Hamlet Batista has written a useful post on using the PAD system to distribute software and build links. My first online job was in the shareware industry so this is a familiar technique for me. Here are a few notes to add to the conversation Hamlet started. I would recommend that you read his article first and then return here for my notes.
PAD Submission Tips
The PAD system does makes the submission process simpler but you can save yourself even more time by purchasing a copy of PromoSoft (affiliate link). This software will not only auto-submit the software but comes with 800+ directories. Take it from someone who has done this job manually, $95 is a no-brainer on the time it saves you.
Although automatic submission saves you time, you shouldn’t rely on it exclusively. I like to use the Pareto principle or 80-20 rule as my rule of thumb; 20% or less of the sites will bring in 80% of your traffic. Use PromoSoft to submit your PAD files to the bulk of software sites but deal with the highest traffic sites by hand. Make sure you take advantage of the extra features these sites offer and optimise your listing details in these places. For example, some let you upload additional screenshots or offer fast/premier inclusion for a fee.
As with any paid marketing, it is important to track the ROI. Make unique copies of your installation file by adding a code or sitename to the filename. Joost has released a Google Analytics plugin for WordPress which will let you track these downloads or follow Google’s manual instructions here.
What to Build?
The plan is to create a useful or entertaining application for your site users, which is also on-topic for your site theme. For example, a paintball venue might give away a small program that allows users to calculate settings on their paintball gun. Make it more useful by developing it for their mobile phone as a small Java application, perfect for when they are outside on the field.
Another example could be an application for a poker site, that works out the odds for different poker hands. How about a countdown clock for a real estate forum, which lets users know when they are moving into their dream home? Or a WordPress plugin for real estate webmasters? Managing a political site? How about a game which lets you throw pies at the Presidential candidates or makes them fight each other, Kung-Fu style.
Free software is just another form of linkbait. If you put the same creative thinking behind it, you’ll gain considerable mileage on the technique.
This extra mileage can come from placing the application on your website for download and featuring it in newsletters or mailouts. Not only can you submit this to PAD sites but you can use the application as an aid for your general link building efforts.
Your link builders can approach authority sites in your niche and ask them to feature the application. Original and good quality applications within the same niche will be useful for their user base so they usually welcome the content. In fact, they will often feature this kind of content off the back of their own research.
Extra mileage can come in the form of version updates. Once you have built the software, adding a new feature can be very quick and cost effective. If you are commissioning this project, make sure you get the raw source code (uncompiled). Using PromoSoft (affiliate link) you can release a new version of the software with one-click. After the distribution has been set up, it’s easy to update the software at all your chosen software directories.
Many software directories feature new releases on their front pages and RSS feeds. Each new release will get an instant flood of fresh links. Useful when you need to get your site quickly spidered. For example, I often time releases when internal URLs have been redirected or new content added.
If you are unable to think of useful updates to your application then simply put a suggestion email address on your site. Your users will do the thinking for you and let you know what they would find useful. You’ll even get extra points for interacting with your site community.
What Not to Build?
Don’t try this technique with screensavers or toolbars. These have been done to death and don’t get accepted by the quality software directories. Be aware that buggy software that crashes itself or the user’s machine may cause an online reputation problem. Test the uninstall function well. Many top software sites allow user comments, don’t let a poor application reflect badly for your brand.
Your brand can also be badly affected by adding adware/spyware to your application, as well as getting the program removed and blacklisted within many directories. Don’t get greedy and add these to the mix. Don’t build a toolbar using third-party software which may contain this kind of code.
In conclusion, a solid and useful application will bring in hundreds of links over many years. Consider carefully what that is worth to you. The best use of this technique is when the business nutures a piece of software for years, upgrading it occasionally. If you find the tool useful, there is a good chance others within your niche will too.
If you need some advice on linkbait development feel free to ask in the comments. In my opinion this is one of the best link building techniques out there.