Experience Reviews – A New Way to Build Links (Advanced SEO)

Posted on June 15, 2011

Most veteran SEO’s agree we are long past the golden years of meta tags and reciprocal links, and we’ve firmly entered into the Age of Frustration, where the best link building tactics are either devalued or labeled black hat.

SEO’s are a resilient group though. Like hackers, the more loopholes they close the more exploits we create. We evolve, we create new tools, we capitalize on change and today I’m discussing an emerging trend that’s ripe with opportunity to build links… Experience Reviews.

Standard Product Reviews

Product reviews have been a staple of link building for a while now. Ask your client for some product, track down bloggers who review similar products and see if they’ll agree to do a review. Seems like a win/win, right? Bloggers get free product, their audience gets a nice review and the company get exposure and links.

The problem is in the process

1. Ask the client for some sample products to give away
2. Wait two weeks for the product to arrive
3. Scour the Internet for bloggers who write about similar products
4. Track down their contact info
5. Send an unsolicited email to each – hearing back from 10%
6. Send product and wait two weeks for all the blogger to receive
7. Wait two weeks for the blogger to review
8. The post is up! Report a single backlink

Between product costs, shipping costs and hours spent coordinating and communicating you’re looking at a painfully low return on investment for a single link, and that’s IF they give you a link pointing to the right site with the right anchor text.

A Better Way

The key to improving the traditional “blogger review” tactic is to understand that bloggers don’t blog about products, they blog about experiences. So if you’re able to create a new experience for a blogger, they will write about it, even if they’ve never reviewed a product in their life.

Here is what I mean…

Bloggers love just about anything that gives them “social proof”. Social proof is anything that allows a blogger to say, “Look, tons of people agree that I’m doing something right”. This could a high number of blog comments, RSS subscribers, Twitter followers, FB fans, PageRank, Alexa scoring, etc.
The newest form of social proof is the “Influencer Score”, an all-in-one scoring of how influential you are online measured by companies like Klout. Now what’s fascinating about Klout is their new program called, “Klout Perks”; an ingenious way of rewarding users who have a high Klout score. Klout Perks come in the form of free products, rewards or exclusive access to a company’s services.

What’s in it for the Company?

Well, the companies giving away these free goodies think it’s a good idea to make these social influencers brand ambassadors, and it seems that everyone wins: Users get free product, companies get positive word of mouth and Klout connects the two making a shiny nickel to boot.

The opportunity here is that users who receive these perks are fascinated that a big brand thinks them enough of an influencer to give them something. This makes them feel good, and the no strings attached setup makes for an experience worth bragging writing about.

And the process?

Now that social scoring technology exists, we can transform this manual one-to-one product review campaign to a one-to-many experience review campaign. The process looks like the following…
1. Ask the client for some sample products to give away
2. Wait two weeks for the product to arrive
3. Create a campaign with a social scoring company
a. They identify the influencers
b. They communicate the opt-in program
c. They provide you the contact information
4. Send product and wait two weeks for all the bloggers to receive
5. The posts are up! Report multiple backlinks

You see, by identifying all the influencers at the same time you can send all the products out at the same time. No need for back and forth communication, no need the blogger to actually use the product. They are writing about how awesome it is to be considered an influencer, and that post is going to talk about how great your brand is with details about the product they received as well.

A word of Caution

Don’t go cheap. These people are going to talk about the experience you give them. Your goal is to show these influencers how much they mean to your company, not offload product. Do it right and you’ve got the multi-benefit of great word of mouth, a new brand ambassador and a potent link to your product. Do it wrong and you’ve got yourself a lot of negative attention.

That being said, you’re giving away something for free. It’s going to take a lot of missteps for someone to write a hate post about a company they just received something free from

What do you think?

Are we looking at a new link building tactic on the rise? Have you tried doing this already, if so, what was your experience like?

19 Replies to "Experience Reviews - A New Way to Build Links (Advanced SEO)"

  • Ryan G. Fortin
    June 15, 2011 (7:36 pm)

    Good stuff, it fits consumer packaged goods extremely well.  The biggest benefit from using a social service would be the higher response rate.  If the messaging is funneled through Klout for example I would expect a much higher response rate than 10%.

    I would like to learn more about the costs of working with Klout or other social influence companies.

    • Dan Cristo
      June 16, 2011 (4:57 pm)

      Yeah, I’m not sure what Klout charges for a campaign like this.

  • Dino Dogan
    June 15, 2011 (9:33 pm)

    This is good stuff…targeted influencers who are topic-relevant dont need to reach millions of people…they just need to reach few hundred/thousand right kind of people.

    I was reading a blog post about someone who changed their twitter profile pic from a cartoon to his real face. He did some research and shared the stats about it. But what I really wanted to hear about is his personal experience going from cartoon pic to real pic. And I felt jipped that he didnt.

    Bloggers who blog about personal experiences are head and shoulders above the fray in terms of understanding  what their audience wants. And those kinds of bloggers can really mobilize a fervent core of supporters on any brand’s behalf.

    If only there was a way for companies to be able to find (easily) the right kind of relevant bloggers to promote their products. Do you know of any such services?

    • Dan Cristo
      June 16, 2011 (4:58 pm)

      haha. I feel like that was a slow lob there at the end.

