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How Tumblr Helped Put My Site on Top

This guest post is by Ryan Shell of Fashables.

I won’t even begin to act like I’m some sort of SEO ninja, because I’m not. What I do know is that a particular post on one of my sites has ranked in the top three spots on Google, with a majority of that time spent at number one and outranking a major clothing brand.

Tumblr played a huge part in making that happen, and I’d like to share my almost accidental findings.

The backstory


Break dancing (Image courtesy PhotosbyRy.com)

I’m a marketer by day, but one of my many side projects is running a men’s and women’s fashion blog called Fashables. I attended a Dockers event on April 7 for the launch of one of a new line of pants, the Alpha Khakis.

After the event, I went home, wrote a new post and scheduled it to be published the following day. The post was well optimized for the phrase “Dockers Alpha Khakis” and search engines have since sent my site a good amount of traffic for those keywords.

One of the reasons why I’ve received the traffic is because of keyword optimization, but another huge part of the SEO puzzle is what happened with Tumblr, and that’s the real story here.

The accident

This could get confusing, so keep I mind that Dockers Alpha Khakis is the primary post in question.

A recurring feature on the site is a street style fashion post that is published twice a week. One of the photos previously published is the one you see to the right—it’s of a young girl taking part in a break-dancing circle at Union Square in New York City.

One of Fashables readers evidently liked the photo enough to share it on Tumblr. Now, this is where the accident happened.

When they shared the photo on Tumblr they, for a reason unknown to me, linked the photo to the Dockers Alpha Khakis post on Fashables.

Once the photo hit Tumblr, it got reblogged and reblogged—maybe 40 or so times in total. Each reblog provided another link back to the Dockers Alpha Khakis post on Fashables and increasing the post’s Google juice.

The result

Before long, I started noticing that searches for “Dockers Alpha Khakis” were sending a decent amount of traffic to Fashables.

In fact, for quite some time my post was coming up number one in Google searches and outranking the main Dockers website. This was a huge deal: my little fashion blog was outranking a major brand’s website. This had my inner nerd awfully excited, which made my mind curious about how these findings could be used, on purpose, in the future.

Contest your way to links

We can talk until we’re blue in the face about ways things were done or ideas about outcomes, but at the end of the day, you need to know how they can impact you.

For this Tumblr example, my immediate thinking is that this could alter the way bloggers, or anyone wanting to promote a specific webpage, run contests.

Currently a lot of people who do giveaways focus on email entries, comment entries, Facebook entries, and Twitter entries. The time may now have come for Tumblr to be part of that game. If you want a high search engine rank for Widget X, using Tumblr to have a link reblogged time and time again will add significant influence to a specific page and its keywords.

Keep in mind that the photo that was posted to Tumblr from Fashables had only one link that connected it to the Dockers post. To be clear, there wasn’t a mention of the product or keyword in the original Tumblr post, so this method can be used without appearing overly spammy or self promotional.

In the end, I didn’t plan on ranking so high for “Dockers Alpha Khakis,” but I certainly welcome the traffic that has been driven to Fashables from search engines. Do you think this tactic could work for you?

Ryan Shell is a marketer by day, and he runs the fashion blog Fashables by night. Connect with him on Twitter at @RyanShell. And if you like fashion, make sure you connect with @Fashables.

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. I like that Tumblr combines the following/”retweet” of Twitter with the permanency of a blog post. I’ve used Tumblr for a long time to help support my blogging efforts and although the traffic is small, I do get some. I’ve noticed that keeping my own blog on Tumblr and using tags that relate to my topic tend to show up in Google a lot. Tags, especially low competition tags, get high search rankings on Tumblr.

  2. Such a great success story — thanks for sharing that, Ryan!

    I think the community of new publishers are going to be experiencing more of this type of success as Google continues to swing more weight toward social links. Whereas a few years ago, we’d have no chance of outranking a major brand, Ryan’s proved it’s possible with the aid of social interaction — in this case on Tumblr.

    I wonder how brands will react to this, and I wonder how many will resort to manipulating social activity :(

    What does everyone think?

  3. Hi Ryan,
    This is a very interesting story my friend. I haven’t used Tumblr in many months but maybe I need to log back into my account. We never can really tell how our site will get a sudden spike in traffic but it is always great when someone takes the time to share one of our posts.

  4. I actually run a site dedicated to use Tumblr in a smart fashion for building brands via another stream (microblogging) or building a successful blog on the Tumblr platform itself.

    I’ve had a lot of success with building tumblogs and I have to say it’s a growing platform despite what many people may think, but it has to be done right in order to have benefits for your main blog and your brand.

