In November I asked a group of ~50 SEOs one simple question:
“What was the most creative way you, or someone you know, got a link?”
This was personally one of my favorite posts because there was so much awesome, actionable, and insightful responses. But it looks like I wasn’t alone – it’s now the #1 all time post on Inbound.org.
After it was published, I got a lot of SEOs wanting to contribute as well, but very few people actually noticed the updated additions. That’s why I decided it was time for round 2, just because each response is just as awesome as the ones in the original post.
However, there are a couple things you should know. (1) I’ll be merging this post with the original in the next week or two so all responses will be on one post, and you’ll be able to vote for your favorites (the top responses will float to the top). (2) If you want to contribute a response, see the end of this post!
So, even though there are only 28 responses in this round, they’re equally insightful as the first group’s!
Once upon a time, an affiliate program I was an affiliate for has
launched a translated version of one of their product sites but forgot
to register the ccTLD version of the domain name for that specific country/language. I registered that domain, then asked them if I can use it (since doing otherwise would be construed as brand infringement).
The affiliate program advertised the product offline in that new country so people were searching for the product name and guess who was ranking for it, almost without links, even above the official site (which was just a subdomain of their main .com site)? This has taught the affiliate program a lesson though, and since then they always made sure to register a ccTLD before launching a translated version.OK since I cheated a bit and that story wasn’t really about links, here is another one, this time not about me but about somebody else who’s been very creative.
Imagine that you run a casino affiliate site. The typical idea of linkbuilding in that niche is either buying links en masse or spamming links en masse. So I found it totally hilarious when one day I came across a casino affiliate site that had a link off a major SEO conference site. How? – simple, as a blog partner The conference organisers now know about it as I showed it to them so this is not likely to be repeated by anyone again – but still, I am not naming the actual conference or site here for a number of reasons. Yet, I think this is still a great example of thinking outside the box.
Check the backlinks of Example.com. It probably has over a million
backlinks. The purpose of Example.com is to serve as a domain to be
used worldwide for the purpose of an example. See this: http://www.iana.org/domains/example. When someone posts example.com in a web page, whether intended to or not, it is often an actual hyperlink, even on a PR 9 site like W3C.org. The result is, with so many links being created daily there will be domain misspellings that are actual hyperlinks. So a misspelling variant of example.com becomes a link.
On many SEO forums and blogs, as well as tutorials across the web, there are discussions of domains. Invariably those discussions touch on the topic of hyphens or keywords and are illustrated with the domain, keyword1-keyword2.com. Thus, thousands of links are created to that and similar domains. Those are two kinds of links that are created daily and at the time, nobody owned the domains.
A variant of the above approach was to spider large authoritative websites and find broken links, buy the domains and point them to affiliate sites. This method fell out of favor once Google started resetting the PageRank of domains. However there used to be a loophole for ccTLDs (country code top level domains), where the PageRank, at least on the Google Toolbar, persisted. I don’t know if this is still the case, haven’t tested it lately. As I mentioned previously, those are not sustainable link building techniques but they illustrate a way to capture authoritative link equity for sites that are difficult to build links to or for the purposes of tracking the algorithm.
Other than [broken link building], which has already been
mentioned in your post, the most fun link I ever built was when I
worked with a web design agency. I found a graphic design inspiration site that had a page where designers created a wallpaper using the site’s logo, and submissions were credited with a link. I really enjoyed creating the wallpaper and actually was really stoked my design was picked for their gallery (because I’m not an actual graphic designer). The domain was very topically relevant, and none of our usual competitors appeared on that page. Whee!
I have another cool story about how my first marketing blog became #1 in Google for “social media blog” and #10 for the term “Social media” (in 2006/2007). Ironically, I knew nothing about social media at the time, and was invited to a meeting of the Social Media Club in my city. It was 2006, (pre-Oprah on Twitter) and there were not as many social media professionals, that’s for sure – after the meeting I launched a little free WordPress blog to discuss the topic of ethical use of social media for business. The guy who invited me to the unconference ended up adding my blog URL to a meme called the “Z List” that spread virally through hundreds of blogs – and even landed on Seth Godin’s blog! It definitely gave my new blog a huge jumpstart with zero effort on my part. Hundreds of links from pretty decent, topically relevant blogs.
Last year (2012), I met many search professionals at the different
search events in the UK and New York. I also went around Europe
interviewing SEOs in France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Sweden and France as a guest blogger for State of Search. Off the back of the tour, I became a regular blogger for this Best European Search Blog which I was really pleased about.I have since interviewed some of the people who I met in 2012 (for a post on my SEO blog) and they have then tweeted and shared it with their influencers and followers. They have also guest posted on one of my travel sites and I have written a couple of posts for them linking back to my travel blog.
I focused more on building the relationships with others and the bonus was I was also able to have a link back to my sites.
Call it what you want (clever, shady, a tad unethical), but LinkedIn’s
“You’re in the Top 10% of most viewed profiles for 2012” was creative.
It played into the basic thing that is tattooed on everyone’s forehead: Make Me Feel Important. They did, people talked, and damn did the blogs write about it. You’re doing the same thing with this post, right? :)Another: We’re working with an online fundraising website for people crowd sourcing funding for medical expenses, memorials, adoptions, etc. Instead of focusing on the service, we focus on the people they’re fundraising for by reaching out to the local media in their communities to let them know what’s going on and how much they raised.
