Using The Brown M&M Technique To Build Links

Using M&Ms Technique to Build Links

Find the brown M&Ms

Some rock backs such as Van Halen, are these days, almost as famous for their outrageous demands as they are for their music.

The most famous is their requirement for a bowl of M&Ms to be in their dressing room; with all the brown ones removed. Failure to comply with this seemingly outrageous request was grounds for immediate cancellation of the concert.

However, what may at first seem like a stereotypical rock star demand was actually an inspired strategic test to ensure that the contract had been read in full.

The presence of a brown free bowl of M&Ms provided confirmation that the promoter had paid attention to the details of the contract, especially the important safety and technical specifications.

I have applied the principles of the ‘brown M&M technique’ to help me find higher quality contractors, save time, and to build links.

I don’t suggest using this technique with the sole intention of acquiring links, instead, use it as an accompaniment to the development of your website.

Testimonials – Links Turned On Their Head

Leaving testimonials and asking stakeholders to include a link back to your site is an effective SEO technique that has been used successfully for many years.

Usually, testimonials are requested after the completion of a job, contract or transaction. I have taken this technique and turned it on its head, asking for a testimonial up front as a way to filter out designers, programmers and writers, in a similar way to the brown M&M technique.

An Example:

Like many website owners, I use Elance and Odesk to find contractors at competitive prices. These websites act as a marketplace for businesses and contractors to connect. Within hours of posting a job, you usually have dozens of potential employees responding to your post.

Having many applicants for a job may sound appealing. However, I have found that filtering through such a range of potential contractors makes it hard to find the best candidate for the job.

I noticed that many of the contractors applying for jobs were using copied and pasted cover letters. It appeared that these contractors were using a shotgun approach to applications, applying for as many jobs as possible without taking the time to craft individual cover letters for individual projects.

Anecdotally, I found the contractors that used this shotgun technique to be below standard and I needed a way to sift out the contractors that I suspected of applying to every job. While thinking about this, it occurred to me, why not use the brown M&M technique to filter out those contractors that were sub standard?

How To Apply The Brown M&M Technique In The Virtual World

To ensure that my project briefs had been read in full, I employed a technique of asking contractors who submitted proposals to include the answer to a simple question at the start of their cover letter, for example:

  •  What is 2+3?

If anyone failed to answer the question I would decline their application because it showed that either their attention to detail was lacking or they were using a copy and pasted cover letter.

This technique worked well and helped to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of quality contractors. Despite this, I was still receiving a lot of quality applications at low prices; many of which I would happily employ. I needed another way to help me choose between them.

Building Links Using Testimonials

I often think in terms of SEO and I wondered if I could filter applicants and acquire a link at the same time. It struck me, why not ask some additional pre-screening questions?

This list included questions such as:

  1. Do you or your company have a website?
  2. If yes, what is the URL of your website?
  3. Does your website have a page where it lists partners, suppliers or reviews from clients?
  4. If we build a working relationship, can we be included on this page?

By using this technique, you are filtering potential applications, saving time and maximizing the return on investment of hiring them.

This technique could be expanded or customized. For example, if you are thinking of hiring a writer, why not ask if they write for other websites and if they do, would it be possible to link to your website where applicable.

How Much Is A Link Worth?

The value of a link depends on the authority and the quality of the webpage on which it is found; the higher the authority of the webpage, the more the link will be worth. Links on partner or testimonial pages often stand the test of time much better than links from blogs or articles as these pages are pushed down the hierarchy of the site.

I have often found the value of a link acquired using this technique is worth more than the price I pay the contractor for their work. Links like these also have the added benefit that they will not be easily replicated by your competitors.

The Bigger Picture

If you are looking for a designer, don’t sacrifice quality for a contractor who might give you a link on a higher PageRank page. This does not make sense. This technique is best used when you have many quality contractors who are charging a similar price. This technique can be used as a deciding vote on otherwise similar proposals.

Websites often tack on SEO as an additional business strategy when it should be integrated into everything they do. This technique shows that SEO should be a holistic approach to your business development and not an additional strategy.

Photo  from mischiru . Used under Creative Commons license.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column


About The Author: is the founder of Matching Donations, a website that allows your charitable donations to go twice as far. He also volunteers his time as the SEO strategist for the International Professors Project, a non-profit that encourages professors to volunteer for teaching opportunities abroad.

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  • Chris Avery

    Just posted a job on Elance and used the little question of 2+3 as suggested. The task requires great attention to detail so this is a great little piece of advice that I probably wouldn’t have thought of so thanks!


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