  3. BlippittBy Blippitt on 21 January, 2014

    At some point, you’ve got to stop chasing Google and focus on other traffic sources…paid advertising, social media, and of course BRANDING. We’re doing all three and aren’t really worrying too much jumping through Google’s hoops any more. If you do the right things, the Google traffic will come naturally.

  4. SaschaBy Sascha on 21 January, 2014

    Was also happy on hearing Matt talking about this topic. Just like Justin in the comments here said the quality of guest posts by random authors usually isn’t that high and man do I hate those emails saying “I can provide you with unique, high quality content to any topic”. Blah blah blah. Thank you Big G for stepping in.

  5. GregBy Greg on 21 January, 2014

    The very last line of common.js you should change if t>40 to if t>80 so your super sick header doesn’t jump when you scroll… Could help with branding =)

  6. DennisGBy DennisG on 21 January, 2014

    The only viable SEO strategy, is one that make Google look stupid not to put you on the top of the results for all your important search queries.

    Just think about it, when your audience expects you to be at the top of the results, it doesn’t matter what happens, guest posting; Panda or a Penguin. Google just doesn’t want to look stupid!

    • GarethBy Gareth on 22 January, 2014

      That’s true if you already have a brand and audience along with the budget to build amazing content etc. But what about the medium size business competing with a limited budget. Building a brand costs money.

      • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 22 January, 2014

        If your content marketing doesn’t have the goal of building a brand, you’re doing it wrong.

        • Rolf DiepeveenBy Rolf Diepeveen on 22 January, 2014

          And if youre brand building doesn’t have the goal of increasing revenue, you’re doing it wrong as well.
          Branding is more a long-term investment which is good. But SMBs with smaller marketing budgets have to make sure to achieve short term results if they still want to be in business next year. They have no other choice as to focus on short term revenue and only do some modest branding in paralel for the longer term. There’s nothing wrong with that.

          • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 22 January, 2014

            You talk as though branding is very expensive… Yoast was built as a brand with virtually no investment other than like $50 or so on the first design. This is much more about a way if thinking than about spending money. It’s sure as he’ll cheaper than buying links :-)

          • GeorgeBy George on 31 January, 2014

            Nice words from a man playing safe! Nothing to do with you Joost, but don’t tell me that you spoke like that at the first year of your experience…

        • Rolf DiepeveenBy Rolf Diepeveen on 22 January, 2014

          As a reply to your last remark Joost; I totally agree with you. That is exactly how I see it as well.
          Buying links is not only a waste of money but also very harmful. I just can’t believe people are still doing that.

          • YouriBy Youri on 24 January, 2014

            It is still. And I think in languages other than English you might still be able to get away with it. For example the person responsible for the Dutch “Keukenkampioen” still thinks it is a good idea to generate loads of fake profiles with automated tweets containing a link. Curious who that is…

      • DennisGBy DennisG on 23 January, 2014

        Especially if you don’t have a brand and/or budgets, you can still create wonderful content if only you are creative enough.
        Case in point; the Airbnb Cereal boxes. Read the full story here.

        Yes, Airbnb does have sufficient funding right now, and enough brand recognition for fast pick up by all tech media sites, but the story of the cereal boxes shows that you can be small, with your back against the wall, and still create compelling content that make people talking about you!

        All the excuses about budgets, already a big brand etc.

  7. Mark (Superticker)By Mark (Superticker) on 21 January, 2014

    As webmasters, we should stride to only allow the highest quality off-site links; otherwise, we are doing our web visitors an injustice. Moreover, poor links only break the PageRank algorithm, which isn’t helping anyone (us or them).

    I like how you only provide SEO services to brands with worthy products. This is a little like martial arts masters only sharing their best techniques/secrets to those that respect their moral code and conduct. They want “good” to triumph over “evil”.

  8. Robert BoersmaBy Robert Boersma on 21 January, 2014

    Hi Yoast,
    Would you suggest companies that guestposted earlier to reach out to all those blogs and get those guestblogs removed?

  9. Matt SellsBy Matt Sells on 21 January, 2014

    Yea, I agree that it should not be abused but to say that guest blogging is not respected is a broad statement. That is the problem I have with Matt’s post. There are many fine bloggers out there and they have branded themselves as just that. So again, I agree, but comments should not be so general.

  10. Douglas KarrBy Douglas Karr on 21 January, 2014

    We accept guest posts often, but we have some ground rules… placing links being one of them. If the goal is to place a link, we don’t allow the content. But if we can get a quality piece of content from a reputable source that adds value to our visitors, I’ll continue to do so.