Want 5 non-Nofollowed links from PR7 pages on USA.gov (a site
with a PR10 home page)? Sounds impossible doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t
easy, but here is how we did it.We identified some pages on the site where USA.gov was linking to external (third party, non-government) resources (the “Outside Sites”) because the government did not have their own resources for that information. There were 5 such links on the PR7 page we found. Of course, we focused on pages that were relevant to the topic matter of the site we were working on.
We went and built pages that were much higher quality than the information on the Outside Sites. Our pages were up to date, more in-depth, and more thoroughly fact checked. This was stage 1 of the effort.
We then worked hard to develop connections with the people responsible for the site. This was tricky and an involved process, but eventually what happened is that we learned about an internal government initiative called Webmaster University. We saw that they brought in outside speakers to present day long seminars to government webmasters. We obtained a great introduction and I pitched doing a presentation on SEO for them, and was accepted!
I flew to DC and was paid some money to do the training. This was OK compensation, but not great, BUT, my presence there and the effort I made to do a great job for them resulted in a different type of currency as a reward: TRUST.
Not long after the training I reached out and pointed out that the site I was involved in had much better resources than the Outside Sites they were currently linking to. About 1 month after I made that suggestion, we got the links. Our site receiving the links soared. We sold that business in 2010.
I would like to answer that we took a sack full of kittens and played
tennis with them at a Justin Beiber concert, and then created an
infographic of it and posted it to Reddit.But it wouldn’t be true.
It was hamsters.
It’s an old joke and the pay off is thinking it’s over when it’s not.
Which brings me to creativity.
I cannot answer the question, which is the most creative. Because every idea that is implemented is creative, it’s just some work and some do not.
When starting out you find that most fail, but that’s ok as people don’t see the failures. Then after a certain point you realise that there is a process that is scalable and that you don’t have to be uber creative to deliver a formula that gets results.
Because it’s all about results, it’s not about being creative.
However, creativity drives the brain into testing, trying out and risking failure.
If you are not failing you are not being creative.
And I have to say, you get tired of failing, so you ease up a bit, increase the success rate, but it decreases the creativity and so become a little less edgy, the work becomes a little less interesting. Which is great for your bank balance, but not so for the creative soul.
My answer is this. (and by the way these type of questions drive me bonkers and I lie awake thinking about them). I don’t think I did any one thing that stands out as being creative.
However, I approached the whole problem of “how do I get people to link to my work” by being highly creative and letting go. Trusting that the skill set I had built up over the previous years would pay off.
As soon as I started to trust my inner, creative voice and speak with a voice I could own I got links. In fact, as soon as I decided to do that I got hammered with sackfuls of links from authority people straight away. It was a little odd, because before that it was Crapola City.
There is a lot more complexity to all this though as there are many variables. But it’s worth exploring as you too can find your inner link building fiend and set them loose.
By applying a creative methodology that tapped certain skills and developing a system of deliberate practice where I would focus on the weak parts of my skill set I was about to climb up the link building mountain and enjoy the view.
The most creative link building idea I’ve heard was from someone
in the “death” related products space – not one totally friendly to
attracting links. He was driving to work and heard about someone who was trying to pay for his loved ones funeral, and in exchange, was willing to pay for advertising space on their urn. Since it was being covered on the radio, he knew it had some press traction and decided to pay for advertising. He got is company’s name plastered on the urn, and boom, Gawker among a few other big pubs others covered the story of the unlikely urn advertising and got his funeral website a link from an amazing domain. As some would say, he “paid for a link without paying for a link”. Matt Cutts approved.
I’ve leveraged the weather. When I was in South Florida, I had a
client that did new home construction. They had a reputation problem
in the form of one of those uncontested consumer complaint sites. We tried everything to suppress it, you know the one. The company did good work and from what I could tell, they did the customer right in the end. What they weren’t going to do was pay some bastard in Phoenix, AZ five figures to remove the complaint that they settled with the consumer.
For anyone who has ever lived in Palm Beach County, they know how bad thunderstorms can get. They also know the devastation of hurricanes. Most everyone is a weather nut down there. I made a site for the construction company. On it, we put a lot of different hurricane prep and home care tips and one page had live radar feeds that tracked precipitation. We promoted that page on a few key local welcome sites and in senior communities for which we volunteered. The traffic was astounding, but even more so was the number of links to the page within a couple weeks. That was before we made it embed. That consumer site in the brand query SERP was a thing of the past after a few months.
Two of the best links I ever got to the SiteVisibility Websites were
from Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss, two people I’m a huge fan of. In both
cases the approach was very similar, I knew they both had books coming out that they needed to spread the word near and far, as I’d followed them both over a period of years I’d seen that typically they’d try and carpet bomb blogs with links the day their books were released so they could try and land a coveted New York Times best seller list place.
So I knew they had something to promote and I knew when they exactly what day they wanted that big promotional approach, so a month out from their book release date I dropped them a line asking if they were planning a similar approach to launching their next book. In both cases they were, so I asked them if I could interview them for our podcast, and they both said yes. When they did a round up of all their interviews promoting the book we got included with all the big boys and a nice trusted link. If I’d asked for an interview another time they’d probably have been too busy and probably wouldn’t have rounded up all their coverage, so I wouldn’t have got the link.
