Content Marketing

We’re not the only ones…

…using quizzes to build links.

Environmental Apocalypse
Created By UGIF mobile coupons

Though with my cheapskate woodworker quiz I keep the quiz subject in line with the subject of the links. I’m not sure what kind of engaging quiz I would write for mobile coupons…

I found these guys via blog comment spam by the way 😉 Pretty slick comment spam, really:

What Are your Chances of Survival In a Nuclear War?

Lately with Iran developing nukes, Ive been worrying about the apocalypse. Anyway, I took this test and apparently, Ive only got a 20% survival rate!

Click here to take your Apocalypse Survival Test…

Pretty sweet, huh?


Quiz Marketing for GarrettShirts.com

I don’t have any link building results to show yet… Just quiz results ;P

“What Super Berry Bun Bun Are You?”
My Result
buny beper
Check out the buny beper t shirt!
You are buny beper! You are enthusiastic and energetic and you focus on getting things DONE. You value the intellectual input of buny pupu, as well as the good will that buny beru brings to projects. Buny bubu is too distractible for you and you avoid buny susu because that sadness just slows you down.

This badge is the culmination of my interest in using quizzes for engagement and targeted link building efforts. Quiz Commander, the quiz-building software I designed and nursed through development is in (very) limited beta. If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself or a client send me an email: gfrench@gmail.com.

Other quiz marketing posts:
Personality Quiz Marketing for Links, Leads and Consultative Sales
Some Thoughts on How to Write Personality Quizzes for Link Building


A Guide to Getting Maximum Link Value from Your Content


(image via P/UL)

So. You’re a business marketer who’ll spend 30% of your marketing budget on content this year. To maximize your returns and dominate the search engines for your most valuable keywords you must build links to all this content – by requesting links, distributing your content and adding your links manually to relevant sites.

This how-to article details key strategies, tools and resources for maximizing the link value of your content. Here’s an overview so you can skip to the part that interests you:

1) Requesting Direct Links to Your Content
1a) Research Potential Content Linkers
1b) Prioritize Potential Linkers by Site Type, Influence and Link Value
1c) Write and Send Custom Emails – Call When Appropriate

2) Getting Links by Distributing Your Content
2a) Editorial Contact and Negotiations
2b) Self-Publishing Sites
2c) Article Mass Distribution Software/Service

3) Trade Resource Links with Related Industry Sites
4) Relevant Blog/Forum/Answer Site Comment Distribution
5) Building Links with Your Email Newsletter
6) Social Media Site Distribution
7) A Content-Promoting Press Release
8) Publish Your Content in Different Media
9) Useful Resources For Getting Max Link Value from Your Content

1) Requesting Direct Links to Your Content
When you’re requesting direct links you typically don’t intend to republish any of your content on the sites you contact. For some clients I request links to longer, more involved pieces and republish other shorter articles for links back.

1a) Research Potential Content Linkers
For professional link builders the research process involves creating massive lists of pages that link to your competitors – think lists starting in the 10s of thousands and up. Using predetermined co-citation criteria they then rule out sites that aren’t going to be worth the time for personalized outreach.

Your process can be as in depth as the one Eric Ward describes in an interview with Sugar Rae (scroll down towards the bottom… he has a 19 point list). Your research process can be as simple as searching for your keywords and checking the backlinks on the top ten or twenty pages ranking there. My process falls somewhere in between. I describe my hub-finding research process and suggest some tools here. I will be writing more extensively about the research process in the future.

1b) Prioritize Potential Linkers by Site Type, Influence and Link Value
You’ll find a wide variety of pages once you’ve separated the wheat from the chaff. Some of these will be resource pages on related industry sites, some will be blog pages, some may be trade pub sites. How you prioritize your targets will depend on your goals. If you’re looking for higher traffic volumes you won’t care so much if a given page’s links are not followed. Further, if you’re the writer yourself you may reach out with ideas for collaboration with folks from your blogger pool. This will get you further than just asking for a link.

