Buzz Marketing Myths
Posted by Dean Hunt on July 23rd, 2007.
The Brutal Truth
Welcome to part three of my behind the scenes case study in viral/buzz marketing.
In part one I showed you the effect and power that a successful campaign can have.
In part two I showed you a step by step guide to EXACTLY how I took one random article and transformed it by using 9 of my techniques. It went from a random article to viral gold.
Today I am going to be discussing the long term effects of viral marketing, and also the mistakes that nearly every webmaster makes with viral marketing.
Every time I mention viral marketing I get a series of comments and questions that are identical. Almost like clockwork I can guarantee that webmasters will make the same mistakes and pre-conceptions about my viral success.
I used to ignore these questions… I thought that these webmasters were at best ill-informed, and at worst they were jealous. But I have come to realize that they are good questions/perceptions… just incorrect ones.
Before we get started I want to stress that despite me using Digg.com as the focus of my articles, buzz/viral marketing is NOT just about the Digg homepage. Buzz marketing is being mentioned on other blogs, having your stuff discussed on forums, people subscribing to your feeds and asking their friends to do the same, mentioning you via email, etc…
Reminder: Buzz/Viral Marketing = Creating content that will be linked to and discussed.
If you are against that, then you are against almost EVERY website on the net… including your own.
So let’s start with some of the other popular misconceptions about buzz/viral marketing:
Here is the biggest and most popular misconception of them all…
Viral Marketing Campaigns Just Bring Worthless Traffic And They Don’t Make Any Money
There are so many ways I could go with this, I really don’t know where to start.
There is a lot more to buzz marketing than just being on the Digg main page. It affects the success of blog posts, your perceived authority on a subject and your online popularity.
Let’s be honest, the closest you are going to get to perfectly targeted, high value traffic is via Google Adwords. However, AdWords is NOT a free technique, so you cannot really compare the two.
Secondly, just because something isn’t perfectly targeted doesn’t mean that it is not worth doing. Did you know there are tons of direct marketers who made millions from blasting out random letters to people? If they were lucky they would get a 0.01% success rate, but they still spent a small fortune to send their letters.
What about companies that advertise during the Superbowl? Should we ban all Superbowl adverts just because the audience is not a targeted audience? Do you really think that 100% of Superbowl fans are looking for a godaddy account?
Viral marketing is a FREE technique, nobody said it is the goose that lays golden eggs. In my opinion it is the most powerful FREE technique on the net. WillItBlend.com created a hugely popular and profitable company with their viral stunt. So to answer the question of how much money you can make from viral marketing… just ask the owners of WillItBlend.com.
I could show you loads of companies and websites that have become hugely powerful due to their buzz and marketing campaigns. Some are worth tens of millions from their viral/buzz content. But I promised to keep this case study about my experience, so here we go:
How much money have I made from viral/buzz marketing?
Answer: To date I believe I am around $80,000 richer because of my viral successes. Had I chosen to take advantage of all the money that has been offered to me, I would say this figure would be well over $180,000 (I would probably be incredibly stressed though).
I will tell you exactly how I got this figure in a moment.
First I need to answer another popular question:
WHAT IS THE VALUE OF A SUCCESSFUL VIRAL CAMPAIGN?
People always ask me for an exact amount, by asking this question I know instantly that they have never had any viral success.
Most webmasters, bloggers, marketing experts and SEO experts agree that links are by far the most valuable aspect of any website. Personally, I have bought and sold many websites, and one of the most important factors for me is backlinks. I have seen pr8 sites with zero revenue sell for huge amounts of money, and I have seen brand new websites that made $2,000 in the first week sell for a very low amount.
Links help drive traffic, they increase your pagerank, and this leads to you being able to sell text links, they also allow you to make money by selling ad space and rank well in Google, which by itself can bring a huge amount of daily traffic.
Personally, I believe that links are highly valuable. Viral marketing drives tons of powerful and relevant links, therefore viral marketing is valuable!
