28 Oct 2008

How Getting a Link is Like Picking up a Woman

In a conversation with Jim and Pat, it occurred to me that a lot of the techniques that are useful for picking up girls are also useful for getting links. Both enterprises are a delicate art which rely on equal parts luck, timing, product and skill. Here are a few of the ways in which getting links is a lot like getting… a date.

Your opening line is everything

They say that a woman decides within 30 seconds of meeting you whether or not she’d go out with you. Well, a webmaster decides in .30 seconds whether or not to open your email. If your subject line includes the phrase “link exchange” it may as well read “love rocket”, because you’ve just won a ticket directly to the trash. Throwing out opening lines like, “I like your great resource site [insert URL] which I went to today…no, really, I did, I’m not a spambot, I swear.” is about the equivalent of waiting for a woman to swoon over tacky lines like “Did it hurt? When you fell from heaven?”.

When initiating a conversation with a woman, you always stand a drastically better chance by opening with a question or making a witty observation. Offering something that is genuine and personalized will get you much further than something generic and forced. The same holds true with webmasters. You’re much more likely to get a response from an email when you have actually visited the Web site you want a link from and are able to include a conscientious remark about its content. It may take more time, but it’s worth the effort because even one smartly acquired link beats the hell out of 100 deleted link requests. And like with random women at the bar, if after a night of ineffective lines and face slaps you do eventually find a taker, odds are that’s not the kind of link love you’re after.

The right circumstances are crucial

Most men recognize that in a social situation it’s much easier to meet a woman who is alone than if she’s surrounded by a gaggle of girlfriends, with another guy, or undergoing some other mystifying female-style drama that involves running mascara and fleeing to the restroom in packs. Similarly, recognizing the right sites to get links from is another essential element of actually obtaining backlinks.

The same way some guys can get a woman just by showing up, established sites with money to burn have a much better shot of getting a link than your average, blend-into-the-crowd guy carrying $40 in his pocket. This special type of guy needs to find a woman who is accessible, sitting alone, or struggling to get a drink at the bar. Likewise, for most sites on a limited budget and without a ton of name recognition, finding a Web site that is right for your link takes a little more finesse. Sites run by corporations, direct competitors, and major publications are probably out (unless you can get into the habit of making or breaking news, but that’s a completely different post). In general, the trick to getting links is to look for a small, accessible site that needs your link and just doesn’t know it yet. Sites run by individuals, duos, or small groups are much more approachable and likely to give you a link. Sites created for informational purposes and with a track record of linking to other sites in their industry are also great candidates. (Not on link exchange pages, though. Link exchange pages are like call girls. Beware!). If you have something relevant to offer (and lets assume you do, otherwise it’s like walking into a gay bar to scout out the “wrong” sex) your odds of getting the placement you want is much better. Bonus points may be awarded if its in the perfect neighborhood.

A little insecurity goes a long way

Ok, I admit I learned this in part by watching The Pickup Artist on VH1. But basically the gist is that by using an indicator of dis-interest or some other disqualifying tactic (like telling a hot brunette that blonds are more “your type”, for example), you can actually increase a woman’s interest. Yes, by making her think you are less interested in her, you actually bait her interest. (I know. I’m sorry, ladies, this is a cheap trick). This approach helps mask the scent of desperation in the same way that hunters use deer urine. One can apply the mentality behind this method to getting links in a couple of ways.

First, this works with people who have created natural resource lists that are valuable to users and which reflect genuine effort (again, not to be confused with paid directories or link exchange courtesans). It can also be used on sites that link to competitors. By indicating that a webmaster “missed” or “forgot” a crucial link which just happens to be yours, or by implying a lack of content on a page or site, you can create a tinge of insecurity and appear to be helpful as opposed to in need. Offering to then provide the absent content (which will include a few relevant links, of course), makes you a giver and a webmaster thankful for your interest. And what webmaster isn’t practically begging the general public to help them stay on top of broken links? By catching a broken link, you have both a great conversation starter and an opportunity to offer up a relevant replacement… how very kind of you.

Prepare for rejection

A lot of men credit their hesitance to approach women in social situations to a fear of rejection. But I don’t believe it’s rejection itself that instills the real fear.

Is the word “no” ever going to cause any kind of permanent damage? No. I think a man’s reluctance really stems from a fear of wasted time, money and energy, compounded of course by a fear of a bruised ego and public humiliation. The manifestation of these fears is far more more obvious in bars and at parties than in Internet marketing because it’s hard to be wounded by a “no, thank you” email.

But with link building, preparing for rejection means accepting three basic truths:

  1. Building links is a long, tedious, never-ending process.
  2. There will be setbacks.
  3. There is no shame in it.

Once you can come to terms with the painstaking and sometimes fruitless nature of the process and push on anyway, you will quickly understand the benefit. Link building may also require a certain submission of pride, but nothing can tank a company faster than misplaced vanity. Link requests needn’t represent an inability to acquire natural links, but only a desire to actively engage a broader audience, be it for click-throughs or SEO. Remaining complacent, feeling warm and validated by your glorious content without any effort to promote it, will likely get you as much attention as sitting alone in a dark corner of a nightclub in your best suit. If you don’t put yourself out there, you won’t be getting any. Links, that is.

So whether you are practicing the art of seduction or the art of link building, remember that at closing time, the score is only as good as the effort put into it. And believe me, there’s just something about getting a link or a woman by using a finely honed skill set. There’s nothing worse than taking the easy way out and finding yourself next to a link for Cheap Viagra.

So, in every pursuit, be smart, be safe, and for God’s sake use anti-virus protection.