1c) Write and Send Custom Emails – Call When Appropriate
You should be contacting these folks because you think they could genuinely improve the experience their visitors have by linking to your content. Though it doesn’t take more than a minute or two to add a link and update a page, you’re still potentially adding a little mini project to their day… an interrupt. Make your task for them a no-brainer by crafting a solid (and VERY short) story about why you think their visitors will really appreciate the link you’re sending. Visit the Made to Stick site for ideas… Seth Godin’s site should help too in writing your outreach emails.

2) Getting Links by Distributing Your Content
In addition to requesting links to your content from other sites you can often give your content away to great advantage. Consider republishing or syndicating your content to sites highly relevant to your area of focus, sites whose pages rank for the terms you would like to rank for, and sites you know to be popular.

2a) Editorial Contact and Negotiations
When it comes to content distribution the best case scenario is republication on editorial-regulated information sites. The best of these sort of sites are popular and respected niche trade sites. Think SearchEngineLand and SearchEngineJournal for the search and search marketing industry. This definitely takes time and requires establishing relationships with editors. Often too you will have to write original pieces that you don’t distribute widely or at all. Often times it’s the better opportunities that require more exclusivity.

Look outside just the niche trade pubs though. About.com has an enormous family of niche verticals that often accept content if you approach the editor as you would a colleague. The iEntry network (my alma mater) has many, many vertical sites that they need regular content for too.

2b) Self-Publishing Sites
There are a number of sites out these days that let you – or anyone – submit content at will. The best of these sites have editors. Work.com is a great example of this sort of site. AllBusiness.com too may provide you with a good publishing opportunity if your writing is solid and you’re experienced enough in your niche (you will have to contact the editor of the area you’d like to publish in).

Quite a ways down the spectrum we have Associated Content, a generalist content site. Their profile pages grow to become worth taking time to submit content. Squidoo is another site with low to no barrier to entry, though it appears they’re nofollowing the bejeekers out of links on some of their pages right now (some not). If there are highly ranked Squidoo pages for your terms then it might be worth checking out.

Other self publishing sites that may or may not fit your needs are a few of the better ranking article directory sites. EzineArticles is probably the best. Find others at the directory of article directories.

2c) Article Mass Distribution Software/Service
Article mass distribution software and services is about putting your link on as many different sites as possible. They will all be low quality links. This is not valuable to everyone, but if you create shorter, more generic articles pieced together from larger works and you’re looking for a quick boost to incoming links these could be beneficial services. I sometimes use Article Marketer.

3) Trade Resource Links with Related Industry Sites
The offer to trade resource links shows that you think a given site has value… and that you have a channel (blog or resources page) for reciprocating the link relationship. If both of you have email newsletters trading resource/content mentions could be another great way to generate interest and buzz around your expertise. Don’t send out mass emails and only trade links with quality, contextually related sites that add value to the experience that visitors have on your site.

Ben Wills asks potential link partners if they would like to be added to his resource directory. He does this instead of just adding them and sending an email to let them know. Because they have to actually respond in person to confirm that they’d like a link he knows that his request for a link back to specific content will actually get read.

You may find too – especially if you’re publishing regularly – that link trading becomes an ongoing and unspoken agreement between you and other industry bloggers. The more you link out the more links you will get back.

4) Relevant Blog/Forum/Answer Site Comment Distribution
Adding relevant commentary and links in answer to questions on blogs, forums and answer sites can be a great way to help spread your expertise. Tread carefully here though… In some forums there’s an established pecking order and outsiders who make suggestions may get severely challenged (I’ve had some experience in this…). The same goes for blog posts to a lesser extent. In all cases you must focus on answering specifics from the original post and make sure that your link is HIGHLY useful and HIGHLY on target. Often times you will find that links here are no-followed. This is no-problem if you’re tracking traffic that comes from them and can determine value that way.

I would recommend reading Lessons in Branded Content Creation Through Community Participation and replace the word “Content” with “Comment” 😉

Also see A Roundup of Q&A Sites for more options for answering questions.

