Two weeks ago I experienced my first April Fools as an SEO. This year, unlike last year, I knew ahead of time & excitedly kept an eye out for any & all tomfoolery I could find. After spending a decent amount of time through out the day searching, reading & seeing the sheer volume of pranks being pulled across the web. Social network feeds filling up with friends falling for pranks & the constantly high level of buzz seen through out the day capped off by a discussion about it in the office, I had just one thought: “Why didn’t I create an April Fool’s Day themed link bait campaign?!”
An April Fool’s Day link bait campaign is something I’ll definitely be taking into consideration for next year & I feel you should too. People are actively seeking, sharing, & engaging with pranks with in a very specific & well known time frame. Other holiday-themed link bait may have the predictability & safety knowing that basically the same general content can be/will be used. But it also brings with it the strong possibility of be ignored or being lost in the barrage of holiday ads. So, if people actively look for pranks & share them it’s a no brainer to create content for such a highly engaged audience and while it may be only for a day, that’s not always the case: April Fool’s Prank 27 Days Later.
As with any link bait campaign, quality is key. The better the prank is integrated seamlessly into your existing content & context of your site the more likely it’ll be successful in both fooling people & getting picked up by prank aggregates. Note:Tech Crunch has a running challenge to see if anyone can “pull one over on us” (See note at bottom of post)
A good place to start brainstorming is to look at the past trends. By taking a closer look at these trends one can learn a great deal & apply take aways to future pranks.
A classic company prank and depending on how this is pulled off can cause some great laughs or can completely fool the unsuspecting reader. Pulled off correctly & you’ll have people talking (& linking) to what they believe to be real news, while others will be doing exactly the same but talking about it’s success as a prank. A great example is Groupon’s announcement this year that they have successfully applied to trademark “April Fool’s Day” creating a very in depth section on their website dedicated to it & showing cease & desist letters sent to various known pranksters. If done for a smaller company/client or in a low search industry another option is to create fake news on a well known, non competitor, influencer has the potential to be as impactful, as it taps into the search traffic for that brand. Just prank with caution if that’ll be your approach.
Take Away: Get picked up by two groups that want to share & talk about your prank because: a) it’s hilarious b) genuinely believe it’s real, shocking news. Chance to tap into larger brand search traffic for a long lasting ripple effect, as seen with the Google SEO prank.
Announce New Product(s)
Another classic this year pulled off amazingly by Google & ThinkGeek. Google managed to prank a lot of people with the “Google Motion” announcement which appears to be wildly successful compared to the Autocompleter job listing. Google Motion saw even more buzz when it was made into a reality by a USC lab team. While ThinkGeek made some very convincing products that blended seamlessly with their site (pages, photos, & great videos) & was extremely fitting for their target market. So much so that many thought they were real or hoped they were real, including myself.
Take Away: Done correctly new products can see lots of buzz around them especially around your current customers. Cleaver or cool enough, it can even inspire the creation of real versions generating even more news.
Augment Site Content
From YouTube “Rick Rolling” everyone in 2008 to this year’s addition of “YouTube 1911” Augmenting your site’s content engages & creates an experience that needs to be, well experienced. Unlike other prank trends that have content that can be seen/experienced outside of the site. Augmenting site content, like FunnyorDie.com’s “Friday or Die” where everything became Rebecca Black related content or Hulu‘s step back into 1996, forces people to visit your site & explore it to really get the full prank experience.
Take Away: Great approach to increased chance of traffic & site exploration as visiting the site is required to experience the prank.
TechCrunch , Mashable are prime examples of how you can benefit from the tomfoolery running a muck on April Fool’s Day without pranking. By creating a place where you can find all the pranks in your industry people naturally will gravitate toward you & share your content. TechCrunch’s round up alone generated over 4,000 Facebook likes & Tweets while acquiring close to 200k Dofollow links, according to my SEOmoz Toolbar. But that’s not the only approach, focusing on one site’s prank(s) can rank you & generate traffic as well. Take for example the seach term “ThinkGeek April Fools 2011” where the actual ThinkGeek April Fool’s page ranks only once on page one & it’s ranked 2nd. Or the countless posts on both TechCrunch & Mashable, there’s even been some infographic action going around.
Take Away: Though, timely reseach on your industry’s pranks has the potential to make you the source to find all the pranks of the day. Which in itself becomes a linkable asset.
While these are some great places to start, understanding your business/client’s business/ audience/target market is key to the success of any marketing campaign & this applies to pranks as well. If it fits your company/client & your audience can take a joke, April Fool’s Day holds potential for a very successful link bait campaign.