  11. PaulBy Paul on 21 January, 2014

    I’d love to believe this, but when I survey the searches I’m interested, I see very poor quality sites still ranking well. When I study these sites, the main thing they seem to have are thousands of spammy backlinks from directories, forums, etc. I think that this kind of stuff matters if you’re working on ranking for really high profile/high dollar searches, like “car insurance” or something, but otherwise, spamming still seems to rule. I hope that someday Google is able to really clean up the SERPS, but I don’t see it yet.

    • michael balistreriBy michael balistreri on 22 January, 2014

      This will never change. And, certainly not because G decided to blacklist another technique.

  12. Rob BarhamBy Rob Barham on 21 January, 2014

    Hi Joost,
    This post takes me back about 5 years to A4Uexpo in Amsterdam where you said something along the lines of “sometimes the best thing to do to get good SEO results is almost forget SEO and concentrate on traffic”.
    You really are ahead of the game, and the “tactics”!

  13. RiisagerBy Riisager on 21 January, 2014

    In fact it is very easy .. Do not aim for the link, Aim for the traffic

  14. DaveBy Dave on 21 January, 2014

    ” I never did do that much link building and have been doing less and less of it.”

    I think you did a lot of linkbuilding in the past (through your plugins & guides) but you didn’t look at that as being a linkbuilding tactic in the first place but as building your brand & biz.

    It’s a marathon that pays off big time later on … unfortunately most companies want to run a sprint …

    But sure somewhere deep down inside of you you must have been thinking “the linkability of these things have great potentional” :)

    So where do i send my guespost in :)

    Dave

  15. SeoKungFuBy SeoKungFu on 21 January, 2014

    Branding has always been more powerful than chasing the keywords, terms and phrases with all the SERPs fluctuations and the uncertain wavy nature of algorithm preferences.
    Not that keywords don’t matter – being balanced and focusing on branding is the solution and the key ( pun for fun ! ).

    Cheers,
    Boris

  16. René MeijerBy René Meijer on 21 January, 2014

    I think guestblogging can still be helpfull for the rankings. Just be on your best behaviour. Less is more…

  17. Sander TamaëlaBy Sander Tamaëla on 21 January, 2014

    I can only partly agree with your thoughts. We’re not PR people, we’re SEO. My clients pay me for a long lasting SEO strategy with according tactics, not for an extended branding advice. These include on topic guest blogging, but on a scale that matches their online presence. And of course I am more than willing to help them align their PR with SEO.

    And how’s building a brand going to attract exact anchors? It isn’t. And you know you need some to rank in the more competitive niches. Next to that, aligning branding activities with the occasional exact anchor will boost all your activities. Greediness is what kills a perfect SEO strategy.

    If Google is serious about eliminating easily manipulated results they should start by making it harder to gain results by applying thin tactics. If I can spot a thin link profile within minutes, how hard is it to do so with an algo written by people twice as smart as I am? They have more data than I will ever have. They should start using it more wisely.

  18. Akash AroraBy Akash Arora on 21 January, 2014

    In very short to Combine the article of matts and the opinion of Joost, I would say that LINK BUILDING will never end and as per Joost opinions “branding is as useful to link building”. Well friends, if you look at the another aspect of this line – it clearly means that Quality Links matters because branding generates quality links too.

    So, Now start getting links from organizational, educational related sites as well, with good links diversity which you are doing back but this time make sure to get links from more high authority relevant websites. This is what I think :D

    In my opinion – No Search engine bot can detect whether a post on a blog is promotional unless your content is not relevant and of high quality or is placed on a low authority website. With branding all these comes also but there is a difference in both.

    What say Joost Sir :) ?

  19. Marc DBy Marc D on 21 January, 2014

    I chose to not believe and follow Matt Cutt anymore. When you fell that you have done something good and interesting, search engine will come in your door. I believe on social presence on various communities related to your niche/keywords.

  20. Dave WoodsBy Dave Woods on 21 January, 2014

    I think a high quality guest article written for a relevant site will still help assuming that said site only accepts high quality content. Where it falls down is when sites are paying “copywriters” in countries with cheap labour to put together a general article that is only loosely relevant to the website. I receive dozens of requests a week from people to guest post on my site and never have as I know that it would devalue my content and offer no value to my visitors.

  21. ArunBy Arun on 21 January, 2014

    Matt cutt really did a great job, I have seen many blog where owners almost stopped writing post on their blog and all those post are coming from Guest Writers (SEO Agency).
    Guest posting is not completely bad, but bloggers should know which post should accept and not to accept.

