Viral Marketing

Stop Building Links And Start Attracting Them

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October 5  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

Since the year is getting close to being done, I thought another large link building post is in order – although we could have called it “Attracting Links in 2013″ just as easily. To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of new information out there so I’ll do my best to recap on everything that’s been working great for our clients. It has been the craziest year for inbound marketing companies, mainly due to all the hype surrounding Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. While I still see link spammers ranking even faster and higher post-Penguin, there is a clear and strong signal coming from the link profiles of brands that haven’t felt a pinch of the flightless bird.

For us here at Linkbuildr, not much has changed in regards to our strategies as our mentality has always been “Think Beyond The Link”. While our name suggests we just build links, that could not be further from the truth. We tend to focus on content marketing that attracts not only links but social followers as well, thus helping to establish our clients as leaders in their vertical.

I will go into what we see – and mainly what I think – but as with any advice from “SEO Gurus”, do your own research and check everything. I’m not always going to be 100% correct or even 80% correct, for that matter… I don’t know all of the secrets of Google’s algorithm (no marketers do), so all I can do is take note of what’s worked for us and focus on doing things that get great results for our clients.


Skip My Ranting And Jump To Part 2: What We’re Doing To Attract Links

What Link Analysis Has Taught Me

Those illuminated in the ways of ranking well know that large numbers of anchor text links have been the major reason a site will rank for said keyword. Not everyone will agree with me on this, but I don’t really care nor am I in the business of NOT ranking clients’ websites. You can go to any car insurance, payday loan or Viagra SERP result and see 2-page websites ranking in the top 10 that have gotten there in a matter of weeks. I literally just went to the first 10 Google SERPs for “payday loans” and ranking high in the results was spam… Actually half of the listings are there because of link spam. Remember how I also mentioned link spammers are ranking faster than ever? Check this:


Pardon my language but this is a complete f$#%ing joke. Penguin does absolutely nothing against this for at least a few months, and mission critical results needed by people are not being met. Matt Cutts and the search quality team obviously know about this and I imagine Penguin or another update will factor in new elements to put a stop to this. Perhaps my F-Bomb was a little harsh, as I imagine making the tweak to the algorithm so that it doesn’t bowl over a million other legitimate websites in the process is probably quite tricky, but still: this problem needs to be addressed by Google.

Stop Caring About Anchor Text Completely

Stop now… Seriously! Since our first week helping clients, we’ve always stuck to not caring at all about what anchor text they got. Our main focus is on creating amazing content that attracts links naturally. It’s not a cheap strategy and usually we like to think that “slow and steady wins the race” when it comes to building a brand. Obviously, a viral marketing campaign is going to flood in natural links from all types of places, and while that’s all fine and dandy, it’s not going to make you rank for everything after one go. That’s the type of content you need to be doing every month for as long as your business is running with its feet on the ground.

From my thousands of hours pouring over backlink data I’ve noticed one very important aspect to ranking really well and staying that way for years: anchor text ratios. Sites that are doing what Wil Reynolds from SEER has coined “real company shit” are not getting caught up in Penguin or any other link issue. This is what their link profile looks like, and if you go to any of the top 10 search results for any big keyword, you will notice this too. This is what a proper anchor text scenario should look like:

Not All Hand Built Links Are Bad

I’m quite active on all the SEO forums, LinkedIn, Reddit.com/r/SEO and other places and I see a lot of fear in regards to building links without earning them. 99% of the time these folks have been doing nothing but spam anyways, but definitely don’t think that just because you built a link yourself that you’ll get penalized for it.

Going back to anchor text abuse yet again, you’ll want to avoid picking any anchor text besides your brand/site name or something that makes sense… Don’t be spammy. This means you’re not influencing your own ranking for a targeted keyword. You may not get the best result (sorry to say), so working on everything other than a spam blast of anchor text links will be needed to earn it. While I may be just giving link spammers the idea to blast blog comments, forum profiles and junk directories with brand anchor text, it won’t work for long. I mentioned that Google knows their faults and as we’ve seen in a Google patent, that junk link detection is coming and it’s going to be nasty.

