ContentNine considerations for movie-based SEO outreach campaigns

Nine considerations for movie-based SEO outreach campaigns

Movie based outreach ideas, designed to boost SEO with some earned links, seem like a good idea but there are plenty issues to get your head around.

Alien invasions have had their costs calculated by finance companies. Fashion boutiques care about superhero costumes. Travel firms researched where films were made, and retailers know which gadgets spies use…

As a blogger I receive infographics throughout the week which contain great movie related content. Only the best of them will be published and only the clever will earn a link.

Movie based outreach ideas, designed to boost SEO with some earned links, seem like a good idea but there are plenty of issues to get your head around.

Since being forewarned is forearmed; let’s take a look at some.

Ahoy! Thar be lawyers!

Compare the Market Batman V Supes

Most movies have no objections to free publicity but some SEO campaigns can cross the line.

Usually, if brands or agencies are making anything physical – anything with demonstrable value – of trademarked and protected intellectual property then there is a risk.

It is safer to stay digital although, better still, is to talk around the movie rather than directly about it, and anything you can do to avoid yet another infographic will be worthwhile.

For example, UK finance site Compare the Market teamed up with DC Entertainment to produce an actual superhero meerkat comic book. If any similar brand had attempted to print and publish their own unofficial Batman V Superman spin-off then it is likely legal teams would have been involved.

There is an upside, if the brand does land in hot water on the back of an unofficial movie tie-in and if their skin is thick enough you can turn that drama into a linkbait campaign.

If you are working with a brand large enough to work officially with a movie it is often worth asking in quarterly reviews whether there are any partnerships coming up. This is exactly the sort of opportunity that can be missed because no one thought to tell the agencies.

Find the signal in the noise

Pulsar reach

Data is important but it is no substitute for skill. You’ll find this distinction plays an important part in movie outreach.

Movies create a lot of buzz and can involve people with significance reach. This means you have to filter through a lot of noise. Is a movie popular with bloggers just because there is media attention?

Movie mentions may come from celebs or vloggers with no interest in the movie other than to interest their audience. You might even find actors who have appeared in the movie but have little chance of engaging in with your brand.

In either scenario, if you decide to approach these influencers you will want to do so individually and with cooperation with PR, sponsorship and branding teams in mind.

A better approach than qualifying with just one or two mentions to consider the true “Vocality” of the potential influencer – know how often are they talking about the movie or subjects related to it. The more often, the better. Also consider “Visibility” as a hybrid of reach and engagement. Both are important.

The danger with the single mention route is that an apparently large list of outreach targets is more likely to waste your time, mismanage expectations or get your content on low quality sites than help you connect with the type of blogger or influencer who will help ignite interest around your content.

On the flipside, working with just one fan community can supercharge your campaign.

Understand image sharing

Pulsar Images

The overwhelming majority of movie inspired outreach and engagement campaigns – either for social or for SEO – lean heavily on highly visual content. Thankfully, visual doesn’t always mean infographic.

The leading influence analyzer platforms have the ability to study pictures as part of their research. This is worth doing. Finding a blogger with a tendency to share infographics, for example, is a valuable find.

Movies based on an established franchise, either a sequel or a movie of a comic book or game, will be accessible and researchable based on visuals long before they hit theatres. This is a tactical advantage should not be wasted.

Build on past successes

There are few occasions when an outreach and engagement campaign needs to begin from scratch and even fewer in which it should.

In most scenarios the brand or agency should already have relationships with bloggers and a strong idea of what content types are popular. This knowledge should be baked into the campaign. There’s no reason why key bloggers cannot be approached in advance, their input sought or even co-creation concepts explored.

For large, officially backed, movie campaigns relationships should be built in advance. Ideally no brand should be in the situation of having spent a considerable amount of money on a tie-in and content before an agency sees whether or not the influential bloggers on that topic are actually interested in it. Some dominant fan sites may even be offended if they’re not given the chance to be involved.

Pick a movie that suits your brand


Some movies work better for outreach than others. Movies with a large community – geek, for example – are easier targets.

There are generally lots of clever ways to make a brand relevant for the movie’s audience too. Sell suspending ceiling panels? Look around, maybe there’s a haunted house movie coming up and that’ll give you the chance to talk about strange noises from the attic instead.

Sometimes there is a good connection between a brand and a movie but it won’t be one the brand enjoys. What if a smart character in the haunted house movie argues against the lunacy of splendid ceiling panels? You won’t know until after the movie is released and most outreach projects need to begin long before then.

There are times you just have to be careful.

Hipster-macho brand Bluebeard’s Revenge partnered with the Suicide Squad movie. There’s overlapping demographics in the audience. We also have a brand that sells straight razors partnering a movie with ‘Suicide’ in the title (and featuring The Joker, no less). This certainly doesn’t mean it is a bad partnership or there are no outreach potentials but it does mean some careful handling will be needed.

Build Anchors

An anchor is one half of a handshake in well designed outreach and engagement campaign. It is the reason why a blogger or other publisher would make an editorial decision to link back to your site.

Campaigns with no or weak anchors sometimes ask bloggers to link back to ‘credit the source’. This rarely works as publishers you care about know about nofollow.

Surveys inspired by movies a good example here. They’re easy to do, haven’t entirely jumped the shark and can be used to pitch some big media. Do they offer bloggers a reason to link back to the brand that paid for the survey? Not so much.

Your SEO mind has to come up with a reason, create something that wonderfully complements the survey data so that writers make the decision to reference it, therefore link, in their coverage.

Provide media assets

Media assets are the other half of the handshake in an SEO outreach campaign. These assets make it easier for bloggers to cover your campaign. Every movie inspired outreach and engagement campaign should have an image on offer, at least.

For example, take a look at this simple parallax from Grange on 007 cars. It was timely, out at the same time as the movie Spectre. Bloggers know to avoid thin content, writing nothing but sign-posts that direct readers elsewhere, and coming up with an angle to discuss an interactive like this requires time, energy and imagination.

Grange’s agency made sure a ‘full flat’ version of the infographic was available as a media asset to try and mitigate that problem. A sensible thing to do is to create some WordPress safe animated gifs (in terms of size, common theme width) of interactions on your interactive and make them available as assets to accompany your anchor.

Research international distribution plans

avengers assemble

Movies are not released on the same date across the world. For example, Disney’s Big Hero 6 was released in the United States on the 7th November in 2014 but after Christmas in the UK on the 30th of January 2015.

It’s far easier to do your outreach for big movies with similar release dates in your target markets and the good news is it’s easy enough to research schedules far in advance.

It’s not unheard of for movies to change names for international releases too. This can make building an outreach and engagement campaign around them. For example, the 2012 The Avengers movie was called Avengers Assemble in the UK as not to clash with a classic TV series. The added catch? Most UK bloggers called the movie The Avengers anyway.

Work with your Affiliates

In most cases your Affiliate marketing channel can be used to help assist your SEO and Social media activities as it will give you access to hundreds of publishers.

Take just a little time to see how many content affiliates you have in your program. This information may be easily discoverable if the affiliate team have done this work already.

It’ll certainly be worth emailing them directly and saving money preventing a second agency doing exactly the same thing. Even cashback and voucher code sites are worth tipping off; they may well want to do some marketing around the movie as well and this could be a great chance to score some extra promotion.

However, if you are experimenting with attribution models then be aware of how providing linkbait and clickbait headlines to your army of publishers will influence that study. You’ll help those sites lay claim to radically more sales touch points.

Andrew Girdwood is Head of Media Technology at Cello Signal and a contributor to Search Engine Watch. You can connect with Andrew on Twitter or Google+.


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