Link Building Interview: Arnie Kuenn of Vertical Measures


Arnie KuennArnie Kuenn is the president and founder of Vertical Measures, LLC, as well as the founder and president of the Arizona Interactive Marketing Association (AZIMA) and has presented at SMX Advanced, AMA Phoenix, Pubcon and many online webinars. Follow him on Twitter: @ArnieK.

Can you tell us a little about Vertical Measures and your role there?

Vertical Measures is a full-service internet marketing and link building company in Phoenix. We help our clients gain more business from their websites by providing internet marketing solutions using innovative and ethical strategies. We achieve this by developing expertise across multiple disciplines while constantly adapting to current trends. The company is comprised of a group of individuals with backgrounds in internet marketing, social media, web design and technology, each offering their individual expertise in order to provide our clients with the very best services available. I founded Vertical Measures in 2005 and continue to play a very active role in the day to day operations.  

How important is link building relative to other SEO activities? In other words, how much of their time should SEOs devote to link building – 10%? 50%?

Link building is obviously very important to any SEO campaign, and I think anywhere between 60% and 70% of your time should be spent in this area, although I may be a little biased! Obviously once the foundations of a site are laid down correctly, having the right titles and meta tags for example, the most important thing to work on is getting good quality links pointing toward it. Not only is this important for your search engine rankings, but also for creating traffic and conversions for a client, which is the real reason why we are in business.

What factors go into a "quality" link?

The best quality links will always be within the actual content of a webpage or article on a strong, well-known domain, both in terms of value to human visitors and for the weight given to them by a search engine. The article or news story containing the link should be contextually relevant to the website it is linking to, and preferably with strong keyword anchor text, no “click here”s or “read more”s. After these factors there are the other variables out there in the industry, such as PR and do-follows, the importance of which is always being debated, but they are always something you would rather have.

What are your favorite link building tools, paid and/or free?

We use a lot of the SEOMoz tools, as well as SEO Majestic and Link Diagnosis. Those along with Yahoo Site Explorer are great for doing backlink analysis, although the rumors are that Yahoo Site Explorer’s days are numbered, and I will be sad to see it go. However, the best tool for finding links truly is your brain. Having experience and thinking in the right way, as well as knowing how to use the right search operators, you are able to track down the perfect sites.

What features would the ultimate link analysis tool include?

Oh, wow, tough question! Good one! Well, I guess the absolute ultimate link analysis tool would have access to the Google data to tell us the exact worth of the link to show off to our clients. Failing that, something that can reliably and accurately combine the important numbers – like the number of linking root domains, number of links to a page, PR and social media mentions – and give me one output to approximate the value, I think would be a fantastic resource.

How does social media change the link building game? Does "social linking" via Twitter and Facebook reduce the importance of traditional links?

As they say, Twitter is cannibalizing the link graph, and I see it changing the link building game via the relationships that can be established on that medium. You can reach out to industry experts in the particular field that you are link building in that you never would have become acquainted with before, not to mention the intensive exposure for no-follow links that you tweet out yourself. I don't think "social linking" reduces the importance of traditional links because you need both kinds to be considered a quality link builder. This just gives us one more outlet through which to get links.

Any tips for marketers embarking on link requests? What tactics get the best response?

You catch more flies with sugar than vinegar. Being polite and unassuming while assertively stating your case for the link is the best way to go with link requests. They are doing you a favor, not the other way around, so it's important to keep the tone respectful. Also, be prepared for rejection and don't let it get you down. Just remember the old sales adage that every ignored email or negative response just puts you one closer to nabbing that elusive link.

Is it ever okay to buy a link? If so, how do you avoid getting caught/penalized?

Buying links for traffic is a good thing. Buying links to manipulate search engines is never a good thing. You should not be thinking about how to avoid getting caught and penalized because you are not smarter than all the engineers at Google. You will be caught, so it would be a much better use of your time and resources to figure out how to get links in a more ethical and natural manner.

Which link do you think helps your site more and why: a link from an authoritative, totally unrelated website or a link from a pretty authoritative, highly relevant website? Both are anchor text links, and you have to pick just one.

Can I have both of them? J If I can pick only one, I'm going to go with the authoritative unrelated site. Although relevance is important, higher authority still carries more weight today. The golden standard of link building still involves getting links placed on highly authoritative websites.

What's the best link you ever scored and how did you get it?

