On Tuesday, I gave a webinar with Rupali Shah for Search Marketing Now called SEO Strategies for Large Web Sites: Using Content to Build Links and to Drive Traffic. I talked about using viral marketing for linking building (you can watch the archive at that link).
Giving a webinar is different from speaking in front of people or as part of a live podcast. It’s like talking to yourself for 20 minutes. Is anyone listening? Is what you’re saying useful or are you just randomly babbling? At least with a podcast, I generally have someone else to talk to and mostly am seeing live chat and twitters about what I’m saying. “@vanessafox – you are randomly babbling” is immediate feedback.
In my part of the webinar, I talked about:
Why linking building is important
Authoritative, relevant links help your ranking in search engines, but also drive traffic and build brand awareness.
The different types of link building and when you should do each
You can do all kinds of link building, but I tend to group things into traditional link building and viral link building. I think you should try a combination of things, particularly since viral links tend to be cyclical (you get lots of traffic then no traffic), and more traditional links bring less, but more long-term traffic.
Important factors to consider when link building
Authoritative, relevant links are more valuable. These types of links give you the best results for ranking purposes as well for traffic. Don’t forget the anchor text. Sometimes people get so caught up in getting the link that they overlook that the content of the anchor text can be just as important as the link itself. You can have a million links to your site with the anchor text “buffy and angel” and that will never help you rank for “willow and oz”. You can influence external anchor text in lots of ways including, using descriptive, keyword-rich title tags and headings on your site, picking a keyword-relevant domain name, and linking to your content on social media and social networking with descriptive anchor text as those who see that link and post about it are likely to use the same anchor text.
What is viral link building?
Word-of-mouth marketing has been around forever, since Eve said to Adam, “hey, so I heard about this great apple when I was out walking the jungle. You should totally try it.” Today, of course, Eve would be sending Adam a virtual apple on Facebook, but the same general idea applies. Someone finds something cool and interesting (or delicious and full of sin) and tells their friends about it: in person (“I saw this great YouTube video…”), in email (“today is spam everyone you know, I mean “special friend” day; forward this email to 500 people or a house will fall on you”), by blogging about it or posting about it in forums, or in artificially constructed social settings where you have conversations with your “friends” by voting for stories you like.
They key to all of this — from the apple of sin and deception to the mentos/coke cocktail is that the content catches people’s attention. It could be super useful, really entertaining, highly educational, or just really weird. Possibly it’s full of sin. But it’s more than just the same old thing.
Last week, I spoke in Portland at an SEMpdx event about the emergence of social browsing on the web. Because people are browsing (whether it’s their Facebook newsfeed, to see what their friends have been doing or Digg to see what the top stories are) rather than searching for the answer to something specific, the content you make available for these browsers needs to be easy to scan, attention-grabbing, compelling enough to get the browser to leave what they’re doing and check out what you have to offer.
Remember this not only for headlines and descriptions when you’re submitting to social media sites and linking from social networking discussions (snappy headlines with initial caps, numeric digits, etc.), but when structuring the content itself (lots of bullets, numbers, short chunks of text…).
And don’t think that because you’re not in the most exciting industry in the world, you can’t come up with compelling content. What’s more boring than a blender? Until you put an iPod in it!
Targeting your audience
With viral efforts, you have two audiences: your target audience who’s going to come to your site and buy stuff (or do whatever it is you want people on your site to do) and the influencers who can reach your target audience. Figure out who both are, what they’re interested in, and where they go online. It doesn’t do a lot of good to spend all of your marketing efforts to get your content on the home page of Digg if none of your audience reads Digg.
There are all kinds of social media sites for just about every topic you might imagine. All it takes is a little research.
The content needs to be relevant for your audience as well. If you write an article about mountain bikes and your site is about knitting cozies for candlesticks, then you may get a bunch of mountain bikers to your site, but the conversion rate on that traffic may be a little low. Not that I’m saying there’s zero overlap between the mountain biking and candlestick cozy knitting audiences, I’m just thinking there’s a chance that the knitting council of america or the candlestick fans unite Facebook group might be a better bet.
Keeping your audience
Once you’ve got the candlestick fans on your candlestick cozy site, let them know what else your site has to offer. Make sure your viral content page has a description of the overall site to provide some context and think about what other pages of your site would be relevant for the candlestick-loving crowd. Maybe your lantern cozy knitting pattern! Or your selection of incense. Now that you’ve brought all of these visitors to your site, don’t lead them to a dead end. (Note the huge “order your totalblender” call to action on the Will it Blend? site.)
Listening to your audience
The internet is super awesome in a lot of ways, but one of them is that you can listen in on and join the conversations about your brand. Take advantage of this. Don’t just spam social networking sites with links. Listen to what people are saying — not just about your brand, but your competition and the industry as a whole. Get engaged with the community and you’ll not only learn a lot, but you’ll build brand loyalty and make your customers happy. Who doesn’t want happy customers?
Creating really useful content that is relevant to your customer base doesn’t guarantee popularity on social media sites, tons of traffic, lots of links into your site, and an influx of buying customers, but it sure seems like a pretty good bet.