We are a small company in a pretty specific and boring niche. We don’t have a huge marketing budget or a huge team and we are up against competitors like Google Voice and RingCentral who have a lot of cash. In such a small niche market, small link building campaigns weren’t really working for us. Believe it or not, there aren’t a ton of big popular sites out there writing about virtual phone systems. We had to start figuring out how to get links from big sites.
If you take a look at our backlink profile over the years, you can see these very definitive instances where we either launched a campaign or were featured in a big outlet. Once we were featured in a big outlet, other outlets picked us up and quality links actually led to more links.
Now, what’s important to note is that for the most part, these authority links were targeted. Every time we are creating a campaign, we are thinking about these mentions and these links and how we can get them. We have success metrics based on # of mentions and placement of mentions and once you start thinking about that stuff, you’ll start finding it’s easier than you think. So, there are a few things that we try to do to get these big links. List the four.My goal is to just show you how one small brand is doing it and how it’s making a difference. Let’s start with egos.
A few years ago we decided to re-brand. We were changing our name from Gotvmail to Grasshopper and we knew we needed to do something big…We weren’t sure what, but we knew that no one really cared about a small phone system based in Needham, MA, so we decided that it had to be a little bit crazy.
Which led to probably the best campaign we’ve ever done. Has anyone seen this before?Basically we sent…The response was amazing.
We had over 200 news stories written or aired about us. 900k people view our video. People posted pictures and videos of themselves eating the grasshoppers what I think is the best part, is that people are still talking about it and tweeting the video and asking if they can use it at conferences. More importantly and why I’m talking about it three years later, is that when this campaign was launching, I had just come on as the SEO manager and we had absolutely no visibility for the term ‘Grasshopper’. I remember thinking ‘what have I got myself into? This is going to take forever!’. Within a month, we were ranking #3 and in three months were #1. If we had tried to rebrand to a generic name like Grasshopper by traditional seo and link building means, it would’ve taken us a hell of a lot longer. These stories and links from huge sources made a big difference.
It’s not a secret that people like to liked. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have companies telling people to like them on Facebook or follow them on twitter. Have you ever written a who to follow post? Pick the right people and those things spread like wildfire. Appealing to people’s egos works amazingly well.
Two years ago we made a video called The New Dork. Our goal was to make a fun video that reached our target audience of entrepreneurs but also got us links and press. This was right after a couple parody videos had come out and made headlines, so we jumped on the bandwagon. During the creation process, we tried to think of how we could get links from places that were valuable to us and our audience - entrepreneurs and tech folks. For us, the big links we wanted were from TechCrunch, Gizmodo, Mashable.Here’s a section from the videoOur thinking was that if we put them in the video, they’d have to talk about it.
And they did. The video was picked up in all the outlets mentioned and we got links from a few of them. It also led to this -> Maybe my all-time favorite quote regarding a campaign.
What’s also great is it led to a spike in our link profile that I showed you earlier and a pretty big bump in organic traffic, mainly around brand. Squirrel high five.
It’s easy to say go target egos but if you’re going to be spending the time to do it, do it right. One thing I always tell people is that we actuallyput a lot of time and thought into these campaigns.First - Do your research – Find that people & places that matter to YOU and your business. Everyone wants to be in the Wall Street Journal, but where is your target market? If you’re a company that sells autoparts, maybe your ‘authority link’ is autotrader. Second - Create something valuable – Remember, just like anything else, people aren’t going to talk about something if it isn’t good…or really bad. Heck, maybe just create something really bad.Lastly - Let the person or place know about it – Once you’ve created this awesome thing, tell people know about it. Twitter, FB, Reddit, Email. Don’t be annoying though, once is probably enough.
I wanted to show some other things that have worked for us and just in general. These things are more for the ‘2nd tier’ authority links vs your WSJ/TC links but definitely good for industry-type links.Quotes – Brian Massey articleInterviews – Rejoiner got a link from Elastic Path Lists – we all know that lists work and they attract both authority links but also ‘authority tweets’. If you can get a big named person to RT you, the effect is pretty great and these days, it can be as valuable as a link.
The third key to getting big links is to be a little bit controversial. Now, I don’t mean go out and be an ahole but there is a line you can walk.
I like to think they are two ways of being controversial. The first is being controversial for the sake of being controversial. Now, a warning that this can backfire and make you look like an idiot. However, there are other ways to do this. We were creating our first Grasshopper TV ad and our CEO mentioned that gary the grasshopper’s head was meant to stay in the middle of the screen so that even as people fast-forwarded through it, they’d still see his head and in turn think about Grasshopper. We were joking around said that it was tivo-proof. Look, we know this ad isn’t tivo proof. I have a dvr, I fast forward and I don’t pay attention to the commercials. But it was plausible enough that people would think we really believed it was tivo proof. We put up a blog post about it, bragged about it and it was picked up by AdGabber and then quickly after Gawker. That led to it being written about and linked to from the Consumerist and eConsultancy. For the record, Gawker made fun of us but the rest actually asked if it was possible that it was tivo proof. Luckily no harm there.
The second way to go about this is to create what I call a ‘controlled controversy’. What I mean by this is do something you know can be big but only in a positive way. Last year we started a Twitter & FB petition to create the first ever National Entrepreneur’s day. As I mentioned, our focus is on entrepreneurs and this was a great way to get some brand awareness, press and do something good. We reached out to some folks on Twitter we had relationships with and it steamrolled enough that the Kauffman foundation joined in. After that it was unstoppable and believe it or not, it was made a real day by the President. On top of that, we got press and links from sources like CBS, Inc magazine, AOL, Entrepreneur.com and more. Sadly, we didn’t get this – the white whale of links. Oh well, maybe next time.You can be controversial without being douchey and it can be a great way to get big links.
So, I know some of these other examples may seem a bit extreme…and they are. But like I mentioned, for us, we sort of have to be and we’ve instilled that into our culture. The thing to keep in mind is we do some low key things as well. Now, I want you guys to get ready. Yup, that’s me in the Wall St Journal. Ooh look, that’s me in the Boston Globe…sadly no link there. BUT…those were easy to get…which leads to my last key point.
If you are building links for your company, you are doing PR. So you need to put on your PR hat. The world of journalism is no longer controlled by the PR company sending press releases. Reporters are out there looking for stories and looking for people to write about. It’s your job as a link builder to find them.
I don’t have a ton to say here that you probably don’t already know, but two of the easiest places to get links from are Twitter & HARO. HARO if anyone isn’t familiar is a site where reporters can request information from regular people. An email is sent to you three times a day and it’s broken out sections. You simply reply to the question and if the reporter is interested, they write back to you. It’s that simple.As for Twitter, admit it, everyone in this room is on it all the time. So why not follow reporters? There a ton of lists and reporters are now sourcing stories there. That’s how I was made famous in the Boston Globe? The nice thing is, once you establish a relationship with reporters, things get much much easier. We actually get quite a bit of coverage now in Forbes and Inc because we’ve built relationships with them over the years. Same with the Wall Street Journal. Our Ambassador of Buzz saw they were featuring small business office spaces and she reached out to her contact she had built a relationship with to let them know we just moved into a new office space. Just like any other form of link building, it’s all about relationships.
Authority Building vs Link Building @casieg Online Marketing Manager Grasshopper.comhttp://www.slideshare.net/Casieg
Who is Grasshopper?• Virtual phone system…snooze• Big competitors with lots of $$$• Generic brand name• Quality > Quantity @casieg