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Helping Others As A Long Term Approach

by Jon Cooper
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helping-head

Note: I’m going to go from small picture (tactic) to big picture (strategy), so stay with me!

If you read my blog, you’ve heard me talk about broken link building and the idea behind helping out webmasters. It basically receives its effectiveness from the law of reciprocity; I do something for you, you do something for me.

But I’ve also found that it essentially hacks relationship building. I found this most evident in a recent campaign in the non-profit space.

It’s crazy how enthusiastic people can get when you simply help them fix their websites, but it quickly gets leveled out when you ask for the link return. It’s understandable, and it usually does what we want; get us the link.

But, when you’re done, most of the time you’re on equal terms again. They know why you did it, and because they didn’t want to snub you, they gave you the link. Essentially, they don’t owe you anymore.

But, let’s take a step back – what if you were able to get the link, but not seem as though that was your intention all along?

You could get the link, but the next time you had content to promote, they were one of the first people to enthusiastically say, “yes, I’d love to help!”

But how is this possible?

Buffer periods

In this case, the buffer period I’m talking about is the time between when you help them, and when you ask for the link. With no buffer period, your intentions are immediately evident.

With a longer buffer period though (3-5 weeks), and with a genuine suggestion, you don’t “cancel out” what you just built with them. They’ll probably say of course, give you the link, and still like you.

This is great, not only because somewhere there’s a room full of gurus saying, “Yes! Relationship building!” but because you’re also getting the link – you can have your cake and eat it too.

Now, let’s take it a step back even further – what if that follow up, even if it was 3-5 weeks later (and seemingly unconnected with the fact you helped them out), never happens? What if you don’t ask for the obligatory link?

Well, you’ve got someone who will probably be on your side time & time again when you come calling for help. You’ve essentially hacked a relationship because you got them to genuinely like you, and use for anything you desire, all by doing something for them that didn’t immediately follow up with a reason why.

Which is shocking, really. We’re programmed to think that people want something out of everything. But when you’re that exception who shows no external motivation, you make a lasting relationship. But I also think a relationship like this is even more impactful than the ones we tell you to go and build – i.e. chat up the gal on Twitter.

Because, as I said, it’s unexpected. They might even tell their coworkers, “This guy helped me clean up the whole site, then went on his merry way!”

Practicality

If you love scalability, I’m surprised you’re still reading. Also, if you have clients and know how things really work, waiting 3-5 weeks usually isn’t going to fly.

But for clients and sites I’m going to be working on long term, I’m starting to utilize this. It essentially speeds up the relationship building process. I don’t have to say “well, seeing that you just want links now, I’ll be doing XYZ, all of which don’t really include relationship building.”

Rather, I can start off a long term project with a quick run down of mid level sites that are run by 1-2 people. I reach out, point out some things I can help fix for them, then just let them know something like “I’m the new kid on the block, but I’m lucky enough to come in with a bit of a technical background!”

So, again, if I need to promote some big content or something similar, I can easily hit them up. And if they actually like the content (shocking!), I can hit them up time & time again, because it’s less of a task and more of an opportunity for them. But that’s a discussion for another day…

But moving on – I also want to introduce an even BIGGER concept, something I’ve wanted badly to talk about. Hopefully you’re still with me.

Rethinking the idea of helping others

For most of you (hopefully all), you at least know some basic things about the Web, because you probably have a website of your own. And wa-la! You have problems just like any other webmaster – worrying if your site is going to crash, trying to fix broken URLs, trying to publish enough quality content, finding enough money to scrape together for hosting, etc.

So, by having those problems, you can now relate to those webmasters. If you have to worry about updating outdated content, I bet there’s more than a few other webmasters who worry too. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone helped YOU with that? How would you react? Chances are, they’d react the same way.

So, by putting yourself in their shoes, you can understand their reaction. You can understand the reaction of being helped in some way.

But, in what ways can you help them? We’ve been over the basics, but how do I find out ALL the different ways I can help others?

What expertise do you have to offer?

Think about. What do you? Are you a web developer, graphic designer, hailed puppet historian, wine expert, or are you just a sack of potatoes? Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’re not a sack of potatoes.

So far you’ve realized your basic expertise on websites can go pretty far, because everyone you’re trying to get links from probably could use that expertise.

But keep going. I’ll start. At first glance I think I’m in the same position as you, thinking I really don’t have much to offer, but with a little thinking, I realized I have knowledge in basic graphic & web design, on site SEO (indexation, canonicalization), copywriting, personal branding, and even things like the obscure sport of disc golf or Anchorman movie quotes.

