The game has changed. That is now obvious. Over the last year or so, Google has made a statement. No longer will they allow SEOs and Internet Marketers to easily manipulate the rankings with directory submissions, cheap keyword-heavy spun articles, paid links and anything else that may be considered inorganic.
That is why we see everyone in the industry preaching about ‘content marketing’. High quality information that is more prone to be shared and linked to organically because it offers information that people actually want to see and have searched for.
It seems simple enough and exactly what any SEO/Internet Marketing professional should be doing. However, when people discover that they can cheat the system and see results faster, instead of putting in the hard work *cough cough, steroids in sports *, they will take the chance.
That may have worked in the past, but Google has put the kibosh on those link building tactics with the unleashing of Panda/Penguin, aimed to punish sites that have thin content and inorganic links.
Now we are back to the basics. The things we should have been doing all along (in the famous words of Wil Reynolds) real company sh*t. However, real company sh*t is hard. It takes thought and time, research, outreach and promotion. On top of that, there is still no guaranty that people are going to link to it, let only find it at all.
My first attempt at real company sh*t — or link bait — failed, yet I learned how to build relationships from it and grew as an SEO.
A little less than a year ago I started an unpaid internship in Internet Marketing at Blue Soda Promo. The job was DEFINITELY not ideal. It wasn’t what I went to school for (I double majored in Multimedia Studies and Print Journalism) and on top of that I wasn’t going to see a dime for 3 months. On the other hand, it was experience, which my resume could always use more of, and I felt the more diverse I was as an individual the easier it would be for me to get a job.
So I studied everything I could get my hands on in those 3 months. I landed the job, which was awesome, yet Google had released Panda/Penguin and the things I read weren’t going to work anymore. I was dumb. I should have never trusted that it would be that easy.
I began researching who to trust. Obviously, not everyone on the Internet is giving out good information and why Google began their fight against spam and bad information. I then began to make a list of people and blogs that I had faith in; the ones that would give me information I could use and put into action without the wrath of Google coming down on me. I mean, I NEEDED THIS JOB!
Which gave me an idea. It wasn’t new or revolutionary, but a new twist on an old one. I had read posts that interviewed these influential people and others that said getting these people to stamp their name on your work was a great way to get people to your site. So I was going to create a piece of link bait using a platform I had a good knowledge of – Adobe Flash – and combine it with their knowledge to create something AWESOME. Something that everyone would want to link to and be a great alternative to reading post after post after post.
It was going to be more like a game. It would test their current knowledge and hopefully teach them something along the way. All I needed from them was a small piece of content and I could do the rest.
I took my list of people and expanded it (knowing that not everyone would be receptive to some young SEO trying to pry content from them for their own personal use). I reached out to them any way I could getting a half way decent response rate, yet I wasn’t getting exactly what I was looking for.
I promised them promotion and a link and people took that as, ‘I’m just going to promote myself’ (…dicks), or they didn’t understand the concept. I applauded their efforts, but informed that it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.
Instead I took a piece of content they had already written and used that to try and bait them in. This got a much better response and they seemed to love it, even promising to help me promote it when it was released.
I was so excited, this had to work! I put it on the game on the site on a Friday (knowing the site wasn’t as busy and thinking ALL THIS TRAFFIC MAY CRASH THE SITE!), and emailed everyone that it was live.
All my experts stayed true to their word. They shared the game on Twitter and other social networks while I did the same. However, the boost in traffic wasn’t what I expected, it died down quickly and I didn’t see any links come from it.
Oh well, that was only the first edition. I knew that people had played the game and it would only get bigger the more useful content was on the page. So the next month I went at it again. I had a new list and the response was SOOOO much better. I didn’t have to use THEIR content, they provided me with NEW ORIGINAL content. It was in the format I needed and everything.
This edition had to be bigger. I would have twice the people sharing my content and an even bigger reach. I would have to see some sort of growth this time around. But again, a similar boost in traffic initially, a quick dip and no substantial links.
I guess you could call my first attempt at link bait a failure (for now), but I will continue to roll out new editions of the game.
This is because of a few things. First, because I get to interact with some of the most influential people in the industry. I get to show them my work and see what they think.
Like anything you’re getting critiqued, it’s important to have tough skin. Just listen. They are where they are for a reason. Listen to their suggestions and carefully pick and choose what you want to implement.
I also get to learn from my own mistakes and test new ideas. Even from the first edition to the second I learned a lot. Because I couldn’t get the information I wanted initially, I changed my strategy on the fly. This resulted in better responses and made it easier to reach out to others for the next one.
With a solid base and the great people that have already helped out, I can take a bigger risk and reach out to others that previously blew me off. I could even change the format of the game or the way it’s plays.
All in all though, if my game never gets off the ground and doesn’t have the impact that I initially thought it might, the lessons learned from reaching out to these people and the posts they continue to publish, the relationships I built, and the willingness to adapt have made me a better SEO than when I started.
Matt Powers is an in-house Internet Marketer with Blue Soda Promo, an eCommerce promotional marketing company. BSP has over 800,000 products including a great collection of cutom printed sunglasses perfect for weddings, college events and athletics. Matt also writes his own blog where is rambles about SEO, movies and life