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In our first episode, host John Tyreman introduces you to Geoffrey Kerbis and Jordan Wogenstahl, two SEO experts from Silverback Strategies. They have different perspectives on the importance of backlinks for SEO, so John facilitates a discussion about both sides of the coin.
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John Tyreman: Hi gang, welcome to The Digital Marketing Troop, where we talk about what’s going on in digital marketing. I’m your host John Tyerman and I’m joined today by Geoff Kerbis and Jordan Wogenstahl, and we’re here to talk about backlinks. Well, let’s jump right into the conversation. Here we go. Geoff, we’ll start with you. Do backlinks matter for SEO?
Geoff Kerbis: I’m going to use a phrase that I used previously: yes and no.
Of course, getting backlinks is great for SEO. We’ve been told by the higher ups at Google that backlinks are in some shape or form a measure of credibility of what you have on your site.
Where I draw the line is where folks will base their entire campaign on the idea or entire piece of content on how many backlinks they can acquire.
Really, I think doing that does not only do a discredit to the brands that are posting these pieces of content, but it discredits the users as a whole. You’re also, in some cases, bringing bad traffic to your site. A great example would be if we look at some of the links that are going to… let’s use a great back link aggregator like BuzzFeed, for example. BuzzFeed is in the business of getting advertised and getting views to their website in order to game though.
100% makes sense for them to create articles that are posted everywhere on your Facebook feed so that you can get over to that site. When you search what, you know, “What character am I from Boy Meets World?” I know, super 90s reference, but the only thing I could think of.
What character am I from Boy Meets World? Then the idea being, “Oh well, if I searched on Google, it’s everywhere on Facebook, everywhere on these blogs boards, everyone’s talking about it on Twitter. Maybe that’s the best quiz for you.”
The problem is when folks see that sort of content, we fall into the trap of making stale Facebook content and that is what bothers me. You fall into the trap of making answer- this-question and not so much going after search volume and going after, What is the query that people we need to answer that leads to the next step in their process, whether it is a buying journey or an informative journey based off of the client that you are working with or the company you’re at.
But it’s instead, Oh, is this shareable? Can we make sure that for the firing backlinks, do you mind if we email them and ask them if they can actually link to this article on our site?
We turn less into marketers as we are and we turn into; I hate to use this phrase, but beggars, we’re begging for backlinks and that’s not what I think, Jordan and I are really built to do. We are folks who have a very technical job. There’s a human side to it.
But one of the things that I don’t think anyone who created an article wants to sign up for is Jordan and I emailing them, being like well, you technically reference us, so do you mind just putting this in here so we get a little bit of boost credibility. It’s just not how I run campaigns.
Jordan Wogenstahl: I’m going to use the other most commonly used phrase in the SEO industry is, it depends. So it depends on a couple of different ways. I want to take an overview approach of this. Take a step back and say like…
Consider your business. What are you and the business for? Are you a small business? One: Backlinks may not be as important, and two: you should then be focused on different types of backlinks; more localized content that hopefully attracts local-centric links in your area.
And to that point, I think whether you’re a business big or small, I think you should be asking yourself an important question, or at least evaluating is, is your company’s business or your website producing a consistent amount of content? Is your content high quality?
I think you need to ask yourself that question before you can really be concerned with backlinks, because as we know in SEO, content and backlinks go hand in hand. It’s just that simple and you really can’t achieve acquiring backlinks without having content to back it up.
That’s what I think every SEO will tell you, but something that is really important and in terms of priorities is having that content marketing strategy in order to then achieve those backlinks. And once you get to the point, let’s say you’re rockin’, you’re producing a lot of great content. Now you get to decide, we should start looking for backlinks.
I think that there are just a lot of different ways to approach it. Again, if you’re a local business or if you’re an enterprise, what kind of backlinks do you want to be looking for? Is it more PR-centric? You know, there’s just different ways to gain backlinks and sometimes it may not be in terms of your actual content. Sometimes, again, it could be PR, sometimes it could just be brand mentions, so those things are definitely important to be monitoring. How many backlinks you have that are toxic backlinks, I think, are pretty important. There are a number of tools that you can use to monitor that just cover the basics. You definitely want to have a system to monitor these things and then, if you want to go on the offensive with PR, you could have some in-house link builder, which is maybe a thing of the past, but definitely still exist today.
I think creating that Evergreen content strategy and consistent content strategy should be numero uno in terms of your business goals and objectives.
John Tyreman: Backlinks are important. OK, I get it, and it depends, and yes and no. But how can a website with fewer backlinks outrank a site with more? What’s a scenario where that could happen?
Geoff Kerbis: Oh, I have a great scenario where that can happen.
That is where we fall into the concept of EAT. And for those who don’t know what EAT is, that’s expertise, authority and trust. This is something that is very prevalent with the content that falls in line with your money and life. So, lots of praise is being thrown out here, but really the focus is Google is trying to make sure that the people who are giving folks information about health, whether that is human, animal, anything like that, or financials. People who have expertise within that space for getting the answer.
A great example of this that I have seen in my past was an article that was written by a, we use the term “Mommy blog,” so someone created a blog, they might not have that much expertise in themselves, but they are passionate about this stuff. They wrote an article speaking to the overall behavior of animals, which makes sense. Specifically, it was focusing on dogs, but what we noticed within that space was there was not really much credibility behind that. They spoke to some studies, but there were backlinks. In this situation, it was ever so valuable.
The organization that I was working with decided, Hey, we want to write some content very similar, maybe even answering the same question. So, instead of taking the approach of, Hey, we’re gonna just acquire the backlinks, we took the approach of, Let’s invest in who is making this piece of content. So, we asked veterinarians within this space. We have animal psychologists within the space. Why do these certain behaviors come up? What is causing them? How can they be solved? Do they need to be?
So, what ended up happening because of that, because we were able to link out to the veterinarian profiles and new stuff because we were a larger brand that had been known for animal health care, we outranked the mommy blog within a couple of weeks, which is unusual.
Normally there’s the old phrase: It takes about three to four months to see change in your ranking. This was fairly immediate because we did such a good job of investing in the type of content, the evergreen nature of the content, and the quality of it that it just took a little bit of time to have a better answer than, say, someone who’s been on the internet for a few years.
Jordan Wogenstahl: Why we use Google is to answer our questions, right? That’s the whole philosophy right there.
And it’s Google’s job to provide the best answer, no matter who it is. And much like Geoff when he spoke about EAT, that’s how Google understands what is the best answer. Using expertise, authoritativeness and trust, so it really does help when you link to other sources and pull in other experts to help boost your credibility. There’s no secret sauce. If we knew the secret sauce to what would rank number one in Google, we’d be sitting on a nice stack of cash, but we have to go with our intuition and say we really need to provide a really comprehensive quality piece of content that is, number one, well written has resources to back it up. You know, visuals to help enhance your piece of content. I mentioned external links. Internal links can also help tremendously, using the right metadata, some very basic SEO fundamentals.
To answer your question, How can a small website outrank a you know huge website that may have a lot of links? Well, maybe their piece of content doesn’t answer the question directly. Maybe we can answer it better. Or, maybe we can bring in some authoritative experts on this matter and we can really create this pillar piece of content that really answers the question of the users and searchers.
John Tyreman: Awesome. great stuff guys.
Well, Geoff, Jordan, thank you guys so much for taking the time to talk some SEO with me. It’s a pleasure so, thank you.
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