This is a really difficult question to answer. We have several link builders here and we get hundreds of links for our clients every month, maybe thousands. In fact, most of the time we are creating content for a client and promoting it and that is probably where we get the best backlinks, so we wouldn’t really say we “scored” in the traditional sense. However, every once in a while someone does jump out of their chair telling us all about the link they just scored. But I have to admit, when I read the question a specific link came to mind. I don’t actually do any link acquisitions myself any more, but two years ago I did and was pretty proud of this particular link. Mostly because it was many links all at once. I was proud enough that I wrote a blog post about it. Basically we managed to get links to several of our client’s sites all on one page of a very nice site. You can read the entire story on that post.

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Feb 22, 2010

Sobering but Enlightening

"How important is link building relative to other SEO activities? In other words, how much of their time should SEOs devote to link building – 10%? 50%?"

Arnie Kuenn's answer of 50-70% of SEO time should be devoted to link building was sobering but enlightening.

As he said himself, he may be biased in his estimate. Sadly, I have been under-informed regarding links while I've met some marketing executives in the field who were clueless about links. Marketing personnel who are under-informed regarding the importance of keywords will be even less knowledgeable regarding links.

I'm keeping one of my new year's resolutions to read more about links whenever I can. Thanks Elisa (and Arnie Kuenn).

Elisa Gabbert
Feb 22, 2010

Yes, Arnie's figure was higher than I thought it would be! It may be an easier pill to swallow if you look at it from a team perspective. Not everyone on our marketing team devotes half their time to link building, but one team member (Ken, of course) probably works hard enough to make up for our lack.

Ken Lyons
Feb 22, 2010

Hey, Richard. I agree with Arnie's estimates. I probably devote about 60% of my "SEO time" at WordStream to link building. With client sites, the percentage of time I spend on link acquisition is even higher, about 75%.

Feb 22, 2010


In the ads I've seen for SEM managers or analysts, I rarely if ever have seen responsibilities include link building/management or skills including link building. In managing SEM efforts I think someone should be able to ask the right questions about link building, link quality, ongoing campaigns, and keeping track of links made.

So moments ago I searched LinkedIn for SEO positions and took a quick look at 3 positions: none of them even mentioned link building skills.

I have no doubt that you, Elisa, and Arnie are correct about the importance of link building for SEO personnel. Apparently some HR personnel haven't included those requirements into their generic job specifications.

Your thoughts on this? Thanks.

Ken Lyons
Feb 22, 2010

Hey, Richard.
Maybe these SEM managers are considering link building as part of the SEO umbrella. For instance, I feel a good SEO should have the ability to write well and be able to understand and troubleshoot HTML coding issues. But those skills are often absent from many SEO job requirements I've seen. So it could be a matter of managers making assumptions.
It could also be a case where SEM managers consider link building and SEO as two different roles, and they have separate link building teams and separate SEO teams. But I doubt that scenario exists at many internal SEO positions (where you're often asked to wear many hats), but could be more likely at an agency.
However, it could also be ignorance and the fact that some SEM hiring managers have no clue that link building is critical to ranking.
But this is all speculation on my part.

Arnie Kuenn
May 22, 2010

Thought I would add my 2 cents. I think that is part of the problem with many SEOs. They feel designing and optimizing a site is 90% of what matters. Even though those are very important aspects, those that are actually ranking for tough keywords know it was the link that got them there. So whether the SEO is actually responsible for obtaining links is not really the issue, it's whether or not they understand that links are a big part of the overall solution.

Wordstream Interview With Arnie Kuenn | Vertical Measures
Feb 23, 2010

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Feb 23, 2010

Thanks for the interesting and informative post. I look forward to more in the future.

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Feb 24, 2010

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Mar 02, 2010

I think the biggest thing most folks don't realize is Arnie's statement about obtaining the higher authority, lower relevance site to build links. It would behoove you to get a PR 7 low relevance link than a PR 5 high relevance link.

Thanks again for sharing your interview with Arnie!

Mar 06, 2010

Thank you for the interview, OMG link building is the most harsh thing on Earth.

Mar 09, 2010

I really appreciate your post about link building strategies here. It can help a lot. The information here are helpful to those who are a beginner in the field of link building task. More benefits from SEO topics here. Thanks for posting this one here.

Jun 11, 2010


I'm usually a fan, but this post confused me. You said "Buying links to manipulate search engines is never a good thing"

Yet... you link off to a blog post you did about the "Best link you ever scored". A link that you paid $150 for.

What is your definition of "buying links"?