How To Win FriendsAre you looking to get some momentum with web traffic?  Trying to figure out how to build links and bring in more customers?  This post is for you.

I’ve been listening to that lavishly written classic on human relations “How To Win Friends And Influence People” while jogging lately.  What a powerful book.  This is probably my fourth time through the audio version.  It will not be my last.

It got me thinking about how building web traffic (link building, SEO, social media) is basically winning friends and influencing people online.  So it makes sense that we can take what Dale Carnegie said back in the 30s and tweak and update it some to implement his techniques on the web.

There is a great deal to be learned here for content and inbound marketers.  The outline below is verbatim from Dale’s book with his statements in bold and my comments following each.  Some of the points deal with winning friends (and getting links), while others deal with influencing people (converting visitors into customers).  Parts 1 through 3 of the book relate to content marketing, while Part 4 is about leadership which doesn’t apply here.  These comments are through Part 3 only.

How To Build Links And Influence People

Part One

Fundamental Techniques In Handling People

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.  In all online interactions, keep on the sunny side. This is especially true with the use of sarcasm, which never plays well in text form.  Stay light years away from negativity, whining, and sarcasm.
  2. Give honest sincere appreciation.  When leaving comments (blogs, social media, etc.), don’t just say “that was great!” Tell the person why it was great.  Best-selling author John Jantsch left a fine comment on one of my posts a couple of months ago.  He told me exactly why he thought it was a great post.  If you’ve read Carnegie’s book, the phrase “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise” will come to mind.  Leave great comments and people will click back on your name link, subscribe to your blog, link to you, etc.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.  Write post titles that people want to read.  Here’s a good one from SEOMoz: Are Your Titles Irresistibly Clickworthy & Viral?  Data shows that people want lists.  Number and bold bullet point your post sections with regularity.  A good, numbered “How To” list or “Top 10” list is what we call Link Bait.  They gets links because people “want” lists.  Here are 7 Reasons Why List Posts Will Always Work from Copyblogger.  Notice, Carnegie’s book had numbered points, as did the post from SEOMoz, as did the post from Copyblogger, as does this post.  Every once in a while write an epic content piece that covers the topic as thoroughly as possible.  “Epic Content” is 1,000 words or more according to this article.  The post you are reading now (1,700+ words) qualifies as epic by that standard.  When you max out on a subject, you’ll build more links because your content will be the definitive statement on the subject.

Part Two

Six Ways To Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.  Quit thinking of your online interactions as ways to get more links.  Seems to go against what we outlined in the title of this post?  Yes and no.  Sometimes your motivation is selfish and then your actions turn into something unselfish.  You’ll be surprised at the interesting and awesome things you find in your field of interest when you really start looking.  Remember that thing called a Blog Reader (RSS)?  Start one or clean up the old one.  Google Reader has that very cool “Other Blogs Like This” thing that suggests other good blogs you will like.  If you have time, use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to follow other folks who put out great content.  Read, get conversations started, and you’ll be surprised at what happens.
  2. Smile.  Make sure your smiling face shows up on search results for blog posts that you write.  Google has an author verification system that displays profile pics alongside search results.  That drastically increases click-thru-rates and may influence rankings from within Google’s algorithm.  Say hello to more organic search traffic.  It is called “rel=author“.  We’ve done it ourselves, but it takes a while to filter through and start showing. EDIT: It took 3 weeks from adjustment time to our thumbnail pics showing in search results.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.  Remember what I said about John Jantsch?  He started off his blog comment with my name.  I did indeed like that.  When leaving comments, use the person’s first name to start things off.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. (This is the secret to being a great conversationalist.)  Ask for feedback on your posts, tweets, etc. and make sure and respond to each one.  “Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Check out the good exchange in the comments of this post on Inbound Marketing On A Dime.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.  In the content marketing & SEO world, this is called Keyword Research.  You want to find keywords that a lot of folks are searching for and that have relatively low competition.  We use a combination of Google Adwords for keyword suggestions and HubSpot‘s awesomely revamped Keyword tool for analyzing opportunities.  The post you are reading is optimized around the keyphrase “how to build links”.  I replaced “Win Friends” in the book title with our desired keywords.  I looked at both “how to get links” and “how to build links”.  They had nearly equal competition scores and “how to build links” gets more traffic, so that’s what I went with.
  6. Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.  Every person has value and you should respect that online just as you would in person.  Never disregard someone’s interactions online and never say something online (or on the phone) that you wouldn’t say face-to-face.  (Repeat this to yourself over and over again before posting in online forums or calling your cable company!)

Part Three

Win People To Your Way Of Thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. (Because even if you win, you aren’t going to get what you want.)  In my younger days, I had often written a harsh comment and right before hitting enter, had second thoughts.  I’m better at filtering before I even get started now, but sometimes I have to reach for the button on the top right of my keyboard.  As Steven King says, that delete key is on your keyboard for a reason.  Use it.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”  Some bloggers suggest writing posts that disagree with another person’s post.  This can be done, but with extreme caution.  See the link in next point . . .
  3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. (A good way to start is to admit that you could be mistaken.)  I advise reading Ben Franklin’s autobiography (free) to master this art.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.  A great way to be friendly is to be funny.  Stephen Guise gives some good ideas in “Three(ish) Techniques To Unborify Your Blog Posts” and we took a stab at one of them in a tweet.
  5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.  This is a tried-and-true sales technique.  Begin your posts with questions which qualify your reader as a lead for your business.  Use multiples consecutively to really qualify . . . “Are your considering (your product or service)?  Are you tired of (itch your biz scratches)?”  Look back at the first paragraph of this post.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.  Do not feel like you have to have the last word in online conversations.  Again, ask questions and put your heads together with the community you are creating or joining.
  7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.  Don’t hesitate to expand on someone else’s idea and give them credit for the valuable nugget that you built off of.  Providing links back to the original content is a great way to give that credit and those links often turn back around and link back to you.  We did that in this post.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.  Create stuff that people WANT to link to, not just something your keyword research told you you had to write.  Your post schedule is only important from your point of view.  If your blogging schedule means you put out average stuff, it’s better for you to turn that dial back a bit and create fewer, but better, posts.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.  If you are trying to build links, your linking source might want a link back.  IT IS OK TO DO RECIPROCAL LINKS “on a small scale and with relevant partners” as SEOBook’s Aaron Wall says here.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives. Make sure your business does something that makes the world a better place and don’t be afraid to let the world know how.  Guy Kawasaki’s superb The Art of the Start book (and here’s a vid of him talking about it) on entrepreneuring kicks off with ensuring that your biz “Makes Meaning” by increasing the quality of life, righting a wrong, or preventing the end of something good.  If your work doesn’t do one of these, you just plain need to quit what you are doing and start over.  If your biz does these things, post frequent case studies to show how you’ve changed the world for your clients or customers.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.  Every content post should have some sort of visual.  If you doubt this statement, read this post and infographic. Speaking of infographics, don’t doubt their value either.  Here’s what one industry leader had to say on the subject, “we are seeing the death of the novelty of infographics, not a decline in their value.”  Check out this super, 2-minute vid on the value of visualization.  Speaking of dramatizing, read Business Storytelling: Why You Should Hire A Communicator.
  12. Throw down a challenge.   Your content should move the reader to action.  Specific, timed, achievable challenges get your reader moving.  See 50 Blog Post Ideas For Small Biz in 10 Minutes Or Less.  Not only should you throw down the challenge, but encourage readers to blog about whether they accomplished the challenge.

Have you used one of these techniques successfully?  Can I clarify a point?  Make a blog post about it or let me know in the comments.
[sam id=”10″ codes=”true”]