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Ask an SEO – Sam Applegate on effective content promotion

Ask an SEO – Sam Applegate on effective content promotion

SEO expert Sam Applegate talks about his new venture Flauntt, how to promote content effectively and that Matt Cutts mashup video.

You’ve created the perfect piece of content. It’s taken hours of research, you’ve agonised over your keywords, pored over hundreds of images. You’ve strategically linked out to some influential people in your space, in the hope that a pingback might earn you a tweet from that ‘rockstar’ that everyone knows and loves.

The content goes live, you tweet the link, add it to your Facebook and Google+ profiles. You wait a while, give it another tweet, maybe resort to some social bookmarking. No-one responds, and all of that effort and hard work has been in vain.

Sound familiar?

Sam Applegate
Sam Applegate

SEO consultant Sam Applegate is aiming to help, with the launch of Flauntt – a new social content promotion tool, which gamifies the sharing process by requiring users to earn credits by tweeting links to content from the site before they can add their own link.

I love the model, and I was fortunate enough to catch up with Sam to learn a bit more about it, and his tips for effective content promotion.


Q) Hi Sam, I can see from reading your bio that you have quite an unconventional background for an SEO! Could you tell us a little bit about it?

Hi Martin, sure. Well, I graduated with a degree in Computer Science back in 2003 (wow, 10 years ago now) and really didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself.

After moving between a couple of engineering jobs, and travelling around South America for a bit, I heard about the wonderful world of Affiliate Marketing.

This is when I was first introduced to SEO. I read a lot, learnt a lot, and put together a few affiliate sites. I quickly left my engineering job, and started work as a full time affiliate marketer.

A couple of years later, and with mixed success, I met a guy who earned twice as much as me playing online poker. I studied hard (I was a real ‘fish’ at first), and soon started beating the small/medium stakes. My highlight was discovering a bot network on one of the poker sites, and exploiting them for over 10k USD in 2 weeks. Cheaters never prosper!

I still play poker now and then, but it does take up so much time (high hand volume required to even out the variance).

So, other than living in Argentina for 6 months, then moving to Malta for a year, that pretty much brings us up to now: I just moved to Spain with my girlfriend, and I can honestly say, tapas are awesome.

Q) Where did the idea for Flauntt come from? Was there a Eureka moment?!

Not really a Eureka moment. I was just hearing more and more of my clients struggle with the social promotion of their stuff.

Many ‘traditional’ companies (plumbers, electricians, accountants) have read so much about social media, but don’t really know how to leverage it for their business.

Besides asking a few friends to retweet stuff, or getting great Aunt Hilda to like their Facebook page, they didn’t have the time or know-how to build up social connections.

Flauntt basically encourages what we do anyway. If somebody retweets one of my articles, I will no doubt tweet something of theirs in return. Us SEOs know how the game works. But not everybody does. Flauntt is just a way of policing it, so everybody is fair with each other (without needing to build up relationships first).

There are plenty of other sites out there, Viral Content Buzz is probably the most similar model. There’s also: Triberr and Empire Avenue (I love EA!)

But with Flauntt I wanted to achieve a couple of things:

1. No Spam

There is a quality rating given to each piece of content that is submitted. Poor quality stuff will either get rejected, or not promoted as much as the good stuff.

2. Quick and Easy

Nobody wants to fill out forms, nobody wants to read pages of text (yes, I need a how-it-works video!). So I’ve made the tool as minimalist and light as possible.

Q) Staying on the topic of spam. This is probably one of the biggest issues facing bookmarking/sharing sites at the moment. Could you go into a bit more detail on how exactly you fight spam?

First of all, each ‘flauntt’ that is submitted is manually moderated before going live (made available for other people to tweet). Part of the moderation process is to score the ‘flauntt’ (1-10) on quality.

At the moment, I’m using Google’s quality guidelines as a baseline for my simple scoring. The usual stuff – is it original, is it spelled correctly, is it advertorial or editorial, would I share it with my friends?

So if I love your ‘flauntt’, I’ll give it a 10. This means each person that tweets it will receive 10 credits, in addition, the ‘flauntt’ will remain live until 10 people have tweeted it.

