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No-one links to the linkers

Andrew Garrett has written a very insightful post at on a discovery he’s made about blogging that I think we all need to learn (and many of us relearn) – No-one links to the linkers. He tells a little of his own previous style of blogging – linking to another blog/site, adding a few of his own comments and hitting publish. He then goes on to make a few pertinent (I always wanted to use that word in a post) observations:

‘No-one links to linkers.

By deluding myself that being a human news filter I was adding value, I was avoiding doing ‘real’ writing. Sure, I was writing a bit here and there. but not enough to be a draw card.

A few link-based posts here and there are fine – once you have an audience. Link aggregation on a particular subject – that’s also valuable. Once you have an audience.

First, get an audience.

Audiences are like governments – you get the one you deserve. I haven’t yet deserved an audience.’

Andrew then goes on to share what he’s going to do about it.

I think the realizations that Andrew are having are excellent. While there are some successful blogs out there that are predominantly link blogs they generally add value to the content they link to and/or do it on the back of having built an audience around some other factor (sometimes good original content, sometimes they have a name or previous expertise that draws the audience, sometimes it’s their quirky, snarky and/or intelligent commentary on the links that they link to….)

Setting yourself apart from the millions of other blogs out there means you need some sort of unique selling proposition – linking to the same stuff everyone else does is just not going to do it for you.

I’m not anti link blogs – but I think bloggers (especially new ones) need to have realistic expectations about what they can achieve with them. If you’re going to be a link blogger make sure you either mix in some truly original posts, link in a unique way that is an attraction in itself or be able to find the most wonderful mind-blowing collection of links ever known to humankind!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Paul says:

    You have described my blog perfectly, without even knowing it!
    I started blogging about the NHL lockout at http://www.breakingsports.blogspot.com, because I was not happy with the information that was being supplied to me by my traditional media outlets.
    It became pretty popular for hockey fans and has grown monthly into what it is today. A one stop source for hockey fans.
    I have had the opportunity to interview Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, have been mentioned numerous times by NHL.com and NHL team websites.
    I have found success with my style and it will continue as is.

  2. Cary says:

    Hehe – I can’t believe someone finally said it!

    I get people linking to my blog posts all the time, and I usually try to check out their site and look for something I can link back to in return, but if all they are doing is providing a link to another blog (where the real story is,) well, I’m going to link to the real story!

    If you don’t provide something original, you aren’t providing an incentive for others to pay attention, let alone go to the trouble of linking to you…

    Of course the upside is that if you ARE writing good content it’s easier to stand out from the crowd :)

  3. nospheratt says:

    I’ll say that sounds about right! For instance, I enjoy much more the posts where you place a link, Darren, but you give your interpretation or version of the information, that the ones that just say: “John F. has an interesting article here”. That’s disappointing some times, because I find your point of view very important and usefull, and that’s why I come here.
    By the way, I love your blog. Thanks for share so much with “those in need”. :)

  4. Don M says:

    Very true indeed. In fact that was one of the reasons Makovision died. I think it is important to have quality content first or build a reputation that gives the sites you link to more credibility than a new blog filled with nothing but links to other links which eventually lead to articles.

    For instance, this very post counts as a “linker” styled page, but you have a reputation that gives your readers confidence that your post is not only a traffic generation ploy – but instead is genuinely useful.

    Probably one of the most annoying things for me is the amount of bloggers that do this who are in my RSS list and I get the same story that originated on Lifehacker or ProBlogger or Engadget/Gizmodo 8-10 times.

    (Of course, I figured out a while back to cut the most blatant offenders from my feedreader.)

    -dm

  5. dadan says:

    i think good quality content is more important

  6. saurab says:

    I think that’s kind of true…. no one today has the time or the patience to visit a deserted blog sprinkled with little content and lots of links …. that’s what you expect on a search engine result page…. not a blog.

    of course, once in a while…… everybody does it.

  7. Remi says:

    I guess you just have to be really good at it [see Matt Drudge], post some really good content once in a while, and maybe get a scoop here and there.

  8. John says:

    I’m a bit confused to what he means by “linkers”. Is he refering to linkers as a person who just posts links to other sites without giving his take regarding the topic or is he refering to a blogger who writes about the topic and then sources the info?

  9. saurab says:

    @john: I think he is referring to the former case that you mentioned. if you write about a topic by giving your own independent views on the subject, and then just link out to the source, then that is just good manners…..

