The following post is part of WTWH Media Marketing Lab’s ongoing blog series from MozCon 2017. You can find the full presentation here.
In an increasingly volatile and ever-changing SEO environment, building links for your organization or clients can be a difficult task that requires constant and consistent effort. In her recent session “How To Get Big Links” at MozCon 2017 in Seattle, WA, Lisa Myers, CEO & Founder of Verve Search a UK-based media agency, offered some personal insight into how brands struggling with link building and content exposure can reshape and rethink their efforts.
Think Like Ad Executives. Execute Like Geeks.
Back in 2012, Verve was starting to see a massive decline in their SERP rankings and website traffic due to changes in Google’s algorithms and other uncontrollable factors. To regain the content coverage they needed for their clients, Verve decided to restructure its entire agency, essentially shifting from a traditional marketing firm to a robust, creative and modern media company. With this organizational shift came a shift in thinking and methodologies, and in just 12 months, the team at Verve came up with over “350 ideas and 66 campaigns”. Myers playfully admitted that not all their ideas were great, including one outlandish suggestion of allowing Twitter users “to print their tweets on a piece of toast.” But, as Myers suggested, “you need to be able to come up with a lot of bad ideas before you can come up with a good one. Stop thinking, and start creating.” So, that’s exactly what Myers and her team at Verve did.
Overinvest In Formats That Could Be Used Again
One of Myer’s most poignant words of advice was to find something that works and exploit its framework to the point of overuse, referencing how Pixar has used its acclaimed animation software RenderMan in every one of its 20+ movies for the past 23 years. Following the overwhelming response to prior work for their client GoCompare, Verve decided to reinvestment in a successful format, interactive lists, and created another piece of content for Go Compare titled The Billionaires League. With this list, users could compare the world’s roughly 2,000 billionaires and see how they stack up against one another. This list soon received 97 authoritative links from domains like the BBC, Entrepreneur, and Yahoo Finance, garnering it over 850,000 views.
Following the theme of reusing & reshaping content that works, Verve reformatted their Billionaires League piece into yet another list-type piece of content called Billionaires League for E-Sports. Commissioned by Verve’s client Unibet, this pseudo-database of information on professional gamers’ earnings saw similar success to its predecessor, earning 198 links and over 190,000 views. Verve’s restructuring seemed to be paying off.
Sometimes Plain & Simple Works Best
Although Verve saw colossal success from their robust campaigns described above, Myers suggested that sometimes plain and simple can also move mountains. Take for example Unknown Tourism, one of Verve’s most successful campaigns. On behalf of Expedia UK, Verve created a series of vintage-style, minimalistic travel posters to commemorate extinct species and their respective countries. The response was overwhelming to the campaign; not only did the campaign get over 220 links, it also got printed in the Observer and received consistent media coverage for over a year. It was even turned in to a fan-made-mod for the popular video game, The Sims. In fact, the response to art was so widespread that people were “calling Verve’s office asking if they could buy the posters”. But perhaps the most notable reaction to the campaign was a petition to applaud Expedia for raising awareness about animal conservation.
As a result of this exposure, Expedia UK saw a 46% increase in organic visibility in Nordic countries, including a 99% increase in organic visibility in Finland alone. Clearly, the creative connected with people, and after all, that’s what it’s all about. However, according to Myers, even if you have the best creative in the world, it won’t matter if you don’t do the outreach.
Consistent Outreach is Key
As Myers said, “you can’t build a house by just holding a hammer.” When it comes to link building & media exposure, great content and creative is only half the battle – must diligently engage in outreach. There’s no optimal way of writing an outreach email and it’s certainly not about how many emails you send. In her presentation, Myers showed an example of two employees. Employee A sent out 1,120 outreach emails and only received 20 links in return. Conversely, Employee B only sent out 267 emails but received 23 links. Why was this? As Myers stated: “Outreach is about people. It’s about mindset.” Myers advised organizations to find the right people and then encourage them to be more of who they are. According to Myers, outreach simply comes down to perseverance and grit.
Stop Thinking, Start Creating
Contrary to popular belief, there’s not always a formulaic approach to link building. Obviously, it comes down to making content that people genuinely want to share and engage with. If you’re not getting the exposure you want and the links you need, ask yourself: is this content people would want to share? If not, it’s time to reevaluate your strategy like Verve did. Once you’ve started creating better content, evaluate your outreach; not only if you’re it doing enough, but are you doing it well enough? Take a step back from your strategy and change the way you think and with a little bit of perseverance and grit, you’ll be on your way to getting big links like Verve.
Lisa Myers is the founder and CEO of Verve Search. She has been working in Marketing since 2001 and got “bit” by the “SEO” bug in 2005, when she was tasked with setting up the Search department at an Integrated Marketing Agency. In 2009 she decided to start her own agency, Verve Search.