Link Baiting & Viral Search Success

Aug 22, 2007 - 5:38 pm 4 by

What better way to get links than by doing something that makes people feel compelled to link to you? That's link baiting -- coming up with an idea, a service, even a controversy -- that gets people talking and linking your way. A viral campaign is similar -- a program, a system or an encouragement that gets people linking to you over time. This session is designed for experienced marketers. Beginners should only attend if they've gone through the Link Building Basics session earlier in the conference. Moderator:

* Chris Sherman, Co-Chair, SES San Jose


* Chris Boggs, Manager, Search Engine Optimization, eMergent \ Brulant, Inc. * Jennifer Laycock, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Guide * Rebecca Kelley, Search Marketing Consultant, * Cameron Olthuis, Independent Online Marketing Consultant

Chris Sherman introduces the session. Link baiting is an appealing strategy because you're giving something really good for link love.

We start with Rebecca Kelley, who totally rocks.

Linkbait is content on your site that targets the "linkerati." A lot of people think that linkbait is manipulative because you're getting people to link to you in a malicious way. But it's not. If it's interesting content, people should have no problem linking to it. Therefore, viral worthy content and an audience = link love.

When you have a campaign, you want to focus on the linkerati who are the tech savvy people.

Some opportunities there include: - Researching your sector's linkworthiness. Get some ideas from Digg, Reddit, - Discover the big players in your field. Look if they're discussing trends you want to focus on. - Leverage that community after you do your launch. - Target the right kind of sites (the ones that are more appropriate to your content). Tech news fits on Digg, but offbeat news might be better on Boing Boing and Fark.

Designing appealing content pieces: - Select a content focus. ex. Mingle2's "How Dating my Ex was Like Playing Doom II on Nightmare Mode." the person who wrote this studied Digg, got 4000 diggs on this submission and got 1700 links. - Mesh together your branding and viral elements. Relate this to your sector. It wouldn't really work to write about Apple and the Wii in the mortgage industry. - Target your keywords. You want linkbait that is relevant. Make sure the title of your piece gives you the right traffic.

Appealing does not necessarily mean complex. The web2.0 look feel is good, but not essential. Simplicity works. An example is a drawing of a flowchart (scanned in, not even Photoshopped!) It got 2500+ Diggs.

Target the Linkerati's emotions. Rand Fishkin wrote a post about emotions that make links. Linkerati are very emotional people. They're angry; they're excited about product launches; they like controversy. They like getting riled up and talking about things.

Don't forget vanity. People who are very likely to link are people whose egos are stroked. Matt Cutts talked about how David Klein, a chiropractor, took pictures of people drawing pictures of what they want to do - David created images and got links. (Matt linked him. I read it.)

Leverage the community you research. Do a little pre-launch PR. Ask opinions before launching your piece. Since you're involving them in the process, they're more likely to take interest and spread the word if they have a contribution to it. Once you do launch it, stay on top of the traffic and manage your site. The first 15-30 minutes are crucial to handling traffic. That's when the top linkers and bloggers will see your piece. A successful piece can get up to 10k visitors an hour especially from sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, etc. Try to have static pages to handle the load. You want to receive ongoing value from your linkbait. Take advantage of your traffic increase after you launch something successful because it will bump the users (who are sticky!). Good linkbait has continuous relevance over time.

Drivl's 22 Worst Place Names in the World - 2400 Diggs, 1300 links, 192 comments, and 4000 page views (6.5% of the total pageviews on the site). It continues to pull in traffic and visitors - the content is timeless.

Keep in mind: - Linkbait is not a sure thing. Don't get discouraged. - Linkbait doesn't necessarily target your typical audience. You have to keep this other mentality - "I'm targeting the people who will link to me" rather than your typical users. - Linkbait isn't a quick fix. It's a fun and clever wait to get links but it's not an easy solution.

Cameron Olthuis is next.

Linkbait is remarkable content or feature on your website that compels other people to link to you. - Informational content - Controversy (Jason Calacanis against SEO) - Humor (funny content, funny images, viral videos) - News (being the first to break a major news story or offering thoughtful opinion on a story) - Tools (mortgage calculators, SEO tools, etc.)

What are the benefits? - Links. Linkbait is link building in mass. Traditional link building is not fun to do and it's time consuming. - Link profile. The best links show up naturally and show up from all different sources. They are not reciprocal. - Traffic. Social sites can drive insane amounts of traffic. - Branding. When you're on these social sites, people perceive you as the authority. - Bookmarks. Not only are bookmarks links, but people are saving these because people want to revisit these pages in the future. It's great to have that additional traffic source. - Media publicity. These social sites can get you in front of major news sources.

Case Study: Drug Rehab center. It's typically perceived as boring. How can you get linked to? First, I want to see what the community likes that's relevant to this. So an example is Search for the keyword/tag "drugs" e.g. the effects of cannibus on a web based lifestyle. People actually like this even though it's informational (it's also funny). Second, brainstorm with your coworkers, friends, family, and the client. Brainstorming can give you many multiple linkbait ideas. Then, create the content. "Guide to Identifying and Recognizing Illegal Drugs." These need to be very interesting and social media friendly pages. When these people are clicking, they're not spending time on the site. Make it easy for them to scan the info - intro paragraph, table of contents, etc. It was submitted to Digg and did great. It got 1300 Diggs, 150+ comments, 1000+ links, 50K unique visits within the first 48 hours., #1 for illegal drugs ranking.

