Publicize Your Publicity to Create Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns

Older Marketing Techniques

When the Google Florida update happened in 2003 I read about 5,000 forum posts, tested a few of my sites, and wrote an article based on what I saw. That article got to be quite popular, but that popularity faded over a month or so, but I wanted my 15 seconds of fame to last.

When that article started spreading I went around asking high authority sites which linked to competing sites if they would be willing to link to my site. Some of the most effective techniques used were

  • using hub finder to find sites linking at multiple competing websites, and suggesting listing a few more sites (in a list including my site)
  • contacting people who were still linking at a competing site that was moved, letting them know that the site had moved

Site's like the HTML Writer's Guild would generally say no to a link request from a guy like me back then, but because of that surge in popularity they were like "oh you are that Aaron...we will get you link up today". As soon as that happened once I decided to go on a link request binge. The great links rolled in and I was like SWEET.

Image from

While some SEO sites never recovered, mine grew in authority due to the flood of high quality links, and within a few months my rankings were better than ever, and I had high authority recommendations from trusted organizations.

Ageless Marketing Techniques

If you are featured on Oprah or have the chance to interview Oprah make sure that is featured on your site. The same is true if you are featured in the mainstream media.

Newer Marketing Techniques

When I recently published the Blogger's Guide to SEO I launched a multi-pronged marketing campaign.

  • The idea was tailored to a specific audience.
  • I created a custom logo for it so it was easier for people to have something to share and to make dedicated posts about it.
  • I blogged about it on SEO Book and asked about a half dozen friends if they could mention it on their blogs.
  • I linked out to Lee Odden's list of blogs. Without even asking him for a link, he decided to reference it on his blog and spread it to his network of over 400 Facebook users.
  • I had a ready made AdWords campaign set to target blog related stuff. The same day the article was released someone searched Google for blog, clicked on my ad, read the article, then bought SEO Book. And that ad campaign is also seen on many blogs.
  • I guest blogged on about making money from blogs.
  • A great friend of mine submitted the story to StumbleUpon. Social media is no longer an every man for himself game.

What you really want to do when launching a good idea is to saturate the market with your idea as fast and hard as you possibly can such that it looks organic, yet gains the benefits of push marketing from years past. The story got to #1 on the popular list, made the Sphinn homepage, and had Digg not deleted it the story would have made the Digg homepage. Hundreds of links are still rolling in.

Marketing Deficiencies

What could I have done better?

  • I did not make the idea community oriented enough by asking x bloggers to give their top tip for doing SEO for blogs. Asking for data from a bunch of people to help them feel affinity toward and ownership of the idea to make them more likely to help market it.
  • I could have done a few more guest posts on other sites.
  • I could have built up the launch by writing relevant related entries on SEO Book asking for what people wanted.
  • I could have embedded a bit of controversy in it.
  • I forgot to email people subscribed to my old newsletter. Sending those thousands of people that update could have helped get it a bit more of a bump in traffic.
  • I could have participated on some well known forums to have them help market the site.
Published: November 28, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


Patrick Altoft
November 28, 2007 - 11:14am

I thought the way you dugg it without mentioning seo was clever and it's a shame it got buried.

November 28, 2007 - 11:16am

I did make that Digg submission about as friendly as possible by adding words like Google, Wordpress, and blog. But they still saw the SEO in my URL and so it was killed.

November 28, 2007 - 1:58pm

Of course, it didn't hurt that your guide is awesome! Quality is definitely a prerequisite for successful viral marketing.

November 28, 2007 - 2:03pm

Thanks Todd. It was a topic I was thinking about for a while and after finishing rewriting my book and getting some other stuff cleaned up it seemed like it made sense to write a guide just for blogs.

November 28, 2007 - 3:16pm

One issue with viral marketing I have seen is the poor conversion for commercial sites selling goods or services. You can get a lot of traffic but conversion is not always good. Maybe I am doing some wrong on my marketing campaigns but the point is that the sole traffic don't guarantee the success in some areas. Of course, Aaron your content is always attractive and high-quality.

November 28, 2007 - 3:52pm

I think most viral content is more bait oriented than useful oriented. In time that will change though...maybe 6 months to a year tops.

Even if you do offer high quality content, in most cases it does not convert as well as you would suspect it to unless you use hype and "short term once in a lifetime type offer" promotions ... you really need to incite people to take the action you want them to right now or forever miss out.

When I launched the Blogger's Guide to SEO my daily sales were about 3x normal, but many of those conversions were readers who had read for a while, and I didn't guide people toward converting, so that was still an exceptionally low conversion rate. That is fine though because earning trust is a process. And even if people do not buy, just them thinking about you or mentioning you can still help you spread ideas in the future or help you make money down the road as more new people find you and some of those people work through the conversion process.

