The Anatomy of an Influential Link Request Email, Part 02
By: Ben Wills |

You are an animal.

The person you are requesting links from is also an animal.

The structure of a building, whether it is made of wood or glass or steel, constitutes how it responds to external forces such as wind, rain, earthquakes, etc. Similarly, because we are animals, we are heavily directed and influenced by our DNA, brain structure and physical/chemical design of our central nervous system. When you are able to understand the forces that constitute this part of your existence, it becomes possible to gain more complete insight into how to communicate with the animal banging on a keyboard at the other end of the tubes that make up the internet.

But first, some background...


(even more background... here's part 1 in case you missed it)

As vertebrates, we have brains and central nervous systems and skeletons and DNA and all that fancy stuff that lets us move without requiring some external force as is necessary for, say, a plant. As humans, our brains have three parts as defined by neuroscientist Paul McLean's model of the Triune Brain Theory.

In this model of the brain, the first layer, the Brain Stem, is also shared by other vertebrates such as birds and reptiles. The brain stem, for simplicity's sake, allows us to control our physical movement. The concern of this part of the brain is to keep your physical body safe and functional. In short, this is where “fight or flight” responses originate...as a way to protect your physical being. This is why you instantly delete those bad link requests or, if you're in “fight mode,” perhaps you fire back in frustration, but secretly you want to kill all link builders who send templated emails.

As a mammal you get a second part of your brain that distinguishes you from other animals such as fish, reptiles and birds. This part of your brain wraps around the brain stem and is called the Limbic System. It's here where emotions are processed. The good news is that Fluffy and Fido are able to have emotions. The bad news – for you as a link builder – is that this is also where emotions such as fear, aggression, and other negative emotions originate. In short, when you get that link request email from someone who obviously hasn't read this tutorial, and you get frustrated or annoyed, that's your Limbic System kicking in. Congrats on being a mammal.

The third and final part of your brain is what distinguishes you as a human. This part of your brain is your Cerebral Cortex and surrounds both the Limbic System and the Brain Stem. The Cerebral Cortex allows you to think. It's why, when you receive a well-written link request email, you consider your response before deleting it, considering it for request, or accepting the request. You weigh it all out, analyze the situation, and make a decision. If you made the decision to read this far into this blog post, nice work on being a human that makes really, really, ridiculously good decisions.

There are also social distinctions to what it means for you to exist as an animal, mammal, or human. In short, unless you're a mammal, you're not self-organizing into groups in order to function more powerfully – ie: to increase your chances of survival. But we, as mammals, do. Wolves and lions hunt in packs. Deer and cattle organize into herds. As a human, you organize into families and tribes and businesses and organizations to increase your own survival, both physically and metaphorically. And so on and so forth, it goes with each mammal species.

In these groups, there are various hierarchies. You may be a leader or a follower. You might be a hunter or gatherer or caretaker or explorer...individual mammals in their own groups serve various roles and functions. In certain situations, you might be a leader and, in others, you might be a follower. This is constantly shifting based on your environment, your group, the dynamics of the group, and the situation and responsibilities. Consciously or unconsciously, everyone's role is defined by the group, including yours.

This is how we have grown to increase our chances of survival. Because you are human, with each decision you make, you analyze and weigh the consequences of our decisions. And, because you are also a mammal, you are also weighing the consequences not only to yourself, but also the groups that you represent in that moment.

Because the dynamic of a social group is designed to increase chances of survival for the group as a whole, an interesting thing happens when you begin to value the survival and well-being of the group more and more: You begin to be more and more willing to set aside your own personal values – or at least weigh them less – for the betterment of the group.

Imagine it this way: Is it convenient for you to volunteer your time to those less fortunate? Is it convenient for you to stop on the side of the road and help an older person change their flat tire? Is it convenient for you to spend your time and energy to setup and maintain a high-quality website that passes along information to a specific group of people?

If, because you are an animal, mammal, and human, you have all of these complex things happening both in your mind (Cerebral Cortex), in your emotions (Limbic System) and in your body (Brain Stem) with each situation you face, no matter how subtle, how do you imagine this might affect your response when you receive a link request email? Remember the last three link request emails you received: 1, What did you think about it? What went through your mind? 2, How did you feel about it? What was your emotional response? Did you get frustrated, or were you happy to receive that email? 3, What was your physical response? Did your blood pressure raise and did you get more tense? Or did your body buzz with excitement at the prospect of an awesome new relationship?

Whenever you send a link request that gets a link, you are effectively working on this level with the other person. With each link request that gets ignored, you are missing the connection on at least one of these levels.

But, is it really as simple to get a link as creating positive mental, emotional and physical responses? Maybe, maybe not?

You learned earlier that part of being a human also means that you are a mammal. You also learned that this means there is a social element to every decision that you make...in short: Is it good for the group? You also learned how individual members in a group will sacrifice and/or set aside their individual concerns for the betterment of the group. You learned that you will take on a greater cost or risk in terms of time, energy, or physical well-being to both defend the safety of a group and to also lead the group to a more positive well-being.

When you're sending a link request email to someone....who are you emailing?

If the person you're contacting represents the group, are you writing to them or are you writing to the group?

Obviously, you're writing to the reader of the email, but whose fundamental concerns are you writing to? That person's, or the group's?

If you're writing to the concerns of the group, what is the offer in your email that contributes to or facilitates the betterment of that group?

Is your link request a “Link Request?” Or is it an “Offer?” Are you asking to receive, or are you looking to give?

If you look at the most successful websites and content that has gained the most links, it's simple: They got the links because they appeal to the concerns of the group. For a business, it might be a tool that people link to. For a blog, it might be the quality of the information that people link to. For a community site, it might be something that's “interesting” that gets linked to.

Here's your homework:

  1. Make a list of ten things you can offer as a part of your link emails. It might be content, or guest posts, or a tool, or an infographic, or (gasp!) a sponsorship, a free account, help finding broken links...
  2. Go back to your last 10 link requests that you sent out and rewrite them as offers. It's a lot easier to practice when some of the work has already been done.
  3. In that offer, include a very clear sentence that addresses the concerns of the group.

If you've made it this far, congrats. You now know formerly-classified link building secrets that, if used properly, will allow you to perform in the top 0.1% of link builders. You're one in a thousand now.

Next week? Well, next week will be tricky...or, perhaps, it might be tricky. Because “will” and “might” are very different things in your mind.

If I say to you “If you think this post will be useful to your visitors,” how do you process, internalize, and feel that differently than if I said “If you're imaging that this topic might be useful to your visitors...”

Perhaps we'll be learning some linguistics and how we interpret subtle differences in wording, very, very differently. Typically, you tell stories using language that represents an experience that already happened...but what if you could use language to create a new experience for the reader?

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