    Next they should consider spam link building (blog, forum spam) by using some automated tools.

  22. 3LeapsBy 3Leaps on 21 January, 2014

    Guest blogging is something where editors are involved and takes months to get one article approved but the problem is that people were treating it as Article marketing 2.0. So, Google has to intervene.

  23. Miriam SchwabBy Miriam Schwab on 21 January, 2014

    I too have never accepted guest posts on our sites, unless it was from someone I know and trust. It’s great to hear Matt come out so clearly and strongly about this, but I believe that the answer to your question as to how SEOs will react to this is that they will look for the next trick and hack. That’s how SEO has been since the dawn of time. And we wonder why it has a bad name. (Says the woman who will be speaking at SMX Israel next week :) )

  24. Rolf DiepeveenBy Rolf Diepeveen on 21 January, 2014

    I agree with you Joost, except for one important thing; content marketing without a brand does make sense, a lot of sense.
    If you have good and unique content you can achieve excellent SEO results, even without a brand and without bothering about linkbuilding. We have done that many times and are getting higher rankings than big brands who do bother about linkbuilding but neglect other important content-related SEO factors.

  25. Dermot PietersBy Dermot Pieters on 21 January, 2014

    “If you have good and unique content you can achieve excellent SEO”

    And how does anyone know you have unique and good content? I think because of linkbuilding…high rankings without linkbuilding is almost impossible. Just my thoughts.

  26. AmitBy Amit on 21 January, 2014

    Branding has been a big factor in Google ranking since long. Nothing new. And there is a reason behind it. Anybody looking for a product or service would want to get it from a reliable supplier. Now the big and established brands selling those products or services are naturally supposed to be reliable.
    Google too knows this. So, when you search for a “gold plated wrist watch” in Google, all the top results will be the big online retailers selling gold plated wrist watch. They might not have strong backlinks or may not be optimized for the keyword, but still.
    Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to outrank those big brands for such search terms? It’s almost impossible if you are not a big brand. No matter how many backlinks and key-word optimized pages you have in your website.

  27. YousafBy Yousaf on 21 January, 2014

    Create value and shout about it.

  28. Anchit ShethiaBy Anchit Shethia on 21 January, 2014

    Agree on the point that link building can be achieved well with Branding. Branding has been in the limelight for most of my SEO campaign. Although it is costlier than guest posting or link buying, but is totally worth it, if done the right way.

  29. Cache DigitalBy Cache Digital on 21 January, 2014

    Guest Post blogging has been under scrutiny for a while now it seems to have been abused as a strategy over the past 6 months, Still take everything from Matt Cutts with a pinch of salt! Also have seen some gremlins and issues on the yoast seo plugin all starting since the 3.8 WordPress update, thanks for a great free plugin tho!

  30. Rolf DiepeveenBy Rolf Diepeveen on 21 January, 2014

    Interesting how people tend to believe this thing about branding and SEO. There is one important reason why a webpage gets a high rank: relevance. And why would a product or service of a big brand be more relevant than that of a small brand? I can’t think of a good reason. And is big more reliable than small? Don’t think so. And how is Google going to measure and value reliability? We have been able to outrank big brands with top positions on very competitive keywords without active linkbuilding or branding.

    Just some examples why this story can’t be true:
    When I am in the Netherlands and searching for a holiday in Greece I do get big brands in top results but also very small brands. Which is logical because many people don’t wan’t to buy a mass product.
    The second example: when I am in the north of the Netherlands and search for an online marketing agency I don’t see the big brands which are in Amsterdam in the top positions, but I do see the smaller agencies which are close to where I am. Local search is very dominant in Google and the SMB’s are an important growth market for search engines in general. Big brands don’t like this and that’s why they are trying to make us believe that branding is important in SEO. You can be a big brand but without relevant content of high quality you won’t get any high positions. Search engines offer great opportunities for small companies which don’t have huge branding budgets. Search engines are disruptive for traditional branding strategies. Great!

  31. ScottBy Scott on 22 January, 2014

    Hi Yoast, I have a branded business and attached is a wp blog that we use for reviews by clients. Im not much of a blogger and I bow down to you guys, I have never been able to get my head around it. Maybe just writing articles but comment blogging, well just have no idea what to write.

