How to Build Links Like Jaamit
Jaamit Durrani and a cat that looks like Hitler at Think Visibility. This is how funny @jaamit was.*
Three months ago Jaamit Durrani had asked me whether I'm interested in the "head of SEO" position for Germany. I was of course delighted and honored by this question (as it wasn't even an official offer yet) but had to decline for personal reasons. I was particularly astounded by the trust Jaamit had in me as we haven't worked together on any projects yet. Indeed I haven't met Jaamit to this day and I'm very sad to say that I will never have the opportunity to do so in future either.
My communication with Jaamit was Twitter-only, I think we haven't even emailed.
Jaamit has taken part in some of my crowdsourced postings for SEOptimise and we have sent a few direct messages to each other the from time to time. So we weren't exactly friends. Still I felt devastated by the news that reached me on Friday. Apparently Jaamit has died in a train accident.
Jaamit really managed to make me like him very much just by sending me an occasional tweet or DM.
This is astonishing by itself. I was always afraid that Twitter communication was too shallow and a waste of time. I sometimes imagined that when I would die suddenly in an accident nobody would notice at all. Jaamit has not only proven that Twitter builds real communities he showed that you can build real life relationships using Twitter. Jaamit was a link builder in its truest sense, forging bonds between people. He was able to maintain a relationship with someone he has never met before only by very limited electronic means.
Today I want to try explain how Jaamit has managed to maintain a relationship like this to honor him after his tragic death.
I want to remember him as the cool guy he was not only as the poor guy who has has died prematurely. Already the term jaamit has a new meaning in my head: a jaamit is a very strong link, one that even outlasts the link builder.
In the past link building has often been marred by lack of trust.
You would exchange links with strangers you don't trust. Soon many SEO tools appeared whose only feature was to check whether your link partners still link to you. Link exchanges weren't lasting long in many cases. Your partners tended to forget to link back to you when they redesigned their site or moved on to other projects. So you had to either manually or automatically check whether the link is still there and send such a person an email when the link wasn't up anymore. Many people in the SEO industry still practice this kind of no-trust link building.
Jaamit had the trust in me that I could become head of SEO for Germany just by reading my blog posts and tweets it seems.
So we see here the opposite: Trust in virtual space gained just by electronic communications. A new kind of link building. The link exists not between two sites but between two individuals. It's a link of mutual trust that results in many links between websites.
Yes, I trusted Jaamit as well. I'm not entirely sure why but I think the following aspects were crucial:
A relationship is formed when you can relate. You can't relate with someone when you don't understand that person. Also you need some compassion to relate. When someone experiences a problem and someone else is trying to find out what the problem is or even to help. That's relating. Can you relate? Jaamit has proven that he could relate. I have checked again the roughly only 30 tweets I send to @jaamit during the course of the last year. I got feedback from him more than once when experiencing strange issues either in the SERPs or elsewhere.
A relationship or friendship is not a one time appearance. You don't form a relationship having a one night stand or during small talk at a party. A relationship has something to do with returning and communicating again and again. Apparently you don't need to do it daily or in person but a short tweet is enough. Looking at the dates of the tweets in which I addressed @jaamit I noticed that we have had a conversation roughly every two weeks. Isn't this amazing? You tweet once every two weeks back and forth to form a real life relationship.
Sharing is an essential ingredient of any relationship. Without sharing you don't have much of an relationship, you just know the other person. You know s/he is there bot not much more. Jaamit was a person who shared his knowledge freely. He blogged for Freshegg and he shared his insights with me when I crowdsourced the SEOptimise posts. He also guest blogged on many renowned industry publications like Econsultancy. When he set up his own private blog SEO Insight (now defunct) half a year ago I subscribed instantly the day I found out he had a blog. I think I haven't done that before always being very picky about the feeds I subscribe to. Just ego blogging is not enough. You have to really share to forge a relationship with your readers.
A relationship without caring for one another is not a deep relationship. Jaamit really cared. How do I know? When I declined his offer of becoming head of SEO for Germany I probably sounded arrogant. I mean who would decline such an career opportunity right away? Jaamit could easily get offended by this decision of mine. The opposite was the case. He expressed understanding for my reasons without sounding offended. He even inquired to know how "bad" it was so that I had to ensure that it wasn't "that bad" but enough of a reason to decline. So it seems it's not that difficult to care. You just have to ask the right question at the right time.
Without joking you don't have a real relationship. Only humor and laughing together makes two people feel they really belong together. Everything else is more like working together. You don't joke with people you don't trust. Why? A joke can always backfire. Someone who likes and trusts you will either laugh with you or at least won't get offended by a joke that backfires. I love joking like in saying funny things, not like telling jokes. So I will sometimes say or rather write funny things on the Web. Sometimes my jokes are probably way over the top I guess but that's me. We were joking repeatedly with @jaamit it seems. Every now and then we exchanged humouros tweets. Humor is a major relationship building factor it seems.
Sometimes joking around is not a right thing to do though.
Now that Jaamit is not amongst us anymore I deeply regret a joke I made on Twitter shortly before his accident. In a creepy way I even feel partly responsible for his death. When he tweeted about his "flu-like" symptoms last week I joked that it was just a link bait and that he must come up with something more spectacular these days after the swine flu hype of last year. He wrote back asking "what about Cholera"?
I wanted to cheer him up and to belittle the flu symptoms to make him feel better. Instead I should have written something like "stay in bed for the next few days". I don't know whether he still was sick when he got killed by that train but he surely would have survived laying in bed trying to overcome the flu.
Also he indeed came up with something "more spectacular" which makes me feel as if I had contributed to his death. I mean
getting hit by a train is not your average death.
A road accident aka getting hit by a car would but getting hit by a train is truly an exceptional death. It feels ridiculous to write about it in this manner but I can't forget my last joke.
I'm not a particularly religious person but in this case I can only come up with one logical explanation for this premature and otherwise senseless departure:
God needed a link builder in heaven.
Now that he even gets outranked by Go Daddy for his own name in Google Instant he needed a link building angel up there. Jaamit was probably one of the friendliest, most generous and funniest guys in the industry. Moreover just recently he was chosen one of the 30 most influential UK SEO specialists. He wasn't even at his career apex yet I think. He just recently became head of SEO for OMD UK. He had a bright future. God knew that. He decided he needed Jaamit to help him out with link building. He chose Jaamit because he needed a true link building angel for his SEO department.
Link building like Jaamit is not the only lesson I've learned from this.
You have to mind your every word. It can be last one you utter or someone else hears from you. S/he might never return again to clarify. So you better be clear right now and you better be just right now. I haven't always been just in the past. I had some feuds with people from the SEO industry right here on the blog and they're still online. I have attacked
- Doug Heil
- Jill Whalen
- Barry Adams
publicly in postings or comments. I decided to finally remove them. I don't want these words to be the last ones they remember. Also in case you have the flu or something else that makes you feel dizzy: Stay at home! You might get run over by a car or even a train. Don't listen to stupid jokesters like myself who attempt to tell you that a flu is no reason to complain.
Last but not least think about this: Would God want to work with you on the divine SEO campaign? Or are you just a petty sinner like me? Will your links outlast you?
More tributes to Jaamit Durrani:
* "Cute!": Image by Steven Lilley aka sk8geek.