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The road to influence. Be Liked. Be Trusted.


I’ve enlisted the help of some clever people to determine the role that being Trusted and Liked plays within the realm of Influence.

We’ve compiled a list of techniques you can start using straight away to build your own influence level (ignore semantics for now) and I’ll try to update the list regularly. If you would like to suggest any for inclusion please do in the comments.

It’s an important area within SEO right now and we’d all love your input to continue the discussion.

Is trust a must?

Is Trust A Must

There’s been a lot of people talking about trust recently within SEO circles.

This makes sense since the shift in focus towards ( social / relationship building / authorship / quality > quantity / etc ) post Google Penguin.

Wil Reynolds recently discussed in depth his philosophy to never stop building trust. He offered some transparent examples of ‘trust building’ and ‘trust fucking’ and also recommended some essential reading about trust (and offered to give away 50 copies – cool guy!).

Just to clarify, Wil didn’t call it Trust Fucking but I do. TrustfuckTM can be a useful phrase.

If you don’t feel comfortable dropping the f-bomb then ‘Don’t shit in the trust bucket’ works too.

Don't Shit In The Trust BucketImportantly to me I noted Wil also mentioned being liked and that he would rather be trusted than liked if he had to choose between the two.

This was timely because just a few weeks earlier I read an article by Iain Bartholomew discussing a trust threshold theory.  It’s worth a full read but the TL:DR is that ‘a certain level of trust is required to effect change’. Interesting.

He also explained his initial basis for the thought process stemmed from a Whiteboard Friday by Tom Critchlow who determined that ‘change happens when people like you’. Also interesting.

Jim Boykin, in an interview with Todd Mallicoat, (I’d recommend reading it all) said “Yesterday the talk was how good is your content, who do you link to, what is your linking neighborhood, who links to you, and how trusted are those sites?

Today the talk is about how good is your content, who are you friends with, who are you influenced by, who are you an influencer of, and how trusted are those people…..yes, it’s about websites….but it’s starting to be about a lot more than just links and websites.”

Oddly, just as I was adding the final edits to the this post look what popped up in my Twitter stream, (and RT’d by who):

Dalai Lama Trust Quote

Noticing a trend here yet?

I already posted a reply on Iain’s blog but I wanted to expand upon my thoughts here in more depth and explain my rationale behind them.

I also wanted to get the opinions of some people I regard more clevererer than I when it comes to human behaviour and influence so I enlisted the help of Koozai Mike, Matt Gratt and David Cohen to help me.

After we determine the importance and roles that Trust and Like-ability play I want to share some of our collective actionable insights to let you quickly get started with your own strategy for attaining influence.

How Do Trust and Being Liked Work Together?

In my first ever job when I was 18, selling door to door (commission only), I learned something really important. Whilst everyone else I was working with was focusing on the actual sale, I tried instead to focus on building friendships in a very very short space of time (30 mins max in each house).

The sales then happened as a consequence of being successful at achieving friendship. I thought of it as friendship. I think it’s the same thing people call influence a lot just now.

I think that friendships can be built very quickly on 2 things. You guessed it, Trust and being Liked. And I think it’s only when you reach a certain point of each you can actually affect change. Or influence that person effectively.

This diagram illustrates how I think of the 2 mechanisms working together.

Trust Like Matrix

Please keep in mind right now everything is conceptual. If I talk about a ‘sale’ it could just as easily be a link, a tweet, a share, etc. If I talk about a person it could just as easily be a brand, a product, etc. If I talk about Trust it could just as easily mean authority or your preferred semantic.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the diagram:

  1. Red cross bottom left: Starting point before you meet/engage/encounter that person, or they you.

  2. Quadrant 1: The person doesn’t trust or like you yet.

    NB: It’s a complete waste of time to try and get a sale in this quadrant.

  3. Quadrant 2: The person likes you. But they don’t trust you yet.

    N.B. It’s unlikely you’ll get the sale because they don’t know if they can trust you or your advice yet. But they are open to listening to what you have to say because they like you. You need to build trust/authority.

  4. Quadrant 3: The person trusts you. But they don’t like you yet.

    N.B. It’s unlikely you’ll get the sale because they don’t want to help you even though they know they can trust your advice. They might listen to you to inform themselves but are unlikely to take action to benefit you. They might deal with you whilst in this quadrant but only out of necessity rather than choice which means their choice is short term or begrudged – neither are desirable.

  5. Orange cross middle: You have reached the minimum level of trust AND like-ability to get you into Quadrant 4. Be careful not to lose ANY trust or like-ability or you’ll jump quadrants.

