Link Building Lessons From Improv Comedy

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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.

Jennifer Van Iderstyne

Jennifer Van Iderstyne

Jennifer Van Iderstyne is an SEO Specialist at Internet Marketing Ninjas, formerly WeBuildPages. Internet Marketing Ninjas is a full service internet marketing company based out of sunny Clifton Park, NY. You can follow her on Twitter but if you come to the office you won’t be able to find her, because Ninjas are invisible.
Jennifer Van Iderstyne

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  • smith greal

    You can easily see how many links are pointing to your competitors from search engines.

  • Zippy Cart

    Knowing when it’s over is probably the most overlooked element of both improv comedy (as a former improv-guy myself) and link-building. Too many people get married to one strategy and forsake all others, to their own detriment.

  • indian yellow pages

    Pretty beneficial post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have extremely enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing for ones feed and I hope you post again soon.

  • Samuel_i2s

    Very Nice and Remarkable Post

  • Brandignity

    Sometimes opening up your ears and listening to others is the best thing you can do. Never assume you understand everything there is to understand about marketing your website externally.

  • Michael Taylor

    I thought I was the only Improv’er in Search? 🙂

    I always maintain I learned more in Improv about business than I did in 4 years of university!

  • Justin Seibert

    Love it! Makes me miss my old improv days!

  • Aresnik7

    Great comparison! When I first looked at the title I was wondering where you were going, but you made some amazing points! Thanks for sharing.

  • Jude Harrison

    “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”.

    So true – in fact, I wrote an article yesterday listing five reasons why content fails to go live. I hope SEJ doesn’t mind me linking to it, as it does seem relevant!

  • seo services in India

    Link building a grind. Developing authority for a site can of course be done in many ways but establishing quality links to a website is priceless.

  • Jvaniderstyne

    So many fellow improv-ers in SEO! must be because we can think on our feet. Or we like being laughed at. either way it’s very cool. Thanks everyone for all of the feedback!

  • Ros

    Thanks for the analogy. I would rather do improv than build links but I just couldn’t make it pay… who would have guessed back then when my Dad said they world just didn’t need one more comedienne that perhaps the same could be said now about SEO?

  • Rileydiegoa

     hi,  I just wanted to say how much i enjoy reading
    your blog. in a world full of spin, it’s nice to get some fact-based analysis.   keep up the good work.

  • Rileydiegoa

    Your blog is very nice. I have really learnt a lot from this blog thanks

  • Rileydiegoa

    Your summaries are always top-notch. Thanks for
    keeping us apprised. I’m reading every word here.

  • Carlos Eden

    Jennifer I would say Yes on it because building links mean you are building your ways. This is an obvious thing that when you get your self out of the box than you know where you are standing.

    Secondly the part you mentioned about suggestions was really awesome and I think Acception is a very powerful word which we should really accept 🙂

    Warm Regards,

  • Donald McLaughlin

    Jennifer I would say Yes on it because building links mean you are building your ways. This is an obvious thing that when you get your self out of the box than you know where you are standing.
    Secondly the part you mentioned about suggestions was really awesome and I think Acception is a very powerful word which we should really accept 🙂
    Warm Regards,

  • Anthony Hague

    Its great information about link building . I am very impressed, Now I can easily build link. Thanks Jennifer for sharing this information 🙂