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?
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!”
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.
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?
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.
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!
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