Link Building and the Science of Persuasion

Link Building and the Science of Persuasion

Austin, Texas –

Search engine optimization is often more about things that you can’t control directly than things you can. There is no better example of this than link building. While it’s true that there are ways to build links back to your site with little or no approval from others, it’s equally true that these have always been the least effective links.

One of the most important elements of link building is outreach. Whether it’s directly asking for a link, looking for guest posting opportunities, or working on a collaborative project, you can’t accomplish anything until you first persuade them that you are worth their time in the first place.

This is where the science of persuasion starts to play a part, and books like Influence by Robert Cialdini can give us the tools to improve our outcomes. Six important psychological principles come into play every time you reach out to a webmaster, blogger, or influential web personality:

1. Reciprocity – Put simply, people are much more willing to do something for you if you are willing to do it for them first. If you promote somebody, it becomes much easier to convince them to promote you as well.

2. Prior Commitments – If somebody makes one small commitment, they become more receptive to further commitments that are consistent with the first. For example, a real life restaurant was able to reduce its no-show rate from 30% to 10% simply by saying “Will you call us if you change your plans?” instead of “Please call us if you change your plans.” A small commitment like, “Yes I’ll give you some feedback on your article” makes it more likely they’ll say “Yes I’ll post it on my site” later down the road.

3. Authority – When you are perceived as an authority you are taken more seriously. Even dressing a man in a business suit makes pedestrians more willing to follow him across the street during a red light. Directing a contact to a guest post on an authoritative site or an interview with a niche expert does a lot for your credibility.

4. Social Proof – Not good news for beginners, but if you’ve got the audience there’s reason to flaunt it (although not blatantly). Dropping subtle hints that suggest you are widely linked to is probably the best way to go.

5. Scarcity – When people feel like they will miss an opportunity, they become more likely to take an action. If there’s any way to offer something that’s hard to come by in exchange for a linking opportunity, do it.

6. Similarity – Draw attention to your similarities with the blogger, webmaster, or web personality when it makes sense.

Finally, we might add a seventh factor not mentioned in the book: laziness. If there’s a way to accomplish all six of the goals above in a single sentence, do it. The less time you take up, the better.

Does the art and science of persuasion play an important part in your outreach strategy? What might you add?

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