If I hate your content, I will just reject it, or give it a low score of 1 or 2. The incentive won’t be there for other people to tweet it, plus it’ll only stay on the system for 1 or 2 tweets.

I’m also fighting spam at the tweeting end of things. I’ve had a couple of users tweet stuff to earn credits, only to insta-delete the tweets from their timeline.

At the moment I’m just warning/banning these users. But I’m working on a better solution: when these spammers try to ‘flauntt’ their own content, I can check to see if they’ve deleted the previous tweets and punish their ass if they’ve been cheating (just like I did with those poker bots).

Q) Besides the usual ‘create great content’ are there any tips you can give to SEOs who are looking to get maximum exposure for their content?

Well, great content certainly does sell itself. When I created the funny Matt Cutts Mash Up video all it took was just one well-connected SEO to notice it, write a blog post, retweet it, and off we went.

The trick therefore, is getting influential people to notice it.

Build a list of the top people in your niche, and target them. Don’t spam them, but engage with them (comment on their blogs, mention them in tweets, join their Facebook/Google+ pages).

When the time is right, gently point them in the direction of your stuff. If you’ve done the hard part and created something awesome, your influential friends will be all over it.

Q) My opinion is that Twitter has largely made social bookmarking sites redundant. Would you agree with that? Are there any particular bookmarking sites that are still useful?

I would probably agree. I think a lot of the social bookmarking sites have had to re-invent themselves over the past couple of years.

Digg has changed dramatically, for the better. Now pretty much no spam and a great simple interface. It’s a good place to find quality content.

I think reddit is still useful, for micro niche stuff. Although the quality of traffic it provides is a bit hit or miss to say the least.

Q) Now some more general SEO questions, have you been impacted by Panda and Penguin? If so, what have you done to recover?

Honestly, I can’t say I have! Sure, I’ve been Google-slapped in the past, plenty of times, but not specifically for Panda and Penguin.

Actually, I wonder why so many people see it as a bad thing (well, obviously I understand people’s frustrations, but they need to change their way of thinking).

If you know what you’re doing, the algorithm updates are a great thing for the good guys. What an opportunity for everybody to be quicker than their competitors to react, and storm up the SERPs! Get creating awesome content.

Sam recommends Empire Avenue
Sam recommends Empire Avenue

Q) What SEO tools do you use?

Besides the usual: Google Analytics, Google Keyword Tool, Notepad.. I’ve been discovering loads of great social tools recently.

Empire Avenue – not really an SEO tool, but it can be used to increase traffic and build social connections (plus it almost feels like a strategy game when you’re using it). I joined just last week and am becoming an addict.

Q) What are your SEO predictions for 2013?

SEO is becoming more and more like mainstream (offline) marketing, in my opinion.

No more geeks and their tools, no more counting links and stuffing keywords. It’s simple: produce great stuff for people, and get creative about it.

The bottom line is that Google is providing a service to its customers. This is to fetch the best (and most related) stuff to the searcher. If you really sit down for 3 days and bash out a corking piece of content, Google can’t afford not to rank you.

They would be doing a dis-service to their customers (if your piece of content really is the best thing to answer that particular query).

Links, shares, they all come naturally with creative inbound marketing.

Smart SEOs know this. But plenty of old-hat SEOs need to stop living in the past and filling the Internet full of junk, with their clever link-counting-pagerank-building-robot tools.

So in 2013 there’s going to be a continued decline of ‘gaming’ search results, until eventually SEOs = Creative Marketers, and have art degrees rather than scientific ones.

Buffer founder Joel Gascoigne
Buffer founder Joel Gascoigne

Q) Lastly, who is your favourite SEO ‘rockstar’?

Not really an SEO rockstar, but I’m a big fan of Joel Gascoigne of Buffer. Reading his story is inspirational to entrepreneurial folks like me. He’s got a lot of smart ideas (plus a cracking little tool with Buffer).

Who’s next?

If you are an SEO and you’d like to be featured here, drop me an email.

Martin Harrison

Works at Copify

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