How’s that for a title? I witnessed a pretty amazing thing last week from an online marketing perspective. I love finding dynamic examples of how the social web works, especially when it unfolds right in front of your eyes over just a few hours. What I experienced last week was an outstanding example of how great content, a loyal following, respect in the industry, and SEO all tie together. It’s kind of like the perfect storm, but in a good way.
First, I’m a believer that your best linkbuilding comes naturally. If you create killer content that provides value to your readers and visitors, you often will end up generating high quality links. In my experience, I’ve seen a direct relationship between the time and care you take to create content and the impact that content has from a linkbuilding standpoint. For example, I’ve developed content that took a relatively long time to create (days to write and sometimes weeks to research), but based on the popularity of that content, the buzz it generated, the targeted traffic, and subsequent inbound links, it was well worth the time. Compare that to content developed or written quickly, with little or no thought put in, provides little value, and subsequently has no impact. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Are you going to link to a quick post that provides no value and no original content? Probably not, right? But you might link to a post that greatly helps your efforts (for whatever you are trying to achieve).
How it Unfolded
So let’s get back to what happened last week? Here’s the deal. I watched an editor break a story on a website (providing killer content), I saw that content go viral on Twitter (due to a loyal following), then it got picked up by a popular industry website (due to respect in the industry), and then I saw that content go on to generate over 22,000 inbound links in a matter of days. I saw how the content ranked in just hours in Google (due to Query Deserves Freshness QDF), and then how it ended up ranking for dozens of competitive keywords in a short period of time. That’s darn powerful.
Let’s break down what happened and its impact:
The content was great (a scoop), and probably wasn’t easy to come by. But providing valuable content (in this case breaking news), is only part of the equation. That news could have easily led to little traffic, no links, and no rankings, right? Everyone has heard about sites getting their scoops ripped off. That’s a good segue…
2. Loyal Community
Enter the next important part of the equation. If you’re publishing to a black hole, who cares about what you write. But, if you’ve built up a serious following, earned respect, and engage your community, then amazing things can happen. In this case, community members starting tweeting, then retweeting, and more retweeting. You get the picture. I scrolled through pages and pages of tweets linking to the story. For people that think Twitter provides no value, please read this section again. :)
3. Respect in the Industry
Ah, the point at which things can take a different path. What happens if people try to steal your scoop? For example, they find out the breaking news from you and then post their own version of it, essentially watering down your impact. I don’t care who you are, that’s a horrible feeling and happens more than you think. But, if you’ve gained the respect of your peers (even beyond your community), you might see an interesting effect, like what I saw last week. A major industry website wrote an article about the breaking news and linked to the scoop I mentioned earlier. A “hat tip”, so to speak. That hat tip ended up being the top referring source for a few days. Again, powerful (and a great link for SEO too.)
4. SEO Power
The culmination of what I listed above was 22,588 inbound links, including links from some powerful websites in the industry. Inbound links are the lifeblood of SEO, so gaining thousands of them from relevant and powerful sites is a good thing. :) This article generated quality links, and a lot of them. This resulted in top rankings for competitive keywords around the subject matter. Right now, the site ranks for dozens of keywords related to the subject of the article. And, that was after just a few days.
Also, I mentioned Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) earlier. That’s a part of Google’s algorithm that determines when a query requests information about breaking news and which listings to provide that reference the breaking news. Google determines this by monitoring the activity around a given subject. The content Google provides in the SERPs may be new blog posts or stories from trusted sites that don’t have any inbound links yet (or are in the process of increasing inbound links). The site I was monitoring is definitely a trusted site in the industry, and benefited from QDF. In case you want to learn more, Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz provides a video explaining the ins and outs of QDF. As usual, Rand does a great job explaining how it works.
Let’s summarize what happened:
So, after just a few days the article ended up being one of the most popular pages traffic-wise, it generated quality visitors, and incredible rankings in organic search. It’s a great example of how the social web works and its connection to SEO. A quick side note, the page wasn’t perfectly optimized for SEO, but it still ranks like mad. I think it shows which SEO factors are most important, right? (cough, quality inbound links) I can only imagine what the page would rank for if it was well optimized! :)
So, have you witnessed something like this? I’d love to hear your thoughts!