Chances are you have expertise in something that you can help others out with, and figuring those things out is extremely important. They won’t help you get links in the everyday way, but most likely in some crazy way with a bit of creativity.

Homework

Figure out things you can help others with. Fight the Curse of Knowledge (thinking everyone else knows what you know). Break down anything and everything you can offer to its bare essentials.

Thoughts? Comments? Leave ‘em below!

Want more link building content like this? Your wish is my command.

This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 121 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper+ is an SEO consultant based out of Gainesville, FL who specializes in link building. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter.

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19 Comments
  1. Thomas says:

    Altruism is powerful. I know many people are constrained by business responsibilities and pressures, but people have helped me in the past without attempting to milk a link and I appreciate and greatly value those people.

    Yeshua knew the power of this – “….Freely you have received, freely give…..”

  2. Hey Jon, awesome post! Have you ever read “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Cialdini? If not, I think you would love it. You touch on some of the larger concepts from the book in this post, so maybe it’s already on your bookshelf. That book helped me get a better understanding of how to approach webmasters in a persuasive and effective manner.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Thanks JH, and of course I’ve read it! Such an awesome read (and should be prerequisite reading for anyone in link building).

      Any other books on that subject you recommend? Looking for another read atm.

  3. Second the Cialdini recommendation.

    Jon, I’m confused by one thing, concerning using this in a BLB campaign. Since the fix offered to a webmaster in a BLB outreach IS the link, what do you mean by “delaying asking for the link”?

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Doesn’t always need to have a fix, just the fact you pointed out some issues. Even if you NEEDED to have a fix, you can point them to where the article relocated (half the time you can Google the title and find the new location) or give them the Wayback URL.

      Does that help?

  4. Phil Bryant says:

    Nice post Jon,

    I like how you discussed the (im)practicality of this approach for short-term clients who, like you said, would not be a fan of a 3-5 week initial relationship build, but should be looked at as an option for long-term clients. I agree that the foundation of a relationship should not be based on trying to get a quick link, but instead helping THEM out, and using that to cultivate a strong connection.

    Real relationships have the potential to pay off much more, even though they may take longer to build.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      That was exactly what I was getting at Phil. Just doesn’t make sense to do this, or any type of real relationship building, with clients who are either short term or who want immediate returns. Which is fine, but if you’re going to shoot for long-term, it just wouldn’t make sense not trying this and cultivating those relationships.

  5. Great post Jon! I think broken link building is in a way underrated. Yes, it takes time, and many of your emails won’t get answered but it’s totally worth it! Personally, I was thinking into giving people free SEO advice or do their on-site SEO or design a new logo for them or something like that. It really does work and the’ll be very happy to link to you or even bring you clients!

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Now you’re thinking! That stuff is awesome too. Takes a little more time, so I wouldn’t do more of this stuff unless it was more so from a relationship standpoint than an immediate link, but just my 2 cents.

  6. Matt Morgan says:

    Hey Jon, this is good stuff. I’ve read about your broken link building strategy in your link building course and was a little curious about when you ask for the backlink. This clears things up.

    Thanks for sharing, and as always, stay awesome!

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Still, a good portion of my outreach deals with asking for the immediate link in regards to this tactic, but I think it’s going to go more towards this way for the majority of us as we see short term paying off less & less. We’ll have to wait and see.

  7. Brian says:

    SEOs need to do less spamming and more helping.

    For years everyone was busy chasing #1 ranks, links and money. To the point that many people forgot how to create an awesome site that helps people.

    But when you do every part of your marketing becomes 10x easier.

  8. Joe says:

    I like this idea because it’s real and mimics how real people do business. Question, when you do outreach for clients do you use personas? Just asking because if you just reach out as yourself and link partners research you online they could read your strategies and maybe feel like ever communication with them is just a strategy. I know a lot of well known agencies user personas, just wondering your take on it.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      I always worry about that Joe, but I highly doubt anyone has even done so – even with a following in the SEO space, still not enough for anyone to care. Good Q though! :)

  9. Sahil says:

    Great one Jon. Helping the people in the industry by teaching them what we know and exchanging knowledge is a great way to build a relationship and start a great community. Helping people find out the issues on their site, building relationship and trust to get a link from relevant site to have some authority passed on is a creative idea and a natural link for sure.

  10. That was one secret everyone should know. As the saying goes the more you give the more you receive. Being simply helpful with other people is sure to be eventually pay off as time goes by.

  11. Chris says:

    I think its hard for a lot of people to not think they’re just a sack of potato’s as you put it. I’d like to think although I might be, I’m at least on my way to learning new skills as an intern. Also pretty sure Anchorman quotes will get you far in life. Sex panther 60% of the time, works everytime…

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