  • Stan Faryna
    June 16, 2011 (4:35 pm)

    I don’t know if Klout sees it as clearly as you do, Dan. But I suspect this is one of their key plays in their business plan. It’s going to take some time to get it right – they aren’t doing a good job of correlating influencers to topics yet. But they’ll get better at it eventually. Or else.

    Triberr could get this right faster than Klout. I’m sure you’ve thought about it. So, dude, what the heck are you waiting for. Just sayin…

    • Dan Cristo
      June 16, 2011 (5:12 pm)

      Hey Stan,
      You’re right. Klout doesn’t yet do a good job at correlating influencers to topics yet. That’s because it’s really hard to show my expertise on a given topic based on a tweet. 

      Case and point… This is a fairly deep post about SEO, but the tweet version of this post only contains two important terms, “link” and “SEO”. Now those are great data points for placing me in an SEO category, but I could have just as easily published a crap post with a picture of a kitten saying, “If you love kittiez, link to meh”. And because I use Triberr, that post would likely still have had the same number of RT’s. 

      For Klout to do it right they really need understand what people talk about. That means they need to analyze blog posts, comments, Quora answers, FB notes and then overlay them with reach data they get from Twitter and FB. 

      The first one to make that happen is going to win big, and it may not be Klout.

  • Brad Holland
    June 17, 2011 (4:20 pm)

    That’s some in-depth, kick ass information there.

    The issue I have is, why would I trust someone who is supposed to be an “Influencer” who doesn’t even use the product but writes how awesome it is because they got if for free?

    I’m sure getting back links and earning good will is the end game, but what about how it affects real consumers who buy the products that weren’t even used? Maybe that’s why they send out the product to multiple bloggers, I don’t know.

    Anyway, that’s my .02

    • Dan Cristo
      June 17, 2011 (4:38 pm)

      Hey Brad,
      Interesting point you bring up. 

      So let’s say that I was company that made deodorant, and I sent you a stick of our newest stuff. (Now I’m just using this as an example, not implying that you smell).

      You get an email saying, “Hey Brad, we noticed that you write about personal care quite a bit online. If you’re interested, we’d love to send you a sample of our newest product for you to check out. We’d love to hear your thoughts on it, but no pressure either way. Just a gift from us to you”. 

      You reply with a “Sure, send me over a stick”. And two weeks later you get the package with two sticks of their “New Spice” deodorant and a hand written note from the brand manager. 

      Now what are you going to do? Throw the product in a drawer and act like it never happened? Not likely. You’re going to slap on some “New Spice” and head to the gym. You’ll come back, do a sniff test, and start blogging about how this well known company asked for YOUR feedback, because YOU are an expert on personal care, and you’ll also mention what you think about how well “New Spice” worked for you.

      The key is that the company targeted you; a blogger and self-proclaimed expert in personal care. They didn’t send a stick of mens deodorant to some old lady. Would the old lady write about her experience? Probably not. Would you, probably (if you were a personal care blogger that is). 

      The other key is that they didn’t email you begging for a product review. Instead, they appealed to your pride as an expert, and treated you as a human. “You’re an expert, and we’d love your feedback if you’re interested”. 

      That’s how I see it working anyway. I’m getting ready to test this out myself actually. It’s handy that I work for a large marketing agency :)

      • Brad Holland
        June 17, 2011 (5:27 pm)

        Hey Dan,
        When you break it down like that, it makes a hell of a lot of sense.

        I do smell though….Ask my wife….

  • Connie
    June 27, 2011 (4:56 am)

    I love your idea, but I hate Klout.  It’s so easy to game their system and tons are doing it.  Until they fix their system I’d say your idea is fabulous, just without Klout’s involvement.

    • Dan Cristo
      June 29, 2011 (2:01 pm)

      Hey Connie,
      I couldn’t agree with you more. But let’s say that a better social scoring came along. You wouldn’t even have to participate in an official Perks program, you could simply use the tool to find influencers and reach out directly. 

      We’ll see what happens in the future, but I feel like this could be a win for everyone.

  • Alexis Kenne
    July 30, 2011 (11:05 am)

    Quite interesting, you seem to add more value to your blog post, well done.

  • Eddie Gear
    September 1, 2011 (5:36 am)

    Very true Dan. I’ve covered some of these points in my ebook – Ultimate backlink strategies. Was an interesting read.

  • 25 Creative and Innovative Link Building Experts and Their Strategies | Kaiserthesage
    September 3, 2011 (5:44 pm)

    […] Experience Reviews – A New Way to Build Links (Advanced SEO) […]

  • Building Products
    March 22, 2012 (6:30 am)

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  • Ketan Raval
    April 5, 2012 (11:38 am)

    it took 8-9 months to reach to this content.. :) clearly your selection of title & quality of content will help us to reach next level…

  • 10 Types of Links that Really Matter and How to Get them | Kaiserthesage
    February 21, 2013 (8:55 pm)

    […] personal level – to actually get experiential reviews. Dan Cristo wrote an excellent post on how to get more reviews of your products 2 years ago, and you might want to check that one […]

  • Jamie
    February 26, 2013 (6:52 pm)

    Hey Dan, I can’t see where on this article I can share via G+ etc? I feel compelled to share stuff like this easily :)

  • Brian Zeng
    July 5, 2013 (5:21 am)

    Hey Dan,

    great insights.

    i am about to give a product giveaway soon,but just like you spotted,the old-fashioned way takes longer time and painful procedures,thanks for the new “social scoring company” tip,i didn’t realize that Klout can do this for us.



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