Outbrain and SEO value

|Josh Guttman

One of the most common questions we get from publishers evaluating our products — both on the distribution and traffic acquisition sides — is “are we SEO positive?”  While the true answer is “maybe” (I’ll explain in a minute), our party line on this is “No, SEO isn’t one of our selling points.” Every once in a while, a publisher will get hung up on the issue of SEO (search engine optimization), believing “SEO juice” should be baked into every product decision they make.

Our belief at Outbrain is that SEO should absolutely be baked into a site’s best practices, but the selling points of our products and services are sufficiently compelling to stand on their own as a nice accessory to SEO efforts. In fact, we couldn’t do what we do while conforming to current codes of SEO-juicing because we’ve chosen JavaScript to serve our recommendations and deliver dynamic links that will always be fresh. Industry convention over the past five years has said that JavaScript isn’t indexed by Google or other search engines, a stance that Google continues to maintain publicly. And that’s okay with us.

Frankly, our industry-leading clickthrough rates (the predominant metric in measuring our value creation) would be impossible to achieve without dynamic, JavaScript-powered links.

For our partners, Outbrain’s value is unrelated to SEO

On the distribution side, we offer best-of-breed content recommendations through a proprietary algorithmically-driven system that yields clickthrough rates at levels that typically far exceed the expectations of our partners.  The widget itself yields traffic recirculation value (reader engagement) and creates a new revenue stream for the publishers who host it.  On the traffic acquisition front, we offer high value traffic acquired on a cost-per-click basis that can help promote branding efforts and/or deliver ROI-positive traffic to your content while helping to reach new UVs.

But back to the topic of SEO. At Outbrain, we discuss our products as “SEO neutral,” meaning no search engine will penalize you for working with us.  Further, our widgets load asynchronously — our load occurs independently of the page load; they don’t wait for each other — so we won’t slow down overall page load, which can be a factor in search engine rankings.

Today, Outbrain works with more than 50% of the top 100 online publishers.  We’ve gotten to this point by delivering compelling value for our customers without addressing SEO.  If the so-called search engine conspiracy theorists are correct and Google is, in fact, utilizing JavaScript links in measuring Pagerank, it’s merely gravy for our partners, but our products stand on their own two feet irrespective of any SEO boost and are why Outbrain has grown into the significant business it’s become.

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Josh Guttman

Josh is SVP of Platform Sales at Outbrain. Read more

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  • Benjamin Bloom| May 12, 2011 at 3:15PM

    Given the opportunity to drive traffic to social content, and the increasing relevance of social in search, I’d say this goes beyond Gravy and represents more of an opportunity for the long term. Building fans/followers/content consumers on socially enabled sites now is the SEO juice for the social graph.

    • josh guttman| May 12, 2011 at 5:17PM

      Hi Ben – great point. As Chris Dixon and Sarah Tavel debated a little while ago (you can google the posts), SEO is no longer a sufficient marketing strategy, as it may have been a few years back. And for brands, social awareness and brand loyalty will trump SEO all day long.

  • The Peak| June 9, 2011 at 9:21PM

    Every one want to drive traffic to my content but I wish to do it naturally.

  •| June 17, 2011 at 5:17PM

    search Engines are Heroes of this magical story and they are driving it all our ways of life.

  • Target Seo| September 20, 2011 at 9:09AM

    informative article…

  • seo india| September 21, 2011 at 5:05AM

    I realized that the change in Google’s ability to track JavaScript too. However, I would not know that PageRank and anchor text. I thought the way we have been advised before the creation of paid positions that have stopped using JavaScript!

  • Web design India| August 20, 2015 at 7:07AM

    Lovely post we enjoy to read, thanks for posting

  • Daniel Struoweb| April 7, 2017 at 11:11AM

    In my case I’ve seen a positive SEO impact since I started using outbrain. It’s always hard to attribute it to Outbrain but I think there is some branding effect that helps on better performance in the SERPs


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