The added bonus was in both cases these interviews were really popular with our podcast audience.
This works well for anyone, you need to know what your prospect is trying to achieve, then work your pitch into helping them do their job better. Also don’t underestimate the impact of timing, if you really understand the link prosper you’re going to know when is the time you’re out-reach is going to be most successful. It frames the conversation in a completely different way, rather than them doing you a favour, you are actually doing them a favour. The link might be your real intention but’s not the way you come across.
Heard you like embed boxes? So we put a textarea in your
textarea so you can embed while you embed.
Recursive embed boxes. You know how people put embed boxes after infographics? Well they should put an embed box in the embed box, that way the person who then embeds the infographic will also have an embed box… with your details. Basically just acts as a force multiplier on the link potential. Now it gets a little tricky because to put a text area inside a text area you have to escape the second to last text area closing tag. It looks something like this:
Title of infographic – An infographic hosted at Your Brand name
Title of infographic – An infographic hosted at Your Brand name
A lot of people will edit out your embed box, but some wont because they are lazy and will think “oh snap ready made embed box I don’t even have to add one!”
Offline events are a massively under discussed and underfunded
tactic that gives a great ROI for link building. Last December I wrote
a YouMoz blog post on offline link building with a case study that my company had used for fashion bloggers. To summarise, offline events for SEO benefits is nothing new but the approach used by the majority is completely wrong for building links – too often are bloggers simply invited to an event and then just expected to write something and link back.
What our company did that was different was to create an event that involved the bloggers rather than just having them act as spectators. As our industry is fashion orientated we let bloggers dress themselves up (or models) with extremely high end clothing from top designers, hired professional photographers and then took high quality images of their creations. We then created animated gifs from the photos and sent them to each blogger after the event so they could use them in blog posts. We followed this up with social competitions to see which “look” was the best that promoted the individual bloggers as well as our products.
Results were great; we got a large number of blog posts with links back to our website, a lot of them using the animated gifs we went them. The bonus of running this event was not only the immediate results we generated but the relationships with the bloggers that were established with seeing them face to face – out of 15 bloggers that linked to us immediately after the event, 9 of them then linked to us again a few months after on their own accord, some up to 4 separate occasions. SEO’s should have budget set aside for such events – it can work with any niche you just need to be creative.
I think that creativity comes not so much from sudden flashes of
inspiration, but in being able to see things that have always been
there, in a very different way.
I was working on a project for an online plumbing supplies company, and after finishing a formal meeting with the CEO, we were chatting over coffee when he remarked that most of his customers were women. I asked him why and he said that he didn’t know.
This conversation eventually led to a story and a link from The Financial Times at FT.com. Here’s how.
An analysis of his customer list confirmed 70 percent of his customers were women. We sent out a customer survey to find out why: the reason was that women hated the teasing they suffered as they stood in line at a trade shop.
That was newsworthy already, but we went further.
We also asked women if they’d like to be interviewed as part of a follow up to the survey. Many agreed and from the follow up interviews we got 5 really good personal stories.
That gave us great content to publish, and a pretty good press release to send out. One of the best results was being covered and linked to by The Financial Times at FT.com.
I think there are 3 important principles here:
(1) The CEO knew that most of his customers were women – he just didn’t realize the potential story that could lead to. Most clients have potential stories hidden away, just waiting to be discovered. Part of a link builder’s job is to uncover them.
(2) Listening carefully to what clients say, especially in unguarded moments, can help you find these stories. To quote (Zino of Citium), “We’ve got two ears and one mouth and we should listen and speak in the same proportion.”
(3) Once you identify a good story, add color and interest to it by including quotes from customers who have something powerful to say. As Lewis Carroll said in the opening to Alice in Wonderland, “What’s the use of a story without pictures and conversations?”
Once you’re armed with a powerful, well-told story, the actual business of link building becomes so much easier.
Back in 2011 Google announced that all keywords from logged in
users would become (not provided.) An hour after Google made the
announcement, I purchased the domain name notprovided.com. It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, as (not provided) was soon to become the biggest keyword in Google Analytics!
A couple hours later I had a WordPress blog, a single article on how to deal with (not provided) keywords, and links to relevant resources. Then I shared it on Twitter.
Never once did I do any manual link building for the site, but it became a natural link target, gaining a healthy backlink profile along the way. A few months later I sold the domain for a tidy profit.
The lesson I learned is it pays to be first on the market with a resource. More often than not it pays to be the best, but sometimes it also pays to be first.
Hmmm, so many great memories. Let’s go to the archives for this
one. Perhaps one of my favorite link tactics I used about 5 years ago
was called BlogBacker. This was before the nofollow tag was announced and WordPress still automatically posted trackback links in its default install. I knew that getting links was possible, but how do I acquire a ton of trackback links from legitimate sites without appearing to be a spammer.
The solution was elegant and simple. I created a “service” called BlogBacker. Essentially, it scraped content from WordPress RSS feeds from thousands of blogs and then reposted the first 50 words or so to BlogBacker’s website. The rest of the content pulled from the RSS feeds was stored in a database that could later be downloaded in its entirity as a .zip file if the blogger needed a backup of their site.
