Link-Building and SEO are NOT Dead: Interview with Arnie Kuenn

With so many people proclaiming the death of search engine optimization, I can almost hear that collective sigh of relief from you, dear SEJ readers, after reading the title of this post. Yes, link-building and SEO are NOT dead (or, your days as a search engine optimizer are far from over).

Take it from Vertical Measures CEO Arnie Kuenn, author of the award-winning book Accelerate! Moving Your Business Forward Through the Convergence of Search, Social Content Marketing. As a link-building and SEO expert himself, Arnie has a deep understanding of the impact of Google updates on the search engine marketing and optimization disciplines. In fact, he wrote Accelerate to show people how they could best cope with never-ending algorithm changes!

I recently got the chance to interview him, so read on to find valuable insights to help your SEO strategy and practice alive and possibly even thriving in these dire times:

Can you tell us more about yourself? What were you doing prior to Vertical Measures and what made you start this company?

I guess I would describe myself as a serial entrepreneur.  I have been involved in small businesses one way or another for more than 30 years. Prior to Vertical Measures, we had a venture funded startup called MediaChoice. We patented a personalization technology for the web and focused on the entertainment space (books, movies, music and television). Through that process we were building and optimizing websites. After we licensed the technology to Nielsen, some of our clients and friends asked if we could help them with their websites and before we knew it we had a new business focused on SEO. That happened in 2006 and as they say…. the rest is history.

Vertical Measures was formerly a link building company. What made you folks shift toward search engine marketing? Was it because, as some folks argue, link building is dead?

We are still pretty well known as a link building company and we still do a very good job at it, but over the years we kept expanding our offerings to meet our clients’ needs. My brother runs a PPC company and we refer that type of work to him, so we could focus on organic search, social media and content marketing.  We have been working in all three of these disciplines for almost three years now. In fact, lost of companies come to us for our content strategy and development these days. Back to link building – do I think it is dead? No way. Not even close. It is still the number one factor in determining search rankings.  Has it evolved over the years? Absolutely. Is spammy link building dead? I sure hope so!

You have an award-winning book, Accelerate!: Move Your Business Forward Through the Convergence of Search, Social Content Marketing. What inspired you to write the book and what’s the most important thing you want people to learn by reading it?

The inspiration really came from the issues you asked about earlier. Vertical Measures was known for its link building and SEO, so we thought one of the best ways to let people know that we did content marketing as well was to write a book about it.  So In November of 2010 I decided to dive in and do it. Ten months later it was finished. I guess the most important thing I’d like people to learn or realize from reading the book is that everyone who has a website needs to look at themselves as a publisher – and publish! Many people are not sure what to do, think their business is boring, or feel they don’t have the time. But the fact is, you just have to dive in, start creating, keep adjusting, and eventually you can be creating engaging content for your business.

In an interview for Conversion Conference West, you said that “thickening of content” is one of the hottest trends for 2012. What exactly do you mean by “thick content”?

We sort of made up the term “thickening your content” after meeting with a client.  We said something like your content on each of your location pages is pretty thin and he responded by saying something like “so we need to thicken it” and it stuck.  What that means to us, and what we are coaching our clients on, is that you need to evaluate the content on your website looking for opportunities to enhance or thicken it. For a local page it might mean adding a map, or a couple of paragraphs about the local area, even an image of a local icon.  Anything that makes the page more attractive, more unique and more informative.

A lot of companies appear to be heading your advice on using content for marketing. I think you’ll agree that we’re all swimming in content right now. Do you have any tips on how to make content stand out and get noticed?

Last week I sent out a tongue in cheek tweet saying something along the lines of “I bet a lot of SEOs are suddenly going to be content marketing experts.”  What I meant by that was that the Google Panda and Penguin updates have forces a lot of SEOs and online marketers to understand the real value of content. Low budget content and spam SEO techniques are getting wiped out by Google. My fear is that many of them will do what we have seen in the social and SEO space before, which is self anoint themselves as experts.  Meanwhile they still do everything with the search engines in mind. Which brings me back to your question.  To me the best way to make your content stand out, is to create it for your audience, not you and not for the search engines. Provide real, valuable, informational, fun content for your customers (or potential customers) and do it on a consistent basis.  That is how you win these days.

What advice can you give to SEO and SEM professionals in light of continued Google algorithm updates (eg. Panda and Penguin)?

Well I think I probably covered that in my previous answer. Bottom line is quit thinking in terms of mass content and backlinks as cheaply (and quickly) as possible and start thinking of high quality content and links at a pace that you can comfortably create them.  If that means only one new, awesome piece of content each month, then that’s what you should do.

You’re speaking again at Conversion Conference Chicago. What can attendees look forward to at your session this time around?

This time I will be totally focused on using video marketing to gain more traffic and conversions for your website. I will have some nice case studies and examples of businesses of all sized doing just that – growing their business through video marketing.


It’s June, which means it’s just a few weeks till Conversion Conference Chicago. I’ll be there so if you’re going, then I’d love to meet you! We can attend Arnie’s session together – and have fun at the after-session mixers. If you haven’t registered yet, then you should do it soon and start planning your trip. Register now and save $100 on any conference pass with our SEJ exclusive discount!


Arnie’s Bio:

Arnie Kuenn is the president of Vertical Measures, a search, social content marketing company helping their clients get more traffic, more leads, and more business.  Arnie has held executive positions in the world of new technologies and marketing for more than 20 years. He is a frequent speaker and author of Accelerate! Moving Your Business Forward Through the Convergence of Search, Social Content Marketing available on Amazon.

You can find Arnie on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn

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Joe Beccalori CEO
Joe Beccalori is a twenty-five-year digital marketing veteran and industry thought leader. After working for fifteen years in enterprise web programming, design, and marketing services he founded Interact Marketing in November 2007 and is currently the company CEO, visionary, and public speaker. He is also a contributing author on Forbes, Huffington Post, and In December of 2017, Interact's parent company also acquired Slingshot SEO.
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