Keys to promotion: - Having a power account. Your success rate is much higher. Tips: Provide value to the community. Don't submit your own articles. People look at your past submissions and think you're boring. If you go out to other sites and link to them, they're perceived as more legitimate. - Good titles and descriptions. This will make or break your linkbait piece. - Submit it to the proper category. - Target the proper sites. Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Netscape.

Example: Search Engine Smackdown. This is a flash game where you learn about SEO by battling a founder of the search engines. It got a lot of great links and worked out for us.

Ideas beyond content: - Flash content - Viral videos - Mashups - Images - Widgets - Tools

Jennifer Laycock is next. She says that the core purpose of linkbait is to build links. The reason it works is that people are looking for things to talk about. There are millions of blogs (she says 71 million, but Greg Jarboe is sitting next to me and he keeps saying 98. In any event, that's a lot!)

Viral marketing is about marketing. It's great for building your brand and for driving conversions. People build relationships online. We know that people listen to their friends. With these new communities popping up in social media, people are building trust relationships with others that they haven't met and may never meet. It's viewed differently than traditional advertising.

So why do this? The cost is in your idea. You usually have a higher development cost (creativity), but you're not paying for placement, CPM impressions, etc., so if it goes successfully, you do very well.

It also creates brand evangelists. The added benefit of having people speak about your product increases your credibility.

You also get a rapid response rate. The spread of email, blogs, and social media spread is instant.

How do you do this? - Ask yourself: what sparks passion in your customers? - Look at what hasn't been done before. - Look at how your ideas benefit your users. The real big question is asking if your audience will risk their reputation on this. If you have people who have relied on you for restaurant reviews, for example, and you give them misinformation, will they trust you again?

Quick tip: using other people's resources is a great way to be viral. Get ad space without buying an ad. Example: Widgets. (Flickr, MyBlogLog, blog quiz - cheap ideas - dating sites can do "are you a romantic, what type of flower are you?" and vacation sites can do "what's your ideal vacation spot?")

When opportunity presents itself, be ready to act. Jennifer shares her story about her issue with the National Pork Board. She sold shirts on her site to help local milk banks and one of the slogans on the shirt was "the other white milk." The National Pork Board sent her a cease and desist notice. When she thought about it, she realized that this is a social media match made in heaven. She did the following: - Prepared the right story: indignation and humor - Have a buzzworthy hook. The lawyer handed that to her on a platter - they used the wrong wording and assumed she was pushing a breastfeeding fetish (when they were, in fact, clueless). - She created a call to action. Something as simple as adding something on the end like contact information can help. And she did that. (And they didn't like it.) - Make it easy to spread with bookmarking tools. - Planted the seeds - emailed friends. She also started adding a link back out to people who linked to her and that pushed her site higher up.

It paid off great. A traffic spike was 400% (80,000 visits). She got great branding spike. It was a great topical blog spike. Her sales spiked 700%. She also had a community spike - tons of comments come in to this day. (I linked to it less than a month ago!)

She ended up receiving an apology and the cease and desist was revoked. They also offered a donation to the milk bank.

Last up is Chris Boggs who is not owned by Microsoft like I wrongfully implied last week. He works for Brulant now.

Some of the past sessions we've covered are - Link Building Basics, Are Paid Links Evil?, SEO Q&A (up next! Yes, I will be blogging that.)

Not everyone can leverage Digg. How can you build links without this? Let's talk about those strategies.

Best practices: - Free and paid directories - Quid pro quo: give something to get something. This includes link negotiation and buying links. - Link baiting - Links from Matt Cutt's blog! People have talked about Yahoo! Site Explorer and I wanted to show an example of some of the research you can do with that. Chris is sharing how he uses it to get links. - Check the inlinks. - Remove links from the internal domain. - You can watch links from the entire site or to a particular page. - You don't want all your links to point to the homepage. You should focus on linking to subpages. This works in general because most of your content is likely not on your homepage. Linkbait increases your deep-link ratio.

Exercise when building links: how many degrees of separation can you map? If you're talking about high blood pressure, you're probably going to look at sites that are related to that. But you might run out of sites. So maybe you'll want to find other related ideas - heart disease, exercise. I like to go out to at least 6-7 degrees of separation. The search engines should realize that there's a semantic connectivity between that and your topic.

How does this work for linkbait? Once mapped, additional research is required for link baiting efforts. 1. Examine buzzworthy topics for each area. 2. Look for trends (Nielsen BuzzMetrics / Umbria) 3. Participate in communities discussing the issues. 4. Create "ubiquitous" linkbait, which will be more likely to draw links from a larger variety of websites (and thus look very natural). The added bonus of this is that the majority of the links should be coming from sites that are relevant. 5. Build on successes, or try again.


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