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How To Use Memes to Build EASY Backlinks & Traffic

Link Building

This post was promoted from YouMoz. The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding an unlikely case of hypnosis) and may not reflect the views of Moz.

Hey Mozzers,

My name is Takeshi and I’m a Technical SEO Analyst for the in-house SEO team over at Become.com. During my spare time I like to work on my own projects, and lately I’ve stumbled across a technique that’s been working surprisingly well for me involving memes. I hope you can take some ideas away from this post that you can incorporate into your own SEO and viral marketing campaigns!

How To Use Memes to Build EASY Backlinks & Traffic

Link building. Social engagement. Viral marketing. These are all topics that we grapple with as SEO professionals and inbound marketers, and it can be difficult to come up with strategies to achieve all this from project to project or from client to client. But what if I were to tell you that there’s a simple strategy that you can follow to achieve all of these objectives, an easy formula where all you have to do is fill in the blanks, and watch the backlinks and social media traffic roll in? Interested? Read on.

An Introduction To Memes

What is a Meme? Memes, or more specifically internet memes, refer to any concept that spreads across the Internet. This can include stories, quotes, images, videos or audio, but for the purposes of this article we’ll refer specifically to images.

The word “meme” comes from the 1976 book The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, where the term meant a unit of cultural knowledge that is passed between people. On the Internet, the term has come to be synonymous with funny images with clever (or not so clever) captions, first popularized by LOLCats.

So why use memes? Memes have two important properties that make them the ideal tool for social media and link building campaigns.

1) Memes Are Viral

The first property of memes is that they’re viral. For all the power and potential of the Internet, most people use it primarily for entertainment and distraction, which is why sites like Facebook and YouTube are so popular, and companies like the Cheezburger Network have built entire Internet empires from funny pictures and videos. Memes are ideal fodder for entertainment on the web because they’re quick and easy to consume, which is crucial given how short people’s attention spans are.

Memes are also typically humorous in nature, and people love sharing a good joke. Just look at your uncle who always mass-emails jokes to his entire contact list, or your friends spreading the latest “What People Think I Do” pictures on Facebook. People like being entertained, and if they find something particularly entertaining, they’ll pass it along to their friends, who in-turn pass it on to their friends, and so-on and so-forth. That’s how content goes viral.

2) Memes Are Easy To Make

Ok, so memes have a lot of viral potential, but that doesn’t get us anywhere if we can’t make them. Fortunately, memes are easy to make, perhaps a lot easier than you think. All you need to make a basic image meme are the following:

  • 1) A basic understanding of Photoshop
  • 2) A sense of humor
  • 3) That’s it!

If you don’t know how to use Photoshop, fear not. There are free online tools out there such as Meme Generator and Quick Meme that allow anyone to whip up a meme in just a few seconds.

The online meme creator on MemeGenerator.net

Point two is a little trickier, but fortunately a sense of humor is something that can be improved with practice. One resource I’ve found particularly helpful for honing my sense of humor (such as it is) is the Humor Power blog, which provides excercises, contests, and case studies on how to strengthen your funny bone.

The Meme Creation Process

With the tools mentioned above and a good sense of humor, putting together memes is super simple, but how do you come up with ideas for a good meme? As Pablo Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Coming up with a completely new idea that goes viral is very difficult, and to some degree a matter of luck. Borrowing an idea that is already popular and repurposing it for your audience is much easier.

One of the best resources for finding memes is Know Your Meme, which is a veritable encyclopedia of internet memes. On Know Your Meme you can find a catalog of memes, popular memes, and the history behind the various memes that are floating around the web. Meme Generator and Quick Meme also have sections for popular memes as well. Take a look at some of the examples, find the ones that tickle your funny bone, and adopt it to suit your niche.

Memes in a nutshell are formulas for jokes that you just plug in with niche specific details to fit your audience:

The "Dating Site Murderer" Meme

5 Tips For Creating Memes

  1. Know your subject – The better you understand your niche, the easier it will be for you to create memes that are funny for your audience.
  2. Study the experts – Before I begin creating a meme, I like to immerse myself in that meme by browsing through 50 or so of the most popular memes of that type. Doing so gives me an idea of what others have done that’s worked, and allows me to grok the particular joke formula and create my own variation.
  3. Make several drafts – If you’ve stumbled across a funny idea, it’s helpful to come up with several versions of the joke to get just the right wording. Memes are a little like poetry: word choice is very important. When in doubt, go with the shorter option: brevity is the soul of wit.
  4. Ask for feedback – Sometimes it can be helpful to ask others for feedback on lines you’ve created to get another perspective on them. They may even have suggestions for alternatives that may be funnier than the original. However, use your own judgement to make the final call: everyone has a different sense of humor, if it’s funny to you be confident and go with it.
  5. Have fun! – If you’re having fun while creating your memes, it will help keep the creative juices flowing, and chances are your audience will have fun too once they read them. Don’t take memes too seriously, they’re meant to be silly

Finding Trending Memes

Doing the above is enough to get you some link juice and traffic (using the methods I’ll detail below), but if you really want to create a meme that goes viral, you need to identify trending memes, new memes that are just starting to gain in popularity. This is because novelty plays a big part in viral marketing; not many people are going to want to share something that’s three years old or that everybody’s already seen.

The best place I’ve found for discovering trending memes is Reddit. Reddit, if you’re not familiar with it, is a social bookmarking site where people submit interesting content, which gets voted on by other users of the site. Many memes originate or are popularized on Reddit, and viral content generally ends up on Reddit first before it spreads to more mainstream sites like Facebook. If you check out what’s popular on the Reddit homepage today, you’ll get a good idea of what’s going to be popular a week or two later on other sites. The strategy here is to find content that’s gaining in popularity before your fans do, put your own twist to it, and then share it with them.

Beyond that, it helps to just be aware of any funny content or memes that you run across while surfing the web. Are you starting to notice a certain image being shared a lot on Facebook? Is there a picture you’ve come across that was just hilarious? Chances are if you found it funny, so will your friends. Start thinking of how you can create your own version of that for your niche.

Spreading Your Memes

Ok, so far we’ve talked about how to create our own memes by taking a popular or trending meme, and then altering it so that it’s applicable to our niche. Now let’s talk about how you can use social networks to help your memes go viral. As you know, there are many social networks out there, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones, and see how they stack up.

Wrap-Up

This post ran a little long, but hopefully it’s inspired you to try your hand at creating your own memes to further your linkbuilding and viral marketing campaigns. And sign-up for Tumblr, you’ll love it! Here are a few closing thoughts:

  • Submit your content to ALL of the social networks mentioned above. Once you have something good, seed it on Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Pinterest, Reddit, and Tumblr. By spreading your memes wide, you have a better chance of going viral
  • Feel free to explore other social networks beyond the ones I mentioned in this article to further your social reach
  • If you create video related memes, you can submit them to YouTube, another massive traffic source
  • Beyond social networks, use traditional outreach like e-mail and blogs to build solid backlinks
  • Try not to overuse this tactic. Like anything else, the novelty wears off if everyone does the same thing over and over again (infographics, anyone?). Be original, be funny, create something of value, and make memes just one of the tools in your link building and viral marketing toolbox

That’s it! Happy memeing, and if you have any questions, please post them in the comments!

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