Earning Linkbacks with Memes: A Short Primer

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 4:20 PM

Originally Published 2007-07-31 02:46:42

I've participated in quite a few reciprocal linking gimmicks over the past year or so in an effort to get new readers, traffic, and linkbacks. A few of them have treated me quite well, earning me new readership, RSS subscribers, and permanent increases in traffic.

Most of them, however, haven't been good for much other than a few technorati authority points. There are several styles of promotional campaigns like this: Memes, Contests, Direct Exchanges, and "ViralTagging". If there's enough reader interest, over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to analyze the various types of linkback campaigns. Today's topic is "Memes".

Meme Who?

According to Wikipedia, "Biologist and evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins coined the term meme in 1976. He gave as examples tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothing fashions, ways of making pots, and the technology of building arches." The entry on memes goes on to mention viral marketing as an example of a meme, stating "Viral marketing [is] A type of marketing based on memes and using 'word of mouth' to advertise (see the recent example of Snakes on a Plane)."

Within the scope of blogging, a "meme" generally refers to the concept of establishing a topic or set of questions and "tagging" several other bloggers with the meme. The idea is that the bloggers tagged hopefully grab the meme and "pay it forward", writing about the topic themselves and then tagging five more bloggers who have yet to participate.

So who starts these things?

One recent example of a very successful campaign that almost qualifies as a meme is Darren's (problogger) Top 5 Group Writing Project. The Top 5 promotion was extremely effective and successful by most measures, earning new eyeballs for nearly everyone involved. The primary beneficiary, of course, was Darren, because he got the most linkbacks and exposure (linking back wasn't even a requirement, but most of the hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of participants did so).

This is not a good canonical example, however, because there was a cash prize involved, thus blurring the line between meme and contest. The "tagging" concept also prevented a huge jump in linkbacks, because at best you were looking at 6 links that way -- one from Darren and one each from the 5 folks you tagged. So it was viral, yes, but the one person it really helped the most was the one guy on the internet who probably needs links the least. Just kidding, Darren... but it does illustrate a point. It's a lot easier to generate buzz when you already have enough readers to populate a small city. Wealth begets wealth.

Another recent meme -- one that did not have the contest angle -- was the popular The Face Behind the Blog campaign. This was a fun entry, too, because it wasn't simply a list of links -- there was actual content involved, and the folks you tagged rewarded you with photos and some skeletons from their closet. For a fair number of folks, this was a very successful campaign -- it fostered new relationships, generated a common thread across many different blogs, and caused lots of linkback love for those that participated wholeheartedly and/or got involved early.

Now, these last two points are key. Here's what I mean by wholehearted participation:

  • Make an effort to contact all of the folks you're linking back to directly. I know, that's a lot of stinking links, but how much more likely are they to check out your blog, read your post(s), and link back? I'm just speculating, but I think the ratio jumps from 15% or so to about 90. I don't think I've ever not linked back to someone participating in a meme that I've participated in. On the other hand, if a meme is a runaway success, and you've got 50 new links a day coming in for a couple of weeks, how could anyone keep up? And still write compelling content?

  • If you slack off on the above point, at least track the meme back to its original publisher and reach out to them. Send them an email and leave a comment on the meme posting. That way, everyone else who comes along and takes part will grab your link too.

  • Get in early. I posted my Face Behind the Blog entry at least two full weeks after the meme had started. It was worth a few link backs, to be sure, but had nowhere near the energy it would have if I had participated from the get-go. Just look at the total number of participants (you might, ahem, use that big search engine that starts with a "G" and search for "face behind the blog" in quotes) and you'll realize how much I missed by only getting a dozen link backs from the deal. Granted, I was also lazy and barely followed my one advice above, but I had just reached the Technorati Top 10K, so it was easy to rationalize that I too busy. ;-)

  • Write good content. Your new visitors shouldn't come to your site, scan your three last postings, and click away in disgust. If your blog is light on content, then all those new page views you'll get from meme-ing are almost a waste. You want new visitors to feel like you're adding value, spawning them to come back and read more. A good blog should make new visitors bookmark and/or seek out your RSS Feed link. I know, this is an old song, but it's still a good one.

Now, what went into the success of both of these memes?

Well, first off, both were initiated by folks with mindshare. When you're a Darren Rowse, you can throw up a meme on your blog, not tell anyone, and can pretty much expect that you'll get 100 comments in the first 8 hours. But for the rest of us, it helps to have existing relationships with several bloggers. You should be able to tag 10 of your friends (or "friends") and have 10 linkbacks immediately. Furthermore, those 10 new posts on other blogs should reach a readership that is complementary to your own. If your ten friends happen to all have blogs with 3 RSS subscribers and just started writing last week, that doesn't help a whole heck of a lot, now does it?

Secondly, it helps to volunteer to keep the master list. It's a lot of work for the originator, because it takes a fair amount of effort to update a blog post with 100 new links, but it's the bait, and if you're starting one of these, you're going after lofty goals anyway, so be prepared. Besides, if you don't keep a master list, the meme can easily spread, yet leave you behind. All it takes is one fellow deleting your link, and the next 500 people who participate won't even know who you are! (Ok, that's a little less likely, because so many meme participants just copy/paste, but I was exaggerating for effect.)

Finally, encourage participation. One of the great things about these types of campaigns is connecting with new people. There's a big difference between admiring another blogger and trading blogroll links. It's another step still to get to the point where you're chatting or trading email on a near daily basis. These might be "virtual" friends, but, just like in the real world, who you know is often more important than what you know.

Want to get in on one of these? Well, how about John Cow's Feed My Feed promo?

I can't speak for all of the blogs on this list (alas, I haven't yet subscribed to all of them), but I can vouch for the first ten. They are solid blogs and I feel honored that Really Smart Guy was included in such a quality list. (Sorry it took me so long to post this, Bob.)

#Start copy here#
The idea is simple: You want readers and you want link backs too because that’s all us bloggers want, it’s more precious than milk for some :twisted:So how does it work?

Simple! You just copy the list down below on your blog, hence creating link backs for your blogging friends and then click the RSS feed link to subscribe to all of them. Then you add yourself and up to 5 other bloggers and their feeds to the end of the list before you publish it on your own blog. Show your friends some link love :)

Just imagine if just 10 people would do this and then 10 more after them. That would get your blog 100 extra link backs and 100 extra feed subscribers!

The Original List:

The Extended List:


On 2007-08-01 20:18:18 40Hourstogo said:
Thanks for the linkback love, I've added you to mine.

On 2007-08-02 01:14:05 mahdi yusuf said:
hey thanks for the link back, join your local monkey subscribe :D !! we did!

On 2007-08-03 11:32:34 eve said:
Great explanation of memes! Thanks!

On 2007-08-04 06:15:48 make money online said:
Thanks for the link love! I always like this site because you keep it very contemporary and informative.

On 2007-08-09 12:43:26 cmanlong said:
Got your ping Thanks for the link. I subscribed to your blog a while back as a result of this contest but hadn't noticed the ping. I was going back through the list and decided to stop by to say hello. This was a great article by the way.

later all and have a profitable productive blogging day

On 2007-08-10 12:42:13 Johnny Fuery said:
Thanks for the love, everyone...

On 2007-11-14 04:07:45 Let's Discuss Money said:
Excellent article Johnny, thankyou, you've just given me a great idea for a future meme I can run on my own blog.

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