Four Link Lessons from #SESAtlanta

Creating effective links is all about quality content, and at SES Atlanta, SEOs and marketers from CNN, Cheapflights, the Atlanta Hawks, and came together in a panel discussion to reveal their secrets for using quality content to drive links. 

Lesson One: Don’t Get Too Precious About Where Content Is Viewed

Andisheh Nouraee, social strategies manager for, said that most of’s content is viewed on Facebook rather than on site, and that’s just fine with him. “Organic is dead’ has not been our experience,” Nouraee said. “We’re not focused on driving traffic from Facebook-to-site. Our strategy the past year has been creating Facebook-specific versions of web content with a human interest focus. If you create content that keeps people on Facebook, you’re still getting that reach.”

Micah Hart, director of interactive marketing for the Atlanta Hawks, agreed with Nouraee, but pointed out the inherent struggle.

“You’d love people to come to your channels all the time, but part of the business is about growing affinity for the brand and growing our audience,” he said.

Lesson Two: Know Why Users Are Coming to the Site recently revamped its site, deleting thousands of pages to make it easier to help users find the content they care about. The company saw focused on what brought people to the website and created content around that, resulting in a 27 percent increase in traffic. People spent more time on the site, as well.

Vlad Gorenshteyn, digital leader and brand manager for CNN, agreed that giving readers what they want is half the link battle. He said that analytics plays a big role in content selection. 

“We look at our analytics and know geographically where our users are, as well as [their] age group and device,” Gorenshteyn said. “In addition, we asked our clients how they found content, and focused our content strategy on providing value.” 

Lesson Three: Make Sure the Message Fits the Audience

Cheapflights found an ingenious way to drive traffic to the site in the form of “How To” content marketed to college students studying abroad, according to Russ Ain, senior SEO manager for 

“We made lists of tips and tactics for when students studied abroad, like how to use your mobile phone abroad, and then we contacted college study abroad departments and told them about the blog post,” Ain explained. “The result was an increase in interest in the blog, along with site clicks by study abroad students hoping to save on their travels.”

Lesson Four: Make Sure Users Stick Around

Understanding the importance of dwell time, CNN has recently redesigned its site to easily guide users to information they want in order to maximize their engagement. 

“Anybody working on SEO and trying to get a higher rank on Google takes into account how long a user is on the site,” Gorenshteyn said. “So when we launched our redesign, we make sure folks would stick around by putting menus in visible places. We want them to see content they didn’t search for. Instead of having old school big articles, we shrank features to open up the site, so users are more likely to see what they are seeking.”

One thing the four panelists could agree on was that the old days of indiscriminate link building are over. Content now matters more than ever and if no one is sharing, brands definitely suffer.

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