Bloggers saw the service as an archive.org with download feature, an automatic 3rd party backup of sorts. The service could actually be valuable if it were ever used, but in reality its primary purpose was to attract tens of thousands of trackback links to advertising laden content. And this is exactly what it did. It worked like a charm… until the nofollow tag.
You can actually see an example of one of these trackback links still on my website from years ago:
Product reviews are a tactic that I’ve had a lot of success with. A lot
of people have. Offering a free product or a free trial is a great way to
get your outreach email read and responded to. Now, product reviews are a tricky business due to FTC regulations, so I definitely recommend to offer the product with little expected in return… except full disclosure if they do write about it.
Anyways, with a few popular bloggers that had let me know they were going to write about the product, I asked them to mention “If you’re interested in trying these products email anthony@…” and let’s just say to phone started ringing off the hook. Instead of doing outreach, I was plowing through email pitches from bloggers sent to me.
I found this creative because it turned the tables on the traditional outreach dynamic and resulted in a lot of good connections with bloggers. You have to be careful with product reviews though, once your Company name gets out there you’ll start to get contacted heavily by the sites that do nothing but unrelated reviews and giveaways. Those are the sites I recommend staying away from, no matter how easy the link is.
One of the cooler ways a client of ours built links was through
supporting an employee’s passions. Of course, they weren’t thinking
“Link building” at the time, they were just being a really cool company – which (fluffy as it is) seems to be the best way to build links.
The company produces extremely high precision GPS systems – the kind you use in your tank or UAV and not in your Prius. While a product was being finalized, one of their employees – an avid skydiver/wingsuit jumper – was thinking about ways he could use his company’s technology to train and verify speed records.
The company jumped to support him and over the coming days worked with him to apply the technology to his passion while also using it as a true test of their system’s accuracy and advantage over competitors. His wingsuit jumps and the resulting data were published in major media outlets and brought a lot of links to the company website – links competitors can’t duplicate.
I worked for a client in the fashion industry that had a huge
website with hundreds of products – getting deep links to individual
product pages was an ongoing challenge. We ended up partnering with several other fashion-oriented sites to create “get the look” pieces around popular TV characters, superheroines, characters from literature, and so on – then shopping them out as guest posts for women’s blogs, geek blogs, etc. Several of these turned into guest posting series with multiple links. It seems much less spammy when multiple products from multiple companies are highlighted – we’d even link to products from other companies to add value and trust – and we were able to re-surface older products and give them a second wind. The best part was that any time one of our products was featured in a magazine we had instant partners to create “how to wear this” content for our own and each others’ blogs as well.
Never in the history of ever have I set out to build links for
my own blog. I have never asked for a link, paid for a link, exchanged
goods or services for a link nor attempted to acquire a link through any other means, nefarious or otherwise. It hasn’t been a priority. That doesn’t, however, mean that I haven’t obtained any links. Sometimes the best connections are made when we aren’t chasing them and this is a story of such a serendipitous occurrence.
I was recently fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a talented young blogger at an industry event. I knew she was a talented blogger because she told me she had recently been successful in a blogging contest, a set-to between aspiring writers in the field, so to speak. Although I retained that knowledge it was not something that informed any of my subsequent decisions or actions. No linkbuilding siren sounded in my mind and no link acquisition protocol was initiated. I had no plan to obtain a link.
Writing is in a blogger’s nature, of course. By simply being myself and making a new friend the circumstances were created that led directly to a link for my blog. Of course she was going to write about her experience. Of course she was, and linking to me was a natural part of that account because being in my company had been a natural part of her weekend. I suspect that wouldn’t have been so if the link, rather than the friend, had been my focus.
Naturally this kind of connection does not always lead directly to links, sometimes the value is seen in other ways entirely. Sometimes, though, it leads to links you could not possibly have anticipated.
One of my pet projects is a fan site for a popular sports team. There is a small, but passionate community there and I do what I can to help people out – I publish things they write, connect them to others, share information, and so on. Nothing exceptional. One young fan was particularly enthusiastic. I published a couple of things he had written and answered a bunch of his questions. Nothing exceptional. Around a year later he travelled to America to watch the team play live. He took with him a flag he had made with the name of my site on it and during his visit he was approached and interviewed by a journalist. Days later a report featuring a prominent, contextual link to my site appeared on the USA Today site (PA: 49, DA: 97).
Serendipity, arising from just being decent to people. Nothing exceptional.
I’ve been using this tactic for a long time for different niches, it brings in a lot of referral traffic and also a good mix of follow and no follow links on “relevant websites.”
You might have heard of scraper sites before. You know, those sites that scrape content from Press Release and news sites. Not really the ideal way of curating content but it works for them so what the heck. By the way, a good chunk of them are automated, while there are also people that manually add the copied content.
There are actually a lot of sites like those and they target different niches, not just press releases. From web 2.0 properties like Blogspot, Tumblr and WordPress.com to high PR/ DA/PA websites that already have traffic, you’ll can see that there’s good diversity already. You can even see forums that scrape content from other forums and blogs. There are multiple ways of exploiting this tactic but I’ll share a easiest one that is based mostly around Backlinks using Images & a little with the traditional Contextual Links.
