SES Interviews: SEOmozai??i?? Matt Inman on Linkbaiting


Joe Whyte got a chance to interview Matt Inman (aka oatmeal) at the recent SES conference in San Jose. Matt is a chief technology office at SEOmoz and is the guy behind the SEOmoz tools. He is also well-known for coming up with very creative linkbaiting campaigns (using quizzes) for his own dating site, Mingle2. Here is the full transcript of the interview.

SMS: This is Joe Whyte with Matt, better known as Oatmeal, from SEOmoz. Howai??i??s it going, Matt?

Matt: Itai??i??s going pretty well.

SMS: Cool. So Iai??i??ve been looking at Mingle2 quite a bit recently and itai??i??s starting to pick up some real tension ai??i?? some real traffic. Something Iai??i??m a big fan of is all those quizzes that you give. So tell me a little bit about the reason why you build those quizzes, where you come up with these great ideas, and the results side.

Matt: Sure. When I started marketing the site, I was doing it the way Iai??i??ve always done it ai??i?? which is, I was mostly going for digg bait, Top 10 articles, sensational piece articles, things like that. And I had some success with it. It was good for building my domain authority, getting it out of whatever age filter there was, because Mingle2 is a 2007 domain.

Unfortunately, linkbait in that regard doesnai??i??t get you very well targeted in your text. You can get close ai??i?? if youai??i??re trying to target fishing, you could write an article called ai???the funniest fishing videosai??? or cheap zoloft, cheap Zoloft. something. But itai??i??s not the exact anchor text you want.

So I built a quiz called ai???how geek are you?ai??? that I knew would appeal to bloggers and geek enthusiasts ai??i?? people who have the ability to make links. And I just kind of built it as a test and it got huge. It got tens of thousands of takers and so I instantly saw an opportunity where I could essentially rank for any term I wanted with viral badges, buy lisinopril quizzes, and things like that. So from there I started building a bunch of others.

I built one ai??i?? the next one I built was how many HTML elements can you name in 5 cheap xenical tablets. minutes. And that one fell flat on its face because thatai??i??s really hard to do and no one can do that. So I started getting pretty creative with it. I tried to appeal to peopleai??i??s vanity with ai???how x are you?ai??? ai???how this are you?ai???

One of the ones that was hugely successful ai??i?? and was great because I built it in about an hour and a half ai??i?? was a widget called ai???whatai??i??s my blog rating?ai??? You entered your blog URL and it comes back with MPAA rating such as R or PG-13. Itai??i??s really simple. All it does is it order lioresal goes to your blog and it finds out how many words there are like cusswords, words like ai???murderai??? or ai???explosion,ai??? words that would be indicative of an R-rated film. People can then post ai???my blog is rated PG-13ai??? or ai???my blog is rated With this thing ai??i?? people took this quiz, like, tens of thousands of people. All with the anchor text all pointing right at my home page.

So, three months out of the gate I was ranking for ai???free online That was the target I targeted first because ai???online datingai??? ai??i?? I actually didnai??i??t think I could do that. I thought it was a little too overwhelming. So I thought, well, Iai??i??ll start with ai???free online datingai??? which is less competitive.

SMS: To be able to rank for such a keyword thatai??i??s so competitive is amazing. ai???Online datingai??? ai??i?? youai??i??d only think an authority site thatai??i??s been around for a long time could do something like that. So itai??i??s a really interesting technique that youai??i??ve been able to master.

Matt: Yeah. Itai??i??s cool to show people too, because I see so many SEOs complaining about ai???oh, my domain is not holding upai??? or ai???Iai??i??m in the sandboxai??? or whatever you want to call it. And I go, I have a domain that I registered six months ago thatai??i??s ranking for very, very competitive terms.

It just goes to show that Google has all these signals it uses to rank pages ai??i?? age is one of them, relevance ai??i?? but of all those signals there is one you can control and one you can overpower every other signal with, and thatai??i??s links ai??i?? the sheer volume of links. And so after accruing 80,000 links to the site, buy cialis on line australia, buy cialis on line australia, buy cialis on line australia, buy cialis on line australia, buy cialis on line australia, buy cialis on line australia. thatai??i??s how I was able to make that.