Depending on what type of company you are, what kind of products you have, and the type of content you’re producing, you need to figure out which unique link opportunities will most require your attention. I think the major difference between you going out and building low quality links and – say – listing your public company on Yahoo Finance is the reason why. Junk links blasted out in the thousands from private blog networks, blog comments and forum spam not only waste people’s time, but its soul purpose is to inflate your own rankings.

A tech startup should be listed in Crunchbase.com, a skateboarding company should be in a skateboarding directory, your iPhone app should be listed in app sites… See what I’m getting at? Now that I’ve explained that, let’s take a look at real examples so we all get a better idea of a proper and naughty hand (or robot) placed link.

Ze Robots Attack!

Automated link spam is a huge problem and mostly resides in two scenarios in the wild. Firstly, affiliate marketers trying to earn gobs of cash are always throwing down with the likes of Scrapebox, Xrumer or any service you’d find in a SEO/Webmaster forum. The second scenario, and the one that bugs me the most, are SEO companies who utilize these tools and other junk like paid blog posts on clients who have no idea what they’ve just paid for. That’s partly the fault of the company not doing its research beforehand, as well as Google displaying bad marketing at the top of the SERPS. If you do a quick search for “white hat link building” right now, all the ads are selling low quality services that will get you in trouble eventually.

** A note to the Google webspam team as of 09/21/2012 that if we get an unnatural links penalty for this I’m going to be pissed :)

I don’t want to out anyone so I won’t, but use our other site Luxury Branded as an example of Scrapebox and Xrumer at work. Why that site? Well, we first started it off running BuddyPress and soon learned that automated spam bots were too much to handle and we had to kill it and go back to standard WordPress. I started noticing huge jumps in our backlink profile when we had been doing nothing but content marketing. The worst part is that one of the spammers was trying to rank for “preeteen underwear model porn” that’s WAY ILLEGAL and so disgusting that I had to send our logs to the FBI cybercrime division.

Xrumer At Work

So the spammer’s member profile page had a bunch of spam links and dupe content dropped on our site, and from there they spammed that page all over the place. After that happened, we then noticed Scrapebox going to work and it was dropping comments all over the place to the member page and all the other spam hubs this person had set up. It was just the start of the spammer’s efforts, so they weren’t quite ranking just yet.

I tracked the spammer back to their “money site” and saw a shining example of link spam, although it was very diverse in regards to the types of links and anchor text being employed. I think it’s pretty safe to say they’re most likely a member of Blackhat World or Warrior Forum, as the link profile looked like a service you see offered all the time in those forums. Here’s some ad copy from one of those services:

Spammy Links

 
A Natural Link



 
I’ll continue on with a tech startup as an example, and since I’m not outing anything but a normal good link that will send referral traffic and some link juice, I’ll give the example company a natural link. I cannot think of a better place to get all the benefits of a mention for a tech startup than Mashable’s Startup section. On the front page today is Soldsie which launched on Wednesday (read our post on launch bait) and they got some huge coverage.

This kind of link has lead to them being re-blogged a ton, as well as receiving a plethora of social buzz which has shot their Twitter follower number into the thousands. It’s too early to grab a link graph even from Ahrefs, but we can take a look at who’s covered their launch via an easy and quick Google search. Either way, they’re off to a great start and business should be booming for them in the coming month, so kudos and good luck to the team @Soldsie.

Down the road I imagine they’ll be listed with a Wikipedia page, an Aboutus.org page, in Tech Crunch an all over naturally… Some of which they might have to build themselves. So long as they don’t try and influence their anchor text keywords, they’ll do just fine. You can refer to some of our older posts which cover tons of link building ideas that you have to do by hand, but you need to be a legit business to benefit from it. I recommend you read:


Read Part 2: What We’re Doing To Attract Links

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Link Bait Title WIN Via Jalopnik

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April 18  |  Link Bait Tactics  |   Ryan Clark


 
Not really much I can write about this other than take notes as this title has turned boring auto news into a hilarious and a little distasteful topic. So many companies don’t have the balls to attempt this form of humor but if you’re not ready to let your hair down in marketing, you’re not going to get very far. My hat goes off to the writers over at Jalopnik and the whole Gawker crew in general….stay classy!

