3 Simple Steps to 300,000 Stumbles

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John Crenshaw of RLMSEO.com gives a talk at Cincy SEO on link bait. 8-28-12

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  • I’m going to cover link and traffic bait in this presentation.The term “link bait” will include both link & traffic bait, although they don’t have to be the same thing.I don’t claim to be an expert on link bait…there’s a lot I don’t know and haven’t tested yet, but I’ve used link bait and succeeded and I’ve used it and failed miserably so a feel somewhat qualified to at least share what I’ve learned with you guys.
  • WTF?What do you guys think link bait is?[wait for response]
  • There may be definitions out there but I don’t care about those.I consider link bait to be anything that either drives traffic, gets links, or both.When I say anything I mean basically anything that can spread through the internet:Want to take a picture of your boss drunk at a company party and throw it online? That could be link bait, although it’d probably go bananas online I wouldn’t recommend that particular strategy.
  • So link bait could include anything from content like infographics, curated content like a collection of links to other resources, and anything with humor is good.Look up the wikipedia article on Link bait, it has a good list of more types of link bait, but I think these are the important ones for the average search engine marketer.
  • Success depends on what your goals are. Personally I’ve seen around a 20-30% success rate, and that’s consistent with what I’ve seen others writing about.But whether a piece was really successful depends on your goals.We did a piece for a crane company that didn’t get many links at all at first, but it came one spot from hitting the front page of Digg back when Digg was THE social bookmarking site. It got somewhere around 200 Digg votes if I remember correctly. While I didn’t consider it a success back then, it’s since generated 154 links from 48 domains in a really tough industry and played a part in at least two $100k+ sales. Plus, with Google focusing much more on social signals, I have no doubt it influenced the site’s authority.
  • So back to the title of this presentation. Let’s cover those 3 simple steps.
  • Step 1: Know your strengths. Don’t try to force it. If your entire staff doesn’t know the difference between a noun and a verb, you probably shouldn’t be writing anything text-based.If you’re a software company, it would probably be fairly cost-effective to create a tool.If you’ve got great designers, create an infographic.Maybe your terrible at all of these things. Well, you can hire a designer to create an infographic, or even better you can go to PikToChart.com and create one yourself.The slide says “be opportunistic” and I’m going to illustrate that with an example.
  • Back when I was building a lot of WordPress sites, there was an announcement that the WordPress.org theme repository was going to be totally revamped.They said all the old themes were going to be removed and they’d be starting fresh.I was doing a lot of WordPress sites at the time and knew what made a good theme…I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like so I decided to create one and try to be one of the first to submit.I thought if I could get in before everyone else I could get huge exposure just because of the relative lack of competition.That’s exactly what happened. It’s been downloaded over 60,000 times.Depending on where you look, my site has anywhere from 160k – 280k links. 90% of those are from this one WordPress theme.So one of my strengths at the time was designing & developing WordPress themes so that’s what I used. The result is a ton of domain authority and the ability to rank new pages on my site very easily.
  • So here’s the stats on that WordPress theme I did.WPHackr and WordPressHacker.com are both where the theme links point to so it gives me a rough idea of how many links from themes I have if I ignore my primary domain (rlmseo.com).This is the fresh index. The historic index has something like 950,000 links from 4,000 domains, 1k EDU links and 50 GOV links.
  • Step 2: Pick a target. You have to know who you need links from and you have to have a decent idea of what their interests are. Obviously you’re not going to publish the kind of stuff you find on Cracked.com. That site actually earns it’s revenue from traffic and link bait, but that stuff won’t work for most projects.So the best way to do that is to come up with a target profile. You know, where does your target hang out online? What sites does he visit? What are his interests?Then brainstorm some topics that your target may like and be inclined to share.
  • Step 3: Execute.This is the execution. Obviously this is the toughest part and the part that will determine the success of your link bait effort.Everybody likes examples, so let’s have a look at some.
  • So the execution is important. Don’t skimp on the execution. If something as simple as the formatting in a text-based piece is off, you won’t do very well. Pay attention to detail and don’t be lazy. It’s pretty simple.
  • Don’t be scared to push the envelope a bit.An example where we pushed the envelope just enough I think was this Bark! Infographic (http://s3.amazonaws.com/psu_images/dog-bark-infographic_full.png).The steps for this were pretty straightforward:Decide I wanted to do an infographicBrowse aimlessly for pet-related ideas (if you have a team, a brainstorming session might be better)Discovered all this interesting info about dog barks that I thought was coolWrote up notes, being careful to make sure I found something a little controversial (methods to stop barking)Got input that I should drop the methods to stop barking but I said NOOO…that was the moneyMake sure to record all sourcesSent to designerThese don’t have to be perfect, they’re for entertainment, these aren’t going into scientific journeys. Make them fun and enjoyable.Daz the german Shepherd is a good example. Anyone looking at this would think Daz barked almost as loud as a train when in fact the train is something like twice as loud as Daz because decibels are logarithmic.I didn’t know that before I wrote this up and I certainly don’t think it hurt the performance.
  • Don’t forget to target some people for link building specifically, especially if you’re in an underrepresented or difficult niche.
  • This one’s a bonus step. This step is vitally important and since the presentation title rolled off the tongue with “3 simple steps”, I’m adding it as step 3a. Cheat.If you have 10 visitors a day to your website, you could write the greatest content on planet Earth and it probably won’t be seen outside that circle of 10 visitors. It’s a sad fact of reality.You need to give it a little bump. For some websites that comes in the form of a solid number of regular visitors who are willing to “get the ball rolling”. For others that means you have to buy or trade votes and shares to get the ball rolling.A few things to keep in mind about this:Social networks / social bookmarking sites know people do this, so you have to do it right
  • If you’ve got a team of people voting for your content, don’t send them straight to the article or the Reddit post or whatever. Mix up the referrer. Otherwise your votes won’t count as much.There are tons of “voting teams” out there, you just have to find one to join or start your own.
  • So I’ve made plenty of mistakes. There’s no clear path to success with link bait. You will make mistakes, just try to plan ahead and minimize those mistakes as much as possible.First of all, make sure your site can handle the traffic. There’s nothing worse than having a piece take off and suddenly your site goes down. If that happens at a critical time, you’ll have totally wasted the money and time. There’s no fixing that.We had this problem with the dog bark infographic. It was one of my first pieces and the client’s web host assured me he could handle the traffic. Sure enough the site crashed as soon as traffic started picking up. Luckily I doubted his server could handle it and had a backup ready. We didn’t miss the critical window but came really close.Second, DO NOT rely on a single piece of link bait. Some stuff is going to have a higher success rate than others. I mean if you come up with a tool that is super useful, you’re much more likely to be successful than with an infographic or a curated content piece. Still, I wouldn’t rely on a single piece because you’ll probably see success rates around 20-30% or so, which means most of your pieces will fail. Additionally, if the client only has the budget for a single piece, I wouldn’t recommend it.Finally, and I mentioned this before but I really want to drive it home because I have a tendency to get a little lazy myself sometimes. Be careful, make sure you consider possible problems before they come up, and please do some targeted link building. This is one aspect that people forget but you just spent all this time and if this content is performing in the social networks, it’s probably pretty kick ass and you should do some outreach…you’ll be much more likely to get a solid reaction coming in with some strong content instead of, “Hey want to link to me if I link to you?”
  • So I’ve made plenty of mistakes. There’s no clear path to success with link bait. You will make mistakes, just try to plan ahead and minimize those mistakes as much as possible.First of all, make sure your site can handle the traffic. There’s nothing worse than having a piece take off and suddenly your site goes down. If that happens at a critical time, you’ll have totally wasted the money and time. There’s no fixing that.We had this problem with the dog bark infographic. It was one of my first pieces and the client’s web host assured me he could handle the traffic. Sure enough the site crashed as soon as traffic started picking up. Luckily I doubted his server could handle it and had a backup ready. We didn’t miss the critical window but came really close.Second, DO NOT rely on a single piece of link bait. Some stuff is going to have a higher success rate than others. I mean if you come up with a tool that is super useful, you’re much more likely to be successful than with an infographic or a curated content piece. Still, I wouldn’t rely on a single piece because you’ll probably see success rates around 20-30% or so, which means most of your pieces will fail. Additionally, if the client only has the budget for a single piece, I wouldn’t recommend it.Finally, and I mentioned this before but I really want to drive it home because I have a tendency to get a little lazy myself sometimes. Be careful, make sure you consider possible problems before they come up, and please do some targeted link building. This is one aspect that people forget but you just spent all this time and if this content is performing in the social networks, it’s probably pretty kick ass and you should do some outreach…you’ll be much more likely to get a solid reaction coming in with some strong content instead of, “Hey want to link to me if I link to you?”
  • 3 Simple Steps to 300,000 Stumbles

