The Wolf of Link Street

Any tactic meant to build unnatural links will eventually get smacked down. But building real relationships with influencers online is increasingly the method of choice for effective content amplification. This means you need to learn the most basic element of relationships. The human element.


At the end of January I was fortunate enough to be invited by Barry Schwartz, known familiarly in the internet marketing world as RustyBrick, to speak at SMX Israel. It was better than I ever could have anticipated.

Although for the last few years most of the work I’ve been involved in has been On-Page and Technical related for enterprise brands, Barry asked me to speak on the link building panel.

Instead of trying to put together a presentation full of recycled tactics for link building, I thought about approaching the topic a little differently. Instead, I focused more on the psychology of selling, and how that plays into relationship building.

By now the dust has settled and it has become apparent to many of us that link building, as a tactic, is getting incredibly difficult to do well, and even harder to find a way of doing it that stays within Google’s ever-changing guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not.

A Fool’s Game

By and large manual link building, or link begging as it’s become known, has become a very unproductive method of acquiring links to a site. Among the many issues with the practice, which include valid concerns with close-rate, time spent, and scalability, is the fact that most of the “tactics” that are meant to circumvent the manual process are added to Google’s ever-growing list of techniques that fall outside of their favor.


Any tactic meant to build unnatural links will eventually get smacked down.

As such, building real relationships with influencers online is increasingly become the obvious go-to method when thinking about content amplification. But you can’t just approach the Internet’s celebrities and ask for a share, link or mention.

If you want to really clean up house then you need to learn the most basic element of relationships. The human element.


At the end of the day other people are the ones who will link to you. Websites don’t link to people, people link to people.

Building real relationships leads to much more than just a link. It leads to amplification of your content. Real reach to your target audience. It leads to the holy grail—traffic.



Before jumping in to the waters of outreach, some research is necessary. I highly recommend checking out the following tools for your influencer research:

  1. Twtrland
  2. Realtime by bit.ly
  3. Followerwonk
  4. Topsy
  5. Grouphigh
  6. Commun.it
  7. SimplyMeasured
  8. CircleCount

With these tools it becomes incredibly easy to gain some real perspective and context around your niche, how people are discussing topics of interest, and hopefully lead you to figure out ways to insert yourself into the conversation.

6 Rules to Influence Influencers

The meat of the presentation was around the psychology of influence and sales psychology. If you were wondering why I chose “The Wolf of Wall Street” theme, it’s because it was not only timely during SMX Israel but because Jordan Belfort, the movie’s main character, has a phenomenal story to tell and his understanding of the human psyche is what led him to be so good at sales, to the point where he let it corrupt him.

Don’t let this corrupt you! Approach with care.

1. Great Content Is Not Good Enough


My issue with Internet marketing folks proclaiming that we all need great content is that eventually it begins to lose its meaning. Great content is now the new OK content. Buzzfeed does great content better than you and at a scale rivaling the old Demand Media days. So there’s that.

Instead, focus on creating really freaking awesome content. What does that even mean? While it’s probably too in-depth to cover here, I did give the audience this basic 10-point checklist to consider when they do create their content assets they intend to promote.

10 Basic Pillars to Get You Started

  1. Gives a unique angle to a told story
  2. Shares new information
  3. Has a backbone of a strong intro, body, and conclusion
  4. Is not thin content (i.e., doesn’t simply identify a problem without really giving any solutions)
  5. Is newsworthy: creates a stir, is tied to a current event, and doesn’t cover stale news
  6. Is backed by research
  7. Offers a solution
  8. Has a clear audience in mind
  9. Demonstrates why the topic is important and whom it affects
  10. Passes the “so what?” test

2. Switch From “ME” To “YOU”

Nobody gives a F%$# about you.

Internalize that.

Write that down.

Always keep it in mind. We’re so naturally biased to think the world revolves around us that we often don’t understand why a specific person never responded back or why someone didn’t like your idea.

That’s because people care about things that are important to them.

Instead, try providing value first.

Focus on a benefit to the person you want to reach out to before ever asking for a thing.

For a great introduction to the power of reciprocity, I highly recommend watching this video narrated by Robert Cialdini, a leader in the psychology of influence world.

Never Anticipate Anything in Return

This one is a gem. Doing something nice for someone else does not give you the right to then demand a return favor. That’s not how it works.

Instead be real with people. Do someone a solid. Give. Then give more. Eventually people will be happy to hear from you.

I love this quote from Noah Kagan: “When you ask selfishly, the other person responds selfishly (or not at all)” – http://okdork.com/2012/10/09/make-it-easy-to-say-yes/

3. Act Like You Belong

One of the biggest disadvantages you can give yourself when reaching out to an influencer is to act like a groupie or wannabe.

VIPs and influencers are used to people being nervous or uncomfortable around them, asking them for shit, and in general having to deal with people who lack confidence. This is not cool.

Instead, what you want to accomplish is to establish rapport and credibility, show you’re sharp and enthusiastic, and show you’re an expert. That is cool.

Certainly, getting an introduction from someone you both know doesn’t hurt either.

4. Keep It Short

Contrary to what you may believe, no one has time to read your never-ending saga of an outreach email. Keep it short, get to the point and get there quick.

Important people are busy. Keep it short.

Side note: The Obama campaign found that the best subject line for their campaign as far as open rates, click-throughs, and donations was simply “Hey”.

5. Make It Easy To Say Yes

This is a great thing to learn in general but even more so with regards to getting people to do what you want.

Ramit Sethi, of IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com makes an excellent point about the importance of personalization in getting to yes.

“Personalize it. I personalized every email I sent and got a tremendous response rate of over 90%. Use my motto—”Don’t make the busy person do your work for you”—and suggest ideas to them.”


6. Anticipate Objections

Lastly, prepare for the worst. Anticipate everything that could go wrong. What holes are there in your angle? Why might someone decline your request?

Figuring this stuff out is hard because we hate to look ourselves in the mirror and admit our faults, but being upfront with yourself can save a lot of time and agony.

Most importantly, anticipating objections helps you know how to counter objections before they come up, by subtly including certain language that addresses the most obvious objections—before the person ever mentioned them.

These tips can all be really effective when combined, but even using one of them and including it on your processes can reap plenty of reward. You’ll be surprised at the types of people you start communicating with, and how effective they can be for you.

Check out the slides and share with your friends. They’ll be happy you did.

responses to “The Wolf of Link Street”

  1. Gary Victory says:

    Tom, fantastic post. Knowledge is power! A useful tip is to also include “other influencers” into your post who you already network with. Including their knowledge as part of your final piece goes a long way.

  2. Daniel Taibleson says:

    “VIPS & Influencers are used to people being nervous or uncomfortable around them, asking them for shit, and in general having to deal with people who lack confidence. This is not cool.” – nice lol