Using e-Books for Viral Marketing Campaigns

Now I am sure you have heard what I am about to say before. You probably heard it from some one page "sell" web page which touted their new, easy and probably very expensive product as the panacea to all your problems. Well this method isn’t new, it definitely is not easy, but it could be free — if you don’t count man hours.

I believe in it so much I currently am compiling a series of programming articles into e-book form, and hopefully in two months time I will start my own viral marketing campaign for a scripts site using an e-book. What am I trying to say is, this could very well be the single best way you can use to continuously get permanent one way links back to your site (yes, I actually believe what I am saying). 

This technique has two other points to recommend it: it works without any major  marketing on your part, or at least with very little marketing. Additionally, you just have to create your product once, though you might have to update further editions for relevancy.

The Question

In this article we will look at the needs of people on the net, the need of your SEO adept, and then the win win situation that an e-book provides to all the parties. We will also look at major sites that offer free e-books and have shot to the tops of their categories/keywords on the SERPs.

It was actually when I was studying these top sites and asking myself "how" that the idea occurred to me. How does one site go to the top of the lists for "SEO software" and stay there, and how does another site go to the top for "web design" and stay there? I discovered two major ways; right now I am still studying the first one. This is a bit like revealing state secrets so follow closely, do your own research and find a way to create your own e-book.

I am a web developer who works with teams that build and market web sites, so I always have a few sites at hand which I am optimizing for the search engines, or just looking to drive traffic towards. And always we face the need, the absolute need for content. Always we start with this need: where will we get the content that the traffic will read?

Web editors, webmasters and generally every one that owns a web site needs content. Without content, your traffic is guaranteed to dry up. Take it to the bank, "no new content, your traffic will dry up." I have seen it happen countless times; we reach a few thousand hits a day, then our webmaster puts his/her feet up, quits creating new content, and few months later s/he screams "where did they all go?"

There are different forms of content. There is text content, there are downloadables, graphics and software downloads, online applications that do fun stuff (like give you search results), and more. Most webmasters simply stick with text because of bandwidth considerations, At the danger of sounding melodramatic, webmasters are pretty desperate for content.

The Other Need

Webmasters need revenue. What’s the point of paying an SEOs exorbitant fees and then not getting enough money from the site to cover bandwidth costs? Everybody wants to make a little extra green  to justify all that time spent in front of the computer screen. So content and revenue are the two primary needs webmasters have. Search rankings are just a way to get traffic (but before traffic must be content).

Your Need

You need rankings; if you didn’t you would not be here. You want high rankings on the SERPs. If you could get them without doing anything you probably would go for it, but that would be bad for everybody.

To get rankings the search engines ask for two things: links and content, in that order. Hopefully you have content, but even after content you need links, and sometimes you may not get links as rapidly as you would like. Links are delicate and sensitive things; they flee from ardent pursuers and come towards gentle "link baiters." As an individual you want to create the ultimate link bait, and get free one way links from a large number of sites with varying page rank. And how will you do it?

Ideal links should link to various selected pages on your site, and you should also be able to determine the anchor text, because this could be a very important factor in determining the exact words for which your site is ranked on the search engines. But unfortunately in linking you do not get to determine your anchor texts ALL the time. But with an e-book you could determine quite a number of your anchor texts.

You provide an e-book, and offer the people who download it rights to redistribute it for free. This gives web masters a free resource to offer their users. They immediately pull your e-book from your site (of course there is still the problem of getting webmasters to see your valuable resource). You then offer the web masters the option of selling your e book, even allowing them to call it what they like as long as they leave links back to your site.

Most web masters won’t sell it, and the few that do won’t get many sales. Most web masters will simply put the resource on their servers and let their users download. Note that the e-book must be in PDF format.

Some Models

An excellent model for this technique is http://www.seoelite.com/, which holds the top ranking for "SEO software." The entire site’s publicity is based on the viral spread of his e-book or e-lessons in SEO. The book contains links back to "Brad Callen’s" site seoelite.com with SEO software as anchor text.

I have personally run across the e-book at least three times on different sites; the fellow even ran full banner ads for the e-book on SEO Chat. This book has free re-distribution rights and even has a "deal sweetener" that helps satisfy a webmaster’s need for revenue. The whole e-book can either be offered as a single course or as a series of twelve courses via email (with a very strong sell message laced into every chapter).

The Clincher for Seoelite

Really, this deserves a whole chapter. Apart from giving redistribution rights, seoelite.com now offers webmasters PDF re-brander software which they can use to replace standard links and place unique affiliate links back to the landing page. Now note this technique — they give a free resource, then tell you that if you change the links to affiliate links (they give you the free software to do this) you get paid a certain amount every time someone who clicks on that link buys seoelite software.

So what happens? Discerning webmasters put the resource on their very best pages and do everything in their power to presell the SEO software. That’s why despite all the bad press saying "seoelite is obsolete" (it even rhymes), seoelite is still a top (automated and DIY) competitor for many of the very best SEO (manual and outsourcing) companies.

Site sell, who offers the service "Site build it," also offers dozens of e books, all free and all with redistribution rights, some of them by Ken Envoy and others by their teeming hordes of writers (they really have hordes of writers). They have turned themselves into the definitive one stop shop for small online businesses. They are one of the strongest brands for web design online, and rank very well on search engines for the term "website design."

There are other examples but these two are the biggest. Note that e-books can be used for various purposes; they can be sold, they can be offered without redistribution rights to single users (so they become a unique, URL specific resource) or they could be used to trigger off a massive viral marketing campaign, pushed not by fickle users, but "greedy" and determined webmasters and web site owners.

Getting the Webmasters to Pay Attention

Well, in case you never noticed, in some places online you find users, while in others you find owners. Web site owners, web developers, and Internet marketers hang out on forums and sites where they can learn or get stuff they can use to improve their business, especially free stuff. SEO Chat forums is a great place to find owners and marketers (Search Engine Watch and Webmaster World are also good forums). Optimizing your site also has its advantages, that way you attract everybody and get a few web site owners included in the mix.

The truth is that very few people can resist a free resource, and if worst comes to worst and they don’t bite, you can advertise on a site where you can get tons of webmasters; I believe "Brad Callen" chose SEO Chat for about a month. I put his name in quotes because I have actually never met him online before, so sometimes I fear he is just a marketing legend, probably retired and living in Hawaii. Note that you get them to pay attention AFTER you write your e-book.

Writing Your e-Book

Wow, am I actually going to put together e book writing strategies in barely a hundred words? I mean whole sites are dedicated to this! Suffice to say I can’t cover everything about writing an e-book here, but it doesn’t have to be a massive tome. I have seen very nice 21 page e-books that served their purpose excellently. As long as it’s related to your site and it has links, the major thing you have to do is write it.

Of course, that’s a bit more complicated than I made it sound! But if you can write an email, you are qualified to write. If you’re in doubt of your skills get a professional writer, pay what you need to and get your resource. There are many ways to skin a cat (fur and all) and there are many ways to write an e-book.

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