Have you ever experienced a situation where you and a group were offered two options, and you were surprised that more people didn’t choose the option you assumed would be the consensus? If so, you’ve experienced the false consensus effect, and it can actually be a huge roadblock to your link building efforts if not taken into consideration.
What is the false consensus effect?
The false consensus effect is often the result of what psychologist refer to as an availability heuristic, a “mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to mind.” In otherwords, an availability heuristic brings relevant information to the forefront of your thinking based on situational information about a given topic. This often occurs when a decision needs to be made quickly. However, it can sometimes lead to false information.
One instance where these quick decisions can backfire is when you’re creating or selecting content for link building. It’s important to trust your instincts when it comes to content linkability and outreach approaches, but it’s also important to remember that your opinions aren’t the only opinions.
Ways the false consensus effect can harm your link building
Take a second to check out IMDB’s list of top-ranked television shows. Have you seen all the shows in the top 5? The top 10? Did you enjoy them all, or did you, like just about everyone, dislike some and skip over others because they just weren’t to your personal taste? Do you even like TV? Because some people don’t.
That’s the first way you can set yourself up for failure with link building. If your main criteria for what makes a piece of content linkworthy is whether or not you, personally, like it, then you’re restricting your link opportunities to people who have the same opinions as you.
The second way the false consensus effect can harm link building is by restricting your outreach. Don’t assume that because you personally respond favorably toward your outreach approach, others will too.
Take, for example, the use of social media. You may feel that social media is a waste of time, but Mark Zuckerberg’s bank account would beg to differ. You might dread the phone ringing, but sometimes a phone call is what turns that potential link into a long-term relationship for your client’s business.
So how do you counteract the false consensus effect?
There are several proactive steps you can take to avoid falling into the false consensus effect trap:
- Do your research
While you may be educated about a particular topic, making decision based solely on what you already know can cause setbacks when it comes to the content you select and create for link building promotion. New and more relevant information is constantly being published, meaning research is essential for – well, all content development, really, but especially content you’re expecting to win links for. Without research you might put a lot of time and effort into content that’s already out there in a hundred iterations. Or worse, you might make something that there’s no interest in at all.
It’s good to trust your gut, but it’s better to take your gut on a stroll through Google first and make sure the existing research doesn’t contradict your idea, and that there’s really a valid market interested in the content you’re trying to create or promote.
- Get a second opinion, then a third, and maybe a fourth
Even if you’re the head of your field, chances are you don’t know everything there is to know. Ask for opinions from others, and don’t stop at a second opinion. Get your team involved or, if you work solo, ask for opinions from friends and family.
The more broad your content’s appeal, the better your link opportunities, so make sure your content is considered linkable by more people than just yourself.
- Entertain new ideas and meet new people
The best way to make sure your link building, and all of your marketing efforts, are speaking to a larger audience is to be open to new ideas, new people, and different ways of thinking. Make an effort to interact with people who are different from you, start embracing ideas you might not have considered before. You’ll be surprised how many new content ideas you generate through wider experiences, not to mention how many more link opportunities you’ll find for that content.
Open up your thinking to open up your linking, um, opportunities
See, you might think that line above is terrible, but . . . no, you’re right, it’s terrible. Bad example. Moving on.
Even if you believe your website’s content and your opinions are the best on the internet, the nature of opinons and biases ultimately proves you wrong—and that’s OK. Without differing opinions the world would be a dull place to live. Being different is a good thing; embrace it and work to ensure that your link building efforts aren’t in vain.
Just like #3 up there says, connecting with new people and new ideas is essential to good link building, so follow me on Twitter and let’s talk links!
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