These sites are pretty easy to find. If your niche is very popular, let’s say the topic is about “celebrities” then you probably already noticed by now that you see a LOT of the same news (and pictures) on hundreds and thousands of websites.
Find the Main Source of the Content (Main Source = Original Content Publisher)
– To check, you can simply use Google images and check if you can see the same picture over and over again. Check some sites with the same pictures. There’s a good chance they also have the same content and source.
– You can also grab the headline of a popular news or blog site about celebrities. Paste it in Google and you’ll see a bunch of scraper sites. Identify if the scraper sites copy the content fully, meaning, it copies the links in the body OR it posts and copies the image URL from the Main Source.
Take note of the Main Source & work on a way to get your content on that source.
You want to get your link on these websites. It’s usually possible, too.
Basic Optimization Stuff
– Make sure to add an Alt Tag.
– Contextual links are often removed by scraper sites but a lot still gets through
How Do You Make Use Of This?
– Direct Links using images. Most of the time, I don’t gun for anchors. I just make sure the image is hosted on the domain I’m boosting OR hyperlinked to the target site.
– Linking back to the main site for very weak keywords. It’s usually enough to get you up there and make you stay put. I rarely use anchors unless I use it for….
– …increasing the value of my social properties or profiles/content hosted on strong domains (that link to my website). The anchor texts in the body will only point to your properties instead of your main website.
– Grab what “keywords” these scrapers use to scrape content. It’s usually visible in the titles of the posts they copy
– Create a site that revolves around those keywords and post relevant content like a normal website. Don’t forget to optimize images (Alt Tag, File Name, Title) and your post.
– Watch them scrape away and send you links and referral traffic.
By simply getting mentioned on a popular website, you can easily get a good chunk of links and I don’t mean just ReTweets, Facebook Shares or Social Bookmarks.
I’ll show an example below that is about scrapers boosting a page automatically that had my social property link on it. Let’s call this “Tiered Linking.”
Ruth Burr (@ruthburr) does live tweeting on different conferences she goes to. A lot of us who respect her work and follow her on Twitter will probably see her barrage of tweets.
Me, being a million miles away and couldn’t go to most conferences, always appreciates what she does for the community. So during the LinkLove conference, in the middle of her live tweets, I just felt the need to say my thanks to her.
She replied back and that’s it. Less than a week later, she produced an article on SEOmoz about “How to Live Tweet Like a Pro” and the tweet was inserted there, I guess it was out of pity for my poor Twitter profile (yup, I only just joined Twitter recently but I’ve been doing SEO since 2007).
So I took this chance to set-up TalkWalker (@talkwalker & @J_Hong3) because Google Alerts sucks. I inserted my Twitter handle (@denseymour) there to track how far this post will go.
For over 5 days, I’ve received daily emails from Talkwalker and I’m pretty sure these aren’t the only sites out there that scraped the content.
The URL above is just one of the links that scraped the exact same content. Below are their stats from Open Site Explorer and CF & TF from Majestic SEO:
I showed this example to be on the safe side. My tweet getting links is basically not worth much but imagine all those SEOmoz profiles in there? How about the direct links mentioned in there?
To put it in a link builder’s lingo:
– You can get a direct link from an image
– You can get a direct or a Tier 1 link pointing to your site
– You get a Tier 2 link pointing to your Tier 1 Link (your profiles and properties)
There’s really no way of stopping people from completely copying your content but you can at least be aware of how you can use it to your advantage as well as to protect yourself from it.
So this link building tactic isn’t our most creative, but it is one of
the easiest ways to build high-quality, editorial links on a consistent
basis at scale and for relatively no money (and one many have probably never thought of). We call it a “content swap,” and it starts by soliciting guest posts across all the sites we run. We optimize and link to the “become an author” pages on each site we run this on so the doc will rank for search operators in specific keyword verticals. This gets us a steady flow of guest posting inquiries. We offer to “swap content” with bloggers that want to guest post on our sites. If you’re unwilling to or can’t swap, we won’t publish your article.
With the number of sites we run, we swap an average of about 100 articles per month. What I love about this tactic is the efficiency: link opportunities come to us versus us having to prospect for them. This really puts us in the drivers seat and means:
– We can insist on only swapping with sites that meet or exceed specific quality thresholds.
– We have total control over link placement within the article and aren’t restricted to a single author bio link.
– We’ve been able to build ongoing relationships with others who run portfolios of sites and swap with them on a pretty regular basis.
What’s interesting here too is this tactic gives us a unique view into the range of outreach styles and approaches. Many guest post inquiries are super spammy, with fake “super hot chick” Gmail avatars. But a small percentage are really exceptional, and the really good ones we copy 🙂 And it’s helped us improve our own internal promotion process as well. Finally, you can outsource this whole thing on the cheap and task a virtual assistant with email inquiry management, content management on your sites and vetting the potential swap partner sites as well.
My buddy Chris Le doesn’t consider himself a marketer, but he is.
I stole this tactic from him, because he executed it flawlessly. Chris
During his last week at SEER, Chris open sourced the whole project. He knew this was going to a big deal, so he created a blog post announcing the release and a landing page for readers to copy the tool/Google Doc, a link to the code on GitHub, and a reference guide.