The PPC/Affiliate brigade
Disclaimer: Throughout this article I may refer to the PPC/Affiliate brigade. I don’t want to stereotype an entire industry - hell, many of these guys make more money than I could ever dream of. However, many people who work with PayPerClick are used to getting daily reports that show how much money they made for that day. Often they will even analyze it per hour. This way of thinking/reporting simply doesn’t work for SEO, branding and buzz marketing.
A great example of this is the Google sandbox. Generally sites tend to struggle to rank well for competitive terms for the first 8 to 9 months. So by using the logic of the PPC brigade, it is not worth organically promoting a website or building links for 9 months.
Some people cannot see past the end of their nose, but I will show you that viral success can be very valuable over the long term.
BACKLINKS = VALUABLE
I am not going to explain the value of backlinks, if you don’t already know the value, then you need to start studying it ASAP.
So let’s talk about the backlinks I got from my viral successes:
Initially I got a link from the major social sites:
As you can see from the pagerank of these sites, it is pretty damn impressive. However, I want to keep this case study brutally honest… in my opinion, the value of these links decreases vastly, due to the fact that the link is not permanently on the main page.
One leading A-list SEO expert I spoke to said that “Such links will give a small boost to your rankings, but they are most valuable for new sites. Having pr9’s pointing at your site is a great way to get the Google spider hungry as hell”
The second phase of backlinks comes from blogs, forums, portals, etc. that mention your story.
This is for me the highest form of value. Bear in mind that only relevant sites are going to link to you, so you are getting relevant links and targeted traffic.
My site was discussed and linked to from sites in over 15 languages. But here are a handful that you may be familiar with:
It was also discussed by Matt Cutts, Bruce Clay, SEOBOOK and numerous other A-listers in the marketing and SEO world.
I really shouldn’t have to tell you the value of both the powerful links and the targeted traffic that such sites bring. Some people describe this sort of publicity as “Publicity that money cannot buy”, the reason for this is that many of these mega sites don’t accept ad deals, text links or paid reviews.
If I was to offer you an in-article mention on all of these sites, and 90+ other popular, relevant sites… what would you value it at?
I am certain that I could sell that sort of package for $30,000 with my eyes closed.
I am not even going to discuss the huge benefits of deep linking and deep link ratios, trust rank, and the benefits that these links have on EVERY page of your site.
In summary, I am not saying that buzz marketing is the best thing since sliced bread. But if you can get this sort of publicity for FREE with any other techniques, then I applaud you.
I promised complete honesty, so I am NOT going to pretend that viral marketing traffic is the best, most valuable, or most targeted traffic. Anyone can get traffic from PPC, but the purpose of this case study is to give hope to the millions of bloggers and webmasters who are looking for free marketing techniques.
However, many of the PPC/affiliate brigade seem to think that viral traffic is useless and non-targeted. So I would have to ask them how a mention on some of the net’s biggest and most powerful SEO and Marketing sites is worthless to my marketing/SEO blog?
Again, answer that question and I will hold my hands up.
What about all the mentions I got from SEO and marketing forums? Is that worthless and non-targetted traffic? Of course not!
INSTANT REVENUE (ADSENSE ETC)
If there is one area that the PPC brigade were correct to question me on, it is regarding adsense revenue. I will confess… Traffic from Digg.com is NOT going to convert into clicks on your ads.
Actually, I had done my research well before my first viral success went global. Therefore, when my site was getting 30,000 uniques per day there was not a single advert on my site.
Why did I do this?
Firstly because I knew that at best I would make a few hundred dollars in extra revenue. But also, I knew that I was going to be scrutinized heavily. If you plaster your site with adverts then you lower your chance of getting backlinks and positive mentions.
For me it is all about building links, I would not jeopardize missing out on a pr8 link for the sake of a few hundred quick bucks. No way! To me, a pr8 permanent backlink is worth thousands - it just isn’t worth the risk of possibly losing a hugely powerful backlink for the sake of a few hundred extra dollars.
There are huge long term rewards to be gained from buzz marketing, if you are too short sighted to see past Adsense, then I wish you all the luck in the world.
Have you ever seen those feed buttons on blog sites? Often they are hosted by Feedburner.com and these days they are the pride and joy of any blog.
