The Anatomy of a 12-Month Link Baiting Campaign
Last February, I had a diabolical plan to become a household name in the SEO community. Here I was, a guy who has been in SEO for almost ten years and remained a relative unknown. Sure, I made a few friends here and there and have been slowly building my reputation, but who would of thought 12 months ago that I would be able to snag an interview with one of the biggest names in the SEO. And that's not me interviewing the big name, mind you... that's the big name interviewing me!
cue tongue in cheek here…) Here we are, nearly twelve months later and I can hardly believe that yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have become a "name". Ok, so maybe I’m not Jennifer Laycock. Or Rand Fishkin. Or Jill Whalen. Or Aaron Wall. Or Andy Beal. Or Brian Clark. Or... OK, you get the point. I have not become that much of a household name, but still I bet many of you hadn't heard of me 12 months ago!
So here, for your reading pleasure, is a historical record of one of the **greatest**, all time, 12-month-long link baiting campaigns:
Step 1: Throw the smackdown on an A-list SEO
February 21, 2007
I kicked things off with a bit of trash talk toward Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz. Rand had recently written a post that I disagreed with, providing the perfect opportunity that I needed to launch my evil campaign. While I couched my remarks with the obligatory words citing my respect and admiration for Rand, I didn't hesitate to throw down the gauntlet. In my post he said that Rand's post was "ignorant" and then called him out as being an "SEO elite out of touch with the business of SEO".
It's not surprising that this got picked up by a few people in the SEO community, especially those that knew I would be sharing the stage with Rand at a conference in Portland the very next month. The foundation had been laid and the expectation of a brawl was quickly growing.
Step 2: Wipe it up (a little)
February 28, 2007
In an attempt to keep the issue alive without looking like an @ss, I followed up on my post criticizing Rand by criticizing myself. But in order to do so without actually apologizing or appearing weak, I criticized myself from a third person perspective. Confused? Yeah, me too. But still, it was nothing short of brilliant. It caused people wonder (perhaps about my mental health and stability) and I'm sure it spread fear into Rand knowing he'd be sharing a stage with someone that was near to being committed.
Step 3: Play dumb
March 9, 2007
If you're ever looking for someone completely and totally skilled at playing dumb, I’ms your man. Honed through eleven years of marriage and five kids, I have perfected the play dumb head tilt, voice grunt and the "I don't know what you're talking about" facial expression.
On stage with Rand, you'd never have guessed that I had insulted him just a month before. When asked by Rebecca at the pre-party if I had planned on making fun of her boss again, I was almost successful at convincing her that no such event ever happened. My powers of persuasion are so grand that Rebecca had broken down in tears apologizing for accusing him of such terrible things. (Rumor has it she ran back to her room and jumped on the Internet to find proof.) Rebecca, of course, denies these events to this day.
Step 5: Set a trap (anonymously)
September 25, 2007
Prepping for another mano y mano with Rand in Seattle (at the SEOmoz seminar), My team and I created a resume for The Venture Bros. Brock Sampson. The resume and cover letter were then forwarded to Rand asking, nay demanding, that they consider him for a job. The stage was being set for the ultimate link bait payoff to be revealed later.
Step 4: Throw out some more smackdown
September 27, 2007
I then had a simplified version of Rand's SEO quiz created and published online. This version, however, only asked one question: How often do you agree with Rand? Test takers were then scored depending on how they answered the question. This was fantastic tongue-in-cheek humor that rocket throughout the SEO community. Brilliant!
Step 6: Spy and play nice
October 1, 2007
In Seattle, I played kissy-kissy with the whole SEOmoz team. Rebecca was so enamored with me that she actually invited me back to her pad, er, office to check her out, er, show him the inner workings of the SEOmoz team. I was also successful at cornering Rand and chatted him up; Rand being none-the-wiser to what would unfold later that evening.
Step 7: Reveal the prize
October 1, 2007 - evening
During the after-party, my team and I looked for the perfect opportunity to reveal to Rand and company their newest team member: a handcrafted action figure of Brock Sampson. Rebecca cried and begged for a job "with the geniuses at Pole Position Marketing" but I felt she was too needy and had to turn her down. She cried some more. Rand, of course had similar feelings and if Gillian wasn't there to stop him he might have ridden back on the plane sitting on my lap!
Step 8: Wait (and wait and wait)
October 2-November 6, 2007
Any good link baiter must learn to bide their time. Especially when waiting an important part of the next phase of an evil baiting plan. I expected the awesomeness of the Brock Sampson campaign to go unrewarded. Sure, promises were made but we knew that sometimes people need a little incentive to follow through. Well that played right into my hands.
Step 9: Blackmail
November 7, 2007
Having expected a period of silence after Brock was presented to Rand and team, I had taken some incriminating photos of Brock Sampson long before his trip to Seattle. Of course, since Rand and his team have yet to fulfill every last detail of the ransom note, it is yet to be determined if those photos will be made public. But I must tell you, they are not the stuff that small children should see!
Step 10: Snag interview (and become household name)
November 14, 2007
Having no choice but to concede, or else risk major embarrassment, Rand puts together a spectacular, world-class interview that rocketed me into semi-stardom status.
With a little creativity, a lot of patience and some blackmail-ready photographs, one truly can work their way up the industry food chain. Oh, and a note to the SEOmoz team: I suggest you read the fine print in the blackmail letter. We're still waiting for one final demand to be fulfilled. We still have those photos. Don't make us do it!
Have a question for Stoney? Ask or leave a comment below!