Link Building In Difficult Niches

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This presentation explains how to build links and execute content marketing in difficult niches, using the gambling industry as an example. Marketer Sam Miranda explains his process behind obtaining white hat links from world-class domains, including The Bleacher Report, Gamasutra and Wikipedia. Download the full presentation with notes at www.rightcasino.com/lac

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  • Morning everyone. My name’s Sam, I’m a History graduate from Sheffield University. I started off as a teenager doing freelance poker writing, I went on to work for PokerStrategy.com, and in June last year I moved to Right Casino Media, where I’m responsible for content strategy and marketing.
  • Today, I’m going to talk to you about link building, with a particular focus on guest posting strategy. I’m going to introduce guest posting and the challenges gambling marketers face, before running through lead generation, content creation, and innovative approaches to outreach. Finally, I’ll explain how we can measure success, along with some of the limitations to my approach.
  • So, let me start by setting the scene.
  • Roulette machines: The crack cocaine of gambling. A story ran by The Guardian newspaper last year, filed rather ominously under the poverty section. Its headlines like this…
  • …that make gambling affiliates facepalm. How can we execute content marketing, build links, drive shares and run PR campaigns, when there is such a stigma attached to our industry?
  • Well, it’s not easy, we’re talking about an industry behind only pornographyand pay day loans in terms of marketing challenges. But it is possible.
  • And it’s also something we have to make possible. I’m sure a lot of you in this room have suffered from penalties associated with unnatural or spammy backlink profiles. Whether you’re revamping an existing website or starting afresh, staying on the right side of Google’s Quality guidelines is recommended, because it’s a quality source of traffic.
  • So, as tempting as it is to respond to Attiqa Butt and “Get blog post only $2.25 any page rank” don’t do it. Even if there’s a floral, Valentine’s Day sign-off on the email.
  • Now, some of you during this presentation, may start to think: “Hang on, your approach is still guest blogging. And Matts Cutts has just come out and flagged guest blogging for SEO as potential spam.”
  • Here’s what Cutts had to say:*READ*
  • This is my interpretation. Matt Cutts isn’t outlawing guest-blogging per se. This is typical Google propaganda - there are tonnes of authority sites like MOZ, Forbes, Wall Street Journal that allow, and thrive on, guest posts, columns and contributions.Cutts is targeting spam and automation. He doesn’t want a paid link for free car insurance in a guest post on a Mum’s blog. He doesn’t want SEO agencies sending out thousands of emails, trying to pass off poor, re-hashed content as guest contributions.
  • With that in mind, here are my do’s and Don’t’ for guest posting….*read*
  • Now I’m going to take you through my 3 steps process forcreating content and obtaining juicy,white-hat links. Lead gen, content creation and outreach.
  • Before any campaign, you need leads – websites that will be happy to host your content.
  • Search engine queries are good ways to start identifying guest posting prospects. Gambling has a lot of crossover with entertainment and travel niches, so why not plug these commands into Google?*Read*I suggest typing in ‘lists’ because they’re so popular at the moment. They’re fun, digestible and websites love them because they provide more page views and impressions. And they’re great for us, because we can easily incorporate gambling related content.
  • Here’s an example. I got an article on the web’s most authoritative list website – ListVerse.com – called Top 10 Ridiculous Wagers Through History. I pitched them as a gambling journalist and secured a relevant link in my byline to an article on LiveCasino.co.uk about gambling superstition. I received a payment from ListVerse – which is how journalism should be rewarded - and the article got 30 comments, so it was a nice win all-round.
  • A word of warning, however, about using search queries for lead generation. A lot of websites that advertise ‘write for us’ or ‘submit a guest post’ are going to be run by SEO-savvy webmasters. People who know you have an ulterior motive and that you’re after a gambling link. People who don’t care how good your content is, and will happily charge you 300 dollars for the link.
  • This is why you shouldn’t be afraid to target bigger, more respectable publications. Their content is often in the hands of journalists and editors, who actually care about quality, well referenced content and aren’t after a quick buck from selling a link. I’ve had success targeting major sites such as The Bleacher Report. Straight away you can see from the metrics, 110 million backlinks, trust flow of 64, citation flow of 91, that it’s a beast. So I produced a feature around gambling in football – a hot topic on the back of player addiction and match-fixing scandals…
  • …and this allowed me to embed a link to an article we produced on Roulette.co.uk about footballers being snapped in Las Vegas casinos.