    Yoast, I heard an interview by you and Dan thies some time ago but have misplaced it. Do you have a like a cheat sheet of how to set up a wp blog so it works with all the bells and whistles, ie,,plugins, what to do with slugs and images etc etc. I know its simple stuff to most of you here but I could really do with a refresher on the must have blog set up when posting a post. This is my blog where the reviews are written http://www.butlerbythesea.com/blog/ im sure there is a lot I can do that Im not currently doing but I want to do it right the first time, hense why Im asking. thank you

  32. Greg BBy Greg B on 22 January, 2014

    Authorship as google’s computers are able to define it are tied to a person, have that person’s name show up on other blogs not officially google-tied to that name, and oops…. computer-smoke ! Another algorithm update ! The anti-guest-post-update “The Mongoose Update.” I think Matt is just a little pissed that Guest Blogging messes with Authorship, and they just haven’t figured out how to weed this from the identity flag in their code…. You know the big cheeses melt a little when the little guys figure out how to mess with their vision of the perfect world…

  33. VkBy Vk on 22 January, 2014

    The way I see it. Yoast is right, for the long therm. But the fact is that still a lot of customers have small sites with small goals and have a short attention span. They want result fast. Good on-page seo and some decent backlinks usually give them pretty fast result. I tell them it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But they’re already sprinting…

    • SEO4.netBy SEO4.net on 23 January, 2014

      I totally agree with you. We observe similar behaviour and expectations from our clients. They want the results, the faster the better but the worst thing is that they don’t want to invest more money and efforts in their brands. It’s very hard to change that mentality, but maybe Poland is a specific country. Good SEO it’s not a sprint!

      • Denver Prophit JrBy Denver Prophit Jr on 23 January, 2014

        STILL, no standard operating procedure for steps a company can take to build up their brand in a DIY fashion from this article or related post. =(

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 January, 2014

          What the F? You’re complaining that I didn’t immediately get to your request? Pfff.

          • Denver Prophit JrBy Denver Prophit Jr on 23 January, 2014

            uh no. I had no complaints about the urgency. I kept replying to others as well who allude to branding. But, never mention where or how they learned it.

            Doesn’t speak well for you or your company to allude to foul language and attitudes. Do you normally curse and use foul language to potential clients?

        • Rolf DiepeveenBy Rolf Diepeveen on 23 January, 2014

          @ Denver
          That’s probably his branding strategy :)

          • Denver Prophit JrBy Denver Prophit Jr on 24 January, 2014

            In THIS thread, my reply was to seo4.net not to Joost de Valk who I believe owns this website and the wordpress plugin. I was quite taken back for someone who writes so well about better SEO to resort to alluding to the F bomb.

            I’m not that impatient. I hadn’t even seen him reply yet to my reply to him. I can wait on that. I’ll just restate that every comment to a comment on this page has failed to provide inside scoop. Somewhere I read Joost originally spent $50 USD. Maybe yoast.com is preparing a follow up article on branding steps. I don’t know? I expected a very kind response not the F Bomb!

            I admire the work done here. I’m sure he regrets his response and I don’t mind if they were deleted. =) Cheers to all.

  34. Faizal AmirBy Faizal Amir on 22 January, 2014

    Branding is more likely become a trend recently due to penalized. Totally agree, will be there always ways to achieve the goals.

  35. nick andersonBy nick anderson on 23 January, 2014

    I agree with what the big G is doing. If you go to even some half way decent reputable blogs some still have garbage. I see the trend of hey i charge 150 for a blog post, that works very short term and usually is not a well written blog post. These days i think long term branding is the only way to get people to talk and share your site. If you get links and ask for brand name of your domain. Most strong ranking brands are less links, and most there incoming links are brand . Good move big G

  36. PsoriasisBy Psoriasis on 23 January, 2014

    I do not think it is so importen that we should come up with the keywords on 4.5 % i our text, I think it is more importen that the texts are 100% unique, and writen in a natural way, and remember you also need to use the social media a great deal in the future

  37. JoshBy Josh on 24 January, 2014

    This is good news. The number of guest blogging offers in my inbox was going through the roof lately. I’m happy that I never ever accepted one.
    I hope SEOs will take your advice. But, to be honest, I guess we will see a new spammy FOTM tactic soon.