  10. Razib Ahmed says:

    Darren,
    Thanks a lot for directing us to this article. Andrew Garrett is right about one thing- if you want to earn good money from blogging, you must give good time and effort after it. Many people have an illusion that by writing 1-2 entries a week they will become successful and rich in blogging.

  11. Cary says:

    I recently found someone whose blog posts consist entirely of a title, a single product photo, and a single affiliate link…

    No description, no specs, no nothing.

    Hmmm, lack of critical thinking I guess :)

  12. Thanks for the link and the affirmation :)

    It seems to have taken me a while, but I might just be heading on the right track now…

  13. If you’re going to be a link blogger make sure you either mix in some truly original posts, link in a unique way that is an attraction in itself or be able to find the most wonderful mind-blowing collection of links ever known to humankind!
    ~~~~

    What’s wrong with just finding the most wonderful mind-blowing collection of links ever known to humankind? You can bet I will add your RSS Feed into my Bloglines!

    Example that pops into my head…Bank Locater

    It’s only common sense and courtesy to link both the site where you found the link (heads up) and the source (via/source) .. i.m.o.

  14. Darren Rowse says:

    Hart – there’s nothing wrong with that – but I guess all I’m saying is that only a few succeed by doing that. I can name a handful of blogs off the top of my head who have done well with that strategy but see hundreds of others in the same genre each week who do almost the same thing but with little or no success.

    It’s possible – but it’s difficult and becoming increasingly hard to stand out from the crowd.

  15. Franko says:

    Ironic considering that 97% of Darrens sites/content are “Link sites”. Looks like he got in just at the right time.

  16. Cary says:

    Can’t fault him for that :)

  17. Kenny Allman says:

    I dunno know. I see nothing wrong with a link in the post if the post itself has a new slant on the story or subject. Yeah, if the post just consists of; “Hey here is this cool post somewhere else, so click here to read what someone else has to say, because I don’t have a clue what they are talking about” then I can’t see that adding anything of value to the blogosphere.

    If the post even a twinkle of a fresh angle, comment, or slant on the topic, then I say it’s all good.

    -Kenny

  18. cat says:

    Darren, this discussion has certainly given me food for thought on what I’m doing at the moment. In the two blogs I run, after reading your article I guess both are linking blogs? But … both are actually set up as resources for their niche so …

    Designers who Blog (http://www.designers-who-blog.com) features … of course … blogging designers, etc … and I’ve basically been playing around with the format to see what attracts viewers. I started out quoting interesting bits to point to, no personal comments, then when I switched to waffling about the featured blogs the readership dropped so I’ve mostly gone back to my original format. Short, sweet, extracting the best about the blog itself to give a taste of the designers/photographers/marketers/etc voice if I can.

    The NO!SPEC blog (http://www.no-spec.com) is a resource for those talking about spec in the design industry (as well as others) so I’m basically doing the same as DWB. I feature the conversations around with a quote, whether it’s blogs or online mags, etc.

    I’m wondering about another rethink, but time is of essence here. Or rather, the lack of it. Researching, googling, dipping into different blogs, extracting interesting bits takes time. Writing about each one, even more time. Also, finding a voice suitable for the subject (which I perhaps never did accomplish before backing off), even more time.

    The team blog I’m putting together will indeed have original content so there is no real fear of being a high range linking blog. But, is a linking blog all that bad? Or is it the extent of linking that is important? Or the type of linking? The way I’m looking at it, they can be quite handy one stop resources where none exist. Or if some do, are poorly updated/created/designed/etc.

    One of the best design blogs is, I guess, a linking blog. No comments. Just a screen snap with a link to the blog … http://www.webcreme.com/ … so maybe there are linking blogs and … linking resource blogs?

  19. Brad says:

    Links are a good addition to real blog contentd, but links should not be content by themselves. For me, I usually avoid blogs that are made up of links – I like original, creative content!

    Personally, I use links very sparingly and make sure they help enhance the main content, but not distract from it. I put a lot of thought and time into my content and I hope that readers see and appreciate that. Just posting a bunch of links is, in a way, cheating.

  20. It’s a shame but many bloggers JUST don’t link! And these guys are the ones who have been blogging for years (2-3) usually! And ofcourse there are the guys who always link within their own band of blogs. There are so many things outside your blog which will add to your blog’s productivity yet links don’t come. It’s just a shame and this is killing the blogosphere.

    I’m not gonna name anybody but you probably know!