Chris’s landing page was more informative than Github and showed the value of the tool through screenshots. Instead of letting Github get his links, Chris came up with a strategy that allowed him to get most of the publicity and social shares. Using A hrefs, the SEO Toolbox Landing page has 41 backlinks the blog post announcing the release has 17 linking root domains. The GitHub page that actually has the raw code only has 3 linking root domains.
This works for any type of code or app release, whether it’s GitHub, Google Play or the App Store – you can create a landing page and get links for your software and app releases, even if the app or code doesn’t live on your domain.
I have what I see as a pretty creative submission, I’ll explain it
below in the quotes…
“We all know that visual content can be an excellent source of incoming links. That said, some of the tried and true methods out there (infographics) are just plain played out. Many webmasters see them as spam and are disinclined to post them.
The same thing can’t really be said about a compelling video on YouTube. That’s why, recently, I collaborated with a YouTube channel known as ASAPscience for my site Sparring Mind. We released a video on the ‘Science of Productivity’, and to date, it has received over 785,000+ views.
I let them keep full right to the video in exchange for a mention at the end and in the video description. After it was released, I emailed my newsletter (5-figure in size) for promotion and followed up with an incredibly important step: I set up a Google Alert for the video name.
Thus, most big mentions of the video hit my inbox so I could follow up with the original poster to make sure I got a link too. This helped me land features and links from places like Lifehacker, Laughing Squid, the CBC, and even the Discovery Channel blog!
Videos don’t have the stigma that infographics have, and doing a joint launch with an already established YouTube channel help the video trickle out to a wide variety of sites, ending with a great link-building for me!”
Creative Link Building Story 1: How I built over 350+ Root domain
links from 2 pieces of creative content.
I am a strong believer in creative link building and a key element is having creative content to begin with. I am always on the lookout for creative content ideas for my own sites and clients sites, both via offline and online sources. I go to many networking events making numerous contacts in the market. I was lucky to meet an ex member of Matt Cutts’ search team at one of these networking events shortly after he had left Google. I was the first person to do a full length interview with him http://jamesnorquay.com/an-interview-ex-member-matt-cuttss-search-quality-team/ and it has yielded over 300+ root domain links to the article content itself (refer to graph below)
It is not just about getting picked up by over 300+ different websites and generating a large scale amount of links. The story was also cited on numerous news portals such as Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Round Table and many other large news websites.
Another tactic I usually do if a piece of content works really well is I do a follow up piece. I did another interview to answer further questions, this yielded in an additional 50+ root domain links (refer to below graph)
Creative Link Building Story 2: How I got a Backlink on Apple.com
Around 2 years ago I was working for a telecommunications company as their in house SEO lead.
I had been tracking competitors using Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO and I noticed two competitors had made their way onto Apple.com from an internal page which was a (do follow) PR 7. The best thing about this page was that it ranked for a bunch of commercial terms and also was focused on buying. So it was not just a case of building links it was a case of selling products with a successful link acquisition.
The problem this client faced is it was not one of the big players in the market and the client was owned by one of the bigger players. So I decided to develop a strategy to reel in Apple to acquire the link.
Step 1: Set up a dedicated Apple page on the website, similar to the competitors. My advice is to talk to legal at your company and develop the page based on what you can and cannot do.
Step 2: Set up a clients email example: Jono@telco.com
Step 3: Call yourself something like “Online Community Manager” I find that most tech people like this name better over “SEO Link Building” for example.
Step 4: Pull up who is data on the website: So pulling up the “who is” data for Apple.com showed some problems as it was not a real lead for any one.
Step 5: Use the onsite contact feature, I probably sent 3 emails via this but nothing worked.
Step 6: Find someone in the business who deals directly with Apple! So I probably should have started here first. I found someone who dealt directly with Apple and asked them if they could possibly send an email asking if we could obtain a link on this page, as we were highly relevant. Another thing I always do is make it easy for the webmaster, send them all the information the same as the competitors, such as images and what not.
After probably 10 emails back and forth over the period of a month we were successful in obtaining a link. I have just checked this link and it is still live today after 2 years.
Moral of the story is, if you want high quality links you need to be prepared to hustle for them and try different plans of attack.
One of my clients is an oyster farm on the Chesapeake Bay, who
raises oysters from about 2 millimeters in diameter up to market size.
It’s a really neat operation. One day we were contacted by a husband and wife out of DC who where interested in purchasing a few dozen oysters. They just so happened to be food bloggers, so naturally we were (or rather, I was) excited about having them as customers.
The exchange went from placing a simple mail order to a weekend trip to the Bay for a first-hand look at the oyster farm. The couple came down one Saturday, and were able to see how oysters are grown, cleaned, and prepared for the market. We showed them around the waterfront, the equipment, gave a short lesson on the life-cycle of oysters, and even took them on a boat ride in the Bay to see where the oyster cages are.
The couple had a great time and wrote an entire post about their experience. Best of all, they included a few links to the company (at a time when the company’s inbound links were sparse). These links were particularly helpful for two reasons, firstly because they were from a moderately popular foodie blog, but also provided local relevancy. It’s always a nice experience to see where the products we buy come from, especially in regard to the food we consume. This model of relationship and experience nurturing is great for link as well as audience building. Today, the oyster company is considering making formal eco-tours a part of their business.