    1. 1. 3 SIMPLE STEPS TO300,000 STUMBLESwww.rlmseo.comJohn CrenshawRazorlight Media (RLM)
    2. 2. WTFis link bait?
    3. 3. The gospel according to Crenshaw: link bait [lngk beyt] noun 1. any content or tool designed with the specific intent to encourage others to link to a website
    4. 4. Content • Infographics • Curated content / reference ** • Humor • Videos • FlatteryTools • Widgets / plugins • Design packages (icon sets, backgrounds, etc) • WordPress templates
    5. 5. Success rate? Depends on how you define success.
    6. 6. The 3 Simple Steps
    7. 7. Step 1: Know your strengths(but be opportunistic) • Software company? Make a tool. • Solid writers on staff? Write something. • Great designers on staff? Infographic. • Terrible at everything? Cheat ;-)
    8. 8. WordPress Themes FTW!
    9. 9. Theme Metrics(wphackr.com + wordpresshacker.com) • 345,508 links • 1,680 referring domains • 334 EDU links from 11 domains
    10. 10. Step 2: Pick a target • Develop a “target profile” • Create a list of potential targets (linkerati) Not all traffic is created equal! (Cracked.com) • Better be “linkerati”
    11. 11. Step 3:
    12. 12. Execution • Don’t be lazy!! • See: How music travels • 13,685 links from 825 domains
    13. 13. Don’t be scrrrd: • Push the envelope if the piece calls for it • See: Bark! Infographic • 210 links from 54 domains • 293,000 stumbles • 215,869 unique pageviews to date
    14. 14. Don’t forget outreach
    15. 15. Step 3a: Cheat• Social votes/shares to get the ball rolling• Build a team or find someone with a team
    16. 16. A few social tips• Mix up the referrer• Join, start, or pay for a voting team
    17. 17. What NOT to do(aka. mistakes I’ve made) • DO NOT use a shared host • DO NOT rely on a single piece • DO NOT get lazy!!!
    18. 18. Questions?John Crenshaw @johncrenshawRazorlight Media facebook.com/rlmseojohn@razorlightmedia.com Subscribe to my blog!

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