Creating an Effective SEO Campaign by Giving Something Valuable Away

SEO campaign management begins with creating a free product of real value for your readers.

Even if you follow a checklist of all the items required for a successful SEO campaign, you can achieve mediocre results if you don’t offer a highly desirable free download.

How many best practices must you follow to be a world-class online publisher?

That’s like asking Tiger Woods how many swing keys there are to striking the golf ball properly.

Even though there are hundreds of online publishers, we only have to follow about a dozen superstars to find the best practices. And while many of the best online publishers are not even 50 percent compliant with all the best practices, they’re ahead of the pack.

There’s plenty of room for improvement. That includes us. We freely admit that Mequoda Daily is remiss in following all the best practices, all the time.

With our own website and email newsletter, we barely make it onto the superstar list, primarily because of our size. With our small staff, we have to pick our campaigns carefully. Perhaps you do too.

But you (and we) can make incremental improvements by following the most important best practices, and in so doing, rise above the crowd.

Mequoda Daily is dedicated to identifying the real world-class publishers and defining what they do best. There is a hierarchy of importance, and the old 80/20 rule applies. We estimate that 20 percent of the best practices are far more important than the remaining 80 percent.

Audience development objectives are paramount. The key questions are: How big is your list? How much does each subscriber spend? And if you carry advertisements, how much are they worth?

There are two basic goals: (1) more customers and (2) higher average sales per customer.

At the end of the day, there are two core activities that are fundamental to any Mequoda publishing system. The first is search engine optimization. The other is the email marketing campaign.

SEO campaigns are about building your subscriber file. Email marketing campaigns are about monetizing your subscriber file.

Even if you follow a checklist of all the items required for a successful SEO campaign, you can achieve mediocre results if you don’t offer a highly desirable free report. A blockbuster free download creates buzz in the market, which can result in great link-building leverage.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Number one on the SEO best practice checklist: Create a brilliant free downloadable report.

So item #1 on your SEO best practice checklist should be to create a brilliant free report.

Is that always easy to do? No.

But eventually you’ll discover what works best for your publication. Here are a few great examples:

Knitting has numerous blockbuster free downloads. A free eBook of knitted lace patterns, is practically guaranteed to motivate any needlework enthusiast to download it in exchange for their email address.

Harvard’s Program on Negotiation recently re-launched with three free reports for those looking to build their negotiation skills. Their conflict management white paper shows readers how to handle conflict management with an appeal to common goals.


Johns Hopkins Health Alerts has a very popular free downloadable report on prostate disorders (among many others) that has been a top performer for years. It’s brilliant because it addresses the concerns of many middle-aged men, and ranks high in the returns for numerous search engine keyword phrase queries.

How do you become a brilliant free report producer?  The same way you get into Carnegie Hall. Practice, practice, practice.

How do you pick the topic? One place to watch is your website’s public forum. When you determine what question is asked most frequently, you have a very good idea for a free report topic.

Another is the Google Keyword Tool, which is no less than the most revolutionary audience research tool ever created.

Simply enter your initial keywords, and the Google Keyword Tool will return a list of related searches. These are the phrases web surfers are using to search for information about your editorial topic. Match the title and the content of your free report to their favorite search terms, and you’ve got a winner.

The Google Keyword Tool is fundamental to today’s online service journalism. It provides a direct hotlink into the American psyche. Or you can discover the primary interests of any other culture, because the Google Keyword Tool works in numerous languages.

There is no more convenient tool for discovering what your audience is searching for than the Google Keyword Tool. Google will return to you numerous synonyms and related terms, and provide the search volume for each of them.

Matching the title and content of your free downloadable report to the most appropriate search terms is the formula for being found in Google, and thus building your email subscriber list.

Where do the great ideas for free reports come from?

Anything that you can do to help determine what your customers are interested in — although not necessarily willing to pay for — will suggest a free report topic. Let’s make a list:

  • Research audience interest and keywords using the Google Keyword Tool.
  • Review the most frequently asked questions posted to your online forum.
  • Determine which of your paid products are the best sellers.
  • Examine your magazine cover stories to determine which have the best sell-through.
  • Review your direct mail results to determine which teaser lines create the most sales.
  • Review the subject lines of your most successful email marketing campaigns to determine which create the highest open rates.
  • Determine which sessions at your live events are the most popular.

Wherever you see enthusiasm for information, you have a topic for a blockbuster free special report.

Next, you’ll want to align your free reports with expanded treatments of the same topic that become paid reports or full-length books.

That’s a best practice followed religiously at John Hopkins Health Alerts, where every free report upsells to a paid white paper on the same topic.

Discover how to plan, execute and analyze a blockbuster SEO campaign. The bonus SEO workshop following the Mequoda Summit will cover creating blockbuster special reports, writing a rapid conversion landing page, producing an editorial support plan, crafting a PR plan, link-building, viral marketing to your customers, social media marketing, and quantifying the results. Sign up today for the Sixth Annual Mequoda Summit and Internet Marketing Conference.


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