There is a company that I once bought something from, something that did not at all live up to my expectations, something that was just cheap and tacky and not at all what I wanted. However, it was quite inexpensive and I wasn’t feeling particularly outraged, so I just grinned and bore it. Fast forward to a few years later, and this lovely retailer became my client.
Now let me say that during those fast-forwarded years, I was spammed by this company on average of once a day. I opted out of the email a few times, but it just would not stop. As you can imagine, I already had a negative opinion of these guys, but being a (semi) professional, I realized that I could still turn that around and do a good job for them.
However, here’s what happened, and I bet it’s no surprise: I was one of countless people who had this same experience with the company. If you think link building is tough, try link building for a client known for crap products, email spam, and credit card issues.
When you use email as a method for link requests, you’re sometimes viewed as little more than any other cold caller, even when you’re targeting relevant sites. When you’re cold calling webmasters on behalf of someone with a bad reputation, it’s kind of hopeless. We were called spammers who ruined the Internet (bo-ring) and we had to read horror stories of how this client of ours had charged this person three months extra on her credit card and it was hell to fix it. We basically had it bad from the start.
So as not to bore you further, this story has a happy enough ending, as we were able to still build links; but let me tell you, it was tough at times.
When people think about the ick factor of marketing online, they usually immediately think of the big three: porn, pills, and casino.
Not having done the first two, I can only speak with regards to casino, but I can assure you that asking for gambling links has never once been half as hard as asking for links for a client with a truly bad reputation. These guys aren’t running over grannies or mowing down about-to-be-extinct bird habitats, but they might as well be.
This obviously is not just a problem for building links, as there’s always a webmaster willing to put up a link to just about anything for the right price. As I said, we were able to build links, and good ones in many instances, but I seriously doubt they’ll be converting into traffic. They may even turn users off when they see them, causing issues for the webmasters.
I’m being overly pessimistic and dramatic here, but I don’t think we should underestimate the potential of a bad reputation. It can do a lot of damage.
With a bad reputation, you probably aren’t going to get all the positive organic links that come from things like great service experience and great product reviews. You’re not going to have lots of fans on Facebook. If you’re “accidentally” charging your customers’ credit cards for months and waiting for them to wise up and contact you, you might get a link but it won’t be a nice one.
Negative mentions can work to your advantage of course (and they do seem natural because let’s face it, who’d pay for a negative review?) so they might give you a rankings boost or a traffic boost, but they probably won’t win you any customers and if you’re selling, that’s the goal.
If I were about to buy from a site that I’d never used before and I looked them up only to find nothing but complaints about their products and service, there’s no way in hell I’d give them a chance even if they ranked number one for a key term.
We’ll probably never get away from the power of human referrals when making decisions. While the human element can definitely be manipulated, word’s always going to get around, and most people hear about the bad stuff more than the good stuff. I recently wrote to a grocery store chain to say how nice their cashiers at one particular store are because it really does constantly impress me, and I thought it would be nice to point it out.
The person I contacted emailed back to say how nice it was to have someone email to praise, not to complain. Negative experiences are the ones we like to relay. You can do a great job for fifty clients and screw up on one and it can sink you.
Bottom line: yes, we can build links for you but no, we can’t make people like you. That’s your job. Some of these guys see social media as a saviour, and while they may be able to say witty things and “connect” with people, if they give you a bad experience, they’re still not going to make it.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.