The best type of link building we do is when we tie in:
– target audience
For one client, who competes in a very aggressive industry, we decided to create a bingo card based on popular TV shows and relevant to the target audience. We created bingo cards for the X factor and Big Brother etc…
We then pitched the idea to entertainment and showbiz bloggers, encouraging them to play along and tweet out/share on facebook.
So we had:
– Brand in front of and engaging with the target audience
– links from all the bingo cards distributed
– social noise from all those playing and discussing
– Automatically generated outreach list from everyone who shared and linked to it
For me, creative link building is not about a big WOW campaign, that’s an advertising responsibility. Creative link building is about creating campaigns that acquire links, but also serve multiple business purposes. Links placed that have nothing but SEO value, are typically the type of links that will land you in trouble.
One link building tactic we use often here at Switched on Media is
offer bloggers to interview the client we’re trying to get a link for.
With little creativity this can work well no matter what the topic or industry, as you can always tie bloggers’ interests with client expertise. Boring insurance client? “Ask the CEO of X when you should bother with travel insurance”. Dull real estate client? “Ask Head of Y the secrets to finding unadvertised apartments in the city”. The interview makes for a good blog post for the blogger, and a juicy link (and often referral traffic) for the client. Win-Win.
Recently we were working on a company affiliated with a popular TV show, and got permission for bloggers to interview one of the characters from the show. Needless to say it was very easy to find bloggers willing to participate. But as I wrote, this can work for pretty much any client.
My previous job before I did my first work as an SEO was a college
philosophy professor. Ethics was instilled in me and I took the moral
route every day as a link builder. I was never pushy; I was helpful.
Our link strategy was intertwined with our content strategy. Being a writer myself, any articles I’d publish, I’d have to have a link campaign attached to them. No article was left behind. And, I was a phone link builder. Many people didn’t know about the company and a lot my role was “educational” – when I was on the phone with folks, I’d explain what the site was about and what links I would be sending them. A few stories come to mind though I doubt this is highly groundbreaking.
My company had made marketing trifolds for many of our services, including a generic one. We’d bring them to events, but we had loads more in our supply room. The people I contacted for links weren’t always tech-savvy. I was on the phone with church receptionists, high school guidance counselors and the like. From a philosophical and a UX perspective, I always thought about the “other.” If people don’t know computers, what can I send them to gain awareness about the company? When I called folks about our content and seeing if they were comfortable with me emailing them for review, I would bring up these trifolds. I’d say “Oh, by the way, can I send you some trifolds about our company in case folks want to read hard-copies about what we’d do?” Most people were touched by the offer. I’d send out 100, 200, 50 – whatever number they wanted. When I mailed them, I always included a typed up letter from me that had the URLs to the pages I’d want linked. (I’m a big fan of snail mail so a personal note is something I always do!) These sentences would have a pleasant call to action. For example, “If you want to see our page dedicated for your town go to www.company.com/02767.”
It worked. I received many local links this way from organizations I had spoken with. I also received several calls when they ran out of trifolds and needed me to replenish the supply.
The second story deals with a campaign I was passionate about. My role as a link builder was to know the content better than anyone. I began to notice we had eight different articles all over the website on bullying. I decided if I’m going to link build for one, I will link build for all. I contacted guidance counselors nationwide and in my follow-up response, I sent the whole enchilada. All eight articles. My pitch was “Here are our articles on bullying. Feel free to pick and choose the ones most beneficial to your school community, even if it’s all of them.” I then did a quick two-sentence description about each one. I also separated them into two groups, noting which ones were about cyberbullying. Nine times out of ten, I got all eight articles linked. Some even copy and pasted my follow-up email! Occasionally, I got bonus links, mostly of our homepage or a local link. This campaign helped the company reorganize their content into these “clusters,” making it easier for folks to find the content they are looking for. As a result, we now have links those specific cluster topic pages.
Third story – I studied acting as a kid for a couple of summers and we’d do a lot of improv games to warm up. There’s this one game where you connect words. For example, if the word is kiss, you would think you could kiss a frog. Frog connects to tadpole. So your response for kiss would actually be tadpole. Anyways, we had this article about explaining divorce to kids. Everyone’s first thought was “parents and guidance counselors.” But I played the game. Who would read this article about divorce? Parents. Who do parents talk to? Divorce lawyers. Yup, I contacted divorce lawyers (which was risky) but we were able to get links from new domains. And of course, me being me, in the follow-up email I sent them two additional links. One to another article (fighting in front of your kids and why it needs to stop) and another to our local babysitter page. Why? “In case your clients need last minute child care if a court date is changed.”
Remember, be human. There were people who would push back with me, but I’d be human with them. I’d send them things (non-related to my company) that they were interested in. I’d check-in for feedback. I’d build relationships. A lot of my links came from fans. When one campaign worked well, we’d add more articles to the cluster. It gave me an excuse to reach out to them, get feedback, and get more links.
For a previous agency I worked at, we wanted to get some .ac.uk
links (the UK’s equivalent of .edu links) pointing to our own website.
Of course, getting .ac.uk links under most circumstances is extremely difficult – I once worked in-house where we did a campaign dedicated to getting links from universities and it flopped miserably.
