SEO Guerilla Marketing

Some people are simply geniuses.

And like watching Olympians do their thing, it brings a smile to your face just to see them in action.

Matt Inman is an SEO genius. He is the former CTO of SEOmoz.org.

Matt built the free dating site Mingle2 in 66.5 hours! He designed, coded, and launched within 66.5 hours! And as impressive as this is, his SEO work on Mingle2 is even more impressive.

With zero marketing budget, Matt now ranks #2 on Google for ‘free online dating’! That may be the second most competitive keyword phrase next to ‘cheap V1agra.’ And he didn’t get these results with his mom clicking a Mingle2 link one million times. His strategy generated nearly 250,000 links in four months and garnered the attention of MSNBC.com, USAToday.com, & Digg.com.

Matt used SEO guerrilla marketing.

His particular strategy for this project was to create various different online quizzes—the kind that your best friends like to do and post their results to when they learn exactly what kind of sexy cartoon character they are. Matt’s quizzes included topics such as:

The Caffeine Click Test. How caffeinated are you?
The Blog & Website Cuss-O-Meter. How often do you cuss on your blog?
How many 90-year-olds could you take in a fight?
How many cannibals could your body feed?
How long could you survive in the vacuum of space?

SEO guerilla marketing quizzes

SEO guerilla marketing quiz

Obviously, these quizzes have absolutely nothing to do with ‘free dating sites.’ But that is not the point of guerilla marketing. In guerilla marketing, the three goals are:

1.) Get people looking
2.) Get people talking
3.) Get other people looking

Once you get them looking, then you can pitch them or lead them to your site.

Matt set up these quizzes so that users take the full quiz. But just before viewing their results, they are shown a conversion page reading, “This quiz was created by Mingle2” and encouraging them to sign up.

If users don’t want to sign up, they can click a small link at the bottom right that reads, ‘continue to results.’ After all, if someone doesn’t want to register, they’re not going to. You may as well let them view their results since you don’t want them angry toward your brand. Besides, it’s not like these quiz results really mean anything anyway.

SEO quiz conversion page

Yet, this conversion page is NOT the real genius of Matt’s marketing strategy.

In the quiz results, Matt displays code that users can copy and display their results within their blogs. Bloggers eat this up. And what Matt loves, is that within each quizzes’ code is, you guessed it, a link back to the Mingle2 website

SEO quiz results

Matt sets the link’s anchor text to whatever particular keywords he wants Mingle2 to rank well for within search engine results. For instance:

<a href=”http://mingle2.com”> Free Dating Sites </a>

The end product:

How Many 90 Year Olds Could You Take in a Fight?

Created by Mingle2 – Free Dating Sites

He could also use the phrase ‘free online dating’ in some of these quizzes. Then when Google sees thousands of links with ‘free online dating’ anchor text, it determines that http://mingle2.com must be particularly relevant result to display. So Mingle2.com moves higher in result engine ranks for this keyword phrase. In this case, Matt’s work was so effective, that Mingle2.com now ranks #2 for this phrase!

SEO guerilla marketing, then, has one more goal beyond the three for traditional guerilla marketing, and that is:

4.) Get a link back to your business site, LOTS of them

A incoming link may sound simplistic, but they are the predominant measure by which Google determines ranking within results for any given phrases. The hundreds of thousands of links that Matt generated for Mingle2 are the reason that Mingle2 ranks so highly.

Matt worked smart. Instead of working to build links one by one to his site or buying advertising, Matt used his particular skill set to allow others to build links for him.

The takeaway: When it comes to link building, remember: There may be more than one way for you to skin a cat. But each takes too much of your time. It’s much more effective to create an opportunity for millions of others to each skin a cat for you.

Now that’s thinking like a billionaire. Hat tip to Matt!

Tip! Grab Market Samurai’s free download for backlink anchor text and PR analysis if you want to see how many links your competitors have built and what anchor text they are receiving. There’s a coupon *inside* of the free trial for $50 off, if you want it.

Update! Learn from Matt’s mistake: Google laid the smack down on some of Matt’s quizzes and the site he first promoted with them (the precursor to Mingle2) after Matt used his same quizzes to cross promote a site for a cash advance & payday loan company. Google’s Matt Cutts chimed in the comments section here about the situation. The conclusion is that for this to work, the quizzes or other link bait that you create need to be closely related content-wise to the website that you link to. Otherwise, Google doesn’t think these quizzes add any value for users. So the strategy still works as long as (1) each quiz promotes one, and only one, website of (2) related content with (3) an exposed link, not hidden with javascript, flash, etc (as Matt did correctly with the exposed links in his quizzes and as is shown in the example above).

6 Responses to “SEO Guerilla Marketing”

  1. This was an excellent summary of the effective genius of taking on web 2.0 strategies and seo to effectively dominate a market most importantly, without a marketing budget other than sheer leverage of the search engines through white hat seo techniques.

    Its one of the most exciting adaptations I plan to yield for any longterm seo strategy I implement for my existing businesses, or my clients.

    Cheers Matt!

  2. Hi your post is amazing, It’s incredible, I learned a lot about SEO and Man, this thing’s getting better and better as I learn more about internet marketing. Also as part of my ongoing mission to find the absolute best tools to make money, this is without a doubt at the top of my list. Everything happened so fast!

  3. [...] are backlinks by spreading online quizzes……this was an article linked to from one of his sites SEO Guerilla Marketing | Living On Dividends He has a great site though….I know I was researching SEO stuff for my site and ended up wasting [...]

  4. Alex says:

    Now THAT is creativity. You have to think ahead of the curve like that to win! Great article!

  5. How was Matt able to get those quizzes initially in front of so many eyeballs if he didn’t spend any money? Did he post them on forums, send them to friends? That is the key piece of information missing from this awesome SEO tale.

    I would think that even if someone could use this same strategy today with a brand new website, they would be punished by Google because of so many links in such a short period of time to a new website.

    Interesting to see that Matt is now doing theoatmeal.com considering all of his funny quizzes.

    • He does seem to be doing great for himself these days with theoatmeal.com. It’s funny when family passes links to his content to me and they don’t even know this backstory. It’s just that viral.

      RE how he launched the quizzes initially before they went viral, I know he posted the quizzes on the homepage of his first dating site, which was already receiving some traffic so people found them there initially before they spread like wildfire. I’m sure he did other promotions too, email, Twitter, etc, but I don’t know those specifics. That said, if you were to do this nowadays, it’d be even easier to get it going virally b/c you can leverage Facebook likes to spread it widely, some of these people will be bloggers, and then it’ll enter the blogosphere, which is where you want it.

      Google slap is always a risk. But you don’t have to always include the link with the embed code you offer to visitors. If you want to start slowly, you could set up a PHP random function to only display the link in the embed code to X% of visitors, let the links build slowly, and gradually increase the % of times that you include the link with the embed code given to visitors. Building slowly is key. I go one step further and use a PHP random function to vary the anchor text too. The embedded content definitely needs to be related to your site one way or another. That’s the biggest mistake IMO.

      It’s def a risk, but sometimes is worth taking. When Google dropped John Chow from the index for selling links, he just kept promoting and marketing his site. After a while, he and his brand became so well known that Google looked stupid for not show him in search results. And THAT is really what Google doesn’t want. They don’t want to look stupid. So they eventually made amends and re-included his site. So it’s always a risk. But if John hadn’t done it, would he be just another unknown IM wannabe? Probably.

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