The best SEO tactics are the ones that are discovered by accident, like Lexan. Last week, I stumbled upon a linkbuilding tactic so effective and simple that I felt compelled to share it here. It’s called Groupon.
First off, linkbuilding is a painful SEO task. It’s painful to sell it to clients. It’s painful to do it. And it’s even more painful to do it well. So when you find an easy way to get the job done, well, you write a blog post about it and ruin it for everybody, right? Here’s the story:
Switching Domains Generally Sucks
A company that shall remain nameless got their hands on a great one-word domain that had never been used before. They decided to switch their well-aged, strange-named URL over. They did all of the right things you need to do to make it easy for Google to figure out and the result…An instant 75% organic traffic drop:
The only thing the company did not do was get any links for the new domain. Sure, they issued a press release about their rebranding, which very few quality sites picked up. But every time I suggested they do some link acquisition tactics, they weren’t interested. I guess they had a lot going on, what with the traffic drop and all.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. I was checking their traffic and was surprised to see that their organic visits were starting to grow. When I contacted the company and asked what they had been doing, they responded “Nothing…except a Groupon”. That’s when it hit me.
Groupon syndicates out their deals to thousands of sites via their API. The deals often contain links back to the merchant’s website. Ipso facto, doing a Groupon can generate a lot of links.
To confirm my suspicions, I plotted the following graph showing referrals from Groupon against organic referrals from Google. I stripped out any branded keyword referrals as well as any keywords that contained “groupon” to attempt to remove any effect the deal may have had on search behavior. And here’s what I saw:
After a summer of no SEO growth, the site did a Groupon in October. Shortly after that, its rankings and organic visits started to grow. Two weeks later they did another one and grew even more (+84%!). Last week, they did another and grew further. They are now averaging over 20% weekly organic growth. Pretty cool.
Now before you go out and start telling everybody that they need to start doing Groupons, remember, this site’s old domain was doing ok SEO-wise. So perhaps the reason why the Groupon links had such a dramatic effect was because the new domain just needed a little boost to get it going. So a more established domain might not see the same effect.
That said, this got me thinking that there could be a big opportunity in generating links from Groupon if you could figure out a way to do Groupons profitably. Even for those merchants that are not making money from Groupons, by adding in the linkbuilding benefit, the ROI might become positive. Even better, what if you could figure out a way to do Groupons that got no redemptions? You’d have a free linkbuilding program.
According to leading Groupon skeptic Rocky Agrawal, the best way to do a Groupon that gets no redemptions: “put lots of t&cs in … only valid on sundays between 8p.m. and 10 p.m. that will result in low purchases…i would also think that things like tourist stuff gets low redemptions, at least way i do them. bay area boat tour, bike tour, etc. i bought them in anticipation of visitors coming and not enough people have showed.” Of course, Groupon likely polices this stuff pretty well, so good luck with that strategy.
Disclosure: I used to do SEO for a site that Groupon acquired. I also bought some Groupon stock right before I published this as this is the kind of explosive news that will pop any volatile Internet stock 🙂