5) Building Links with Your Email Newsletter
Does your newsletter has regular readers and a steady open and click through rate? There may be some link building opportunity for you with your email newsletter. Especially if your readers happen to be bloggers or have the ability to create links. Creating link incentives can include stuff like sending free tshirts, interviewing the linkerati, and creating an award or contest for your readers. Be sure that you make it easy for folks to link to you with copy-and-pasteable text.

If you’d like more on this, check out Build Links With Your Email Marketing Campaign.

6) Social Media Site Distribution
First and foremost learn whether there are social media sites for your industry. Search has Sphinn. Content marketing has Junta42. Green news has Hugg. There might just be one lurking out there for your vertical. If there is, create a profile and submit a few stories. Remember to spend some time commenting and voting on the stories of others – until you’ve become well known in your space this will help your contributions get more traction.

Other social media sites could prove useful as well. Start with the sites that Andy Hagans lists in Top 38 Niche Social Media Sites (That Actually Send Traffic). Check out these Stumble Upon marketing ideas too. One more must read for social media marketing – Tools For Engaging In Social Media.

7) A Content-Promoting Press Release
If your content offers significant insight such as a study you commissioned or if your content is ground breaking in its scope you should consider a press release. …a social media press release even 😉 Before I write a press release I always read some press release how-to’s.

I have not personally tried any of these sites, but you could consider submitting your press release to a few of these 32 Free Press Release Sites.

8) Publish Your Content in Different Media
Does your company have an email newsletter, a print newsletter, a blog, a wiki, a pod cast or regular video? Reformatting your content can help you maximize its appeal. I’m a regular reader of Michael Katz’s email newsletter. He advises on writing email newsletters. He has recently started including a link to a downloadable audio recording of him reading the newsletter out loud. I’ll add here that it’s not always a great idea to simply port information from one medium to the next. Ideally you base these decisions on demand and/or low risk tests.

And check out Joe Pulizzi’s 42 Ways to Distribute Content for more ideas.

9) Useful Resources For Getting Max Link Value from Your Content
I reread 11 Experts on Link Development Speak Out every couple of months. It’s that good. This is a must-read for link builders.

Lee Odden’s 5 Tips for Content Distribution Networks is over a year old but still holds solid. As Odden puts it, “There are many that believe the key to a successful link building campaign is to create content worth linking to. However, if you create great content and no one knows about it to send a link, then there’s a lot lost on the effort.”

Rand Fishkin wrote a great guide to Identifying the Linkerati.

Master link builders Eric Ward, Debra Mastaler and Rae Hoffman all publish regular link building articles at Search Engine Land.

To expand your thinking about content marketing you should read Joe Pullizi’s content marketing blog and Content Marketing Today.

For some link building research ideas check out my article Building Hub Links: a 5 Point Strategy Guide for Creative SEOs.

And here’s an article I wrote after I learned the hard way about forum participation: The Community Correspondent: a Guide to Creating Link Worthy Content Through Forum Participation.

And, because I haven’t suggested enough reading yet, check out Creating Linkable Content through Group Interviews, Contests and Surveys.

A final note: it’s likely that I will either be regularly updating this post or breaking off chunks of it to write with more depth on specific portions. If you have resources, questions or ideas I’d love to hear them!

As co-founder of Ontolo I offer large scale link building services >>


Social Media Wants to Know if You’re in Camp 1 or Camp 2

I’ve been writing a little back and forth today with Mr. Ted Shelton of The Conversation Group. I’ve been deliberately OUT of the conversation for awhile now, not reading much about social media. Thanks to Mr. Shelton for pulling me back in 😉

He said, “I would be interested in your take on Shel’s description of two different approaches to social media:” Two Social Media Camps in the Enterprise

In his post Shel Israel describes two camps.

Camp 1:
In nearly every company I talk with, I hear about those who understand that social media is something new and different from traditional marketing. It is not about putting messages into foreheads. It is about the enormous wisdom and efficiency to be gained simply by having conversations with customers, prospects, employees and partners.