  6. Quadrant 4: The holy grail. The person trusts you and likes you. You can now ask them for things and almost certainly get their help (or a sale or buy in or upsell etc). I consider THIS to the point where you’ve achieved an influential status. Or friendship again depending on your preferred semantics.

N.B. There’s obviously a lot of places to sit within Quadrant 4 between the orange cross and the green cross. You will hardly ever achieve the green cross with anyone you encounter but it’s the ultimate goal. But work to stay away from the boundaries of the other quadrants to remain influential.

N.N.B. You don’t just get to stick around in Quadrant 4 because you got there once. You have to continue to demonstrate why you deserve to remain there. Ever been friends with someone and lost touch? It takes time to rebuild.

There’s one thing the diagram doesn’t show. And that’s what happens when you Trustfuck someone.

Trust Fuck

You know that little red cross? You’ll end up on the other side of it. Off the graph entirely. And you’ll maybe never get back onto the graph. Ever. Don’t shit in the trust bucket! P.S. in case you don’t like high level analogies or metaphors this simply means don’t screw people over. As well as ending up off the graph Karma might pay you a nasty visit. Yikes!

When we sold door to door, customers had a 7 day cancellation period. There were people selling more than twice as many deals as me but they also had a 75% cancellation fee. They whizzed round as many doors as they could in a day like a whirl wind but by the time they left that house they had not achieved a Quadrant 4 status.

Maybe the customer liked the person and felt sorry for them so they signed the deal even if they didn’t think it was a good idea. Maybe they trusted the salesperson and knew it was a good idea but really didn’t like the person. But they didn’t like AND trust them so the deals didn’t stick and were cancelled. Waste of time. No money (commission only). No referrals. No cigar.

By focusing on building Trust and Like-ability very quickly with each customer within 6 months of being at the company I was the 2nd top salesman in the UK. I think they had around 500 staff. On my best week I signed up 72 deals worth over £2.5k (most people averaged 25 deals a week). As a ‘well done’ for that week’s work they gave me a 32” flatscreen TV (this was over 10 years ago – it was good back then, trust me) and I got invited to a dinner party at a castle with the owners.

Guys, can you give me your thoughts on this approach so far?

Mike Essex Mike Essex | Twitter | Website Koozai logo

Almost every aspect of the way we market Koozai is based on trust and likeability. We focus on creating touch points that allow us to reach marketers many times over, so that when they are ready to purchase they are aware of Koozai and get in touch with us.

For example, we’ve had over 1,000 downloads of our Whitepapers and most weeks we’ll see a major brand download them that would be a dream client. The Whitepapers are high quality detailed guides and help us build trust. However, they don’t instantly add likeability and that’s something a lot of people forget. The default response that occurs to me when I download Whitepapers on other sites is I get a sales call within the hour that hammers home all of their services. This tends to make me get annoyed with the sales person instantly if they try a “hard sell” approach, especially if I am busy.

So instead, we give them the ability to opt in for another free Whitepaper each month and to also get a monthly bulletin of news. We also updated our monthly newsletter to 10 pieces of news from Koozai and other sites, rather than just Koozai. In doing so, we ensure we have one or two regular mentions of Koozai to the prospect and that we aren’t constantly harassing them by saying “buy us!” It’s pretty clear we offer services, but we don’t make that the core focus on the emails, and they can easily find our services via our website.

I don’t believe we’ve quite reached a perfect strategy and yes we may lose the odd sale to people who call the prospect constantly, but it’s not like we are selling the kind of product that people can always buy that minute. It could be years between someone downloading a Whitepaper and needing a new supplier, so we’d much rather regularly communicate with our dream clients and ensure that when they are ready to purchase, we are on their mind. Coupled with speaking at conferences and writing for the likes of the BBC, The Guardian and TIME magazine means there’s also lots more opportunity for them to see our brand and for us to build trust.

The last part of the strategy is writing for the Koozai site, where we invest the equivalent of a Lamborghini’s worth of time every year writing blog posts and filming videos – That’s £156,000 every year on content creation just for ( It’s another layer of likeability (because we are very transparent with the content we share and we let everyone write with their own personality) and trust (because our information can hopefully help them out).

So far, the rewards for this strategy have been new clients, happier employees who get their content seen and shared, people linking to us without us having to ask (link earning FTW!) and a positive buzz around the brand in the industry.

Matt Gratt Matt Gratt | Twitter | Website Buzzstream logo

At BuzzStream, we care a lot about customer success. We want every BuzzStream customer to be successful with our product. Accordingly, if another tool is a better fit for a potential customer, we’ll recommend that app. We don’t just aspire to make sales – we aspire to make successful marketing organizations.

Like Wil said, trust is earned – not given – and it’s one of the easiest things to lose. Do what you say you will do, care about other people’s success as much as your own (you’ll find they’re intertwined), and be the kind of person you want to work with.