November 28, 2007 - 10:25pm

Hi Aaron,

Always great content on your site and really good food for thought! The thing I'd really like to see someone of your capabilities do is take on a pet project so to speak, and take a small company and document (here and on the small company's site) the process used to market them, create back links, generate interest, create a viral buzz, etc., and bring them up the ranks into an authority in the space.

Doing it step-by-step, live (in a matter of sorts), would help a ton of small companies see what to do (and what not to do) and I think generate a ton of interest in that it would ultimately become an online SEO reality show, showing how to get it done and documenting results.

Of course I mention this because I happen to have a small company that I would LOVE to recommend as the recipient of your expertise.... :)

Either way, it would be a great service to the community, and I sure it would help a lot of small companies get enough of a foothold to compete and grow.

Christopher Rees
Palaestra Training
IT Certification and Training Videos

November 29, 2007 - 3:59am

Hi Christopher
I think the issues there are:

  • People claim to want transparency, but honestly many do not because if they get it they feel manipulated. If you are completely transparent in your marketing some people have an inherent distaste for marketing and would dislike you for it. For example, my blogger's guide to SEO did not make the Digg homepage because it was about SEO.
  • If you disclose what you are doing it may not be worth the scrutiny earned for sharing an example one of my sites that was blogged about went from making $x00,000 a year to $x0,000 a year after Google engineers hooked up a nice site review and hand edit on it.
  • If I discussed what I was doing while I was doing it there could also be a bit of a "this gets popular because Aaron is talking about it" type effect to the marketing, so it might not be very accurate, scientific, or useful.
November 29, 2007 - 6:22pm

Hi Aaron,

I think you're right to a point, as you're obviously the expert in this area. However, I do think, being a small company searching for as much help as possible, that being able to see a work in-progress and actually being able to follow the same techniques or use it as a sounding board and brainstorming session to perhaps develop spin-off new ideas would be useful.

I'm sure there is a bit of "Aaron's doing it" appeal, and it would be instantly popular where someone else doing the same thing wouldn't be; but again there is still value in showing how it's done - at least the framework, workflow and concepts behind it.

Not to mention taking a company (that you're not personally a part of) and taking it from point A to point B and allowing people to view the progress has to have value. I would be very interested in seeing it, learning from what's being done, watching the statistics, growth, etc.

That in and of itself would, I believe, generate a lot of buzz. Then you have a story on SEO that is not just talking about SEO, it's a live case study showing how it's done. I could envision academic institutions picking up on if it's documented properly. A great in-depth case study on expert level SEO in action would A) be a great compliment to your book, and B) be a Harvard level education on marketing and SEO best practices. A weekly or bi-weekly update on how and why things are being done, that in effect becomes a course on what do (correctly).

Again I'm talking about looking at, and documenting, various techniques and their effect over time. For example, we implemented this technique and the net result was an x% increase in page views. We implemented xyz, and conversion went down, etc. Here is what we did this week, and here are the results and the statistics to prove it was successful or not. All documented over time revealing trending and cause/effect of different actions.

There are so many areas that are glossed over everywhere else as to their value and real-world application (multi-variate testing, landing page persona, etc) that someone relatively new to SEO gets overwhelmed. Your SEO book does a phenomenal job of explaining a lot of that in theory and provide the reader with the underlying framework and familiarity with the concepts. I guess what I'm saying is it's hard to separate academic principals from real-world application, and it’d be nice to see things taken to the next level and put into action that can be studied and learned from.

There are some courses and programs out there, like StomperNet (which I'd actually like to get your opinion on) but they're prohibitively expensive and I have no idea if has any real value.

Sorry for rant, I promise I won't elaborate further or drag this out, just wanted to interject my forty-three cents... :)

Christopher Rees

November 29, 2007 - 4:53pm

Enjoyed the guide, Aaron - thanks. I forwarded that article along w/ joosts article to a few of my blogging friends who have some non-profit blogs. I had been feeling bad about not having time to do all those free consults. :)

Slightly off-topic, but you said something about conversions being low and recalled like comments in the past. Had you tested anything like an autoresponder series yet on that new sales page? Perhaps 7-10 days' worth of teasers? Load a couple emails at 30 & 45 days to see if they have any questions about purchasing or even a discount?

November 30, 2007 - 12:40am

Hi Avalanche
I have not done that sort of stuff yet. That is a significant hole in my marketing that needs to be fixed.

December 8, 2007 - 3:56am

I agree with "Omarinho" statement:
"One issue with viral marketing I have seen is the poor conversion for commercial sites selling goods or services. You can get a lot of traffic but conversion is not always good."

Had many successes with viral marketing for all areas, except commercial -- the conversion rate is never good.

Yet to discover the magic in that equation.
Great post, by the way.


December 19, 2007 - 11:38am

Thanks Aaron, this is digital gold. I even more enjoyed this post that the Blogger's Guide to SEO.

December 20, 2007 - 12:11am

Well some people told me they viewed this post as sleazy. It is funny that we all want to be marketed to, but nobody wants to admit it. :)

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