Camp 2:
…there is muttering and trepidation of another camp, one that is often being pushed by the traditional marketing people who see social media simply as another channel to push out brand awareness and product-related messages. It is another way to have the corporation talk about the corporation rather than listen to customer concerns, complaints or even compliments.

Responding from my current practice is difficult. For one thing my entire professional career has happened online, in the shadow of Google. I started at an email newsletter editor with 1 million subscribers and helped grow a 50k member forum based on reader responses. I’ve only ever known the cluetrain.

Secondly Israel’s writing about social media at a scale that I left behind when MSI folded and I went freelance. My clients are small businesses so I think these days at a scrappy, micro level.

One of my clients runs a designer jewelry company. He started http://www.FairJewelry.org and writes about the agonizingly slow changes in the mainstream jewelry supply chain. He also wrote a guide encouraging jewelers to be more transparent in their sourcing so buyers can make more educated decisions. His primary tools are his blog and his email – he sends out his FRE handbooks as email attachments to people who write to him requesting it.

I have a client who sells power tools. I visit woodworking forums and aggregate advice, acting as a sort of community editor and highlighter for our site blog and newsletter (30% opens, 46% clickthroughs on average). Not razzle-dazzle social media but none the less it works and generates response (comments and page views) from our readers.

That said, I believe I fall into Israel’s first camp, as I prefer letting conversations grow organically and I lean heavily towards transparency. Also, don’t tell my clients but I’m not a marketer in the traditional sense. I prefer to find mutually-beneficial ways of communication and conversation.

But to stretch my brain a little I’d look at several opportunities/proven models for conversation and community building for an enterprise client.

1) identify and segment the creative types who use their product lines and create mutually beneficial communication tools to empower them to leverage the company’s existing attention share. Something similar to how SalesForce opened their financial ecosystem to developers.

2) build a customer-run and driven (or at least augmented…) help desk.

3) identify the brand evangelists and let them drive. I’d reread all Jake McKee’s lego posts and figure out how to apply his findings to the enterprise.

Thanks to Mr. Shelton for getting me thinking macro! It’s a lot of fun 😀

So how about you? What camp are you in?


Quiz Marketing

80,000 links in 3 months.

Ranking for competitive terms in 6 months with a brand new domain.

Sounds pretty sweet, huh? Those are the numbers that Matt Inman reported to Joe Whyte in a Search Marketing Standard interview… Those are the numbers that made the quiz bug bite.

Four months later I’m working with the Search Commander himself, the Internet Consulting Guru Mr. Scott Hendison, to develop a quiz-building app and write link-building quizzes for his clients. Woohoo!

I just wrote 2 quiz marketing posts. The first is an overview of quiz marketing tactics that I’ve seen – going beyond link building (I know, scary territory, right ;). The second shows my initial approaches at quiz writing, how I’ve been thinking about them and the research I’ve conducted to try and become a better quiz writer.

Personality Quiz Marketing for Links, Leads and Consultative Sales
Some Thoughts on How to Write Personality Quizzes for Link Building


Some Thoughts on How to Write Personality Quizzes for Link Building

First off, I’ve only written one quiz and I’ve currently generated 0 links using personality quizzes. I write this to share the research I’ve done thus far for folks who’d like to think WAY TOO MUCH about quiz writing in the future.

A SMStandard article first got me interested in personality quiz writing. The article mentions a quiz called “how geek are you?”

Here is an example of one of the more than 80,000 links developed with this campaign: How geek are you? Notice the badge that links back to the quiz location AND the sweet little bit of link text pasted beneath it… (free online dating). WOW!

Here are some of my hypotheses and questions for your consideration:

1) Start With a Pre-Built Personality-Type Framework
I’ve been working towards creating personality-insight quizzes that begin with a set number of end results (8) for those taking the quiz. To create a stronger framework for my types – which will ensure that people get results that actually match their personalities – I’ve spent a great deal of time researching the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test.