Bloggers go as far as to judge the popularity of their blogs by the number of feed subscribers they have.
This is an area where you can do well from buzz marketing. If people come from Digg or a similar site and enjoy your content, then they may wish to subscribe for updates.
This is an area that I have neglected heavily, but despite my awful efforts in this department, I am sure you will still be impressed by these results:
This image was taken a few days after my first viral success.
There are two important points to make here:
1) I didn’t have a feedburner subscription icon on my site. I messed up big time with this. So this meant that people struggled to find my feed. If you monetize it correctly, you can easily get 10 times the results I got.
2) Despite my huge error, I was getting 25 people reading my content via my feed every 13 minutes. That is pretty much someone reading my feed every 30 seconds.
Tip: Once you have your feed readers it is important that you follow up with quality content. Do not expect them to stay around for life.
With some decent buzz success, you can get 300-500 new subscribers to your feed. Imagine what 300 targeted and soon to be loyal readers will do for your future posts and success.
This is another area where you can reap huge long term goals. Again, if you don’t know about opt-in subscriptions via Aweber.com, etc… then please go and study it ASAP.
SEO experts see links as their proudest and most valuable site asset, bloggers see feed readers as theirs, whilst Internet and Direct Marketing experts consider their “lists” (Opt-in email subscribers) as their most valuable asset.
I have already shown you that buzz success = tons of links and lots of feed readers, but what about opt-in subscribers?
This is a more dangerous area… opt-ins can be highly valuable. I am friends with a leading marketing expert who made over $200,000 in one weekend from his list.
However, many users are wary of them.
Remember that to gain trust and backlinks you want to appear as neutral as possible. Personally I was willing to sacrifice my Adsense revenue, my affiliate revenue, and my opt-in subscribers… but that is because SEO is in my blood, and I focus primarily on links and branding.
If your goal is mainly to get opt-ins, then I say go for it, but tread carefully.
Tip: DO NOT use pop-ups!
Branding is an area that not everyone will be familiar with, so I will keep this part short.
You will discover in a moment that I am a freelancer, and I sell my services/time as opposed to products/affiliate marketing, etc…
So in most cases my name is my brand. If I can get people familiar with my name, then I can charge more, I get more job offers, and ultimately I am more successful.
Prior to my first buzz marketing experience I had a niche following in the UK. Since then I have been discussed in 15 languages, and considering I haven’t spent a dime in my life on promotion or advertising, I have become relatively well known in the industry.
One image that shows this really well is this one:
This is such a powerful image!
In the space of 13 minutes, my name was searched for in Google around 18 times.
That is serious brand power!
Prior to my buzz success I got searched for approx once per day. Now it is nearer to 100 per day. This is brand power at it’s very best, and unlike the majority of big names, I didn’t spend millions branding myself, I spent NOTHING.
HOW DID I MAKE MY MONEY?
The key to remember with buzz and viral marketing is that it is a launch pad. It is your way of getting the world to hear your voice. However, if you have nothing interesting to say then your 15 minutes of fame will be short lived and NOT profitable.
The key is to use that platform, those links, those blog mentions, the new feed readers, the new opt-in subscribers… use it all, but use it properly.
I was speaking recently to a blogger who was showing a clear lack of knowledge in this area, he asked me “Dean, you got 30,000 unique visitors in one day, but what about two weeks or two months later?”
This is like asking me how long a piece of string is. I later discovered he was deeply into the affiliate marketing side of things (surprise surprise).
I should ask him if his adwords traffic remains if he stops paying for it.
What was he expecting? That I would do one viral success and get 30,000 uniques every day for life, without updating my site or doing any extra work?
Listen, some people have made millions from their buzz success. Others have made tens of millions (Willitblend.com). Others have had their 15 minutes and then done nothing from it.
Look at sites like: Destructoid.com smashingmagazine.com engadget.com
These sites are on Digg more than George Bush stories. Almost every article from these sites is buzz/viral content. They know the power of these techniques and they have mastered the art of getting visitors from buzz techniques.
