“In the same way that you can't catch a giant tuna with a bag of doritos - you're not going to get the attention of important bloggers, journalists, or other folks with some garbage content or news. ” Stuntdubl
“The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain. And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know .” Matthew Arnold, “The Buried Life”
I find that many search engine marketing articles that I read are affirmations…they either affirm something I already know (but perhaps hadn´t thought about) or, if I don´t agree with the article, they affirm that I´m correct and the author isn´t. However, every so often, I read articles that cause me to reexamine how I practice SEM. Reading Todd & Nick caused me to think critically about how I had been creating content for the web.
I've been writing search engine articles regularly for a couple years now and I´ve always been able to see the nexus between writing and inbound link generation. Until recently, I subconsciously had connected generating links with writing prolifically. I had thought that my best performing articles such as “How To Be A Blogging Idol Instead Of An Idle Blogger” likely did well because I hooked readers with a catchy title and was able to meld disparate elements of knowledge together in a way that readers liked and recommended to others.
So, in mid January, I consciously sat down and tried to write an article worthy of what I just learned. What I ended up writing had nothing to do with SEO…in fact; it was one of those “What Event Most Influenced the Course of Your Life” stories that tend to be extremely tiresome and self-indulgent. At first, I thought I had wasted my afternoon. Yet, I had a strong feeling that my article was not only by far the best thing I´d ever written but might have some level of universal appeal. Armed with the urgency of DIFY (not family safe) and quite a bit of WTF, I attempted to linkbait a very personal article.
There is a tradition of sharing personal stories in the SEM community. Michael Gray shared the story of the leopard-print bikini. Barry Schwartz proposed marriage via Ask.com and Rand Fishkin shared his Super Proposal (and Geraldine´s Response) with everyone. Like Rand, my personal story could reference a widely viewed internet video and I also had the advantage of being able to graft my story onto a piece of pop culture revered by many. You see, the story I wrote concerned my personal transcendence that occurred as I sat approximately 100 feet from Marvin Gaye while he sang the definitive version of the National Anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. With the 2007 NBA All-Star game scheduled for mid-February, I thought the timing of my story was pretty good for an All-Star linkbait.
What I Did
I first wrote a brief email arguing why my story was worthy of publication. Then, inspired by what Rand narrowly failed to do (get his commercial to run during the Super Bowl), I submitted my story to the biggest sports news outlets I could find: ESPN.com and TheSportingNews.com. Sportswriter email addresses are readily available, and I emailed my message & story to many folks that I read on a regular basis. At both websites, one of the basketball writers forwarded my story to the appropriate online editor…so I was able to successfully reach the decision-maker fairly quickly.
Both wrote me personal emails turning the story down. Both told me I had written the story one year too early (the Silver Anniversary of Marvin's Anthem is in 2008). The Sporting News editor liked the story but thought it a bit long for their format. The ESPN.com editor openly praised what I had written and we had a nice email exchange where he was quite helpful in giving me advice and suggestions on where else I could place the story.
I had also made contact with Duane Forrester aka Sportsguy who does SEM for a sports content provider in addition to being a SEMPO officer. He generously answered my unsolicited message and passed my story onto his editorial folks…unfortunately also without success. Similar attempts with other extremely large media companies also met the same fate and by then, the All-Star game had already occurred.
What I Learned
It would have been great if my story ran on ESPN.com. However, that was a totally unreasonable expectation. What I should have done and will do now is reach out to niche bloggers / content providers that are more accessible to me and are more likely to recognize my work. I will gradually build more links to the story over time, generating search engine strength and bringing the story more readers. I will also use my story as an opportunity to lose my social media virginity by exploring those currently unfamiliar channels and learn how they can compliment my other SEM efforts. Perhaps by the beginning of 2008, my story might have built a big enough mindshare that a major content provider like ESPN.com would be more likely to run it. Or, by then, it might not even matter to me.
Anyway, if you are curious about what I wrote, here´s my brief Marvin Gaye Memoir...Me and Marvin: A Memoir of THE Anthem.
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Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.
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