There’s something I do every month or so that helps remind me that making a fool of myself in public is acceptable. I do improv comedy, we get up in front of “crowds”, and I use that word loosely, and we play improv games to make people laugh. Well, on a good night anyway. We all draw from our histories and other parts of our lives to do our day to day jobs. Now, I’m not saying link building is anything like doing short form comedy, but I do think some of the tenants of improv make sense when applied to getting links.
Take Suggestions From the Crowd
One of the biggest parts of any improv show is taking suggestions from the crowd. We can apply that to link building in all sorts of ways. First, look internally. No matter who you have on staff dedicated to working on your website or promoting it, don’t ever assume that they are the only ones that may have web insights. We all live in the digital world, by keeping the door open for anyone on staff to contribute ideas you may get all kinds of interesting feedback.
People on the front lines, the sales reps, the customer service department, the product development specialists, all have different perspectives on your industry. It helps immensely when everyone contributes ideas, news tidbits and problems or successes they’ve had. All kinds of inspiration can be synthesized and in some way applied to the website. Whether it’s content creation for links, new contacts or ideas that may improve conversions, you never know where the best innovations will come from.
The other crowd to look to is of course the millions of other people on the web. Their suggestions may not come in through a “Brainstorming” meeting but if you pay attention, the crowd is shouting suggestions left and right. Whether it’s through trending topics on search engines, Twitter or other news driven publications, if you want to know what people are jonesing for, they’re telling you. You can find it by looking at what posts are most popular on highly trafficked blogs. You can find it by discovering what pages are most popular on your competitor’s websites. You can find it by noticing what kinds of content goes viral. When you listen to all of those voices and try to figure out how you can make your topic fit in with those popular topics, formats and themes you can replicate them, or even better, re-invent them to become fierce link assets of your own.
Accept and Amplify
The cardinal rule of improv is very simple; accept and amplify. We have a game based on the principle that’s just called “Yes, and…” So someone says “You have 7 heads” and their scene partner says “Yes, and only 2 of them are republican”. And it goes back and forth that way until 1 of the 7 heads eats the others…or something like that. In a show you have to roll with the punches. It’s the same way with link building. Everything we do we can accept and amplify.
You’ll run into a lot of rejection in link building, at least you will if you talk to people on an individual basis. People will shoot down your link requests, guest posts, and proposals. Turning a no into a yes, is no easy feat and some people won’t even engage in conversation, but when you can the take the “yes, and” approach. As in, Yes I understand why you don’t want to link to this page, AND I have another suggestion for something you might like”. Or “Yes, you make a good point AND I’d love you know what would interest you”.
You can also accept and amplify by analyzing each link you do get. You accept the link as it is and you try to get another one the same way by amplifying the factors that were successful in procuring the original. It may be the angle of approach, the subject or style of the content, or even a new contact that can be built into a stronger relationship. By accepting each success and studying it for clues on amplifying it, your link building strategy becomes stronger by building upon itself.
Know When the Game is Over
One of the biggest things new people in the troupe struggle with is ending a skit. With no pre-set ending you have to read the situation and know when to wrap it up. Of course ideally you wanna go out on a big laugh, but some nights with some games, it just ain’t happening. So you just move forward into the next one, hoping that it goes well enough for the audience to forget the debacle they just witnessed. Sometimes we link builders need to learn to give up too. Not all together of course, but sometimes the best we can do is chalk something up to a learning experience and try something new.
Recognizing a failing game in link building can mean a lot of things. It could be realizing that all the links in the world won’t make your website palatable to visitors and it’s time to re-focus your energy on usability. Sometimes it’s accepting that your link building strategy isn’t producing results or maybe it is, but the links aren’t working. Sometimes your content keeps getting ignored or rejected and it’s time to own up to the fact that it just isn’t all that good. When these things are happening, deep down we know it.
We have this sense of treading water, but we think just a little more, just a little longer and it will work out. But what if there is no pay off? It’s not easy to call something a bust, but it’s a reality that everyone has to deal with at one time or another. The good news is, when it’s a link building program, you can learn from your mistakes, keep the lessons of your success and blaze a new path. But the first step is to admit that you need one.
It’s been 7 years since I started doing improv and it still makes my pulse race every time, because there’s nothing easy about it. And there’s nothing easy about getting links either. Both are pursuits that involve commitment and risk taking. But what we can take with us from any good improv show is that listening to suggestions, accepting and amplifying and knowing when to call it quits are vital to making well, anything, work. Oh, and a sense of humor doesn’t hurt either. Learning to laugh at your mistakes and keeping your head up in the face of disaster will make you a better link builder and probably, a better person too.