SMS: And that was in 3 months time that you did that?

Matt: I did. I think for ai???free online datingai??? it was after three months. And then ai???online datingai??? was about a month later. In the past six weeks, my schedule has been crazy so I havenai??i??t been able to do as much viral link bait. But Iai??i??ve started to rank for every city in America plus the word ai???singlesai??? ai??i?? so, ai???Los Angeles singlesai??? I think Iai??i??m number two. Houston, Chicago.

SMS: So obviously youai??i??re creating different pages to support these different keywords, right?

Matt: Yes. Theyai??i??re not going to the home page. I set up specific geo-targeted pages. So basically any time a user signs up and they enter their city name, actually they get filed into a specific page for that name. So if they have a very specific town ai??i?? small and in the middle of nowhere ai??i?? and I search for that town and the word ai???singles,ai??? typically I show up in the top 10.

SMS: Wow. Pretty amazing.

Matt: Yeah. So thereai??i??s a linkbait strategy there ai??i?? a link strategy ai??i?? that is also an internal site architecture strategy that allows the site to be indexed and well-received by the engines.

SMS: And itai??i??s really important to be able to ai??i?? as an SEO ai??i?? to be able to constantly think outside the box because with the different filters and the different ai??i?? like, for instance, Matt Cutts says, ai???donai??i??t do reciprocal linking now. Weai??i??re going to start having people report page linksai??? etc., and itai??i??s just becoming increasingly more difficult to utilize these old-rule tactics. You know, going out and getting a bunch of forum links or doing article syndication is not as effective as what can be done these days.

Matt: Yeah. And I donai??i??t understand. I get those reciprocal link emails all the time.

SMS: Yeah, me too and itai??i??s horrible.

Matt: Me, I just donai??i??t understand the strategy there. It just seems so one at a time. Thereai??i??s not a lot of ai??i?? it just seems a really simple ai??i??

SMS: Whoai??i??s going to respond to that? And if they do, what kind of site is that going to be anyway thatai??i??s going to respond to something like that?

Matt: Yeah. I mean, leveraging social media is definitely the way to go right now. And the important thing to remember, too, is that in a year or two, that may not even be the case. We have to continually keep being creative.

SMS: Right. So, what else do you do? After you build this quiz, how are you going to leverage it? Do you kind of just let it be or do you ai??i?? what are the target sites that you go after?

Matt: Right now, the quiz page itself that has all my quizzes and gadgets and viral stuff has a huge audience of people that have already linked to it. LiveJournal is actually a huge source of traffic for me, because it gets spread across hundred of thousands of these live journals. So if I launch a quiz right now, it almost has a pre-built audience, so thatai??i??s an advantage.

Initially though, what really helps with it was ai??i?? I tried marketing quizzes Female Viagra purchase to digg. Unfortunately, they got buried. Digg will bury anything from Mingle2 at this point.

SMS: They have a tendency to do stuff like that, especially with corporate sites and sites that are more commercial.

Matt: They do. Yeah. So thatai??i??s why Iai??i??ve kind of toned down my digg marketing, just because itai??i??s not as effective. Itai??i??s so night and day, unlike something like StumbleUpon where everybody loves that site. Everybody is traffic, and itai??i??s great. Itai??i??s so unpredictable too. One day youai??i??ll submit something to StumbleUpon. Youai??i??ll get a little trickle of traffic and then itai??i??ll go away. And youai??i??ll be very sad. And then a month will go by and itai??i??ll be BOOM! And youai??i??ll get a huge surge out of nowhere. I donai??i??t get what makes things rise and fall, but StumbleUpon is a huge part of the traffic as well.

SMS: Cool. And to just kind of wrap it up, something that I really like that youai??i??ve done is after you take the quizzes ai??i?? you did the how much is your body worth?

Matt: The cadaver calculator.

SMS: Good advertising.

Matt: Yeah. That was awesome. That was on USA Todayai??i??s blog. That was on MSNBC.

SMS: That was amazing. I loved that thing. And then you did ai??i?? what was the other one? It was on zombies?

Matt: What are your chances of surviving a zombie attack?

