Google’s Matt Cutts On Why Links Still Rule & How SEOs Go Wrong In Getting Them

eric-enge-matt-cuttsEric Enge has published an interview with Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam. The interview is similar to the format he published in 2010 with Cutts, but in this interview, the topic revolved mostly about link building and what is wrong with how SEOs do it today.

In short, Matt Cutts would love a world where link builders thought first about the content or web site and why that web site is worthy of a link, versus first being concerned about getting links. In the interview, the two discuss if link building is legal or illegal, if press releases should be used for link building, the problem with content syndication and guest blogging – plus much much more.

Here are some key takeaways from the interview, but make sure to read the full interview over here.

  • Link Building Is Not Bad: Just don’t try to get the link first, have compelling content people want to link to instead.
  • Press Releases Links: They still “probably not count” but your goal should not be the link but the exposure the press release gives you to editors who may read them and cover your story.
  • Content Syndication: If your content is being syndicated on other sites, give Google signals to know you are the original source. Make sure you publish well before others, possibly use rel=canonical, link to main source of content, and maybe use authorship.
  • Problem With Guest Posts: A large number of people are doing it the wrong way, guest posts have become more like article directories or article banks these days.
  • Links: Links are still “the best way” to rank content.

This interview was conducted in person between Eric Enge and Matt Cutts while at SMX Advanced 2013 a few weeks ago.

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Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | Link Building: General | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Carmen Rane Hudson

    I don’t think /all/ guest posts are just like article directories these days. Most of the guest posts I’ve read have been good. However, the host blogs were also good. I’m betting the places where people are doing crappy guest posting are places that aren’t such great websites to begin with.

  • NanditaB

    More and more number of blogs are really becoming ‘article directories’ these days by accepting crappy posts. Check out this post for reference

  • Illogicalthinker

    I wish he would stop saying this. Links are great but you don’t build them if you wan’t to survive now and in the future. I think “Link Building” is out. He needs to stop Generalizing this phrase, which SEO/Spammers have already “specified” as something else.

  • TmWe

    Another key point : Guest posts “….can be a great way to get your name out there, to build your reputation, to make yourself more well-known, potentially build links or traffic or help with your SEO.”

  • incrediblehelp

    This is the worst:

    “Links: Links are still “the best way” to rank content.”


    Link Building Is Not Bad: Just don’t try to get the link first, have compelling content people want to link to instead.

  • Eric Enge

    I don’t think these are inconsistent. It starts with creating great content of a brand building nature as the primary goal. The link building piece comes in because you then need to do some things to promote that content.

  • stracy

    The web is to site owners what records/cd’s are to musiciens. Create great music and you’ll sell lot’s of records/cd’s. Create lousy music and you’ll sell nothing, no matter how hard you try to sell.

    Web content goes the same way. Start with a great product, solve a problem, write compelling content about it, share it in social site’s and GET NATUREL LINKS. Google just want’s to show great usefull content that their user’s will love. Not lousy content that ranks just because it has ton’s of links.

    And now Google can tell the difference… :)

  • LisC

    Chicken and egg dilemma, isn’t it??!!

  • Arun Jaiswal

    WHO are we to Decide, what is bad or good Link… MAD-Cutt, GOd of GOOGLe say’s. means, we do not have choice to think rather than to Accept his words.

  • Igal Stolpner

    “Just don’t try to get the link first, have compelling content people want to link to instead.” -> I think we heard that before :)

  • peter

    whats the difference between you linking to your content and someone else….google doesn’t know who is who.

  • Nathaniel Bailey

    A great interview that should help people to get their priorities right when it comes to content and link creation!

    Barry, I think you misted an important quote from Cutt’s “… it is true that a lot of SEO is now circling back around to good old fashioned marketing.” That’s something I think every SEO should take note of and thing about ways to market their site’s’ to the people that really matter to them!

  • Patrick Baek

    The common sense should explain a lot: Start thinking!

  • Nick Stamoulis

    “Just don’t try to get the link first, have compelling content people want to link to instead.”