We don’t have fancy tricks we use to do this – we try to be as helpful as possible across our organization – from our content marketing to our customer support and success team.

As far as tactics in the matrix, the only really ‘tactical’ thing we do is a lot of social monitoring, and calling people that mention us.

David Cohen David Cohen | Twitter | Website Seer Interactive logo

I’m glad there was initiative taken to publish this post because I feel like the topic of influence and trust is something worth having a conversation about.

Influence – I don’t have much to say about influence. I don’t think about this. Proactively trying to become an influencer is not something I feel like putting effort into.

Trustjust try to be consistent. Unless you consistently don’t keep your word or you consistently BS people, you have the ability to be recognized as a trusted person. If you consistently do what you say you’re going to do, the people around you will feel good.

Likeability – likeability might be something people are born with. I don’t know how you create a process or strategy to become likeable. Also, I don’t have a PhD in Sociology, so take that into consideration. These are just opinions.

If your goal is to become likeable, in whatever context likeable means to you, you should probably get the consistency and trust part to the point where it comes naturally.

And think about the people you spend time with. What do you like about them? What do you like about the people you’re less acquainted with or the people you ‘know’ through Twitter? Try emulating those traits that make other people likeable to you.

I like storytellers. I like people that can tell you a story that makes you feel something or inspires you to do something. When I was young, probably 5, I went to a Native American Powwow and listened to an old storyteller. I don’t remember what the story was but I distinctly remember him as a person, and I remember thinking that I’d like to be around people like this.

Actionable ways to get to Quadrant 4

Trusted BrandI hate high level fluffy posts without real examples so in the spirit of Debra Mastaler and Julie Joyce I’ve added a bunch.

Not all the examples below will take you directly in the direction of Quadrant 4. Some will build trust and likeability at the same time. Others will just build likeability and others just trust. They will all have vary in effectiveness.

Some will effect a large number of people at once and others only effect individuals.

It’s up to you to find the combination that works best for you given your resources, abilities and what fits in best with your daily activities.

But if you focus on Always Be Consolidating you’ll eventually end up in Quadrant 4 with a lot of people.

Obviously this list can’t be be exhaustive because there’s so many different ways to build trust and likeability but, if you think of them conceptually you will find many ways to adapt and apply them.

Helps With




Trust & Likeability



Mike Essex


Koozai TVFilming your team is a great way to build trust in their abilities and to appear likeable and a ‘human’ company. We ask every employee to film a video at Koozai and now have over 100 videos showing their smiley faces coving all kinds of Digital Marketing topics (

The sales team use these videos whenever prospects have questions and they’ve proved very effective. As we can send videos of our employees talking about real concerns prospects may have, it adds to the trust that we build.

The likeability comes from the presenters themselves and the human aspect they bring.Yes we may make the odd mistake in a video (such as saying the wrong word) but if we correct ourselves then that only adds to the likeability. Whereas if all our videos were 100% perfect, I don’t think we’d be likeable – likewise if our video quality was rubbish and we mumbled every word, then again we wouldn’t be likeable.

Finding the balance is key.

Helps With




Trust & Likeability



Mike Essex


WhitepapersIf you already write blog posts, then you are halfway towards this strategy already. We look at our most popular blog posts and then expand them into more detailed Whitepapers. It’s a great way to get people to like you, by giving content away, and earning trust if you have accurate information.

I’ve put the difficulty as “Medium” because you’ll need at least two solid days to create a good Whitepaper and you’ll need some trust already if you want people to give you their details; trust that you can earn by regularly writing good blog posts.We’ve written 12 Whitepapers so far ( with 1,000 downloads, all of whom were happy to give their name, email and company in return for the Whitepaper. We don’t harass them with sales calls and just continue to provide a new free Whitepaper every month and they can opt out any time.

It’s this trust that we hope will encourage them to choose Koozai as their next supplier.

Helps With




Trust & Likeability



Chris Gilchrist

Reading / Recommended Lists

Rand Fishkin Recommended-StuffReading lists are a great way to show people what books you’ve read and topics you are informed about (builds trust).

You could do what Rand does and extend the page to be a general recommended list instead of just books and recommend services and products too. (builds trust).

You can get in touch with the people you are recommending and let them know you’ve added them to the page. (builds likeability)

Helps With




Trust & Likeability



Chris Gilchrist

Twitter Statuses

Twitter stream interactionsOne thing I’ve blatently stolen adopted from AJ Kohn recently is his twitter status updates. He tweets what he’s reading and watching and often mentions the author. i.e.

Reading: An article about blah – URL by @username

Which if you think about it is genius.

