Why is Tony Robbins pathetically begging me for SEO links?

I was amused when the organization of Tony Robbins, famous motivational speaker, asked me for a web link to boost his SEO, because I’m a human who tends to do perverse things when you treat me like a machine.

Here’s the email I received:

Subject: You Mentioned Tony Robbins [Thank you]

From: Ignite Visibility <Ignite@tonyrobbins.com>

Hi there Josh,

Thank you very much for mentioning Tony Robbins in your post here: https://withoutbullshit.com/blog/enjoy-journey-not-just-destination

If it is not too much trouble, could you do us a huge favor of adding a link to his website so your audience can learn more about Tony, please?

Tony’s personal website is here: https://www.tonyrobbins.com

Either way, keep up the great work! Thanks for your time.

Xxxxx Xxxx (on behalf of Tony Robbins)

As my correspondent (whose name I’ve redacted) pointed out, I did, indeed mention Tony Robbins in a blog post. The passage wasn’t particularly complimentary. Here’s what I had written:

This competitive instinct is baked into our culture. Corporations run on it. We are supposed to set “big hairy audacious goals” (also known as BHAGs) for ourselves and our teams. Self-help gurus from Gary Vaynerchuk to Tony Robbins spur us on to squash our doubts and shoot for our dreams. Each of us that hopes for success is supposed to clamber over all the other ordinary people and shout “I did it!”

You never hear from the people who try to do this and fail. You only hear from the ones who succeed. This makes it sound like taking risks and aiming high are all it takes to win. This is the paradox of hindsight, and it’s corrosive.

I don’t think about Tony Robbins much, but he served nicely as a generic example of blowhards who blather on about success and inflame the seething desire to get ahead no matter what.

But hey, he wants a link.

Why this is a stupid request

The poor sucker who sent this email is a guy in the Philippines who will boost your links at $30 per hour. I’ve corresponded with him and he’s a real person with a LinkedIn page and Medium posts. And he and his friends are clearly sending out many, many such requests to boost the Tony Robbins SEO (search engine optimization).

But this request is just dopey. Tony Robbins doesn’t need an SEO boost on his name.

What do you see when you search “Tony Robbins” on Google? I tested it in incognito mode (to eliminate bias from my past searches) and saw this:

Let’s imagine for a moment that my correspondent was successful — that he got, say 1,000 people who mentioned Tony Robbins to add links to his Web page.

How would that affect the order of the pages I listed?

Not one iota.

Tony Robbins’ page is always going to rank at the top, and so will the other pages and accounts listed here. That is, unless someone publishes a news article called “Tony Robbins smothers puppies and laughs about it while snorting cocaine,” in which case that might rank at the top for a while, regardless of any SEO effort.

It takes a special kind of narcissism to be this famous and beg for more links

So what did this email accomplish?

Tony Robbins (or someone in his organization) recruited a human to reach out to other humans to serve the needs of an algorithm.

But the human on the other end — me — isn’t just an unthinking robot. I write about crap like this.

So now the blog post I just wrote will probably rank on the search “Tony Robbins SEO.” And anyone clicking on it will get a little peek into the workings of the Tony Robbins machine. (Try it. You’ll boost my SEO).

Some SEO strategies make sense. But people aren’t machines. It tends to backfire when you treat them like they are.

Oh, and for the poor sucker who emailed me, here’s your link: Tony Robbins is a fool.

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  1. This wasn’t worth writing about. It’s just random corporate stupidity three layers down in the organization. No different from many senseless corporate projects that are initiated because someone thought it would make them look good.

  2. As someone with a bit of SEO and a bunch of PR experience, I say right on, Josh! Thanks for exposing this cheesy practice. Perhaps folks @Google are watching 😉

  3. Well, he did have a negative video go viral on FB. Probably showed up in search and they were trying to get it buried. Just a guess.

  4. The last line made me laugh out loud for real. I recall my former father-in-law who was in the newspaper business and in 1975 said your name should be publicized three times–for your birth, your marriage, and your death. We have come a long way from those days, that’s for sure.

    Self promotion seems to be everywhere. I run a small non-profit and we are linked to a library page. Someone sent me a message saying my links were broken. I then spent a few minutes checking them all, and all were well. I wrote back asking what links were broken, and then got back a recommendation to include links to something she wanted to promote. Thanks, but no thanks.

  5. You brightened my day, Josh. I’m starting to get a number of these “back link” requests (none yet from Tony’s team, but I don’t write about him), and other SEO-related requests. As you said, the irritating thing is that they ask for my time (adding links) without spending the time to actually read the piece for context. It’s an uneven exchange at best.

  6. It reminds me of all the people who want to connect with me in LinkedIn and then immediate try to pitch me something, even putting in a link to their calendar “for my convenience.” They clearly did not even read my profile. They merely searched for titles and sent a generic email. I have taken the time to point this out to a few, but for most, I simply click “ignore.” And I just realized how close “ignore” is to “ignorant.” Well done, Josh.

  7. He sent out an email asking me as well. Then a follow-up.

    I finally followed up. I thanked them for their time in reaching out and considering me. Then I asked them to link back to one of my articles. Fair is fair, right?