How Do We Get Back to Honest Promotion?

HopeThis is not my typical post. It’s not meant to teach you something, but it might. This is an honest request for feedback and discussion about digital promotion. I feel like we are between a rock and hard place when it comes to promotion. SEO, digital marketing, online marketing, and public relations; no matter your title, if you deal with getting attention for a company, product or service, I want to hear from you.

SEO has been known for the last few years for a few things: measurability and tactics. We have “lost” most of our tactics or “quick wins.” There are fewer great directories every year. Guest posting was bastardized in the name of scalability. Comment spam plagues the web. We rely on influencers/bloggers for links as those still drive ranking. Links are not the only ranking metric by any means, but it is still the main driving force in Google’s algorithm.

Website/company/product/service links are obtained via people talking about it. People get to know about the website through promotion: mainly advertising or word of mouth. Links obtained via paid means are “paid links” and don’t count – so we are looking at word of mouth, or outreach as we call it. The issue is that the knowledge of the power of links has gotten out to the bloggers/influencers and that has created two major issues: fear and greed.

Fear

There is the fear of being duped into posting content that is developed just for links. To be completely real, few people care about that, but I have come across it, mainly the blogs run by companies. What people really care about being used and taken advantage of. They also fear being penalized or someday having to take down a post they thought was from a valid writer, but turned out to be spun crappy content.

Bloggers turned afraid once a few blog networks got taken down and they started receiving take down notices. Some have gotten outright pissed because they get pitched multiple times a day with crappy content. No one has time to go through all of the crap to get to the one or two good posts.

Greed

Then there is the greed. Links are valuable and the influencers/bloggers with a following know what a link is worth. It’s not just the link, they know their community will buy products and they know that their word will sell products. They want in on that profit. Links are traffic and revenue, and these influencers are not stupid.

So to be fair, some are greedy, but most are just realistic business people. They know their value and are going to demand to be compensated when mentioning your website/product/service/company. But then there’s that pesky paid linking thing again.  How do we get past this?

Getting Past the Issues

There is a balance and I think we can find it. There is a balance of seeing the value of communities and the people that built them. There is balance in building relationships not only with the people that built the communities, but the communities themselves. I think we can get past the boulders we are stuck between.

Treat People as Humans

Try to see their perspective when you get a rejection. Ask questions and try to see their point of view. I am a big fan of the belief that most people are not out to be assholes. If someone seems to be acting like one, it’s likely to to external influences. Put yourself in their shoes, figure out how to help them out. The fear and greed comes from the same place, a lack of trust. There is no corner cutting to relationships. An email is not a relationship and it doesn’t happen in a calendar month.

Try to Trust More

hands-togetherAre you in-house or agency and are you in charge of a blog? When was the last time you were pitched for a guest post? What was your reaction? I know a good number are not good, but do try to keep an eye out and an open mind to some of them. Try to see that there are people out there trying to get good content out there. There are good products and companies that just want you to try them out. Believe them when they say they don’t expect a link in return. Trust.

Don’t Fear Paid Promotion

The good blogs, the good sites, they are going to send you traffic and maybe even revenue/sales. When you are starting to show that you are serious about your product, don’t fear giving up product and supporting the site through advertising spend. Yes, the links should be nofollowed and that’s okay. Just don’t send the product/do advertising, get the nofollowed link and drop the relationship. Keep up with them, keep giving them information on new products and ask for their feedback. There are two things to do if you do paid promotion.

  1. Track your spend and what the return is over time. This is imperative, but don’t expect a return in month 1.
  2. Understand that part of your investment is the relationship and the care of that relationship. Give that a value. How much is a brand ambassador worth to you over their lifetime? You’re investing in that.

What have you seen? The same issues and how have you gotten past them?

About Kate Morris

Kate Morris is the Director of Client Strategies with Outspoken Media. She is a well seasoned online marketer with a passion for teaching others. For the last 10+ years she has covered the paid, natural, and social sides of search.

  • Rhea Drysdale

    “The fear and greed comes from the same place, a lack of trust. There is no corner cutting to relationships. An email is not a relationship and it doesn’t happen in a calendar month.” — love this. There’s no replacement for being real with someone and investing in that relationship.

  • As you point out, the viability of guest posting as a tactic was destroyed by scalability. Same is true most other former go-to tactics. The issue is essentially the “tragedy of the commons”: individuals acting in their own rational, short-term self interest act counter to their collective, long-term interest through over-exploitation.

    In the case of the sort of outreach activity you’re talking about, even if done in accordance with guidelines from search engines, the FTC, ASA, etc. and thus avoiding legal or search engine penalties, saturating the blogosphere with what amounts to advertorial will destroy the readership and therefore its value as a promotional technique. Doesn’t seem too much of a stretch, either, to suppose that vast amounts of such content would ultimately be subject to de-emphasis in search via Panda or something similar.