  • It takes seconds to do
  • It shows everybody you’re learning about x (builds trust)
  • You’re not limited to only tweeting out good content because you’re only saying you’re reading – not recommending it
  • It engages the author and let’s them know you’ve read their stuff and puts you on their radar. (builds likeability

This really works well. Having only used it for around a month I’ve had quite a few follows, RT’s, Thank you’s, favourites and direct interactions just from tweeting what I’m reading.

Helps With




Trust & Likeability




Call People Who Mention You

If someone is nice enough to mention you or your products in a blog post, give them a call and say thank you. Find out if there’s a way you can help them – with a tweet, a guest post, a referral, or a vendor recommendation – and do your best to make their life better.

Helps With







Chris Gilchrist

Help strangers & causes

Help peopleYou might align yourself with a charity or cause and help fund raise through sponsored activities or simply help raise awareness or a project or cause.

I’ve listed this as medium because doing a sponsored event does take time/effort but it’s a great way to build like-ability and more importantly to help great people and causes.

Just today writing this post I saw a tweet in my stream to help a good cause on Kickstarter which got a good response making the author more likable.

Helps With







Chris Gilchrist

Talk at conferences & meetups

Julie Joyce Conference SpeakingI’ve listed this as hard, because for most people public speaking doesn’t come naturally and for those who can do it well it still uses up a lot of time in preparing and attending the events.

It’s quite possible, if your a great speaker like Guy Kawasaki, that you’ll also build likeability via your speaking but it’s not guaranteed so i’ve just labelled this example with, Trust.

Still it’s a great way to build Trust in your industry, probably one of the best, so even if you find public speaking difficult it’s worth persevering with if you want to reach Quadrant 4 quickly.


  1. I agree with the thesis here. Building trust and likability results in influence. How to go about it is fairly straightforward. Be authentic. (This can be troublesome if you’re not likable.) Be yourself. Don’t spam blogs with anchor text in your name, for one thing.

  2. Hopefully, I’m interpreting this correctly… but I was glad to see Mike Essex share some of the strategy behind publishing resources as a way to build awareness and trust with potential clients. During my years as a marketing director my team would use the same approach and it works extremely well.

    Another powerful thing about Koozai’s strategy is that it puts a focus on the long game. Some companies will call you within 5 minutes of downloading their whitepaper. That’s like trying to take a date back to your place an hour into the first date — it never really works out well.

    Thanks, Chris and everybody else for being in on this post. Already one of my favorites in 2013.

  3. Really interesting and thought provoking stuff Chris, I definitely know lots of people who fall into each of those boxes. I would say that on the whole however, it’s very difficult to like somebody you don’t trust. In a work setting I can think of many people I can trust to do a good job, do I like them all? Probably not.

    • Chris Gilchrist says:

      I agree with that point Gaz but I think the people who fall into Quadrant 2 aren’t people you’ve decided you DON’T trust (they would stay in quadrant 1) but people in Quadrant 2 might be people you like very much but DON’T KNOW YET that you can trust their opinion.

      Think people you’ve just got to know in SEO in the early stages and decided you definitely like them – but you don’t yet know if they are actually knowledgeable about SEO so they are in Quadrant 2 until you establish if they are or not.

  4. I’ve been talking about trust a lot lately, even in a recent presentation I did last week.

    I think Iain has it down. Be authentic. And like he says this can be problematic if you’re not likable, but is still the best way to go.

    I’d offer two other bits.

    Have your own opinion. Just because some expert or well-known figure says something doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. I’m not saying you have to be right, but have a point of view.

    The other one is to get very comfortable saying ‘I don’t know’. Far too often people avoid admitting that they don’t know something because they think it’s a sign of weakness. Mind you if it’s something basic that might be the case but by in large people don’t expect you to know everything.

    Not only that, but by saying ‘I don’t know’ to some things you inspire more trust in the areas where you do. People will listen to you more about what you do know because you’re not bullshitting them on the stuff you don’t.

    Bonus tip. Use cats in your blog posts.

    • Chris Gilchrist says:

      Thanks for getting involved AJ. Coming from a sales background it’s something I’ve thought a lot about forever but I think it’s great more prominent SEO’s like you, Iain and Wil are making more noise about it all as so many people can benefit from a shift in mindset towards this approach to sales/SEO/business/life.

  5. Hey Chris
    Very slick article, impressed.

    Best bit of advice I had from a trusted family friend who has been exceedingly successful working his way from back end terrace in the grim north to luxury detached massive pad in Houston TX:
    “People buy into people. We don’t buy services we buy from other people.”
    And just like your impressive sales figures showed: Trust is a big part of this.


    I consider honesty and integrity very highly on my list of values and when all said and done what else do you have in life if not your own conscience?


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