Verbs are better than backlinks

by Jim October 23, 2018

Back from an awesome week at Pubcon and the U.S. Search Awards in Vegas where I had the pleasure of catching up with industry friends and even got to fire off a question to Gary Illyes from Google. Still amazed at the popularity of backlinks at these functions and I got to debate the benefits of your brand becoming a verb.

What I learned

  • confusion reigns over “crawl anomalies” in GSC
  • why are people still obsessed with backlinks?
  • don’t force people to search your brand
  • when your brand becomes a verb


Hey, welcome back Rankers. I`m back in Melbourne, back from Vegas, had an awesome time. Went to the US Search Awards, spoke at Pubcon, did a couple of gigs there. So much information I`ve taken away from it again, and I`ll be bringing you that over the coming weeks. Gary Illyes from Google`s going to get back to me about crawl anomalies in your Google Search Console, in case you`re one of the people who`s wondering what they`re about. No one seems to know, but we`ll bring more about that, and more about Gary`s presentation. Also, some of the highlights, we`ll be bringing them to you in the coming weeks. And don`t forget, it`s the Australian Search Awards this week, in Sydney, which I`ll be traveling to tomorrow actually, tomorrow night, being a judge on those as well.

How`s Your Backlink Traffic?
So lots happening over the next couple of weeks, but one of the things that struck a chord with my audience was this slide. They thought it was funny. But basically, my thing is … because everyone`s still talking about backlinks over there, which is cool, right. I get it. I get it. But they`re meant to generate more traffic, right. That`s the main purpose. So my pitch in my presentation, which was 59 slides in 15 minutes, was basically, well, if they`re meant to generate more traffic, where is it? And are there better ways of generating that traffic more quickly? Because I want us to get away from worrying about Google, right. That`s why the name of the book is ÒGet Stuffed, GoogleÓ, which is coming out before Christmas, for those who have asked.

There was a little bit of confusion in this presentation, from some people who thought, `Oh, that sounds like a very easy thing to gain,` but it`s not that we`re saying get your brand searched more in Google and try to gain that metric, no. What we`re saying is, is that when you see your brand getting searched a lot naturally, that`s a good sign you`re on the right track, all right. So to go and try to get that search, it`s a bit like going and buying backlinks, same thing. It`s a false signal. You want real signals. You want to get away from having to depend on Google, and the only way that you do that is if you build your brand and you become synonymous with your keywords in your category.

A Verb is Popularity
So one of the debates that was going on at Pubcon was S-E-Mrush, or SEMrush, because they brought out that video when we were in Helsinki. I had a few people come up to me and say, `Yeah, no, it`s SEMrush, I agree.` Topher Kohan from, he agreed with me. We both said, `Look, SEMrush has to become a verb,` right? People have to SEMrush it. That`s what you want. Ultimately that`s what you want. So when someone comes to me with data here in-house, I`ll say to them, `Well, have you SEMrushed it? Do you know if that … Where`s your data source?` And that`s where you have to be. You`re not going to become a verb as an acronym. I can`t think, off the top of my head, too many verbs that are actually acronyms.

So when you`re thinking of your audience, when you`re thinking of building your brand longer-term, what is that next word that you want people to say, after they mention your brand? That`s what you`ve got to focus on. That`s what you`ve got to grow. And try to get more branded search phrases in your search analytics, that`s what you want. So the sites that have the highest variety of branded search phrases in their search analytics are the easiest sites to rank, and that is because they`re already popular, and that`s our goal, it`s popularity, not backlinks.

Thanks very much, everyone, and we`ll see you next week with more news from the Australian Search Awards, and the lucky winners, and we`ll bring you more about what Google said at Pubcon. Thanks very much. Bye.

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