Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Viral Marketing Examples - Linkbait

I'm constantly intrigued by the clever ideas I see and hear about that people are using for viral marketing and linkbait. While it's only loosely related to affiliate marketing, the concept of linkbait and starting an "Idea Virus" is definitely one that can be used to generate affiliate and/or advertising income on the Internet. I'm posting a list of example linkbait and viral marketing successes here to help people get their own ideas flowing.

1. All My Life For Sale - This was originally just a guy named John Freyer who decided to sell literally everything he owned on eBay. Now it's a website, a hardcover book, and a piece of performance art that's on display at multiple museums.

2. One Red Paperclip - Kyle MacDonald posted an offer on CraigsList to trade a red paperclip for something "bigger and better". Since then he has traded up 14 times, and just finished a trade to get a house. According to the Sitemeter on his website, he's receiving close to 200,000 visits to his website daily. If you assume that he's earning an average of $1 CPM for those Google Adsense ads he's got running on the site, then he's earning $6k per month just from that advertising. (And that $1 figure is a total wild guess on my part - it would be much more or much less than that.)

3. The $39 Experiment - Tom Locke got 100 39 cent stamps and mailed off 100 letters to various companies asking for free stuff. He then recorded his responses on his website.

4. The Million Dollar Homepage - Alex Tew decides to sell 1 million pixel ads on his website for $1 each and becomes a huge success story spawning literally thousands of imitators.

5. Pink Bunny Poker - Jeremy Enke auctions off his services as a poker player (wearing a pink bunny suit) at the World Series of Poker. He generates much publicity, many backlinks, and a good deal of money from his sponsor, Golden Palace Casino, who bought his eBay auction. (Golden Palace participates in these kinds of viral marketing stunts constantly, by the way.)

You'll notice that all of the linkbait and viral marketing examples mentioned in this post have some things in common:
  • There's actually a person with a name involved in the stunt.
  • All of the stunts are outrageous and/or quirky enough to warrant attention.
  • Most of them involve a combination of some kind of ingenuity with something that is already on the minds of consumers.

More on the last point. All My Life For Sale took advantge, in part, of the amazing success of eBay. One Red Paperclip borrows some popularity from the incredible success of Craigslist. Jeremy's Pink Bunny idea took advantage of the popularity of online poker, the World Series of Poker, eBay, and Golden Palace. The $39 Experiment is about 100 different companies, almost all of whom are well known.

Can you cook up a recipe for some linkbait now? Can you make money with a viral marketing campaign with these ingredients? I know that I have a couple of ideas now myself.

Monday, July 03, 2006

How to Write Good Web Content

Affiliate marketers have multiple techniques to make money with, but the one that will have the longest half-life is publishing good content. Pay per click ad arbitrage will eventually become too competitive, search engines will eventually wipe out spam or at least reduce its profitability to next to nothing, and email marketing will go even further in the same direction as the dinosaur.

But all 3 of the major search engines want to list good quality content in their results, and that's not going to change anytime soon. If a search engine lists low quality content in their results, users will flee to the competition. Riding the "content is king" train will take you a lot farther in the long run as an affiliate marketer than just about any other method. Hence this article about how to write good web content.

Characteristics of Good Content

  • Good content is unique. If you think about this for a minute, it will almost seem like this goes without saying, but if you take a look at some of the results in Yahoo or MSN for some high-competitive keyword phrases, you'll find plenty of content that does nothing more than re-hash content that is readily available on many other sites.
  • Good content is user-focused. Google has been preaching this for ages now: focus on the user and all else will follow. This particularly useful when talking about the information you put on your website. People search the Internet for things that help them, so how-to articles, tips, and information folks can use is always going to be one of the most important aspects of user-focused web content.
  • Good content is well-written. Double check your spelling and punctuation. Avoid the passive voice. Omit needless words. All of the fundamentals of good writing apply to web content. These simple things amount to showing respect, not disdain, for your readers.
  • Good content on the internet is easy to read. Bulleted lists, short sentences, and short paragraphs are user-friendly ways to make your content more accessible to online readers. Headings and sub-headings are important too.
  • Good web content is honest. Don't make up BS sales letters. If you don't honestly believe in a product, and you haven't used a product, then maybe it's better not to promote it. I built several websites in a particularly competitive industry once. When I finally stopped working on the "salesy" sites and started writing about my actual experiences in this particular industry, the traffic to that new website skyrocketed beyond that of all my other websites almost overnight.

Content Mistakes to Avoid

It's easy to make most of the following mistakes when writing content. Try to avoid them.

  • Providing inaccurate information. Lies, falsehoods, and mistakes might rank temporarily, but that will not last. Search engines are going to continue to improve.
  • Anything deceptive equates automatically to low-quality content. In fact, deception is, or ought to be, the defining characteristic of spam of all kinds, both search engine spam and email spam.
  • Automatically generated pages. These might or might be useful in certain situations, but they never amount to "quality content".

Other Resources Related to Writing Good Quality Content

  • Search Engine Ranking Factors from Website Helpers (The first section is about quality content.)
  • The Elements of Style - Available for free online from Bartleby, this was for years the best book I'd ever read about how to write.
  • Writing for the Web from Jakob Nielsen - Nielsen is recognized as one of the leading thinkers on web useability. His insights into how writing for the web is different than writing in print are fascinating.
  • Wikipedia - How to Write a Great Article - The Wikipedia is a volunteer-edited encyclopedia where anyone can edit. It's a fascinating sub-culture on the web that you're probably already aware of, but most people already know about it. Why? Because they offer great content throughout. (With a few exceptions.)

I hope that this article is high-quality content. I probably should do another draft, now that I think about it.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Link Exchange Email That Worked

Link exchange emails get deleted pretty quickly from my inbox. But I got one today that I not only read, but I replied to it immediately. And after thinking about it for a minute, I thought that there might be a lesson to learn from how the email was phrased. (Because yes, I occasionally send a link exchange email or two myself, and I usually get the same miserable response as everyone else does.)

Here's a reasonable approximation of the email I received.

Subject Line: Red Widgets Review Website


Hello Randy-

I happened across your website on the internet as I have also spent the last few months building a Red Widget Reviews website with a friend.

I wanted to know if you would be interested in exchanging links to our site.


I am just starting out and was reading some of your articles, your "About Me" page, your goal of reviewing red widget review, etc...and you sound like a down to earth person.

Do you have any advice for us on how we can make our site as useful as yours seems to be?

How long did it take for you to get a lot of visitors to your site?

Thanks for any advice you can give us.

Polite Webmaster
Red Widget Reviews

Why This Link Exchange Email Worked

I have some ideas about why this email was so effective, and I'll point them out here. Some of this is common advice found on any number of sites that talk about link exchanges:
  • The email addressed me by name, which demonstrates that some thought and care were put into it.
  • The email made it clear that they had visited my site.
  • The praise for my site seemed sincere.
  • The webmaster asked for my advice on how to be successful.

I bolded the last line for a reason; I think it was a critical component of why this link exchange email worked. For one thing, they expressed admiration and flattered me, and also, they asked me for help. These were exactly the right buttons to push with me, and I think they're probably effecitve buttons for anyone else too. Who doesn't want to be told they've done a good job on their website? And who doesn't want to feel smart enough to give advice?

Some More Cool Articles About Exchanging Links

I still think reciprocal links are cool, but automated, dumb links exchanges are uncool. So be smart and trade links without automating.