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Session: Link Baiting – Viral Search Marketing

Posted on Aug 22nd, 2007
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    Link Baiting & Viral Search Success

    Day 3 at SES San Jose found me assigned to cover the session “Link Baiting & Viral Search Success.”

    Those who’ve read my previous posts should find it as no surprise that my level of excitement for this session superseded any residual aches and pains left over from last night’s “decadence based in relevance” superbash Google Dance.

    (Personal Note: None of the stories you’ve heard regarding the TopRank team at this event are accurate. Except the one about how we met up with AC/DC’s tour bus afterwords and partied with them all night – that one’s true**)

    This session, moderated by SES co-chair Chris Sherman included on its panel:

    • Chris Boggs, Search Strategist, Avenue A
    • Jennifer Laycock, Editor-In-Chief, Search Engine Guide
    • Rebecca Kelley, Search Marketing Consultant,
    • Cameron Olthius, Advantage Consulting Services

    The beauty of a strong link baiting campaign, as described by the panel, is that with potentially as little one day’s work you can drive an infinite number of new links to your site.

    In today’s world of RSS feeds and instant messaging where word of a strong campaign can spread globally in an instant, the fruits of a successful link baiting campaign can oftentimes be seen with such volumnous immediacy (ie hundreds and thousands of new links within 30 minutes of launch) that some of the best campaigns can crash a client’s site. In the example provided by Olthius regarding his campaign built around a drug rehab center, this is meant to be taken literally.

    The power of linking should not be dismissed. An increase in inbound links to your site can have a significant positive impact on your search engine ranking, leading to the quantitative benefit of higher conversions and qualitative benefit of increased brand recognition.

    So what is link baiting, at its very core?

    Quite simply, its providing the type of content to your target that they would be interested in experiencing, and linking to, so it may be experienced by their entire community. This goes back to the overall theme of relevancy, or as Boggs described it, the “golden rule of link baiting”.

    To provide a truncated example, this being a blog dedicated to marketing, a good piece of linkbait may be to share with you the greatest commercial of all time:

    or the greatest commercial currently running:


    (Personal Note: Bringing up Bruce Campbell or any of the films in the Evil Dead series on a bus load of geeks headed to Google Dance will perk up every nearby ear producing a sound that is absolutely palpable.)

    While the commercial above are meant to entertain, provoke your interest, and hopefully link to our blog, they should not be seen as an example of a full scale linking campaign.

    In case studies provided by both Olthius & Laycock, they documented in minute detail each step in what is becoming an increasingly powerful messaging channel. Not surprisingly, the entire panel stressed the importance of research when beginning any campaign.

    When researching, it is vital to keep in mind some of the most core areas of marketing:

    • Identify your target
    • Identify their interests
    • Be true to the identity of your brand

    By doing focused keyword research on sites like we can find exactly what type of content users are looking for when exploring a favorite topic and what type of keywords they’re using to find said content. For example, if we were marketers of bottled water and were developing a linking campaign, an interesting nugget to have at our disposal, that may help shape our campaign, is that 124 users have saved Anil Dash’s post “Bottled Water is Still A Scam”.

    (Personal Note: He’s right, by the way. But what else should we do – carry a sports bottle everywhere? They start to stink after awhile.)

    (An off the cuff link baiting idea would be to play on this notion by developing a campaign titled “Dasani – The Scam That Refreshes” with humorous videos or related content that not only will drive significant web traffic, but will display the type of transparency eager consumers are demanding from corporations in exchange for their unconditional loyalty.)

    Once the type of content and specific keywords become are clarified, the next step is to brainstorm ideas for content that will get people talking (The Scam That Refreshes). After all, what stronger form of advertising is there than inexpensive word of mouth?

    Then, of course, we promote. This will help to ensure the long lastedness of our content. Proven methods include posting our content to social media outlets, submitting your carefully worded, compellingly titled piece to sites like Digg, or, my personal favorite, sharing it with local Twin Cities comedian Bill Young (Personal Note: This may be seen as an attempt at humor, and/or a shameless plug for a good friend, but the idea here is to share your piece with the influentials specific to your brand’s community.)

    [Note from Lee: Hey Mike, I think you’re limited to just one “personal” note per blog post. How about one per day?]

    So where does the dual focus of this session, viral search come into play? Why, it’s been here the whole time.

    What’s great about a successful link baiting campaign is that at its center lies the idea that people your campaign targets will talk about it and share it with everyone they know (also usually your targets). The most successful campaigns will create talk at a fever pitch ensuring secondhand, and even third-hand, word of mouth will translate in more and people searching out what you’ve developed.

    In other words, create a successful link baiting campaign and you have already created a successful viral search campaign. Create a successful viral search campaign, and, just as when “Evil Dead 2” is mentioned on a bus to Google Dance, your target’s ears will perk at its mention for years to come.

    **Joke stolen from Super Troopers

    super troopers