  • In a brilliant Moz post, MatthewBarby outlines a different approach, that I’ve called author queries.*READ*
  • Here’s Buzz Sumo in action, it’s currently in BETA and free to use. By filtering content to infographics and guest posts, you can monitor what your competitors are doing. From there, you can identify content that received the most social shares.
  • So, takeaways for lead gen.*READ*
  • Now on to content creation. It surprises me when people get stumped for gambling related content, because I think a little imagination goes a long way.
  • Gambling has crossover with several industries and disciplines. What I like to do is draw up a spider diagram, and try to make connections between gambling related content, and different niches.*READ*
  • Viral scientist Jonah Berger provides a formula that can help you generate ideas. Take the term roulette – pretty mundane on its own. But try asking questions to provoke some controversial angles for stories. *READ*So just by questioning our subject matter, we’ve got ourselves debating regional and gender-specific gambling habits. The kind of stuff that tabloid papers love.
  • And there’s an even simpler formula. “Subject + random category or buzzword”Roulette + films (which brings me to the iconic Russian roulette scene from The Deer Hunter).Roulette + social (which brings me to the webcam-based phenomenon Chat Roulette).Roulette + travel (which in the case of Heineken, brought them to ‘Departure Roulette’This was a marketing stunt where Heineken approached people arriving at the airport, and offered them a chance to ditch their current holiday plans and spin for a new, random destination. Roulette + magic (which brings me to popular British mentalist Derren Brown's 'Russian Roulette' trick).
  • Now you’ve got your ideas, you need to divide them up. What are going to be my linkable assets - my website content that others want to share - and what are going to be my guest posts and outreach pieces? Your linkable assets have to be things that websites will share. Is a site going to link to your review page of William Hill? Highly unlikely, unless it’s a case study on conversion optimisation.This ven-diagram re-enforces the value of linkable assets over linkbait. Linkable assets add unique value. They build links over time. They’re topically relevant. Linkbait is reactive, it gets you a temporary spike in links, and it’s not relevant to your brand.
  • This is linkbait. It’s two icons of popular culture – Mario Balotelli and Miley Cyrus – photo-shopped into a pretty suggestive pose. This newsjacking might get me some likes and shares, but it isn’t particularly unique, and it’s certainly not relevant to my gambling brand.
  • But if I created a gallery of celebrities photo-shopped into gambling scenarios, I’d have something unique and relevant to my brand. It’s a genuine asset to my site.
  • Now, on a more serious content note, I commissioned a feature on social gambling as part of our LiveCasino.co.uk resource section, which incorporated empirical data and quotes from industry experts. Quoting experts and thought leaders is a form of ego-baiting, and in itself, a really effective way of link-building. Just send them a quick email, “Hey, thanks for your work on this topic, I used it for my investigation, would you mind sharing?”
  • This tactic enabled me to guest blog on Gamasutra with a relevant link. It’s an authoritative site with nearly 3 million backlinks, and solid and citation flow.
  • There are of course, a multitude of linkable assets to explore, depending on your budget. *READ*
  • One slots affiliate, slotozilla, went to the trouble of making a rap song, which I thought was pretty imaginative. It heightened brand awareness and got him links from several audio libraries. Have a listen…
  • Now to create great content, you need great writers. I think affiliates should look beyond copywriters, to consider journalists and feature writers. Copywriters, in my experience, are adept at re-writing existing content and tailoring it for SEO. But they aren’t necessarily skilled at sourcing original stories. Journalists meanwhile, are conditioned to source their own stories. They have the initiative to arrange interviews with authority figures. They know how to create compelling human interest stories that get shared. And there are a couple of places you can find them. If you have a reasonable budget, make a listing on Gorkana.co.uk. If you want something cheaper, I recommend posting on the Journalism.co.uk forum or using studentgems.com to find a writer fresh out of university.
  • Takeaways for content creation. *Read*
  • Now on to the third step – outreach. This tends to be, in my opinion, the most poorly executed step.
  • I have two outreach strategies, one for when I’m pitching guest posts, and one for when I’m content marketing around a linkable asset.
