Want My Link? Learn to Carry a Fishbowl Between Your Legs

Below is a guest post from my good friend Chris Gilchrist who runs an SEO and Web development agency in Dundee, Scotland. He is one of the co-founders of Link Club a Link Building community and monthly newsletter.

Want more links and a higher response rate from your outreach?

Are you prepared to carry a fishbowl between your legs anytime you’re out in public?

A little background

You probably already know that when you meet someone for the first time you make your mind up about them in the first 7 seconds.

Not in 7 minutes. Which is enough time to convince them you’re nice. 7 seconds.

We meet. 1…2…3…4…5…6…7 seconds. That’s it. Time’s up.

My mind’s made up if I like you and trust you enough to believe or even listen to what’s going to come out your mouth next time you open it. Possibly even forever more.

Back in my first job when I sold Gas & Electricity door to door for a local electricity company I took great care to make sure that 7 seconds counted.

No one likes sales people. No one likes people knocking on their doors. Uninvited. Especially at dinner time. After a long day at work. It can bring out the worst in some people.

Which is why we dressed in the same outfits as the meter readers, because who hates the humble meter reader?

For me this meant more than just wearing the same jumper, trousers and jacket.


It meant scuffing my brand new shoes. Wearing a meter key and tools on a chain.

I probably looked more like a meter reader than half the meter readers did. And it worked. Very very well.  around my neck. Having my tie poorly tied and slightly squint. A cheap bic pen behind my ear rather than a favourite expensive one. A pair of trousers just slightly on the short side. I didn’t look up from my notes when I first talked to them, because I wasn’t caring about a sale. I was just a bored meter reader letting them know about some savings they could make on their Gas and Electric. And I certainly wasn’t interested in commission so there was no excitement in my voice.

So the good news is you can influence people very quickly with a first impression.

But here’s the bad news.

Whilst it takes someone 7 seconds to judge you, it takes them just 50ms to judge your entire homepage.

So how long do you think it takes them to judge your short and to the point outreach email?

What an Old Man and a Fish Bowl Taught Me About Outreach

Sorry I couldn’t resist this section title.

If you haven’t seen the film The Prestige with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale it’s worth a watch.

The film is primarily centred around the rivalry between two magicians who have a long running history and eventually becomes exacerbated when one of them performs the ultimate illusion and things really get interesting. But I won’t spoil it.

During the film the duo go to watch an old Chinese magician giving a street performance and they try to figure out exactly how the elderly and frail man makes a very heavy goldfish bowl (filled with water and goldfish) appear from under a cloth.


One of them realises that the old magician isn’t just performing a trick on the stage but in fact he puts on a show every time he’s out in public. He conceals the strength he possesses to accomplish the trick by always appearing frail in public, whilst concealing the bowl by carrying it between his legs under his outfit.


One of them, understandably, finds it hard to believe he’d go to such lengths whilst the other has great admiration for the way the Chinese magician goes to such an extreme that he “lives” his performance.

Web Designers Don’t Use Tables with Borders

Just like no one likes sales people, no one likes link prospectors and spammers.

So if you’re going to email me why make it easy for me to spot you’re a fake without even needing to read the whole email?

The second I spot a bordered table I know you’re not a real web designer. Or at least a very bad one I wouldn’t want to use.


If you really want those links are you prepared to “live” the performance or do you just want an easy link?

Your on stage performance sucks and your tricks are easy to figure out:

  • If you say ‘Hi’ without including my name I know you don’t really enjoy reading my blog as my name and ugly face are on every page of the site
  • No UK business I’ve ever dealt with would say ‘Greetings of the day’ so I know you’re not based in Glasgow
  • No legitimate peers I’ve ever encountered use 3 exclamations in their subject line
  • No real web designer would use a table border on a site let alone in an email
  • Nor would they use a red background behind dark blue text
  • Your ‘From’ name is just John
  • You’ve misspelt the service you’re apparently so involved with day to day

And so on…

I can tell without even reading the email you’re fake.

If you really want my link then “live” the performance:

  • People manually delete comments without a Gravatar picture because most are spam. Think it might get approved if you had one even if it is spam?
  • If your outreaching for a finance vertical then you might not want to be the only IFA without letters after your name in the email signature and missing a link to the industry regulator
  • If you’re outreaching for a games company you might want to have a games character in your footer like every single other person in that industry
  • You might add a just giving link for your next charity run
  • You might actually have a LinkedIn or Twitter account
  • Instead of complimenting me on my blog you might remark on the latest big thing to happen in our space or mention specific conferences I’ll know of
  • You don’t have any company information in your signature (when was the last time you checked a company registration number was real?)

And so on…

It’s not much work to make it hard if not impossible to tell you apart from a genuine person operating in that space so why make it so easy for the audience to work out your performance?


Some obvious signature elements and online profiles can dramatically improve the effectiveness of a blanket outreach campaign.

And this isn’t about learning to lie to people either. If you’re already outreaching using persona’s you’re already putting on a performance but just a bad one so why not refine it?

And if you can’t be bothered to learn how to carry the fishbowl then you know where you can stick it.

You might also enjoy this highly relevant though obviously slightly-creepy-if-taken-out-the-comedy-context from How I Met Your Mother:


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About Chris Gilchrist

Chris Gilchrist is the Managing Director & Founder at Specialist WordPress and SEO agency, Hit Reach. You can find him on Google Plus and Twitter.
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12 Responses to Want My Link? Learn to Carry a Fishbowl Between Your Legs

  1. Rob Duckers says:

    Constantin Stanislavski, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and thousands of other method acting practitioners would agree with you. As would I.

  2. AnthonyPensabene.com says:

    that’s why david bowie had all those fucking hats! ha. great parallel, Chris

  3. Nice one Rob I never thought about the relationship to method acting but a very salient point.

    lol nice one Anthony.

  4. Steve Morgan says:

    Great post, Chris. The “‘Greetings of the day’” part reminded me of something recently – when @Andrew_Isidoro & I worked together we received a spam email with this introduction and we found it hilarious. Like you, we could tell instantly that it wasn’t from someone in the UK, even though they lied and told us that they were. We found it so amusing that we greeted each other with “greetings of the day” for the following few days/weeks. Yep, we’re sad. But hey… maybe it’ll catch on?

  5. Marius Fermi says:

    I received an email with the title of Ms. yesterday followed by my full name. I know I don’t had a “normal” name but still…

  6. Dustin Verburg says:

    Batman Vs. Wolverine with magic. Chris, I am going to email you my story about the Prestige because it is not appropriate for the comments section.

    Our ‘write for us page’ has my name on it several times right next to my email address and some people still can’t bother to include it in their template “outreach” email. So yes, for the love of God, just work on carrying the fishbowl.

  7. Spook SEO says:

    Good outreach email is the key to get the opportunity to avail a high quality link so first of all it’s important to pay attention over outreach strategy and better to spend some time on finding the detail to whom you are going to contact because your additional information can impress him and you can avail that opportunity by doing a little homework before.

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