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Nike Continues Branding Dominance with #MakeItCount and @NikeFuel

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January 21  |  Brand Building  |   Simon

Nike and their long-time agency Wieden+Kennedy have never missed a game, lost a round, missed a shot or any other winning sports analogy you can think of when it comes to branding and marketing. W+K was actually formed as a result of Dan Wieden and David Kennedy taking Nike as their first client, after they left mega-agency McCann Erickson in the early 80s. Since then, Nike and W+K have had only victories in their ilustrious track record together and have never failed to impress both customers and marketers.  And they definitely didn’t lose their stride with the recent achievement with a viral and social media-powered campaign to brand a new product. And I promise that’s the last (intentional) sports analogy.

W+K came up with Nike’s “Just Do It”, which is probably the most well known slogan ever. Since its inception, it has stood as the ultimate motivational phrase. I recently watched the documentary “Art and Copy” that had interviews with people on the impact of “Just Do It” and their responses went far beyond sports or fitness goals. Check out the clip:

 

The new #MakeItCount slogan is a modern social media take on the same simple concept of their original “Just Do It” slogan.  The #MakeItCount campaign combined traditional marketing elements, such as print, commercials and brand ambassadors, combined with smart social media and viral marketing efforts. They fully leveraged all this through positive customer engagement and, in a sense, customer crowd-sourcing to promote their campaign.

Nike #MakeItCount poster

The #MakeItCount hashtag started up just before Christmas, acting like a new year’s resolution for physical fitness, was all a buildup for a mystery product launch yesterday morning. Nike encouraged its fans to tweet what they wanted to accomplish in 2012. Building a positive and motivational hashtag at the perfect time of year, to lead up to a mystery product launch.

This campaign was so successful that not only was the hype clearly seen through social media, but also in the stock market. Nike Inc. shares hit an all-time high Wednesday, breaking the $100 mark, just in anticipation of the mystery product launch, the day before it was actually revealed.

Nike #MakeItCount marketing campaign

Twitter was an important element leading into this new product launch, was the long-overdue launch of the official @Nike account. They already had a range of Nike Twitter accounts for their various sports and divisions, but were seemingly holding out on @Nike to coincide with the #MakeItCount campaign. Nike’s real-life clout transferred with ease into Klout on Twitter, with all of Nike’s big name athletes following the first day, including Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Steve Nash, the NBA and of course Nike’s strong existing Twitter accounts.

#MakeItCount tweet by Kevin Durant @KDTREY5

Tweet by NBA star Kevin Durant turned into a poster.

Launched on Dec. 29th, @Nike was able to surpass rival @Adidas within 24 hours, gaining around 14,000 followers. after 23 days, @Nike has over 227,000 followers. Over the last few weeks, Nike had their wide range of celebrity athletes, through all sports, countries and cultures, tweet and Instagram their goals for 2012 and #MakeItCount, encouraging fans to do the same. Topsy.com recorded 24,387 mentions on Dec 31st alone. Combined with Instagram, Nike has created a dynamic #MakeItCount page to showcase their fans motivational #MakeItCount tweets, along with their celebrity athlete ambassadors. The current tweet total is showing at over 59,000.

Here is the Youtube commercial released to coincide on Dec.31, which received around 62,000 views that day alone:

 

Nike was founded on the genuine goal to encourage sports and fitness, along with all the positive side effects they have. And by selling the products that help people to reach this goal, their marketing and products a honest combination that has always been well received by the public. With their ongoing #MakeItCount campaign, Nike has already received an obvious high-level of engagement with their huge fan base and effectively crowd-sourced them to hype their upcoming product.

Nike FuelBand - #MakeItCount

And Thursday morning, the Nike FuelBand was released to plenty of hype, praise and criticism, that you most likely caught some of by now. Even the @NikeFuel Twitter account that was launched yesterday morning has topped @Adidas’ follower count, with over 10,000 after around 36 hours.

Here is the Youtube video that also coinsided with the release, which has seen over 478,000 view in 3 days:

 

The huge press conference to finally reveal the mystery product involved out plenty of stars (and their Twitter followers). Pictured here at the event is Kevin Dudrant, Carmelita Jeter, Lance Armstrong and host Jimmy Fallon. With coverage hitting every major news source, blog and social media platform as a rusult, Nike has seen instant exposure for their FuelBand that few companies outside of Apple rarely see.