    One thing that irks me about Tumblr: SEO is terrible on the platform.

    I’ve written about this before, but I could only ever adopt Tumblr exclusively if they became an open source platform with major improvements made in the SEO qualities of posts, it’s hard to change around many of the aspects that would improve SEO.

    Liked this post though, I feel like so many people underestimate the power of Tumblr, I hope to change the perception that it’s a “useless” platform someday =).

  5. Really timely post, Ryan. I just had something similar happen with my travel blog. Inspired by Zen Habits, I wrote a post about minimalist travel. The post was then shared on the Zen Habits’ Tumblr and reblogged on another site (packlite.tumblr.com).

    These two posts led to a lot of new visitors to my site and a prominent Google ranking for “minimalist travel,” which is now generating organic search traffic for my blog.

    I didn’t, however, see a ton of engagement (likes, RTs) or new subscribers from this traffic.

    How did you find the quality of Tumblr traffic? Has the long-term value just been Google rankings/organic traffic or do you still see referral traffic from those Tumblr sites?

    • Fred, given that it was a photo that was reblogged, I wouldn’t imagine Tumblr actually sent tons of traffic. But for this example, we’re strictly talking about back links, not traffic. It would be interesting to see a similar example that had a call to action telling people to “click here to read more.”

      I don’t have a percentage of the traffic that’s been from Google, but I’d say it’s a very large percentage.

  6. Use Of web 2.0 sites are good as they really provide a good traffic and also higher page rank

  7. This is really interesting, thank you for sharing :) Could this work with websites like pinterest, where the image links to the original source blog or website? Then if it is re-pinned multiple times, is that multiple links, or just one? I’m pretty new to this using SEO on my own sites, though I’ve worked with clients on it that was some years ago and the playing field is quite different now!

    • Danielle, to my understanding, it all depends on if the link is “no follow” or not, and I’ve not tested Pinterest.

  8. Great post. I’ve recently done the same with my tumblr account and the findings are the same. I have now started linking some of my pictures frI’m tumblr on Pinerest which get reblogged. I’m still trying to do more with the seo though.

  9. Yes there can be many ways to generate the traffic and free blogs are one of the way. Tumbler is great if you have good pictures or articles to share.

  10. I’ll admit to never having hearing of Tumblr before, but was very surprised to learn that a link from Tumblr would cause you to be ranked higher than the official Dockers website!

  11. A year ago I hooked my tumblr page to a wordpress RSS feed called http://iasrobot.com and Tumblr failed to repost the feed after the first few posts… yet somehow those few posts led to a spam robot feeding frenzy. And because my website was about robots I decided to see what would happen if I left the robots to their own devices via the comment section.

    After a while I had to end the experiment because with almost 100K in spam comments emailing each other with every comment posted my host was quite obviously no longer going to tolerate that kinda noise / 500 emails an hour.

    POINT BEING: How much of what tumblr does due to the black hats rather than the white hats?

    • Deane, are you saying you perceive this as black hat? I don’t see it as that way, but maybe I didn’t read you comment correctly.

  12. People are in search of finding unique things to share or see. The picture is really cute and unique, you don’t see many break dancers of that age looking cute and attracting huge crowds. Tumblr can give you a leg up if anything like that happens.

  13. Hi Ryan,

    Way cool recount here.

    Put your stuff out there consistently – whether on a network like Tumblr, or any blogging or social platform – and cool things like this happen. Supposed accidents become super prospering. The key is to persist. Use a little creativity too. The picture has real flavor to it; not only is the theme or idea attention-grabbing, the vivid colors scream at your attention.

    Toss in the neat little “accident”, and you have the formula for something wonderful to happen. Congrats, RS, and thanks for sharing with us!


    • Ryan (cool name by the way),

      Thanks for the feedback. You know, you mentioned the image… and that’s another good point. I should have added a note about the importance of using great images in your post – thanks for mentioning it.


  14. There’s surely several ways to generate traffic, though I’ve never thought of tumblr to be one of them. Nice accidental discovery.

  15. In the past I have done some marketing with facebook.One of my Blog post was shared more than100 times on facebook and after 1 month I’m receiving some traffic for the keywords from google.It’s not too much but around 100 people have arrived on my site for these keywords.After reading your post I will try tumblr also.

  16. Great post, a good way of getting more traffic and backlinks to help your ranking out.

  17. It wouldn’t surprise me to see more contests requiring people to “reblog on Tumblr” instead of “Like on Facebook”, especially with the number of fashion/retail brands using the Tumblr platform. Great idea!

