Link Building, Self-Control and Marshmallows

As part of a series on self-improvement on the 99 Per­cent, Joce­lyn K. Glei recounted Wal­ter Mischel’s now iconic Marsh­mal­low Test, which analysed the abil­ity of four year olds to exhibit delayed gratification.

Each child was sat in a room with a marsh­mal­low or donut on the table. They were told by the sci­en­tists that they could eat the treat now or, if they waited 15 min­utes, have two treats.

All the chil­dren wanted to wait, but many sim­ply didn’t have the dis­ci­pline to and crum­bled. Some, how­ever, held out and received the extra treat.

Most inter­est­ingly, when sci­en­tist checked back on the chil­dren years later, those who had the self con­trol to hold out were bet­ter behaved, less prone to addic­tion and scored bet­ter in exams. read more about self controlling at

Self Improve­ment in Every­day Life

Glei dis­cusses how our day-to-day pro­duc­tiv­ity is often depen­dent on mak­ing the right trade-off decisions.

We are faced with hun­dreds of these ‘trade-off’ deci­sions every day.

In the office, these come in the form of e-mails, tweets and noti­fi­ca­tions. Stay­ing focused and pro­duc­tive requires real self con­trol and dis­ci­pline; it is so easy to veer off-course.

James Shel­ley con­tends that pro­duc­tiv­ity actu­ally boils down to being the dis­ci­plined abil­ity to choose to do one thing at the cost of not doing another (often more tempt­ing thing).

Link Build­ing

You can­not help but relate this to the process of build­ing links, where again, we’re often faced with daily trade-off decisions.

Should you develop a com­plex, long-term link build­ing strat­egy, or should you buy that blogroll link?

We know one will be more ben­e­fi­cial long-term, but it’s so, so tempt­ing to buy that direc­tory link and see it right there in front of you today (espe­cially when it’s not your own site you’re charged with get­ting results for).

See­ing instan­ta­neous links make you feel bet­ter about your­self; it jus­ti­fies why you got up and went to work that morning.

In the future, self-control and patience may well become major fac­tors in sep­a­rat­ing the more effec­tive SEO campaigns.

We’re told to resist the temp­ta­tion of con­ve­nient low-hanging link-fruit; that the rewards are greater if we have the dis­ci­pline, strat­egy and self-control to look at the big­ger picture.

At the moment, you can achieve the same or sim­i­lar ends with the quick-wins as you will with a cam­paign that requires more sweat and blood.

Every­body wants to imple­ment a com­plex, mulit-level cam­paign that’ll yield pre­mium links; but not every­one has the patience required to see through its execution.

The ques­tion is then, how and can you bal­ance the trade-off of short-term link grat­i­fi­ca­tion with your long term mar­ket­ing goals?

The chil­dren who resisted the temp­ta­tion of the marsh­mal­low used ‘strate­gic allo­ca­tion of attention’.

If you want to change the way you build links, you need to stop obsess­ing over sites that have employed this tech­nique and had suc­cess; oth­er­wise, you won’t be able to resist the temptation.