Nike FuelBand press announcement event

Photo courtesy of CNET

For a better explanation of what the FuelBand does, check out the video below:

 

From  a marketing perspective, the desktop and mobile app are important mentions. They lets you track and monitor your progress, using elements of gamification to keep you engaged with the product.  The social aspects come in here, letting you share your goals and progress with friends through social media, either to motivate, brag or compete with each other.

Now the Nike FuelBand, retailing for $150, isn’t a new concept,with comparable products already existing, such as Motorola’s MOTOACTIV (with costs $250, but with a music player and GPS) and the cheaper JawBone UP at $100. But like the world of gadget brands being divided by Apple and non-Apple, no fitness brands can touch the Nike brand.

Nike was eager to get people testing the FuelBand, with most reviews saying it’s does what it promises too. But when it comes down to it, this product can be seen two ways: Either a great motivational tool for fitness or a unnecessary gimmick that doesn’t technically improve your fitness. With the social elements of sharing with friends and the gamification element of gaining points, beating records and tracking progress, it can be a great tool for some. Or you could just do all those activities without the $150 wristband.

Nike Make It Count Poster

Every Karate Kid-style crane kick counts too.

One thing is for sure, Nike has branded a fitness tracking product like no other company could ever do. They excelled in all areas, from traditional, viral and social media marketing efforts, to leveraging their athlete brand ambassadors to engaging and crowd-sourcing their fans.

And to keep these $150 FuelBands selling, Nike has no plans to let #MakeItCount and @NikeFuel stop trending. First by using their athletes’ continued promotion and and massive combined Twitter following they’ve easily built up. Secondly, with their fans’ utilization of the social sharing and gamification aspects to keep each other engaged and active. Has Nike started a new era in fitness? Or have they just started a big pile of barely used $150 wristbands? We’ll have to wait and see.

Here is Nike’s pop culture/sports/movie montage to promote the FuelBand and #MakeItCount that’s racked up over 1.3 million views in 3 days. Another stellar commercial by W+K that’s imagery resonates with its audience, conveys what the product is about and is just fun to watch, check it out:

 

Follow me on Twitter:@S_Gerard and for another recent viral and social media success by Nike, check out my post on: Marty McFly’s Nike Sneakers are Finally Back From The Future.

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I Just Blue Myself Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

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October 5  |  Brand Building  |   Ryan Clark

I know we already wrote about the wicked cool marketing stunt by Ben & Jerry’s earlier with their Schweddy Balls, but sh!t just got real. Hot on the trail of news of an entire new season of Arrested Development prior to the movie, it looks like a fan has made a Ben & Jerry’s flavour called “Tobias Funke’s I Just Blue Myself” ice cream and it’s going mega viral right now.

This is such a great example of how fans can build your brand online. What’s more is that it works for both Arrested Development and Ben & Jerry’s. Can’t wait to see if the two will bow to pressure and actually make the stuff. Photo credit and work goes to designer ninja Jonny Etc.

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Video Link Bait As Seen In The Wild

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September 3  |  Viral Marketing  |   Ryan Clark

I often write about cool as a cat companies doing hot-as-a-dog things with their content. Everything from hotels getting 200,000 views on an imagine of their penthouse suite, to a Tacoma base auto shop getting 2 million views for a video interview. Video is a powerful link bait weapon and I hope these examples inspire you to utilise this platform more often. If you spread you good video to the right channels, really good things will happen which come in the form of brand buzz, links and social followers.

Before I get into the examples, there are a few things to keep in mind when venturing into this arena. Knowing your market is key, and this means knowing what forums, bloggers and media types are lurking out there. Having relationships built up with these people is only going to make life easier, and is crucial for your business to survive in this day and age. One thing is for sure, the Google rewards are plentiful from a well successful viral video marketing effort!


Photo Credit: Chris Duckett/ZDNet.com.au

Case 1) DC Shoes + Ken Block = Epic WIN

This is how you do viral marketing plain and simple. While this is not exactly a low budget attempt, I’m pleased with how DC Shoes does everything. This is a company that went from being a small skate shoe company to a full blown extreme sports conglomerate. If you haven’t seen this video yet you’re in for the best 9 minutes of your life. You’ll notice the use of Epic Meal Time and other awesome stuff that makes this a sure fire success with nearly 8 million views already.

