When I interviewed Rand Fishkin about Inbound.org – the community-curated inbound marketing resource – earlier this year, I found his answers to be very open, interesting and eye-opening. In particular though, this answer stood out the most for me:
Steve: What’s your view on self-promotion? Should people be afraid to submit their own posts (even if they are really good, ideal for the audience), or would you much rather see people only sharing other people’s content instead?
Rand: If you’re submitting 1/100 things you produce, that’s fine. If it’s closer to 1/10, that’s probably crossing a line. We don’t currently ban/remove for self-promotion or self-submissions, but we will ban accounts that consistently submit low-quality stuff (from anywhere).
In particular, it’s that mention of the “1/100” ratio. For everyone 100 posts someone submits, 99 should be someone else’s material – not their own.
Now we’re an industry all about marketing and promotion and regardless of the industry, I think if anyone’s proud of what they’ve written and genuinely thinks that it can help others, there shouldn’t be any shame in sharing it. I think I’ve submitted close to 1/20 of my own stuff, either from SEOno, my company’s blog or in the form guest blog posts, but a) not excessively and b) only when I think it’s genuinely useful to people. Here’s an example (which flopped anyway and made me feel a little like this)!
As a daily visitor of Inbound.org who also regularly tucks into the Incoming page (rather than just sticking to the main page), I’ve noticed a fair few folk who do not follow this rule even close to 1/10, let alone 1/100. So I got curious…
At around 9pm (BST) on Thursday (25th October), I scraped the 100 latest incoming posts to analyse them.
Disclaimer: I’m not doing this to show anyone up, to discredit the site (which I adore!) or to highlight how Rand’s utopian view of the site does not line up with the reality. It’s purely scientific – I’m taking some data and analysing it. Treat it as a social or even a psychological experiment: i.e. here’s a site and this is what people are doing with it!
How many people self-submit?
So the first thing to check was how many people self-submit/self-promote their content. The answer? 38%. More than 1 in 3 out of the sample. Wow. Sorry Rand…
What counts as a self-submission? Some are less obvious than others, so I considered all of the following:
- When the submitter is the owner of the blog,
- When they’re the owner of another blog indirectly (e.g. “in association with…”)
- When they’re the author of the post, even if it’s not on their own site (e.g. a guest blog post),
- When they’re submitting the post of someone they work for/with,
- When they’re submitting something from another website that still promotes them in some way (e.g. if it’s a SlideShare presentation on a talk that they’ve done, etc.)
Of course, it’s not simply a case of saying that it should be around 1%, as not all submitters are created equal (so to speak) and some people contribute more than others. I suppose it’s a bit like Dr Pete’s recent post on “X% of Queries” – there’s other factors at play and therefore it can be interpreted a number of ways. But regardless, even if we were to say that 5-10% was a fairer figure, 38% is still considerably higher than that.
Here’s a few other random-ish observations…
Were self-submitters a certain type?
I definitely noticed that self-submitters were usually company/agency profiles. Although a few individuals self-submit (and likewise a few companies/agencies don’t), it seems the case that individuals using the site will use it as intended – sharing content that’s written by others – while companies/agencies will share their own.
Who was the most selfless submitter?
Speaking of which, a fair few SEOmoz individuals were in the sample, including Jen and Cyrus, all of them submitting non-SEOmoz material. However you could argue that with a site like that, they don’t need to self-submit because inevitably someone else is going to do it anyway – there’s less pressure on them to consider doing so. (Note: I’m certainly not saying that they’d be that way inclined anyway, but there’s certainly a difference.)
Who was the most selfish submitter?
Who submitted the most posts that were all theirs? I’m not going to name-and-shame, and luckily for me, it was a tie between a few people, so it doesn’t seem feasible to link to them all anyway (hah)! But there were a few people who’d submitted 2 of their own posts and just that – no one else’s.
I won’t say who, but in particular, one self-submitter has submitted 20 posts in their Inbound.org history and all 20 have been self-promotional. Now that is a bit sucky.
General hat tips
I wanted to end on a few notes of thanks…