Lock Up Your Phone 🔐

Why a marketing scheme by an obvious search-bait website actually has me sort of impressed by the brilliance of its growth hackery.

Put all your gadgets behind lock and key for a day, get paid $2,400. (Ivan Lopatin/Unsplash)

If you’ve read my writing over the years, you know there may be nothing I dislike more about the internet than a site that is a pure SEO ploy top-to-bottom.

I will gladly call out such sites on the internet. I don’t particularly care about making friends when it comes to SEO schemes.

But I have to admit, I am actually kind of impressed by a gimmick run by a site that is clearly an elaborate SEO ploy to get everyone in the media to write about it.

Recently, Reviews.org announced a contest in which they offered to pay $2,400 to basically anyone who was willing to go through an entire day without a screen of any kind. To ensure that they actually do it, they’re giving contestants friggin’ safes to store their electronics.

“If you've got the desire to ditch your devices for a day but still need to get paid, this is the perfect opportunity for you,” the company said in its blog post. (Oops, I forgot the link.)

Screen Shot 2021 03 24 at 11 14 42 PM

Now, Reviews.org—which really stretches the .org aspect of its name—is effectively a Wirecutter-style play, with maybe a little Consumer Reports mixed in. It features in-depth reviews of different digital tools—home security, TV services, internet providers, mobile providers, and VPNs. It is built to maximize search presence and pull in people who ask questions like “What is home security monitoring?” and “How does fiber internet work?”

What the company pulled off with this scheme is really wild. It got dozens of major media outlets (CNNPeopleThrillistTechRepublic) to write about its timely gimmick—an effort to get people to prove they can live without devices, an ironic endeavor for a site that literally tries to convince people to buy internet access—meaning that it suddenly has a bunch of high-authority links from dozens of media outlets, ensuring that it gets better search results and more traffic. This gimmick literally just told Google that Reviews.org is a good site to link.

This is a very traditional PR scheme broken down—give something timely to promote, and the media will do the rest—but it still feels slimy to me because it’s literally banking on media outlets to do the obvious thing and link back.

My guess: The halo effect for a company like this will be massive, and will likely generate thousands of dollars of affiliate revenue. But more importantly, it helped them generate dozens of backlinks without having to beg.

Eventually they’ll email me, asking for a backlink. And I’ll tell them no.

Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes

Time left on clock ⏲: 5 minutes, 13 seconds

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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