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Explaining the Value of Viral Marketing Through an Understanding of Text Link Value

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 15 years and 14 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

Link valuation is the most fundamental component of current SEO strategies in my mind. There are certainly other important aspects to ranking well, but without understanding how to put a value on a link you are sunk. That’s why I harp about it on a daily basis, and think about it myself just as often.

Pubcon conferences are always exceptional for the insights that are triggered by being around of a slew of intelligent resourceful people. One of the ideas that had sort of dawned upon me beforehand, but was driven home during the conference was a new idea on pitching viral marketing to a client based on the value of the links that are naturally attracted.

Branding is a bonus
I must first say that I barely believe in branding. I understand the concept, and I’m sure there is value to it, but since I can’t measure it well enough…I don’t like it. I don’t like big brands that waste money in the commercial equivalent of political lobbying. If you have to pay to tell people how cool you are…you lose coolness points in my mind. This leaves me as a direct marketer. I love ROI tracking. I love analytics. I love seeing the bottom line and making it grow. Of course this isn’t always possible, but to me, branding is a bonus.

The SEO Lifecycle
I really enjoy link development. Well, let me re-state…I really enjoy TRAINING on doing link development. I have put in my time Link Serfing, and I still do from time to time to keep my skills in the area strong. There is nothing like coming across a nice strong link with a lot of googlejuice flowing and getting them to vote for your site through a simple e-mail. Little link serf’s have grown up all over the world from sending requests for a backlink to becoming CEO’s of million dollar companies. The power of a good link is enormous. The understanding of this power has lowered the barrier to entry to nearly all industries, creating a unique window of opportunity for those that stumbled accross it.

In order to be a good SEO, you must understand how to value links. In order to truly appreciate the value of a good link, you must hunt for and acquire links for your site or someone elses. Link begging is a tough job. Link bartering isn’t all that much easier. As folks get better at these jobs they learn negotiation skills, SEO skills, networking skills, and much more. As their skills improve, there is the expectations of advancement. If these expectations are not met in a company setting, the link serf will continue the stages of the SEO lifecycle, and the best of them will go on to become their own business owners, or self employed.

Link Monger’s Anonymous

  1. We admit we are powerless over links — our lives have become unmanagemeable trying to measure everything in toolbar PageRank.

  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, and that someday algorithms will no longer rely so heavily on a link popularity which is a ballot box that we can stuff, but more likely something with a much higher barrier to entry that will restore the balance of power back to those who have maintained control for so long already in all nature of industry.
  3. Made a decision to return to sticky content development with a focus on natural link acquisition.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our backlinks.
  5. Admitted to Google, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of how unnaturally acquiring links can be wrong.
  6. Were entirely ready to have Google remove any sites that were artificially inflated by off-topic links that did not occur “naturally”
  7. Humbly asked folks at Google to reconsider relevancy – that it can sometimes be commercially defined (as in the case of Bill Gross inventing PPC) and asked that they redefine their concept of legitimate advertising to include the use of relevant text link advertising for the benefit of improving search engine rankings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed through reciprocal linking, suggestion of linking schemes, and links pages, and became willing to make amends to them all if only by explaining to them how search engines work these days.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal link inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through e-mail and message boards to improve our communication with Google and other search engiens, as we understood it, asking only for consideration of relevant text link advertising and it passing link popularity to help sites rank.
  12. Having had a webmaster/SEO/marketing professional awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to link mongers everywhere, and to practice these principles in all our development so that webmasters/SEO’s/marketing professionals will be viewed in a more positive light despite their link mongering tendancies.

So What’s This Got to Do with Viral Marketing?
Well, it is basically me trying to bid farewell to link mongering. I love links. From directories to reciprocals, bought, borrowed, begged, and bartered, links have been excellent to me. I have, however, always been one to look for the easier way of doing things. I’ve also always been a guy who liked good ideas. It’s sometimes hard to pitch good ideas to people, and even harder yet to monetize them to make it profitable. In my mind, viral marketing has become the easy way to get links. If you understand social dynamics and what will be widely adopted, you have a much better chance at creating a successful website through linkbaiting than through hours and hours of link development. (Hmmm…I’m starting to sound like the “create good content militia”).

Now this is not to say that I don’t like link development. I think it still has it’s place along with just about every other type of link. Links aren’t going to hurt you as long as there is a natural distribution of the different types linking to your site. Link buying, press releases, presell pages, etc. are just a piece of the puzzle. Someone who’s been a link developer, however, understands the immense value of a good viral marketing campaign if only for the links. Make it easy for people to link to you. Maximize the benefit of your links in the same ways that you would if you were requesting them directly. Steer the nature of the link to benefit you the most with incentive based viral marketing.

Link development alone won’t make you millions. SEO is not a silver bullet. The understanding of the fundamental principles, however, help to visualize bigger more creative ideas that can make a site “tip” to achieve critical mass. Understanding that paying $50 per link per month for several dozen a good link will cost you tens of thousands in a year (and for the right links may have two to several dozen times ROI through their value in the SERPs), sure make that viral campaign that make cost 10, 20, 30 times your link development initially seem much more attractive. It makes it much easier to do the math if you understand the numbers.

More information about Todd Malicoat aka stuntdubl.

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  • greg

    awesome post! walk the walk and the links will come – naturally, almost effortlessly.

    have some experience with 12 step programs??

  • Cameron Olthuis

    It’s pretty much a no-brainer. If you can build 5,000 links through viral marketing in the amount of time it would take to build 50 normal links it makes percect sense. Not to mention links that come virally are often ‘better links’. The problem is that not every site/product/brand is the position to build links virally.

    I guess this would be a great reason why it’s nice to be in position where you can pick and choose clients.

  • caveman

    Great article as always Todd, though I admit I was only half paying attention to most of it, having had a little trouble getting past the bit about “I barely believe in branding” …


  • Shimon Sandler

    Hey Todd,

    Personally, I agree with everything you said. But, here’s some food for thought. Will a good viral marketing campaign that brings in a couple of thousand inbound links within the time period of say…2 weeks…raise a red flag to the search engines because it appears unnatural? You know, that whole speed of link building idea.
    Your thoughts?

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