The Myers-Briggs system has 16 types. This page grouped them into 8, which was convenient for a particular quiz I’m writing: http://homeopathy.healthspace.eu/psychology/8types.php

2) The Ring of Truth Will Increase Usage and Linkability
I speculate that people will be more likely to post results (and generate more links) if they feel their results have the ring of truth – if they see something of themselves in the results. Perhaps more to the point, that they see something in the results that resembles their ideal for how they appear to others.

3) Have Lots of Questions but Only 2 Possible Answers per Question
Rather than forcing people to select from LOTS of potential answers, let them pick from just two. This is easier on the brain and helps the quiz go by faster. If you’ve done your homework in understanding the framework of the Myers-Briggs types you can then ask questions based on the binaries they developed in their work.

Here’s an example of such a quiz: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp

4) Differences Between 1%-100% Quizzes and “Type” Quizzes?
The wildly successful “How Geek are You” quiz is a 1%-100% quiz. There is only one type – geek – and you get your percentage based on your answers. I have the sense that these types of quizzes would be easier to create, especially if you have a deep knowledge of a given area. Further, in certain areas where people place value in how steeped they are in a stereotype/lifestyle you may see wider link placements. Further, the 1-100 gradient frees you from a more rigorous type system. I can see both having strong marketing application though, and I think there’s a deeper thrill of discovery when it comes to discovering your type.

5) The Crazier the Better?
Upon reading this blog post by How Geek Are You? creator Matt Inman: Fighting 5 Year Olds, I recognize that there may be more in writing crazy, depraved and/or ridiculous quizzes than I initially thought. My brain usually tries to work the site’s content/intent into the quiz itself. I suspect that this may limit who takes the quiz though, and how popular it can become.

Ok – enough writing about writing – time to do the actual hard work of writing quizzes!


Personality Quiz Marketing for Links, Leads and Consultative Sales

Ever since the quiz marketing bug bit me (when I read this interview with Matt Inman by Joe Whyte) I’ve paid a lot more attention to personality quizzes and folks who use them for marketing. I’d already seen them on MySpace and I hear they’re quite popular on FaceBook.

Then I started to notice how much people ADVERTISE to get people to take quizzes (what’s your true age? when will you die?). When I see people paying to advertise their quizzes I take this as an indicator that there’s value.

This post – which I may update in the future as my understanding of quiz marketing improves – includes the following marketing objectives served through quiz creation:

1) Quiz Marketing for Links
2) Quiz Marketing for Leads/List Building
3) Quiz Marketing for Forced Surveys
4) Quiz Marketing for Consultative Sales

1) Quiz Marketing for Links
Link development is what originally got me started thinking about personality quizzes (see article linked to above). In this method you strive to create not only compelling quizzes, but compelling quiz results that offer the quiz taker some unexpected or much-desired personality definition. The goal is to have folks paste their results on their blogs, favorite forums. If you’re really slick you create them for MySpace and Facebook.

For an idea of what these types of quizzes look like, and a site that enables visitors to create them for its own advertising ends, check out GoToQuiz.com. Also see the original quiz that helped Matt Inman develop links and traffic to his dating site which he sold: http://www.justsayhi.com/bb/geek.

2) Quiz Marketing for Leads/List Building
Typically these are the folks who advertise their quizzes. And why not? They know the value of a lead/list member and know how much they can pay to get new ones. Here’s an example of an ad I saw (in gmail…):

The Average IQ is 100. – www.TheFreeIqtest.com – What is yours? Find out with our Free IQ Test.

Linked to: http://www.thefreeiqtest.com/ Note the pure lead-gen quality of their landing page. BRILLIANT! This site is all about renting its list to – most likely – online education companies.

3) Quiz Marketing for Forced Surveys
If you have a ready market for selling consumer surveys then you might consider something along the lines of the “Are You Ugly?” quiz (check out parent site worldofquizzes). You may remember the “Are You a Slacker Mom?” quiz that someone advertised so heavily in gmail ads. This is another case where you get your quiz results AFTER taking the consumer survey.

