Link Building and the 6 Principles of Persuasion

25 Aug

Ask ten SEOs what you have to do to get more links, and 9 will tell you to ‘build great content’. In stead of taking this answer for granted, it’s even better to ask yourself why this is true.

In fact, everybody is willing to link to your website, article, page, post or whatever; you just have to persuade them into linking to you. The only problem here is that not everybody can be persuaded with the same arguments. However, there are 6 effective principles of persuasion (developed by Robert Cialdini, explained on both Fuelnet and Advisor Today) that you can use to influence your link popularity in a positive way.

1. Reciprocation

The concept: ā€œIā€™m obligated to give back to you what you first give to me.ā€ But there’s more to reciprocation than just swapping links. Offering something else, such as a service, a discount, a product or advertising space can work like a charm. Even pointing out an error, typo or other mistake on a website can be used as a ‘trading material’. A return link or money aren’t the only trading options you’ve got, use your imagination and creativity!

Example of use: “When I wanted to visit link X on your website, I noticed that the page where it refers to no longer exists. Perhaps <your URL> would be a good replacement for this link?”

2. Commitment and consistency

If someone has linked to you before, they’re probably do it again. You don’t have to ‘prove’ yourself anymore, you’ve already passed that barrier. Getting a second link (to a different URL) is much more easier now, so a higher success rate is guaranteed.

Example of use: “You’ve linked to our website before here-and-here. Perhaps you might enjoy our latest article, so-and-so, as well?

3. Social proof

People are like sheep; they need leaders to follow. Preferably leaders they can trust. To quote FuelnetThe two situations where this principle is most powerful are similarity, when someone wants to follow the lead of others; and uncertainty, when someone is unsure of what to do. Laugh tracks on comedy shows exist for this very reason.” Testimonials and other references are similar examples.

Example of use: “Like you’ve probably already read at (link) and (link), we published an article about…”

4. Liking

Networking really pays off. I’m pretty sure that most of your friends and family don’t have the online authority that can help you to reach the top of the SERPs, so this is just another reason why chatting with folks from your industry is a positive thing.

Also, complimenting others with their website can help, but this approach got killed when almost every single spammer started their link request with ‘You have great website!’.

Example of use: “Hey buddy, did you see my latest article about so-and-so? ;)”

5. Authority

When brand XYZ launches a new product, attention will be hard to get. When Apple launches a new product, they’ll get lots of attention without even having to put effort into it. Whether it’s an iPhone or iCrap, it doesn’t matter. With an authority level like Apple’s, everything is news and linkworthy.

Also, when you’re promoting a big brand, it’s much easier to get something done. Requesting a link to is far more easy than asking if someone can link to

Example of use: “Brand X, world wide market leader, just released their new product Y. Read more about it at <URL>.”

6. Scarcity

This is where the good content comes in. Good content is hard to find, that’s why lots of people are willing to link to you if you can offer this. If you can provide something interesting that no one else has, you can expect the links pouring in.

Example of use: “We’ve released world breaking research results, which you can find here-and-here.”

Of course, using these principles of persuasion alone aren’t enough. It’s just like the 9 out of 10 SEO’s said; you need good content, but this simply isn’t enough. It’s the appropriate mix of all different factors like content, approach, research and persuasion that brings in the links.

6 Responses to “Link Building and the 6 Principles of Persuasion”

  1. Julia - Fast Blog Finder August 26, 2008 at 2:07 pm #

    Thanks for the article. It covers the link building subject from a different perspective than the articles I read before. I agree that a quality website content is important but it’s not enough to get backlinks. Few people will link to the website on their own initiative even if the site provides a good content. One need to put some efforts and create a link building program to follow. A comination of various link building tactics can result in best results.

  2. Link Building Blog August 26, 2008 at 6:06 pm #

    Great points especially part 2. I’ve found that to be so true and I’m starting to get a lot of repeat free links from some great bloggers. Link building is only going to get more and more tough so making sure the quality of content is high will insure a long and prosperous web life.

  3. Chelsea Blacker August 27, 2008 at 12:28 pm #

    Weip, just wondering what your thoughts were on the following: I’m trying to get a client some good links, so I wrote a great peice of content and have submitted it to a variety of bloggers. But only 1/12 have responded with a yes. Any other ideas on how I can warm up to complete strangers? The subject matter is pet travel (if that helps).

  4. Wiep August 27, 2008 at 12:43 pm #

    Chelsea, if the combination of Content, Crowd and Communication is in perfect balance, you should be able to do a lot better than 1/12.

    The content should be excellent. Just good isn’t good enough.
    The crowd should be extremely targeted and willing to link out. Not (or less) relevant bloggers and non-linkers are a waste of time.
    The communication has to be appropriate and personal. Unfortunately, this is where most pitches fail. See Darren Rowse, Debra Mastaler or Mack Collier for some excellent tips.

    I’m not saying that you did something wrong or something like that, but I only want to point out that it’s pretty damn difficult to be successful.

    Btw, if you successfully pitch the right one, than the other 11/12 will probably follow. Putting some extra effort into pitching those hub influencers really pays off ;)

  5. Utah SEO August 27, 2008 at 5:07 pm #

    This is really a great article. I think this is what so many people are missing. They spend most of their time forcing crap links that Google is learning to filter out anyway. Rather than earning readership and quality links, building yourself as an expert and a resource.

  6. Helen Hunt - SEO Company October 12, 2008 at 10:25 pm #

    Thanks for this article – it highlighted some of the link building aspects I thought were important. In as much as quality link is relevant, content is still king.

    Thanks again