What do you get when you come up with a great idea on the web, whether it be something resourceful, something useful, something funny, even something controversial? You come up with ingenious ways to generate buzz for your sites through link baiting and viral marketing campaigns.
A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, August 7-10, 2006, San Jose, CA.
At the recent Search Engine Strategies in San Jose, I had the privilege of hearing some great ideas on successful link bait and viral campaigns from marketers who have been very successful in this arena. The session entitled, "Link Baiting & Viral Search Success" featured Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz, Cameron Olthuis of Advantage Consulting Services, Jennifer Laycock from Search Engine Guide and Chris Boggs from Avenue A | Razorfish.
Fishkin, a search marketer who comes up with some of the most ingenious ways to create link bait, offered a number of examples to illustrate successful link baiting. There is the Beginner's Guide to Search Engine Optimization, an overview of many of the processes, techniques and strategies used by professional SEO specialists. There is the Recommended SEO, Web Development & Support Firms, a list that not only gets used but sends many referrals to those who are fortunate enough to be listed. One of the greatest successes SEOmoz has experienced is with its Web2.0 Awards site. As of the writing of this article, the site has a Google PageRank value of 8 and about 31,000 links pointing to it.
Rand defines link bait as attracting anyone who can link to your site. The goal is to get the highest level of traffic that linkers can provide. One must first research how link-worthy their sector is. How competitive is your business? Who is well read in your industry? These are questions one has to ask. Search Delicious or Technorati to see what people are tagging in your specific industry.
Once you identify link bait opportunities, the next step is to select content focus. Focusing on your own brand is important. Rand's Page Strength Tool
is a perfect example of developing something that will ultimately help branding. He also recommends constructing content around popular keywords. This will involve a bit of keyword research which is
easily done with tools like Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery. Also check out what is most popular at tagging sites (Digg, Technorati, Yahoo’s Site of the day).
Cameron Olthuis focused on managing your buzz. The first step is to track comments on blog posts, forums and message boards. Subscribing to RSS feeds helps automate this process a bit. The idea is to learn what people are saying about you, whether good or bad. Either way can be good so long as you join the conversation.
Cameron cited the CEO of YouTube, who voiced concern over a potential acquisition of his company, stating that he did not want to be acquired. This created controversy which resulted in a nice spurt of inbound links. He also mentioned the Mentos and Coke experiment. Drop the candy into a Coke bottle and the soda shoots up like a fountain. This generated interest in Mentos with even Coca Cola voicing displeasure because the company wanted consumers drinking their product, not blowing it up.
The main emphasis here is to measure your buzz, whether it be good or bad. Additional methods include checking back links through Yahoo, analyzing Google Trends to see how many are people talking about you and watching your analytics.
Jennifer Laycock focused on how small business can create link bait. The cost is in the idea, not the marketing, a vital point because all the marketing in the world cannot help a bad idea. She explained that link bait boils down to good content. A good tool or resource has the ability to create what she referred to as brand evangelists—tools that give people a reason to talk about you.
Good link bait is also driven by passion. It has the ability to create a rapid response. A good example of this is Burger King's Subservient Chicken. This viral marketing campaign was a big draw but did it sell chicken? It doesn't really matter because it was not about selling chicken but creating awareness. Subservient Chicken made the brand cool and overall introduced a whole new generation to Burger King.
How do you come up with a good idea? First you must ask yourself what are your users passionate about. What hasn't been done before? How will it benefit your users? Ideas spread because they are important to the spreader—not the originator.
Jennifer accomplished this with her Zero Cash, A Little Talent and 30 Days project which gave birth to
The Lactivist. Jennifer supports nursing moms (being one herself), promoting issues like extended breastfeeding, breastfeeding in public and human milk bank
donation. This project created a lot of buzz and really educated many people on a subject that they very likely knew nothing about beforehand.
Chris Boggs spoke about leveraging your community, and used search marketing community as a good example. Many of us know each other and will create buzz for one another as opportunity presents itself. This happens when someone writes a great article, produces a new tool or even stirs up some controversy.
I would imagine that many industries in business have community similar to ours. Sure there is competition against one another but there can also be cooperation. Leveraging your community is about that—developing relationships with others in your community for the common goal of assisting one another in business.
There is an old debate where some say that good search engine visibility comes from having awesome content and a great site while others will say it is all about links. Actually it is a combination of the two. They are both married because many times great content is link bait in and of itself. Viral marketing can only be effective if you are creating links that send users to a great site. Everyone doing viral marketing works hand in hand to accomplish the common goal of driving more traffic and in the end, maximizing conversions.
David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm.
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