So I opted for the next best thing: second-degree .ac.uk links, in other words .ac.uk links pointing to a normal site (e.g. a .com) that then pointed to us. We’d already done a lot of work with a local initiative that tried to help graduates get jobs, which already had a lot of .ac.uk links pointing to its domain, so I wrote a guest blog post for them talking about how graduates can find job opportunities using social media. It was a hit. In addition to being shared on their Twitter to their thousands of followers, a number of university websites linked to the post directly, which of course then linked to us. It may not have been direct .ac.uk links, but it was a genuinely successful guest blog post that ended up becoming one of the agency’s strongest inbound links.
Perhaps not the most creative, but recently I have been working on
a travel destination website for a client. I thought about how to get
some quick and simple links, then I discovered there was already a whole host of websites talking about this place. First of all I went to YouTube, there were a ton of videos about the place. Some were getting 50k+ views! So I went about it to contact the video owners with simple message:
“Hi I’m working for “client/place” and saw your video about “client/place”, we think its great! We would really appreciate it if you could help other people find out about “client/place” by adding a link to our website “URL” in the description of your video. Also if its ok with you can we embed your video into our website? Many thanks “name”.”
Compliments, compliments wins them over. “We think its great” and “is it ok if we embed your video” really gives them a good feeling and will be more inclined to add the link. The results? 10 links on the top 10 videos, and many more on further page. Its not just the links, it was the 500+ referral traffic from YouTube that makes it even better.
Another way I utilised existing content was to scrape the web for mentions of the client, checked the pages for links to client, if there were none a polite email asking was sent to include one. There were around 400 websites, I got 50-60 links that’s 25%+ success rate. Pretty good considering I didn’t even have to create any content myself.
One of my favourite examples is back when I was promoting a
“watch sports on your PC” product as an affiliate. I angled the website
around pro wrestling & MMA which I’m a huge fan of.
This type of website would usually be considered to be “thin” and wouldn’t attract the links needed to beat my competitors, so I maintained a blog full of unique content – I found this easy and in truth I really enjoyed doing it.
At the time a new wrestling video game was being released, featuring many “classic” competitors, but unfortunately many of my favourites from era’s gone by were missing, so I decided to write a blog post about featuring 25 wrestlers that I thought should have been, or I would have liked to have seen included.
For each of the chosen wrestlers, the post featured
– An image of them in their heyday (so they would be easily recognised)
– A short snippet of their achievements, such as titles won, or legacy left
– A reason why gamers may like them to be included
For the bigger/more well known wrestlers, I also embedded a youtube video of their most recognisable moment.
I gave the blog post and page title an obvious SEO angle along this lines of “wrestlers not included in ####” which soon appeared at the top of Google’s results.
I then set up a Google alert for the title of the video game (there was a lot of these!) and in any review or mention of “missing” wrestlers, I sent a quick e-mail pointing the author in the direction of my blog post.
The response I received was fantastic, gaining links from extremely credible websites in the online video game, sports & wrestling communities, links that an affiliate site such as mine simply wouldn’t have earned otherwise.
This can be replicated across all different niches, be passionate, creative, substantial & most of all don’t be afraid to contact the “big players” if you have something that can add value to their readers.
Oh yeah – and Google Alerts can really be your friend!
The most creative links I’ve built have been the ones for
Valentine’s day in 2012 when I was working for a Weddings portal:
We launched a campaign called “I love you because” (“Te quiero por” in Spanish) asking our community (most of them women) to share through Twitter with the hashtag #tequieropor (#iloveyoubecause) why they loved their partners, parents, pets or anyone really.
The team also went with cameras to the center of Madrid and Barcelona to ask the people in the streets to share their love stories starting with “I love you because…”. Even the company’s team got involved and almost all of us participated filming videos, I filmed one too!. People could also send their videos through the Facebook page of the site.
The best videos would win a couple of days stay in a Hotel in the Canary Islands and the most creative tweets some make up kits… but really, the best prize would be to have the opportunity to share with the world why they loved this very important person in their life for Valentine’s day 🙂
We got a great response through social networks, especially in Twitter where we became a trending topic in Spain for Valentine’s day. The action not only helped us to build links, but build also amazing user generated content with the videos, to improve our visibility among our audience (Spanish women) in the different platforms we used (Google’s results, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube), connect and increase the loyalty and involvement from our community (people would share their own videos spontaneously with their circle of friends, family and contacts through social networks).
I won’t call this creative link building but clever link
building it did save more than £50,000 from the link building
budget for a blue chip company I worked for couple of months back, and hope they are still doing it.
There’s always something going on around when you work for big brands and there is always a chance of getting links in one or other way from different departments all you have to do is ask. I met the Managers of every department : PR , marketing , social media etc. and asked them if there was any campaign or marketing going on from their side, everyone was doing something but I liked what advertising team was doing at that time. They were advertising (Paid banners) on partner sites and other relevant websites at that time, that’s where it was when I thought why not ask them if we can do guest posts on those websites as well. The company who were taking care of the display advertising for us , emailed all the websites and asked them if we can do guest posts on their sites and experts will be writing the content, to which almost all agreed, and we didn’t pay a penny for it just the cost of writing which we used in-house writers. We gained additional free coverage (editorial) from partner sites and other sites where we had display advertising going on live.
If you’re wanting to contribute your own creative link story, I encourage you to leave a comment with it and I’ll consider adding your response & company website if it’s good enough!