By Mark Gladding
I’ve always been impressed by Patrick McKenzie’s Daily Bingo Card linkbaiting strategy. Not only does it attract a great number of links from a notoriously non-technical audience, it casts an incredibly wide net to snare countless long tail searches. I’ve been thinking for a while on how to come up with a similar strategy for my own product, Text2Go – an application that turns text to speech so you can listen to it on your iPod or MP3 player.
Before I describe what I’ve come up with, it’s worth defining the keys to successful linkbaiting.
Link Baiting Defined
- Provide genuine, valuable content.
- Do this on a regular basis, preferably daily.
- Make sure the content is targeted towards people you have a good chance of converting to customers.
- Provide varied content to capture an ever increasing number of long tail searches.
- Automate as much of the process as possible, so it doesn’t suck up all your time.
- Resist the temptation to automate the actual content generation. Instead outsource it to a real person.
- Truly valuable content can only be created by a real person.
- Make it completely free and don’t require registration.
- Provide RSS and Twitter feeds.
Frustration leads to ideas
My idea for the Text2Go link baiting strategy was born out of a frustration I encountered as a Text2Go user. A popular use for Text2Go is converting ebooks to audio books so you can listen to them while driving. Unfortunately many ebooks today are protected by DRM (Digital Rights Management) which prohibits text to speech. Its’ not that DRM-free ebooks don’t exist, it’s that they’re very hard to find. The other frustration I had was separating out the contemporary ebooks from the mountain of classic works that exist in the public domain. For example, Project Gutenburg has over 20,000 ebooks, the majority of which are classics.
I wanted a way of finding contemporary, DRM-free ebooks. It needed to be as simple as signing up to an RSS feed.
And so eBooks Just Published was born. My two major ebook-related frustrations became the Unique Selling Proposition for the site. eBooks Just Published will only ever announce
- Completely DRM-free ebooks
- Contemporary works that have been published within the last 6 months
Contemporary works that have been published within the last 6 months
I also felt it was very important to clearly state what the site is not – an ebook publishing or hosting site. This is to encourage existing ebook publishers to support the site rather than view it as a competitor.
Each ebook announcement on the site contains a blurb about the book (similar to what you’d find on the back cover of a printed book) and links directing the reader to the author’s or publisher’s site where they can purchase or download the ebook.
I set myself the challenge of announcing at least one ebook every day. There is no better way of getting visitors to sign up to your feed than to deliver new content on a daily basis.
I decided that I wanted eBooks Just Published to work like a blog, with each ebook announcement a separate post. The most recent announcement would always be at the top of the page. I chose WordPress as the platform, registered my own domain and hosted it on a cheap VPS (Virtual Private Server) running LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql and PHP). Checking the BoS forum, I discovered several people had recommended eApps as a host and I haven’t been disappointed with the choice. I stayed away from WordPress.com as I planned to do some heavy customization of the platform and WordPress.com won’t let you install plugins (see WordPress.com vs WordPress.org).
I used a free WordPress theme and then had a logo professionally designed by Ars Logo Design (I can’t recommend them highly enough; they also did my Text2Go logo). Doing it in this order meant the theme colours could be used as inspiration for the logo and the logo could be designed to blend harmoniously with the theme.
I used a range of plugins to enhance the behaviour and customize the look of many aspects of the site. The most useful from a reader’s point of view is the Enhanced Categories plugin which allows readers to subscribe to individual genres (i.e. categories). To make it easy for authors to submit their own announcements I used the Post Templates plugin so that each ebook announcement is created from a standard template.
Once the site implementation was complete the biggest problem I had was how to get the ball rolling. No announcements meant no readers and no readers meant no incentive for authors to submit an announcement. I’d mocked up a couple of sample announcements but on reflection those might have done more harm than good – it made the site look like a template for a site rather than a real, live site.
My solution was to contact a couple of authors I knew (thanks Bob and Stephane) and get permission to announce their ebooks on the site. Not only that, I offered to create the announcements for them. Once I had a couple of real announcements I removed the mock-ups and the site was live. I then spent a lot of time doing Google searches for ebooks. Once I found a book, I’d contact the author and offer to create an announcement. Little did I know that the biggest user of the post template would be me 🙂 Although this was very time intensive, discovering each new ebook was a lot of fun – a bit like an Easter egg hunt.
The site has been running for over a month now and it’s already exceeded my expectations. Here are a few of the highlights
- Authors and readers alike have been very enthusiastic. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback, which is very satisfying.
- Links are coming at a great rate. One thing I didn’t count on was authors helping to promote the site. When their book is announced they often link from their website or blog. A great example of this was Richard Herley who wrote an article on eBooks Just Published for the popular ebook site TeleRead.org.
- Hal Spacejock was the first announced ebook I read. I enjoyed it so much I decided to create a competition and giveaway the print edition of the 4 book series. I contacted the author Simon Haynes and he agreed to act as competition judge and supply signed bookplates. Not only that, he promoted the competition to his fans via Twitter and his blog, resulting in lots of traffic. This co-promotion is quite effective and certainly a lot more fun than Adwords.
- eBooks Just Published already ranks first for the search term ‘ebooks just published’. Not bad considering the term is almost generic enough that someone might use it when searching for recently published ebooks.
- The site was featured in the online version of the Philadelphia Weekly newspaper and within the article they mentioned Text2Go as part of the back story.
- I now have an extensive ebook reading list.
Up to this point I’ve concentrated on building readership for the site and hunting out ebooks to announce. I’ve spent very little time on converting readers to customers. At the moment I have a discrete text ad for Text2Go in the sidebar. Despite this it’s already my 8th highest traffic source. However I want to experiment with different ad formats to see which is the most effective. For example, adding a graphic or using an animated gif may attract more attention – I just need to tread carefully so it doesn’t make the site look cheap or tacky.
This has been my most time consuming marketing effort to date. However it’s also been the most fun and satisfying. Looking into the future I think it has the potential to generate significant, sustained traffic.