    I think a lot of problems could be avoided if you looked at links as the side benefit, instead of the main goal. When it’s no longer your primary concern (albeit it is still something you focus on) you won’t settle for every link that comes along; you just want the best and most relevant. It helps keeps your link profile much cleaner.

  • Durant Imboden

    Six months ago, I received a constant stream of e-mails from bottom-feeding SEO firms that wanted to buy text links.

    These days, the e-mails are mostly about “guest posts.”

    In my sector (travel), bloggers who were wondering what to charge for paid links in 2012 are now trying to figure out what a “sponsored post” is worth.

    Guest posts are the new paid links–or, more accurately, the wrapper for paid links.

  • I Use This App

    not all who wander are lost. haha

  • Durant Imboden

    Nice interview, but I think the basic theme (links as citations, content as king) represents more of an ideal than what we’re currently seeing in Google’s SERPs.

  • HireAWiz

    Thank you Barry for posting this. There are a lot of great points here. Many people fall into the trap of knowing what they need and do whatever they can to get what it is they need. People must remember that customers are their ultimate goal and doing things only for the search engines actually hurts this process.

  • medway808

    It’s funny you harp on about quality content yet can’t even get basic grammar or spelling correct.

    And by the way plenty of horrible music sells due to marketing so that analogy doesn’t hold.

  • Dave

    “So if you rely only on Google, that might not be as strong of an approach compared to having a wide variety of different avenues by which you can reach people and drive them to your website or whatever your objective is.”

    Google’s own property telling not to depend upon Google nowadays. As, of these days, Google SERP’s is volatile and their algo is not going to get stable as they are making GUESS to rank sites not based on their better fact. Straight from words coming out from Matt Cutts mouth that they make Guess only and their Guess is only doing Collateral Damage to good sites:

    “If you think about it, search engines are not psychic. They have to use signals and heuristics to make their best guess about what the best website is or who wrote content in the first place.”

  • Eric Enge

    There is some truth to that. There remains a gap between the behaviors Google wants to see, and what they can enforce. But, the gap continue to get smaller and smaller over time,

  • Eric Enge

    Try some search queries like: “guest post” “guest post” “guest post”

    They have all taken guest posts in the past. Those are very high tier sites to be sure, but authoritative sites of all kinds will consider a guest post from a credible source.

  • MATChBOX India
  • RedLeader

    “Create great music and you’ll sell lot’s of records/cd’s. Create lousy music and you’ll sell nothing, no matter how hard you try to sell.”

    A LOOOOT of indie bands and pop tarts would like to have a word with you on some inaccuracies in that statement…

  • RedLeader

    Well, they do when they see the anchor text and link patterns. Plus, if you’re using Authorship to get that extra credibility and visibility, then of course they’re going to know who is who.

  • stracy

    Sorry for the spelling, I grew up and live in France :)

  • stracy

    I think you got the idea :

    Critisism is easy, it’s the art that’s difficult :)

  • medway808

    Ok :)

  • RedLeader

    Oh yes, I understood what you were trying to say, but the comparison was still 180 degrees from your intended message.
    BTW, I have no idea why medway was harping on your grammar; other than a simple typo, it was fine. A little informal, maybe, but hey, this is the Internet, right?

  • stracy

    Hey, neither do I :)

    But my answer seamed to please him.

    That’s the internet right ?

    My intended message was definetely to compare good music with good content.

    Why ? Well, because it’s the same thing, Precisely and exactly the same thing.

    Good content, just like good musique lives forever.

    Marketing content and marketing musique goes by, just like the wind. It’s just a message, a slogan of the present that never last’s. It’s a fashion of the time being, and fashion’s change so fast.

    Good litterature and thus good content will always last forever. Just like good music

    Thy shall be Thy author of Thy good content :)

  • lisa741

    as Deborah replied I cannot believe that some one able to make $7684 in 4 weeks on the computer. have you seen this web page w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • mpongo system

    j’aime ça

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