  18. I have built my company on Tumblr and the crowdsourcing, easy reading for new businesses and social integration has been edgy and viral. The trick is ultra creative photographs and super interesting headers. I writer everything under the photo post – BTW, I’m posting most blogs from my phone. That’s an additional trick. When most people go home and type up their blog my picture and post it LIVE immediately. I might blog and tag and feed an event several times so other bloggers have content to use! ;)

    Recently, I have added wordpress to my portfolio. It is lonelier because you don’t have the immediate community, however it will be connected properly to LinkeIn and another channels.

    Love and continue to use my Tumblr platform. It is SEO and SMO viable – for sure! Put me on the google map!

  19. This is what the new Panda update is all about, “organic viral” as I call it. The Tumblr posting went viral because the pic is unique and cute. They put your url below it to pay make sure everyone knew where the image came from as they checked out your blog and see you give good value.

    I had a post go crazy on StumbleUpon over a year ago bringing in 20k a day for over a week. I had no hand in it, someone else found it good enough to Stumble. Same principal.

    And with the new Panda algo, exact match anchors are not the deciding factor anymore. Just your url will suffice. The fact that your post gives unique images and text is a deciding factor along with the fist paragraph link out to the main Dockers website with no affiliate link is another.

    Your subtle affiliate links at the bottom of the post is unobtrusive to the reader and says this post is not about hard selling. just a soft “if you want it, here they are” link.

    Pretty much the perfect structure that Google likes. Even if you html code is a bit “hairy” around your email opt-in form.

    [box border=”full”]

    Enter your email address below to get our latest fashion updates.


    A “share on Tumblr” won’t always guarantee a link back to your site because it has to be manually inserted (I think??). Will have to check it out…

    Good post Ryan, opened my eyes more to Tumblr!

  20. Didn’t know about this capability of Tumblr. Added to that you have shared new way of driving traffic. Nice article.

  21. Useful post, Ryan – thanks for sharing your finding. I find this very interesting. I haven’t looked at Tumblr so far, but I’d look into it. Thanks again for sharing :)

  22. We’re using Tumblr for our actual blog. It isn’t really making much of an impact, but was sure better than our previous solution. Its possible, your success, but is mainly a ‘fluke’. ;D

  23. I was huntingn down some spam sites wh were coping my posts and ranking higher. I realized those auto blogs are reposting their content on Blogspot, posterous & tumblr and getting free back link. n probably that was one major reason why my original content got outranked by copied post. IN nutshell, such micro blogging services are really useful for free back links.

  24. Tumblr is doing nothing but growing, and I already liked it before, now with your insight, I may have to try using it more for link sharing, and like you said use it in contests as entries. Thanks for sharing!

  25. This is great stuff.
    First thanks to Darren for operating a wonderful blog!
    And thanks to Ryan for the informative guest post. I ran across your blog
    while searching for something for amazon.
    Only if i had found your blog sooner : )
    keep the good content coming!

  26. Hi Ryan,

    According Nielsen’s Q3 social report, Tumblr nearly tripled its unique US audience over the last year. In May alone, Tumblr generated over 21,000 messages and links a day to the site. The amount of traffic you could leverage from a new medium like Tumblr should never be overlooked that’s why we are thinking wheather or not to use Tumblr to send messages in the future.

    I am more confident of its importance now after reading your article and some comments here. Thanks a lot!

  27. Very interesting, Ryan, Thank you. I have been so focused on Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube that I haven’t paid enough attention to the other SM sites like Tumblr. So much to do … it never ends!

  28. Funny thing is I actually have Tumblr open right now and in the process of setting up a small tumblr blog to compliment my main blog and google info on this topic hence finding this post. Thanks alot for the info. It will help me greatly with what I want to do. ~AL

  29. This is an interesting story. Having those folks create those one way links to your Dockers post was sure valuable. I am in online marketing, but actually haven’t spent much time with Tubmblr. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Building quality backlinks is very important if you want to improve your search engine rankings.

  31. Great post and I think there’s another secret weapon you used that a lot of people don’t consider: original content. I’ve observed a lot of reblogging on tumblr, but not as many users creating original content high enough quality to be reblogged. Thanks again for this post–it definitely restores my faith in taging and SEO.

  32. This is interesting. I’m trying to get more people to visit my fledgling weight loss site, and I’ll admit to never having heard of Tumblr before! I love your success story and I think the photo is super-cute, which is why it went viral… hmm… now I just have to come up with some “potentially viral” photos on my blog….

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