A few months ago I was asked to contribute to a post called “The $100 Link Building Challenge“. The main question of the post was you were asked to promote a USB company’s products and to use creative methods to gain links from this outreach.
Everyone submitted different ideas to the post which actually turned into a great resource. The characteristic I have noticed about link building over the last few years is that many people like to provide creative ideas, yet only a small number of SEO’s actually go out and implement the ideas.

I decided to go out and purchase $100 worth of USB’s. I decided to purchase “Bottle opener 15 GB USB’s”, because I knew it was something that people would actually use on a day to day basis. So many times in my office people ask for a USB or a bottle opener when having a beer on a Friday afternoon. Originally I looked at getting some promotional USB’s with branding on them yet they were a bit basic and I was thinking SEO’s do not want to be carrying around my branding all day.

Step 1: Selecting and purchasing the product, in my case 15 USB’s for the grand total of $104. 

USB links

So now I was the proud owner of 15 x Bottle opener USB’s.

Step 2: Design a list of people you wish to send your gifts to

I decided to draw up a list of people to send the USB’s to with a custom letter thanking them for their contribution to the SEO community in 2013. I had a quick look at the top list of members on Inbound.org to develop some ideas on who were the industry influences I wanted to target. I also thought to myself  “Who had a great post or did some great content in 2013”. A list of people to send the USB’s to was developed in Excel.USB-List

 

Step 3: Outreach process

I had picked the 14 people to receive the USBS’s from the research listed above. I emailed every one who did not have public postage details available. I actually received a funny reply from popular blogger “Matthew Woodward” when I asked him for his postal address for a small gift in the mail (refer to email below).
Another local SEO called Pieter also did not seem keen on receiving a USB in the mail either.

Step 4: Drafting a letters and making the envelopes

The next step was to draft an appropriate letter and also set up the envelopes ready for post.

letters

 

This step cost around $20 to post the letters all over the world.

The interesting part was too see who actually replied to receiving the gift and what were the results from the test!!

Step 5: Monitoring who received the letter and how they reacted. Did it result in links, mentions or something else?

Reply 1. Dennis Graham – A local digital marketer was the first one to reply, he sent me a MMS message saying thanks, he had my mobile number so all was good –

mms

Reply 2. Matthew Barbey was next to reply, his method of contact was a great mention to my name on Google+. Matthew also included some branding from my company Prosperity Media which was wonderful too see =)

prosperity

Reply 3. Paddy Moogan was the next to reply, he sent a tweet with a mention to my Twitter account –

Paddy

 

Reply 4. Jason Acidre send a mention on Twitter:

jason

 

Reply 5. Cyrus Shepard posted a photo on Google+ and a mention to my name of the gift he received –

cyrus

 

Reply 6: Brian Dean was the next to reply, he used a mention to my Twitter and also linked back to my site.
The first link of the campaign WINNING!

brian-dean

 

Reply 7 – Tad sent a thank you message on Twitter.

Tad

 

Reply 8 – Jon Cooper also sent a thank you message on Twitter.

jon cooper
Jon was also messaged me to say he had added this blog to his great resource list here – http://pointblankseo.com/link-building-resources (So another benefit from this outreach campaign)

 Reply 9 – Chris Dyson tweeted a mention to my account on Twitter.

chris-d

Other Replies – I had a funny message from a reader of my blog who wants to buy 100 of these USB Bottle openers, he liked the post and idea that much.

Tim

Step 6: Tracking the results from the $100 link challenge

Number of links built from the campaign – 2
Number of Google+ Mentions – 2
Number of mentions on Twitter from authority account – 4
Number of MMS messages – 1
Number of Twitter private message – 2

+ Additionally you need to also think about the HUMAN side of doing an outreach campaign like this, it is a great way to build a real world contact with member in your industry.

As you can see we are still waiting to hear back from a few people we mailed gifts to, possibly they have not arrived yet or maybe they are lost in the post. We will wait and see what they come back with in the following weeks.

Things we would have done differently with the campaign. 

The key mistake with this campaign was a call to action on the letter which could have been stronger, to drive people to do something once they had received the gift. For example “If you like the gift please tweet or share it”. We took the approach where we did not mention what to do, so it was up to the gift recipient on how they reacted when they received the gift.

Overall I think the $100 link building challenge was worth the effort and a low cost involved. If you are a brand looking to get some exposure, social shares and links I would give it a shot. My other piece of advice would be to scale up the number of gifts sent out and test a larger sample of results. You could adapt this gift giving approach to most niches and give out different types of gifts. Remember Christmas is coming up so it is the time of giving.

Let me know your thoughts on the campaign below and please feel free to share this post.