  • When pitching a guest post, your outreach email is crucial. I think a lot of SEO agencies are notoriously bad at outreach emails. One of my webmaster friends shared with me a guest post query he received. *Read*.Whilst not the worst I’ve seen, it’s pretty bad. There’s a typo in the second sentence. The third sentence makes no sense. Suzan’s approach lacks any credibility - there’s no examples of her published work. And she commits the cardinal sin – she mentions the word link.
  • The query was so bad, the webmaster decided to send a sarcastic response. *Read* Surprisingly, Suzan never got back to him
  • In contrast, here’s one of my successful email exchanges with news publication Sabotage Times. *READ*As you can see, I introduced myself properly, I made the piece sound relevant with the release of Justin Timberlake’s gambling movie, and I explained why I’m getting in touch.
  • So, with those examples in my, here are some do’s and don’ts for outreach emails. *READ*
  • Now, if I’m content marketing around a linkable asset, I tweak my approach. Say I’ve completed an infographic or a survey. I’ll use PR database and outreach tool, MuckRack.com, to pitch relevant journalists. For $99 per month you get access to a database of journalists- who you can filter through by industry and territory - along with their contact details. Here I’ve identified a couple of gambling reporters. MuckRack is less risky than forking out £300 for a single press release on distribution service like PR Newswire. If you have no budget, then Journalisted.com provides a list of media contacts, but it’s nowhere near as good. Jess Champion, PR Consultant at Distilled, offers a great tip for getting coverage, especially if you’re planning a survey or industry report. Contact a journalist BEFORE you release the story to pique their interest and make them feel like you’re giving them the scoop.
  • Sometimes, I marry the guest posting and content marketing approaches. If I’ve done a lengthy internal piece, I’ll commission a lot of shorter pieces, which I call satellite articles, around it. They’ll each have a different angle, and I’ll offer them to editors if they are pressed for time. Take our social gambling investigation on LiveCasino, that I referenced earlier. There are lots of provocative pieces that can relate back to it: Social Gambling: A Safe Bet For Operators. Facebook Casinos: The Gateway Drug of Gambling? Zynga’s BitCoin Gamble. The Economics of Social Gambling: Players and Pounds.
  • Of course, guest-posting outreach doesn’t always go to plan. Editors can remove links, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose to adhere to website policy. My tip is to remain professional, and politely ask them to re-insert the links, as they attribute relevant sources. If they refuse, you can ask for a link in the byline – but don’t expect this to have long-term SEO value. And if they refuse again, you can threaten to negative SEO their site.
  • But in all seriousness, you can be defeated on the odd occasion. I ran into a really stubborn editor at WhatCulture.com. I submitted an article through their Wordpress CMS, which he really liked, published and it went on to rack up over 65,000 views, 22 comments, and multiple social shares. It would have been the perfect guest post scenario. But unfortunately, he removed a contextual link to Slots.co.uk.
  • Our email exchange got a little tasty. This was his response *READ*Well, it turns out WhatCulture is owned and ran by SEOs, they’ve built their whole site around maximising page views, and they won’t allow contextual links to casino sites. I learned a few things: know when to bite your tongue and move on, and do your research around the website you’re pitching. Remember there are sites out there, that don’t accept unsolicited contributions, or simply don’t link out.
  • Takeaways for outreach.*READ*
  • By now, I hope you’ve come to realise that white-hat link-building in the gambling niche is possible. We can sure secure links that frankly most operators can’t, whilst staying within Google’s Quality Guidelines.
  • Like any business exercise, we need to consider the ROI and potential limitations of the approach. One suggested formula is Cost of creation (i.e. writing) + cost of distribution (i.e. PR tool) + cost of link builder (monthly salary) / number of linksobtained. This gives you an average cost per link. Given that white-hat links are so precious in this industry – affiliates will happily pay in excess of £150, £200 for links from mediocre blogging sites – I consider my approach to be worthwhile.
  • But there are limitations to my approach. *READ*
  • And remember, there are affiliates like PokerStrategy, tradimo, OddsChecker who develop such a large, diverse content base that they acquire natural links, which diminishes the need for manual link building. That’s why link building like this shouldn’t be done in isolation. It should be part of a holistic content and marketing strategy that incorporates social, and most importantly, provides great internal content that is of value to the user.
