Moderated by Jeff Rohrs Presented by Rand Fishkin, Cameron Olthius, Jennifer Laycock, and Chris Boggs
Rand Fishkin is up first. He gives a background of linkbait evolution (18 months). He presents a quote from Matt Cutts about linkbait as a powerful tool.
Linkbait, above all other tactics, in marketing, has the greatest chance for high impact.
How do you leverage this? Linkbait is about getting content on the web that is worthy of being shared.
Rand shows us the linkerati - web researchers, journalists, and bloggers. Linkerati dominate the linking on the web. Browsers and customers do nothing compared to the linkerati. They are very important and you therefore should target them. They mean rankings, branding, mind share, and getting the word out about your product.
How does linkbait help you rank if you provide content that does not relate to your site? A page that has many links will help the global authority of your site. The 2,000+ links spread the link love throughout your site. Doing this consistently will help your entire site rank better. Example: Wikipedia. They rank for every arbitrary term but that's because there's a great amount of links to other pages.
Sample of successful linkbait: Worst College Mascots on drivl.com. It ranks very well for college mascots. Celebrity Nudity Awards on Drivl.com - it ranks #5 for nudity. These pages have several hundreds of thousands of page views, several thousand links, etc.
But if you're not in this industry and you need something practical, think about this - Rand discusses linkbait about a drug rehab firm - a drug identification chart - ranks #1 for illegal drugs. It was launched via Digg and got over 100,000 views and many links, etc.
Some content strategies: lists (best of, worst of), list of tips, howtos, problems, benefits, resources, teaching resources, humor/irony, controversy, interviews, breaking news, product reviews, poll results/data results, aesthetic beauty, tools, comprehensive reviews, great insight, and many more.
If you are looking for what these people are looking for, look through the linkbait portals (a lot of people a day look at content on those sites). Digg.com is an example (2mil+ visitors daily, tech/web centric but has news/photos/offbeat pieces, 50-100 votes required for homepage, 10-30k visits on average after the homepage, somewhat over 1000+ links after a few weeks). Reddit.com is another example (500k visits, broader in scope, 20-40 votes required for main page, 4-10k visits average, and 600+ links after a few weeks). Netscape.com is more of a news centric site (250k visits daily, 20-40 votes required for main page, 4-8k visits average, 300+ links per article). Del.icio.us popular (1mil+ visits daily, developer centric, 20-30 for main page). StumbleUpon (3mil+ users, all subjects, 70% thumbs up, 50-5,000 visits that are continuous, 25-250 links).
Other portals: popular blogs and sites - Michael Arrington of Techcrunch - Boingboing.net suggestion page - Engadget - Lifehacker - Slashdot - Techmeme - Scobleizer - Daily Kos - The Huffington Post
Rules for Linkbaiting Safely: keep in mind about IP tracking, geography of users, groups, profile identification, and spam submissions. Digg is pretty savvy about acknowledging ways to game the service.
Cameron Olthius speaks next. How does viral search success impact traditional search?
1. Improving your rankings: there are three types of linkbait - content pieces (flash games, written content), widgets (e.g. MyBlogLog), and mashups (content from more than one source to make an integrated experience).
2. Reputation Management. There are two ways to use social media for reputation management. Control the top results through social media profiles. You can also contain the negative buzz before it goes viral. An example is Comcast Customer Service - search Google - #1 result is comcast.com, #3 result is a blogger's rant, and #5 result is a YouTube video of a Comcast guy sleeping on his couch.
Where do you monitor? Social media sites, blog search engines, and comment trackers. What do you monitor? URLs, company name, product name, public facing figures, relevant keywords, and competitors
Participate to keep the good buzz going or to turn negative to positive. This can lead to more links.
3. Rank social media pages (like on MySpace, YouTube, and Wikipedia). Create profiles and control small linkbait here - the sites here have such high authority so it will be easy to rank.
Our third speaker is Jennifer Laycock, who says she will cover viral side. Linkbaiting in its purest form is about getting links, and it's not about branding. It's great about a new site launch. Viral marketing is all about marketing. It gets you the links but it's more about building your brand, driving conversions. It's getting past the traffic.