SMS: Yeah. The zombie attack.

Matt: Yeah. The best advice I can give someone is just to be creative with it and try it. I was thinking about myself and what am I into? What would be a quiz or a viral widget that I would want to take that would be fun?

SMS: It seemed like that when you did that, there were a lot of zombie movies coming out at the same time.

Matt: Yeah. 28 Weeks Later.

SMS: 28 Weeks Later came out. And then Iai??i??m just thinking that this guyai??i??s really smart because heai??i??s kind of feeding off of the buzz thatai??i??s already been created by the movie. So at the end you get this badge and the people ai??i?? how successful is that campaign? How many people actually put that badge on their site?

Matt: The zombie badge?

SMS: Well, any badges that come off of the quizzes.

Matt: Usually between 4 and 6 thousand.

SMS: Wow.

Matt: Itai??i??s a hard metric to gauge because I use the site numbers and I use technorati to see what fresh ones are coming in. But typically each badge gets between 4 and 6 thousand backlinks.

SMS: And is that all in one push or does it continue to grow.

Matt: It continues to grow. And thatai??i??s whatai??i??s great about the strategy too is Iai??i??m not actively link building. Right now, as Iai??i??m sitting here talking to you, people are taking my quiz and building links for me. Itai??i??s just self-perpetuating.

SMS: Aaron Wall has quoted this term I think as self-reinforcing authority. Thatai??i??s what youai??i??ve done for yourself, and youai??i??ve done a great job.

Matt: Thank you.

SMS: Well, thanks a lot, Matt. I really appreciate you stopping by.


About the Author

Joe Whyte has been developing, managing and implementing successful, innovative, bleeding edge digital marketing strategies for Fortune 500 companies for over 7 years.

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  1. Hey Joe - thanks for putting up this interview, I really appreciate it. Just one minor note: Jeff Pollard was responsible for the SEO quiz, not me.

  2. Thanks! This was great and good luck to Matt!

  3. Oops. Our mistake, Matt. All fixed. Heard you're leaving SEOmoz. Care to share your plans for the future?

  4. I want to point out that this was originally a podcast and the interview went a lot smoother then the transcriber has notated ;-) I swear!!!

  5. Don't look at me :) We just cleaned it up a little bit. I guess that background noise was an integral part of the interview after all ;)

  6. I have always regarded seomoz being one of the best seo websites to use link baiting to its full potential - nice interview!

  7. Awesome article! I had a quick question, how can you create these quizzes? Do you need programming knowledge?

  8. Karen Asher

    "SMS: And its really important to be able to " as an SEO " to be able to constantly think outside the box because with the different filters and the different " like, for instance, Matt Cutts says, dont do reciprocal linking now. Were going to start having people report page links etc., and its just becoming increasingly more difficult to utilize these old-rule tactics. You know, going out and getting a bunch of forum links or doing article syndication is not as effective as what can be done these days. " Why are you spreading misinformation??? Matt Cutts has NEVER stated not to conduct reciprocal linking. He has only stated to avoid excessive link exchange. Link exchange is alive and well on the Internet .. google wants webmasters to avoid fully automated link exchange where links are obtainined in high volume with little manual control. But they have NEVER stated "don't reciprocal link" including Cutts who knows better.

  9. Karen, You are taking Joe's comment out of context. Google is spreading misinformation. Look at what's going on in the industry. People are afraid to work on getting a lot of quality backlinks so that not to trigger any filters. Nofollow tags are employed everywhere because people are afraid to disperse their page value. A few vague comments by Matt Cutts are effectively killing link exchange, at least for those that don't know better. So don't tell me that Google has nothing to do with it. Just because you had a drink with Matt and took a photo together doesn't mean his job is not to keep you, as a marketer, guessing.

  10. I find that making tools that you on your website free for other people is a good form of link building… it involves trust but people really wanted them they could nick them anyway

  11. You are taking Joe’s comment out of context. Google is spreading misinformation.

  12. at least for those that don’t know better. So don’t tell me that Google has nothing to do with it. Just because you had a drink with Matt and took a photo together doesn’t mean his job is not to keep you, as a marketer, guessing.