  • That all but concludes the presentation. I’ve been transparent about my approach, and I hope I’ve provided you with plenty of resources and actionable points.
  • Do feel free to check out the presentation, which is available for download on RightCasino.com from this weekend. Thanks very much.
  • Link Building In Difficult Niches

    1. 1. Sam Miranda Content Strategist, Right Casino Media Having studied History at Sheffield University whilst freelance poker writing, I moved into journalism and online editorial. I worked for affiliates such as PokerStrategy.com before joining the Right Casino Media team in June 2013 as a content strategist. 1
    2. 2. Out Of The Box Link Building How To Get Your Content On Awesome Domains 1. Introduction Is guest posting a gamble? 2. Lead Generation Finding websites that will host your content 3. Content Creation Thinking outside the box 4. Outreach Securing links 5. Measuring Success Measuring success & limitations 2
    3. 3. Introduction Is guest posting a gamble? 3
    4. 4. GUEST POSTING MATT CUTTS “I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.)… … I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.” http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/guest-blogging/ 10
    5. 5. 11
    6. 6. GUEST POSTING BEST PRACTICES Do… Don’t… Target quality websites Use over-optimized anchor text. Make sure your content is authentic and irresistible ‘Spin’ the same content into similar guest posts Become an expert in your field (Google Authorship) Target low-quality guest blogging websites Make sure your contributions are relevant to the target website Make sure your contributions to a site are regular Make sure links are contextual (in the article body) Use brand name anchor text (yourwebsite.com) – no manipulation Make sure links are to relevant content 12 Use guest-posting as your ONLY form of link building Spam out 1,000s of guest post emails Directly pay for links
    7. 7. GUEST POSTING PROCESS 1. Lead Generation 2. Content Creation 3. Outreach 13
    8. 8. Lead Generation Finding Websites That Will Host Your Content 14
    9. 9. LEAD GENERATION SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES entertainment + intitle:“write for us” travel + intitle:“contribute to” list + intitle:“write for us”… …etc. http://www.seotakeaways.com/10000-search-engine-queries-foryour-link-building-campaign/ 15
    10. 10. LEAD GENERATION AUTHOR QUERIES - Target authors to create editorial relationships - Use the Buzz Sumo tool to a) Find best performing content in your niche b) Identify key influencers in your niche - Export this data into Excel - Use Niels Bosma‟s SEO Excel plugin and Xpath to scrape more author details http://moz.com/blog/the-power-of-authors-and-content-for-link-building 20
    11. 11. http://app.buzzsumo.com/
    12. 12. LEAD GENERATION TAKEAWAYS - Search queries are a good starting point. - Lists present easy wins to embed gambling content. - Don‟t neglect well known publications. Content creation may be harder, but link placement will be easier and more rewarding. - 22 Use author queries to build editorial relationships. Use Buzz Sumo – it‟s free and easy!
    13. 13. Content Creation Thinking Outside The Box 23
    14. 14. Marketing Advertising Entertainment Gambling films Celebrity gamblers Video games PR Stunts Sport Big data Matchfixing Betting Shane Warne Gambling Related Content FOBTs Las Vegas My company history Manila Travel Strategy Operators Addiction Macau Behaviour Psychology Casino design Taxation & economic benefits Business
    15. 15. CONTENT CREATION QUESTION FORMULA – „SCIENCE OF VIRALITY‟ - Who chooses to play roulette? - What types of roulette are there? - What can we learn about the type of person who plays X version of roulette? Now to mix it up a bit… - Where do those people come from? - What is the majority gender? Now make it controversial… - Are people from region X more prone to gambling? Are men playing the "live" version more? Is this because they are physically attracted to the croupier? http://blog.kissmetrics.com/science-of-virality/ 25
    16. 16. CONTENT CREATION QUESTION FORMULA II “Subject + random category or buzzword” - Roulette + films (which brings me to the iconic Russian roulette scene from The Deer Hunter). - Roulette + social (which brings me to the webcam-based phenomenon Chat Roulette). - Roulette + travel (which in the case of Heineken, brought them to „Departure Roulette‟). - Roulette + magic (which brings me to popular British mentalist Derren Brown's 'Russian Roulette' trick). 26
