4 Reasons You Want to be Liked
One thing that has always fascinated me about Rand Fishkin is how likeable he is. Being known and likeable is an effective business strategy for 4 big reasons
- People prefer to spend money with people they like and trust. We purchase based on emotion and then use logic to justify our emotions. (This gives a likeable person a higher visitor value, and thus ROI.)
- People give you the benefit of the doubt. (This allows one to do aggressive things that would be considered wrong or spammy if a lesser competitor did them.)
- Even if you to betray someone, they usually let it slide rather than roasting you. (This allows you to make content from topics that you should not have covered, like private conversations).
- If people like you they will be more likely to do favors for you. (On a competitive network using one channel to establish relationships that allow you to promote sites that are more commercial in less well connected industries can help build a sustained competitive link advantage).
To put the above thesis in context lets compare some of the market reactions to various ideas and offerings.
Case Study in Likeability
Majestic SEO: People Are Suspicious of the Unknown
Can we keep you off our websites so our competitors can't access our information through your service? Or does your bot not obey the robots protocol?
Does Ann Smarty think through the implications of the tools she is recommending? Do you really want to support dropping your pants and bending over for this service? Come on folks, think this through all the way to the bitter end. Do some critical thinking.
SEOmoz: Benefit of the Doubt
Rand's team launched Linkscape (a similar but perhaps more advanced version of Majestic SEO with a slicker front end interface). In spite of having an in house lawyer, they did not find the LBI Netrank LinkScape trademark prior to naming their tool LinkScape.
In the post announcing the launch, Rand mentioned that their tool required crawling the web, and some people wanted to know how to block it using robots.txt and meta robots tags. Pierre from eKtreme highlighted that he did not think SEOmoz was crawling the web, but relying on a series of web based APIs from companies that were. Rand later revealed potential LinkScape data sources. Michael VanDeMar mentioned that he thought Rand's opening post about LinkScape lied about crawling the web:
I have to admit, Rand, it’s pretty bold to basically admit this late in the game that you guys lied through your teeth and grossly misrepresented the facts, just so you could appear to have accomplished a much bigger task than you actually did, all in the name of getting more money from webmasters. That’s a much bigger admission than saying you cloaked your bot, if you ask me.
Michael's post made Sphinn with 40+ Sphinns, and only had 1 negative comment on it a day after making the homepage.
When I consider everything I've read I can only conclude that you did mislead the SEO community and only when it was apparent that the truth would be found out, did you begin to "come clean". While your approach may not have any bearing on the value of the tool, it does demonstrate a conscious effort to misrepresent your product.
And if Michael had not had an established distaste for SEOmoz built up from the past (ie: if he liked Rand half as much as most of us do) it is likely he would not have went through the effort to write the LinkScape post he did, and there would have been no lasting negative press on the topic.
The Negative Brand Approach
Can you build a big audience without being likeable, but by being sarcastic and ripping things apart? Absolutely, but the problems with that are
- Most people who are attracted by negativity are not buyers (and they work to drive away the types of people who would be buyers). In the SEO field you could call this the "Threadwatch effect"
- The people who do buy based on negativity are usually of a cult-like state of being against some other organization. Once the hated brand/personality/organization (or even the news around the brand/personality/organization) dies down, then so does the support from the paying customers built on this negative energy, whereas the positive businesses keep growing logarithmically year after year without needing to reset the business and capture a new fad.
You can have a common enemy that you and your readers are fighting, but it is important that your overall approach is still positive if you want to build something that is profitable with sustained growing profits.
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