Posted by on Jun 15, 2011 in Blog, Links, SEO | 17 comments

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?