Have a look at their content, and you will see that it is specifically created with sites like Digg.com in mind.
Destructoid Alexa Rank: http://alexa.com/search?q=www.destructoid.com&x=0&y=0
Engdget Alexa Rank: http://alexa.com/search?q=www.engadget.com&x=0&y=0
Smashing Magazine Alexa Rank: http://alexa.com/search?q=www.smashingmagazine.com&x=33&y=13
$80,000 RICHER? DISCUSS.
I have now shown you that buzz success has huge long term value, but it also has value that you cannot assign a fixed value to. This probably confuses the PPC brigade who know everything from the value of a keyword, to the value of a visitor. But that is the way it is.
I have shown you that I got over $30,000 in links and publicity just from one of my successes. Bear in mind I have had multiple successes, and have also helped clients and friends gain worldwide recognition. But I am not going to count any of that towards my total.
The fact of the matter is that my sites are geared around services, whether it be buying and selling websites for rich businessmen, running SEO campaigns for companies, launching branding and marketing campaigns for websites, or providing content for blogs and web portals. I do it all! I have even written content for industry trade magazines under a pseudonym, and written an ebook for a leading marketing guru.
This is how I make my money. I do NOT sell physical products, I am not interested in the vunerable business model of adsense revenue, nor am I into affiliate marketing anymore.
I sell my time and my services as a freelancer.
So here is my story: 1 day after my first viral success, I got over 45 emails. Here are a few snippets from them:
“Dean, I read your article about the google request, and I decided to read more of your articles. I really like your writing style, can we talk? Here is my phone number: xxxxxxxxxx”
“Dean, my name is xxxxx and I recently found your blog via Digg. I really enjoyed many of your stories, and I would like to talk to you about providing content for my company”
“Dean, any chance you can share the google search term with me? ;-) The reason I am writing is to enquire about your SEO services, I found your site at Slashdot.org and would like to speak to you about doing some SEO work on my network of sites”
“My name is xxxxxxx xxxxx and I am now an avid reader and subscriber to your blog. I notice you have done some affiliate marketing work in the past, we are actually looking for an affiliate marketing manager for our new project at redxxxx.com perhaps we can have a chat?”
My time is my product, for other people it may be DVDs, others may be solely reliant on Adsense (yikes), others may sell web hosting… with buzz marketing you are giving yourself a chance of a global audience. It is up to you what you do with that.
Anyway, where was I? Within two weeks of my first buzz marketing success I signed an exclusivity agreement with a major entrepreneur who found my blog via Digg.com. My income went up around $50,000 overnight, and I have made another $30,000 with partnership deals and bonuses since.
Also, I now get to travel the world and network with some of the net’s biggest names. People that wouldn’t have taken me seriously one year ago.
Regarding the $80,000 figure… My time was in so much demand that you can currently see at www.deanhunt.com I have this message on EVERY page: “services are fully booked until late 2008” I stopped accepting work over 6 months ago, this is despite being offered $1000 to write one article, and $8,000 if I could get a contacts site on the Digg.com main page.
I don’t mean any of this to sound like I am bragging, those who know me will know I am very humble, perhaps too humble. But I was challenged, and have done what not many marketing experts would be too afraid to do… I have showed you a sample of what I earn.
Due to all of this, I have now moved from staying at my girlriend’s parents’ house, to owning a large house in Madrid with a swimming pool and numerous other luxuries.
My life changed completely due to me discovering buzz marketing. I am not promising the same for you, but I do believe that buzz marketing is the most powerful FREE promotional tool available.
In the next and possibly final chapter, I will be doing a Q&A. So if you have any questions then please ask them ASAP via the Fadtastic comments section.
PS: in the 24 hours that passed since writing this, one of the articles I wrote 4 months ago has been featured on one of the largest tech sites on the net. As well as a pr6 backlink and thousands of extra visitors, it has triggered the viral effect and the article is spreading like wildfire. It just goes to show that buzz marketing can trigger a viral effect at ANY time.
Measuring buzz success in the short term is like measuring the quality of a tree one day after you plant the seed. Dean Hunt 2007
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