For part II in my series of interviews, I chose Chris Angus, was just voted the second most influential internet marketer in the UK, 24th in the world. Chris specializes in link building and viral marketing in hyper-competitive niches like finance, travel and gambling.
How did you get started in SEO and Viral Marketing?
It all started in the mid-2000s. Always having been incredibly ambitious, I was looking to start my own company. An opportunity came up for me to buy the framework for an internet pharmacy. I duly went ahead and purchased the website without a clue as to how the internet or SEO actually worked, or even how to generate internet traffic. The first method I used was “email marketing”, where I was sending out hundreds of thousands of emails every day. I had some moral issues with spamming the world and selling drugs to drug addicts, as we weren’t just selling over the counter medicines, we were also selling vicodin, etc.
I tried to hire many an SEO company, however, none were interested enough to take on my custom. So I started to look around at trying to work out what you had to do to get good rankings on the search engines, predominantly Google. Once I’d actually figured out what SEO stood for and meant, I thought the best thing to do would be to buy a book, so I googled “SEO book” and duly found Aaron Wall’s site. I bought the book, read it a number of times over and subsequently fell in love with Search.
Aaron basically mentored me, he was always very generous with his time and most of the time answered my questions when I emailed him. If it wasn’t for Aaron and his book, I definitely wouldn’t be in the position I am today.
When you put together a viral marketing campaign is your hope that it would draw links to the target site or sheer traffic and brand awareness?
Coming from an SEO perspective, I’m always focused on the links. However, the SEO market is changing and we’re becoming a bit more holistic in our approach to search and are focusing on brand-building and the benefits that can bring, as well as the links.
So, to answer your question, they’re all important and also, if you get a viral campaign to spread successfully, you’ll look incredibly good in your client’s eyes if you have hundreds of thousands of engagements with the brand.
People say that popular pieces on sites like Digg and Stumble Upon don’t draw links like they used to, blog commenting is dead, directory submission is passé and avenues like Twitter are useless for link building. What’s your experience from the front lines in some highly competitive industries like gambling, finance and travel as for strong link building channels?
While what you say is true, and links are incredibly hard to come by, they’re not that hard if you’re willing to be creative and different. If you’re going to attract the links, you need two elements:
- Something unique or incredibly resourceful that people are going to want to link to.
- You need enough people to see the resource, so that you get a tiny conversion rate in terms of people linking. Generally, you need tens or hundreds of thousands of people to see a resource if you’re using tradition traction methods such as Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.
Alternatively, you can build relationships with bloggers and webmasters, so that when you create something of value, you can go out and ask them directly to link to it and the conversion rate is typically higher than if you were to use traditional accelerants such as the social networks.
If you create something which garners the offline media’s interest, it’ll spread to traditional media online and said resource will “bounce” back and forth between the two. Subsequently, the two will keep fuelling each other, building up and generating considerable exposure and a high number of links.
Of course, there are also paid links which are available. However, since what we have at stake is rather a lot, it’s not something that we really pursue anymore, as the risks outweigh the benefits in terms of buying links.
What are some of the best viral marketing/link baits that you have seen in the last couple of years that we might not know about?
Burberry did a really good campaign recently (The Art of the Trench).
“Will It Blend?” is also a great example of using interesting stuff, taking plain and boring things like blenders and doing something crazy with them. This in turn creates a viral effect in that users/viewers will want to share it with others, propagating the product/video itself.
Why do you like promoting companies in super competitive niches where links are hard to come by?
It’s what I’ve always done, I think I was quite lucky by starting off doing super-competitive things which I succeeded at quite early on and then understood that it could be done. I’ve always been in the super-competitive industry and I’m glad I fell into it, as the fees we attract are considerably higher than those in other, less-competitive vertical markets.
With the growth of Google local, and the incorporation of recent tweets into search results, how is your approach to marketing sites changing, is it business as usual or are you focusing on new areas outside of traditional Google search results?
Of course, we investigated spamming Twitter, which was just a bit of fun. However, our overall approach isn’t changing in that we help our clients to build their brands by offering services or resources which will create success by encouraging users to return to the site or treat the site as an authority.
If you can do this and achieve success without the search engines, then your business will be incredibly stable and you’ll receive a ton of free Google traffic as an additional bonus to your already successful venture. I would encourage people to think about building value as opposed to spamming the search engines, as people who do things properly will generally stick around a lot longer than having a short-lived time riding high, albeit very briefly.
Thanks Chris for taking your time for this interview. Good luck in your future projects!