As for link bait? This one was an ace before it hit the interwebz. Using the intitle: operator shows nearly 200,000 mentions of this on external sites. This of course hit just about every car forum, blog and media outlet in the world and nabbed links not only for DC Shoes, but for Ford as well. All I can say is my hat is off to the production team who put this together, and of course to Ken Block for his bad ass driving skills.

Case 2) How To Sell Make Up Online

We’ve worked with a specific make up company before and one of the best results we got were from getting reviews and tutorials done. There are a ton of talented video bloggers on Youtube and you can really get some reach via this route. This video by Youtube user Michelle Phan has 18 million views for pete’s sake! This was sponsored by no companies but she lists every product used, as well did a bunch of the blogs who wrote about it. This is free exposure those companies are loving I’m sure.

Case 3) Viagra Gets Ballsy

I’m a huge fan of risky marketing, especially in the age of the Internet. There are not rules online and the crazier you go, the better the results are. No press is bad press in almost all situations, so Viagra made use of some cheeky marketing to get a lot of press. Link wise, all you need to do is grab the attention of Adweek.com and you’re going to get all the press you could ever want or need. The amount of money the parent company of Viagra makes is drops in a bucket compared to what it cost to put together this commercial. I imagine they knew ahead of time it would be banned and would make a great PR campaign.

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Iltech’s GTR R35 Markets Itself

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August 18  |  Viral Marketing  |   Ryan Clark

As most of our followers will know I’m a huge motorsports fan, and I’m an even bigger Nissan GTR fan so writing about this was a joy! When it comes to attracting links, buzz and followers within your niche you have to do something unique right? Well in the tuner world the competition is fierce, so standing out is harder th an ever these days. The fine folks at Illtech Auto certainly have done a great job of making noise in just the right way…both on the web and with this monstrous beast of a machine.

So what’s a good lesson to learn from all this? Well them building this amazing car lead to them getting this video done which has nearly peaked to 1.6 million views! You couldn’t ask for better brand exposure, especially for this small tuning company. I took a look closer and this video hit a whole lot of forums and blogs, which in return generated a lot of natural delicious links. There’s not much more that I can write about except get inspired by this and know that one video done right can do you a lot of bloody good!

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Abercrombie & Fitch VS The Situation: PR Bait Genius

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August 17  |  Viral Marketing  |   Ryan Clark

I just love smart marketing/PR stunts, and Abercrombie & Fitch has got the world’s attention today with theirs. In a world where it’s hard to grab the attention, social buzz, links and viral crazyess their marketing team has managed to that so well. You know you’re doing well for your brand when you’re trending on Twitter! Luckily for Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, this could work out well for him as any press is good press.

“We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image. We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans. We have therefore offered a substantial payment to Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino and the producers of MTV’s The Jersey Shore to have the character wear an alternate brand. We have also extended this offer to other members of the cast, and are urgently waiting a response.”

This is something to be studied by everyone in the marketing game from student to master because this is how it’s done these days. If you take a quick look on news sites, blogs and the search traffic/chatter you’ll see that they’re coming out big with all sorts of win. The amount of links alone that will be flying at A & F should well be worth it. While I don’t think The Situation will be wearing anymore of their clothing (not a big loss really), this is a good time for some other clothing company to jump out of the dark. So hear me now, if you want The Situation to rock your clothing label, you’d better start beating the doors down now. There’s a seriously good amount of marketing to be gained from this so heed my warning!

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Skittles Newlyweds Aka Share The Rainbows [NSFW]

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July 25  |  Viral Marketing  |   Ryan Clark

I have a feeling I’m going to get some emails about this post. Some of you may be wondering and or questioning my taste lately with some of the more adultish ads we’ve been posting. I mainly enjoy it because the more shocking and rude ads are what go viral, they’re talked about around the water cooler and shared all over the place. While you should hide the children before hitting the play button on this video, you yourself may regret doing so. With that being said, let me warn you all again that this one is a dirty one. This is also not an official Skittles commercial, and while they’d never admit they like it, it’ll do them a huge branding buzz boost. That I do not doubt!

 

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