Why would you do viral marketing? (1) The cost is in the idea - there is no placement cost (no PPC, banner ads, etc.) This is word of mouth marketing. (2) A good viral campaign creates brand evangelists and increases your credibility. (3) It also has a rapid response rate (between blogs, discussion forums, and email).
How do you create these viral idea? Find out what sparks passion within your customers. Find out what hasn't been done before. Come up with something new that nobody has tried. Ask yourself how the idea will benefit your users. Find out if your audience will risk their reputation on it.
Ideas spread because they are important to the spreader, not because they are important to the originator.
You have to think of a viral project from the very start - formulate your marketing campaign out of that.
Viral marketing works through relationships. Social media speeds this up. Find ways to work through these relationships to get these to spread.
How does it spread? You launch via opinion leaders. Find out who the thought leaders are who would be most interested in this linkbait. Once you reach them, it goes down the line.
A few techniques: "send a friend" links on your website; one-click access for social bookmarking; integrating the ad (e.g. like signatures in Hotmail). Another one is exploit motivators - "cool factor" Gmail accounts. Use existing networks - people are already talking, so find them and get your services talked about. Take advantage of other people's resources.
Be ready to act: Jennifer has a personal site called thelactivist.com. She mentions her personal battle with her CafePress shirt that said "The Other White Milk" which was apparently a conflict with another trademark. She was battled with the National Board of Pork who issued a cease and desist letter to stop selling this shirt. She took advantage of this in viral marketing, which she calls "a match made in social media heaven." Something will fall into your lap and you can jump on it. She prepared a blog post with a PDF. She had a buzzworthy hook (she played upon how the Pork Board said that she's ruining pork's good reputation). She posted the blog as a call to action. People came in and read her blog. She had links to the bottom of her blog for social media sites. She planted the seeds (emailed mommy bloggers and others in the search engine world - that was enough for the publicity) and motivated linking (by adding a section that listed who covered the story). The result was that the traffic spiked 400% in about a week, there was a branding spike (people looking for her blog name), there was a topical blog spike (pork board, Jennifer Laycock, thelactivist.com, etc.), she had a sales spike (700% increase), and she had a community spike of people who are now visiting her blog. Eventually, she got a sincere apology (especially after they said "how do I make the calls and emails stop?" - the audience laughs.) They revoked the cease and desist and donations were made to the milk bank.
Jeff adds how quickly the National Pork Board reversed their decision after this increased buzz.
The last speaker is our very own Chris Boggs. (Hi Chris!) He talks about leveraging the community. In searchenginewatch.com, there is a "forum roll" on the forum homepage - you don't have to feel competitive. Find a community where a lot of people within your industry belong and that's a way to pass links along. He shows us Barry's own Link Farm.
In other community love, Chris shows us SEOmoz's recommended list of competitors.
Chris then tells us about the My Super Proposal site where this one anonymous individual wanted to propose to his girlfriend on the SuperBowl. It ranks pretty well for a superbowl proposal, but not for "will you" yet (#1 result for "will you" is "how will you die?" - the audience laughs).
Purists think that link baiting should not include link building efforts.
You should research your backlinks - Yahoo! Site Explorer. Logfiles are also a great way to understand information. Check Technorati to see what people are saying. Look for anchor text and locations of new in-links (webuildpages.com and seobook.com).
Chris then presents an example from Neil Patel - "My 50 Favorite Blogging Resources" - Posted 11/13, and by the 19th, 1292 referrers sent traffic to that post; 4358 Diggs, 1762 Del.icio.us, 2851 Stumbles, Yahoo MyWeb 641 links, and 521 links on Furl.net. Traffic incrases over weeks also.
There is Good and the Bad - for example, as mentioned earlier, Comcast Customer Service.
He shows us savetoby.com - a guy said he would kill a rabbit if he didn't get $50,000 in a given amount of time. The more you can spend on being creative, the better chance you get.
Another example is Norelco's ShaveAnywhere.com (with title Philips Bodygroom), which was a viral initiative and got 750,000 uniques.
Viral can blow traditional marketing away if done properly.
Remember: there are risks when you want to consider, like on Norelco. If you search for Norelco now, #2 is Philips Bodygroom, which could cause people to consider other options and not want to work with Norelco.