  38. Dennis BlackmoreBy Dennis Blackmore on 24 January, 2014

    I constantly get requests to guest post which many have no relevance to my brand, etc. But not sure I would have thought it was bad without this knowledge…tks

  39. MichaelBy Michael on 24 January, 2014

    I take everything that comes from Google HQ with a pinch of salt, having seen so many great sites flounder and mediocre sites dominate rankings.
    A lot of this discussion comes down to priorities. Yoast as a company and brand, for example, has to define itself and then act in a way that is coherent with that. If you want to build a long-term business, you brand yourself. It’s a whole bunch of things: design, tone of voice, levels of service. It transpires in the way you do things, even if the things you are doing are sometimes very different.
    I am usually more on the brand side. One of the things not touched on here is that by building a brand you are also building an asset that can be sold on later. Think how powerful Napster was as a brand at one stage. Think how much any Apple product immediately attracts press (free press, largely).
    But there are still lots of situations where a quick and dirty burst of traffic is all that is needed. Not all websites are developed to become a big brand. They can, nonetheless, provide a service or info (and generate money).

  40. NickBy Nick on 24 January, 2014

    Some sound advice here. I have picked up some new clients this week that have employed the services of SEO companies that have abused every link building tactic in the past 7 years to death. The result is a load of worthless or spammy links pointing to what is low quality (at best) content.
    Their content doesn’t rank anymore nor does it deserve to. The good news it they have a decent brand and a decent service so there is a good base to build on.

  41. Troy in Las VegasBy Troy in Las Vegas on 27 January, 2014

    It is so hard to keep chasing the current trend. Cutts says this or that. Yoast says this or that. Some guy in the IT department says this or that. We want to avoid black hat but staying white hat is so hard and time consuming.
    I think the best thing to do is just stay above board, do the work and continue to create good solid content and use the social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

  42. HemantBy Hemant on 28 January, 2014

    Hi Joost,

    This is a helpful article for me, I really appreciate you efforts :)

  43. Dr GBy Dr G on 2 February, 2014

    Thanks Joost and y’all. As someone who has been operating an online store for a few years, but now focusing more and more on branding, providing complementary content and SEO, forums like this are very useful. Not just the posts themselves, but the comments portraying the various perspectives. Best wishes to everyone :) (ps. loving the WordPress SEO plugin too)

  44. Ub2server.comBy Ub2server.com on 3 February, 2014

    You are absolutely right. I run an SEO related site and have been approached by people where Google has punished their site for generating unnatural links.

    I’ve been saying this for so many years that there is no shortcut in SEO. If you make links too quickly, there is a heavy chance that Google will punish your site.

  45. Andy HoldsworthBy Andy Holdsworth on 9 February, 2014

    I’m new to the SEO side of things and I’m not sure what you mean regarding branding is the new link building. Are there any in depth articles on this subject you could recommend ?

  46. Rick UpshawBy Rick Upshaw on 13 February, 2014

    After reading this post and comments, as well as Matt Cutts’ post, it seems to me that we ALL are forgetting the overall hint that Matt gave in the first place, which is to write content for the reader, and not for the search engines.

    I would think that Google (and GoogleBot’s algorithm, to whatever extent possible) is looking for indicators on site and off as to whether or not things are being done more for the search engines or for end users. If your content is clearly for the readers and not for the search engines, and your links are coming from sites with the same practices, then in theory, Google should look favorably upon your site. That has been my experience, anyway, regardless of how much money has been pumped into branding.

    Joost’s position on branding falls in line with Matt’s position on this as well. Branding is all about human perception, and less about GoogleBot’s perception, BUT, if Google can pick up on efforts made in branding (such as social media indicators, etc.), then Google is again more likely to look favorably upon your site.

    So, what Joost is saying abut branding is right, per the overriding premise that our efforts should be more for the sake of the reader, because THAT is likely what GoogleBot is looking for. Joost is saying that branding is important. He didn’t say that branding had to be expensive, or that Google’s determination of relevance would be directly or indirectly proportionate to how much a company can spend on branding. I think GoogleBot likely has the ability to identify real branding efforts, even if only on a small marketing budget.

    So, Joost’s position here on branding does, in fact, fall in line with the larger mandate of working for the end user and not the bots. They are looking for efforts made at improving the overall online experience for the end user when it comes to the search terms targeted.

    Of course, all of this assumes that Matt’s statements about Google looking for whether or not the content and even the SEO efforts are meant for the end user are accurate. In my humble opinion, I can’t imagine how this would NOT be the case. So….

    “as for me and my house, we will serve the end user (and not GoogleBot)”…

    …because we believe that by focusing on the end user with a good combination of quality of content, quality of links and branding efforts, that we ARE serving GoogleBot what it wants as well!

    I hope this helps in terms of clearing up any difference of opinions in this discussion.

    Cheers!