4) Quiz Marketing for Consultative Sales
Maybe consultative sales is too high-falutin of a term for this particular quiz I found. The concept could work for b2b or b2c though. A travel site enables its visitors to take a quiz that helps identify their travel personality. Then, based on this personality, they provide suggestions for where in the world to travel.

What I like is that they created their own labeling system for personality types. There’s more opportunity for them in that they could have developed the concept out for link building as well.

Best Trip Choices travel personality page. (there’s a quiz on the site somewhere…)

I think there’s a great deal of room for developing the personality quiz concept into many different marketing areas – to me it’s one of the most exciting content marketing concepts around :D. Further, there’s huge potential in quizzes for helping segments of your community identify themselves and determine who else in your community they could benefit from knowing. I’m sure there are other personality quiz marketing ideas out there… and many more ways that providing tools for personal insight can benefit your business.

If you have experience in any of these tactics you’re willing to share I’d value an email: gfrench(at)gmail.com.

update:
this site charges 5$ to take their personality quiz: https://www.personalitypage.com/get_passwd.html


Warning: Serpes Can Lead to Becoming an Algoholic

On April 30th 2004 I defined the term “Algoholic” in Urban Dictionary. To the best of my knowledge I coined the term.

Here’s what I wrote then:

1. algoholic
Someone who watches search engine algorithms closely for the purpose of making appropriate changes to websites with the intent of getting higher results.

Usage:
If you check Google datacenters regularly you’re probably an algoholic.

Today I thought of the term that obviously must lead to becoming an algoholic… SERPES.

Here’s the definition I submitted to UD:

1. Serpes
The virus caught by those new to search engine marketing. Typically characterized by beginning to use the abbreviation SERPs in conversation and email. Further, those newly infected will display a heightened interest in analytics and any shred of information regarding the algorithms that determine how pages rank in search engines.

Leads to becoming an Algoholic.

Usage:
Ooh boy I just gave my new clients teh Serpes – they just sent me links to Search Engine Watch articles from 2004.

The UD editors haven’t approved serpes yet, but when they do feel free to add to the definition 😉


my new comic getting rave reviews (from friends and family)

So as a creative side project I’ve worked on a comic since back when I lived in Lexington, KY and worked at WebProNews (I think it’s getting on to 4 years now…).

Here’s what my friend Mark Bee said about it (and I think he sums it up quite nicely 🙂

I like the jerkiness. The pace and the delivery work sort of like a Native American myth, where it’s fast and slow, and brings the reader into details of the story that the TELLER considers most important.

What I like:
The framed narratives, the action-driven dialogue with a few big words thrown in (they talk like my action figures used to: “get’im!”), the spots without dialog, the figures and their gracefulness (i.e. Echoboy’s pelvis).

There’s also a line of hand made, stencil-printed t shirts to accompany the comic – you can see me, Ben and Alexi (of Road Trip 2.0) modeling some here:

Click here to check out the Echoboy comic >>

Update:
Kind words from SF/F writer and editor Paul Jessup


Eric Ward in Search Marketing Standard Magazine

Because of my increased focus on thoroughly investigating link data of high rankers to find targeted and valuable link partners I’ve been reading as much as possible on other link building tactics. Of course I’ve been reading the work of Eric Ward.

His recent article in the Search Marketing Standard print magazine got my pulse pounding from all of its revelations on the searches that Ward performs to find link partners. If Ward was an affiliate marketer this would be like giving away his most profitable keywords in paid search. These are like gold and I present them to you for edification and for me for remembering them:

1) “public library” “useful links” nutrition site:gov
2) “submit food news”
3) “useful nutrition links”

Of course these are for a site seeking links for nutrition related content, and you could run other variations for these as well. I’d try stuff like: “submit food articles” and “submit nutrition articles.” Plus I’d probably dig into the nutrition-related blog space.

His article, “The Link is Dead, Long Live the Link” suggests that the era of the mass-submitted article, press release and directory submission are less effective and it’s time to start augmenting mass efforts with more niche directed efforts. I couldn’t agree more! Thanks Eric for a timely article (note – it’s in the print edition of Search Marketing Standard).