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The author

Tom Salmon

Managing Director

In a recent interview with Eric Enge, Matt Cutts - Google’s Head of Search Spam, reminded the SEO community of the dangers of pursuing a links-no-matter-what strategy. He said that link building has a danger of segmenting people into a mind-set that focuses on the wrong things, “It leads them to think about links as the end goal. It’s important to think about producing something excellent first. If you have an outstanding product, world class content, or something else that sets you apart, then you can step back and start thinking about how to promote it.” Most forward looking marketers would agree with Cutts' logic here but would also be quick to say that it's entirely possible to create excellent content even if the link, amongst other measures of digital visibility such as social shares, is the end goal. Cutts is really taking issue with hidden embedded links and SEO’ers taking advantage of the current appetite for infographics by churning out poor quality data visualisations as crude link bait. He also hinted at penalising links from the sites that blindly republish infographics regardless of their quality or, more importantly in his eyes, their relevance. It would be wrong to penalise the entire infographic or data visualisation format, and I don’t believe that Google will do that. However, Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan suggested that it is conceivable that they will spot whether an “infographic is being embedded and/or linked to with all the same anchor text and decide to discount those links. They might be savvy, too, and decide to discount the links of they can somehow detect that the anchor text makes no sense to the infographic”. Not everything that digital marketers do is designed to increase Google rankings. A digital PR stunt might be deliberately off topic to get attention from publishers, bloggers and the social web. Indeed, many of the world's most famous ad campaigns have been one step removed from the product or service they're promoting. Take most of Guiness' back catalogue, from Toucans to surfers, the heroes of Guiness' campaigns have little to do with Irish stout. Is Google likely to penalise anything that it deems to be off brand or irrelevant to the product or service included within the anchor text? That seems unlikely. However, the interview serves as a reminder for search marketers to think of the human reaction to their content strategies over and above the algorithmic reaction, especially as Cutts has a history of flagging potential updates with the online marketing community some time before they happen. Like or loathe his recent comments, they're another reminder of where search and digital marketing is heading. In particular...

  • Make content that is so great that people actively want to cite the source when they share it
  • Craft your work and make it more than just relevant. Make it meaningful. That’s the only way to earn the trust of publishers and your clients’ PR teams
  • Check that your work will create an emotional reaction
  • Remember that structure is as important as size. Your PR targets are as important as the size of the audience you're trying to reach when it comes to search and visibility marketing. Ross Dawson was talking about this way back in 2009, albeit with search engines absent from his Influence Landscape.
  • Don't waste your time, and your (clients') budgets, creating poor quality content
  • Don’t hide your embed code or anchor text links (that’s spam, regardless of the format)
  • Build brand and work with your clients' inhouse PR and marketing teams to dovetail SEO into their wider marketing communications strategy
This debate also highlights how important it is for SEO’ers to understand that creative led organic search campaigns don’t begin and end with infographics. Classic marketing devices like PR, events, surveys, reports, papers, video are all part of the creative armoury. The PRs, designers, creatives, developers and writers at Epiphany were all recruited with a specific skillset and reverse trained in search for exactly this reason. And, touch wood, we’re having real success with a transparent, value-laden and creative led approach to visibility marketing.