Free beer inside!
By Joost de Valk
Running your sites like you'd run a pub
What would you think your townsmen would consider the best pubs in your town? What do you base that on? I bet you thought of a pub immediately when you read that question, and that you don't know the answer to the second question that fast.
Now you should really get to know what makes a pub popular. It matters because what makes things popular doesn’t really different between the online and the offline world. It’s all about creating a buzz, making people talk about you (or link to you, the online equivalent) and making them feel something is happening that they shouldn’t miss.
You know what drives you out of a pub, don’t you? Consider some of the things that might:
- It’s empty.
- The music is not to your taste.
- The service is bad.
Let’s translate these things into a "things you should not do"-list for site owners:
- Never officially launch a site when hasn’t got enough content on it.
- Know your readers, don’t give them anything they won’t like. (and please: don’t play music!)
- Make sure your readers can find what they’re looking for.
Now that was easy, and you could probably come up with a lot more of those if you tried. You should also consider the other end though: how do pubs get people into their place?
Some of the stuff I’ve seen pubs do:
- Give away free beer / other drinks at certain (unannounced) times.
- Arrange special happenings, like concerts, game nights, etc.
- Have so called "proppers", people hired to get people into a pub or disco, talk people into getting in, usually with incentives like free entrance and/or free drinks.
Now let’s translate these things into marketing actions you could do for your site:
- Give away stuff, or better, create a contest in which you ask people to create content for your site and award prizes for the best content (yes, this article is self-aware 😉 )
- You can think of all sorts of special actions, but try to make it include interactivity, for instance: put a chat room up on your site and get a famous person to answer questions on a specific time. Or make a program available for purchase for a special price for just a short time. Announce this far enough ahead for people to be able to be there, and short enough for them to feel special for knowing about it.
- The equivalent of a propper in the online world is the paid blogger: buy blogposts. Pay people to blog about your site and create the buzz you need.
Now of course this is a thought experiment, but experiments like these should help you to do what any good SEO should do: think outside the box. The technical side of SEO is a necessary "evil", but in the end he who gains the highest amount of links is the one who wins any battle in the SERPs.
The only way to gain a lot of links naturally is being creative. Make people enthusiastic about what you're doing. This doesn’t mean you have to create a full fledged community for each site you’re building. You do have to create some buzz though, and give people a reason to link to you. Even in the most competitive of SERPs that allows you to win by being creative, instead of spending large amounts of money on buying links.
And if you’re wondering where the free beer is? Well it’s at SES Chicago for all the judges if this article wins the contest 😉
[The above article is a submission for Marketing Pilgrimâ€™s Search Engine Marketing Scholarship Contest. Each Monday in October, entries will be published and the most popular article of the week will qualify for the $5,000 grand prize. If youâ€™d like to submit an entry, please view the contest entry-requirements and guidelines.]