Is Being Nice an Unfair Advantage for SEO?

A common thread runs through a lot of current discussions on SEO: being nice.

Your social media marketing efforts won’t work, we’re cautioned, if you’re not sincere. You can do well by doing good, as consumers increasingly base their spending decisions on social responsibility and an increasingly flat-world sense of community. Google assures us that anything we do to improve the user experience will improve our search results.

There is, in these discussions, an underlying assumption that the readers are nice. You have to wonder why all these things are being written, since they merely remind all of us nice people that our niceness is to our advantage.

What if you’re not nice? What if you’re a grasping, covetous, money-grubbing swine? Should you be locked out of the benefits of SEO, social media marketing, and the online business community?

I’m not going to touch the moral question. I’m just here to help.

Here, for those who are not in fact nice, is a quick course in how to pretend to be nice, for the sake of your online business:

  • Feign interest in other people. Nice people don’t look at all their Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections as potential customers. They actually want to know about those little triumphs and new launches and even the really funny video their electronic friend feels compelled to share. If you’re faking niceness, be sure to read these things and make an occasional response.
  • Construct a human persona. As more online things are automated, being a bona fide human being grows in value on the web. While you might most often tweet about your company, you will be more valuable at Twitter if you can manage a pretense of having some sort of life outside of work. Pizza Hut is hiring students to hang out at their headquarters this summer, crafting bons mots for Twitter, and you can do the same if need be. But making an alarm at Outlook to remind you every couple of days to go type in a sentence about your thoughts or activities will also work.
  • Become concerned about some issue. Even if you’re not very nice in real life, there is probably some issue that can touch your stony heart. I care a lot about the environment, myself, and also about child labor. I’m moved to do pro bono work for education and the arts. I have clients who quietly support suicide hotlines or juvenile diabetes research or the Heifer Project, and it increases my respect for them. None of these issues may move you, but a couple of hours searching online will probably net you at least one issue that you can care about. Donate some time or money to the cause, give some links to organizations at your website — you can show support with a fairly small investment, and it will help you deceive people into thinking you’re nice.

Of course, I’m teasing. I know that you are actually a nice person. You know what? That’s an advantage for online marketing these days. If you started out in business in the days when being neutrally, inhumanly professional made a company look bigger and more impressive — or if you’ve just been so busy that you haven’t taken the time to let your nicer side show — let this tongue-in-cheek list inspire you to show that nice side.

For the good of your search rankings.

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