    17. 17. http://moz.com/blog/9-tangible-linkable-asset-ideas-and-how-to-build-links-to-them
    18. 18. Link
    19. 19. CONTENT CREATION LINKABLE ASSET EXAMPLES - Videos (http://www.sparkol.com/) - Apps (http://www.appypie.com/) - Surveys (https://today.yougov.com/opi/) - Slideshares (http://www.slideshare.net/) - Podcasts (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) - Data visuals (http://app.piktochart.com) - Betting calculators - 32 Infographics (http://www.infographicdesigner.co.uk) 404 Pages, team description pages
    20. 20. http://www.reverbnation.com/slotozilla
    21. 21. CONTENT CREATION FINDING WRITERS - Look beyond copywriters, consider journalists and feature writers - Copywriters are adept at re-writing existing content - Journalists can conditioned to source their own stories - Journalists can arrange interviews with authority figures - Journalists understand how to create compelling human interest stories http://www.gorkanajobs.co.uk/jobs http://www.journalism.co.uk/journalists http://www.studentgems.com 34
    22. 22. CONTENT CREATION TAKEAWAYS - - Use the question formulas to generate content ideas - Create linkable assets, not linkbait - 35 Think of all the industries and disciplines that link to gambling Hire journalists to develop the more authentic, shareable content
    23. 23. Outreach Securing Links 36
    24. 24. Cool, I can tell NO! Interesting… Well, I have a garage…
    25. 25. Credibility Timely and relevant Examples Reason for outreach Attachment
    26. 26. OUTREACH OUTREACH EMAILS Do… Don’t… Use a descriptive subject line, including the article name Ever mention the words ‘guest post’, ‘link’ or ‘agency’ Explain who you are, and why you want to contribute Be sloppy with spelling and grammar Link to examples of your previous work Be ambiguous about your intentions, or the nature of your contribution Engage the editor or mention their previous work Attach an article to show urgency and commitment Explain why your contribution is relevant NOW 41
    27. 27. OUTREACH CONTENT MARKETING http://www.muckrack.com http://moz.com/blog/8-step-plan-to-get-pr-driven-links 42
    28. 28. OUTREACH SATELLITE ARTICLES Facebook Casinos: The Gateway Drug of Gambling? Zynga’s Bitcoin Gamble LiveCasino.co.uk Social Gambling Investigation Social Gambling: A Safe Bet For Operators? 43 The Economics of Social Gambling: Players and Pounds
    29. 29. OUTREACH TAKEAWAYS - - Marry the two strategies where necessary with satellite articles, which you can fire out to editors. - Guest post pitches should be personalised, timely, relevant and credible. - Guest post pitches should ideally include an article attachment. - Research websites (do they link out? Are they run by SEOs?) before pitching. - 47 Adopt two strategies: one for pitching guest posts, one for content marketing. Use MuckRack.com to pitch stories around existing linkable assets, Journalisted.com as a free alternative.
    30. 30. Conclusions Measuring Success & Limitations 48
    31. 31. CONCLUSIONS ROI FORMULA Cost of Creation (i.e. writing) + Cost of Distribution (i.e. MuckRack) + Cost of Link Builder (salary) Number of Links Obtained = AVERAGE COST PER LINK http://www.seotakeaways.com/7-powerful-kpis-measure-link-building-outreach/ 49
    32. 32. CONCLUSIONS LIMITATIONS LIMITATIONS OF MY LINK BUILDING… … risk of link removal, especially with new editorial leads … hard to create a time-frame for a successful campaign … email exchanges can be time-consuming … traffic from links is unlikely (but not impossible!) to convert … the sacrifice of potentially good internal content for external websites … needs to be supplemented by a sound social strategy … widespread publication can harm your reputation as an industry specialist 50
    33. 33. CONCLUSIONS HOLISTIC STRATEGY Link building Content Content Marketing Marketing Internal Content 51 Social Media
    34. 34. Further Reading GREAT BLOGS & RESOURCES Moz.com Kaisersage.com Pointblankseo.com Inbound.org Seotakeaways.com Findmyblogway.com Blog.kissmetrics.com Viperchill.com Wordstream.com/blog 52
    35. 35. The End Get in contact with me E-mail: samuel@rightcasinomedia.com Skype: sam.miranda1 Mobile: +44 7968 360124 Enjoy The Rest Of The Conference! Find the presentation with notes here: www.rightcasino.com/lac 53

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