Two of the most popular buzz words in the online marketing realm right now are link baiting and viral marketing. These two tactics are a great way to build links and to build branding when constrained by small marketing budgets, but there are several things you need to remember when planning these types of campaigns.

In this ten part series, I'll be covering many of the things that you need to take into consideration when planning a link baiting or viral marketing campaign. While there's no need to integrate all of them into every campaign, understanding what they are and how they work can go a long way toward helping you plan an effective launch strategy.

To recap:

Today I'll explore the idea of using other people's resources to help you spread the word about your product or your web site. This technique is sort of the online version of logo-wear. Offline, you might catch a 15 year old walking down the street in a $40 white t-shirt with the word "Abercrombie" across the front. On the weekends, you'll spot NASCAR drivers decked out like waking billboards and nearly every car you pass on the street will have a dealership sticker affixed to the rear.

Why? Because making sure the people who buy and use your products are telling other people about them without saying a word is a great form of free advertising. The same principles extend to online marketing. In fact, some of the best forms of link bait and viral marketing come from making use of other people's resources. It can even be as simple as the little "Get Acrobat" buttons that you see plastered all over the web.

With that in mind, let's dig into three common ways that companies are building links and brand by making use of other people's resources.

Widgets

In case you've been living under a rock for the last year, the term "widget" in casual online marketing conversation no longer refers to a generic product. These days a widget is one of the hottest trends running. Basically, a widget is a program or tool hosted and operated by a third party that can easily be embedded on on any web page. They're often powered by Javascript and are incredibly popular on blogs.

The idea here is to create a useful tool that you allow other people to feature on their blog or web site. The widget links back to your site and is branded to help support one of your products, services or just your site in general.

One of the most popular widgets making the rounds these days is MyBlogLog. MyBlogLog is basically a community style service that let's you see which MyBlogLog members have recently visited a blog. Members can also join each other's communities, find out what's popular in certain topical areas and send messages to other members at the MyBlogLog site. Basically, the widget seeks to put a face to the visitors of your blog.

Why do people put the widget up? Sometimes it's because they realize that if visitors see the "right people" are stopping by the blog, they'll get a boost in credibility. Sometimes it's just a novelty to fill space. Sometimes it's a way to build inroads into new communities. After all, the same way that a site owner can check out the visitors to their site, they can be checked out by the owners of the sites they visit.

MyBlogLog was purchased by Yahoo! earlier this year for $10 million. Now that's not to say building your own widget will snag you a nice check from a top search engine, but it does demonstrate the power of allowing your members to market for you.

RSS Feeds

Another great way to use up space on someone else's site is to create an RSS feed of your blog posts, articles or images. RSS feeds basically work by taking the content of your site and condensing it into a stream of code that can be used by other web site owners to publish the data on their own site. While the most common use of RSS is feed readers, which allow users to aggregate all the sites/blogs that they read in one location, there are ways to use RSS feeds to gain links and market your writing as well.

Many popular topical and local sites are looking for content, but don't have the time or money to generate it on their own. By creating an interesting feed of your own articles or blog posts and contacting sites that focus on a similar audience, you may be able to partner with a site to provide news or content for them. Allowing another site to use your feed will give them the appearance of fresh content and will give you links back to your web site or blog.

A great example of this in play is the site Search Brains. Search Brains is basically a compilation of the RSS feeds of all of the popular search marketing blogs. They've created a sort of one stop spot for those that want to know what's going on but that don't want to take the time to constantly add new resources to their own feed reader.

Blog Quiz

One of the challenges of this whole "use other people's resources" idea is that you've got to have an idea or product that people are willing to place on their site. In fact, you've got to have an idea that's good enough that tons of people will place it on their site. That can present some challenges for small businesses that have neither the time nor the money to create complicated widgets or RSS feeds filled with tons of great content.

That's why blog quizzes can be such a great tool. A handful of created questions and a simple computer program can easily generate an entertaining blog quiz that will make the rounds through Live Journal, Blogger and MySpace communities in the blink of an eye.

Blog quizzes link back to the web site they're hosted on and smart companies find ways to generate quizzes that are tied to their web site's topic. An online dating site could easily create quizzes about what dating style the poster has. A florist could create a "what flower are you?" quiz. A public library or small bookstore could create a "which fictional character are you?" quiz...the list is endless.

Put Your URL on Everything...

Basically, what this boils down to is remembering to brand your site and your URL whenever possible. Just like Nike wouldn't sell a pair of shoes or an article of clothing without their famous swoosh, you need to make sure that you're taking advantage of the chance to brand your business.

Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail grew by including tag lines for their service at the bottom of every email sent. Flickr allows users to install a "my latest pictures" widget on their blogs. Adobe Acrobat and Flash gain new links every day as sites make use of their technology. Your ability to use other people's resources to market your company and to gain links is limited only by your creativity and by the quality of your offering.

In part seven of this series I'll explore the need for scalability. Whether it's making sure that you've got the bandwidth to carry a traffic load or keeping your store from running out of inventory, scalability is an essential component of any link bait or viral marketing campaign.


May 14, 2007





Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.





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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Making Link Bait and Viral Marketing Work - Part Six