  21. Halfdeck says:

    There are alot of high profile blogs that link to other high profile blogs we all read every day. I really don’t see the point in that. I don’t need a roadmap to find Jeremy Z’s blog. But linking to an obscure page is another story. There’s reason why del.icio.us, digg, and other social bookmarking sites are popular, and those sites are pretty much all about links.

  22. Jake says:

    Sometimes the linking blogs get more traffic for sure.

    I have a perfect example of some fantastic writing by Greg over at
    http://sports.crimsonlight.com

    The traffis is ok, but almost no commenting. What is up with that?

    Please help. He is a great writer. and comments would be great. How do we fix this?

  23. If you want serious traffic, I don’t think a ‘this story is cool’ link is worth a post.

    I put very brief descriptions of cool sites in my list of links. For example:

    “Policy on Iran” at Last Superpower.net – Saudi Arabia, NOT Iran, next US target?

    Calendar of political and activist events in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

    Harry’s Place – English liberal-left site, supports the Iraq war, pro-Israel. Combination of interesting debate and entertaining abuse of some of the most persistent trolls on the Net.

    I also think enormous link lists and blogrolls are a waste of time. Fewer, carefully selected links that are likely to appeal to your target audience give your site more credibility than 100 unexplained, possibly time-wasting places to visit.

    I work full time so my blogging is probably going to be only one good article a week. But if my eventual readers/subscribers know that each time an article comes out it will be interesting, and packed with my original thought and work, then I think they will value my posts.

  24. This article for sure made me rethink about my total appoach to blogging…I will for sure be making some changes to my daily blogging.

  25. pcunix says:

    My name is Tony Lawrence and I’m a recovering linker.

    Like most of us, it started out with a friendly “links page” – just a little something extra I added to my site to list other related sites of value. Today we’d call that a “blogroll” but back then it was just a “links page”, and every site had one. Not wanting to be different, I had one too.

    As time went on, I added a lot of content to my site. I mean a LOT. I worked hard at it and really made it a very useful resource for my niche. I built significant traffic and although I really paid no attention to such things back then, I started getting a lot of affection from the big search engines. Life was good.

    Then one June morning in 2003, I discovered Adsense. “Cool”, I thought, “I’ll
    make a couple of extra bucks from the site. Why not?” I applied, was approved, and started running ads. Cool beans, I thought.

    Imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning and found $40.53 in
    my Adsense account. Wow. It wasn’t millions, but it wasn’t just pocket
    change either.

    The next day was $51.95. There were $60.00 days, even $70.00 and $80.00
    days. This Adsense stuff was great.

    I wanted more.

    Well, how do you get more? Obviously, more content. So I stepped up
    the pace of my writing. Where I had been posting perhaps a few times a week,
    I now wanted to post a few times a day. Many times a day, lots of posts,
    because posts carry ads and ads mean money. Post, post, post.

    But these weren’t like my my previous posts. Oh, some were, sure. But
    a lot of them were just empty links: “Hey, look at this:” posts.

    What was I thinking? Hours spent searching the web, often stumbling into
    seedy and disreputable sites trying to find something to link to. It got harder
    to find anything of interest, and my standards slipped. I’d wake up in the morning and stare bleary eyed into the mirror: “I can’t believe you linked to that”, I’d say.

    But I had. I was ashamed, but I could not stop myself. Links, links and
    more links. A long chain of empty posts that were really nothing at all.
    My once proud site was starting to look a bit sploggish at the edges and I hated it. But the driving need for post after post after post kept me doing it.

    And then..

    One morning I looked in the mirror and said “No more”. No more would I post empty links. If I didn’t have useful content to add, I wouldn’t link at all. My posting frequency would suffer, but it had to be done. I had to return my site to quality standards, and I was going to do that no matter how hard it was. Cold turkey.
    I was done as of that day. No more empty links.

    It is hard. Sometimes I see a juicy web page that really is relevant to my niche but I have nothing to say about it other than “Look!”. My fingers hesitate, wanting to type in that href. I take a deep breath and steel myself: I will not link without additional value. I will not link without additional value. I will not link..

    Well, Adsense isn’t what it used to be anyway. A good day is $40.00, and a lot of days are in the thirties. Weekends plunge even lower. It’s still nice money,
    of course, but I don’t think about it as much anymore. I think about content, and value, and that’s what I should be thinking about, isn’t it?

    I shook the empty link habit. You can too.

  26. Flo says:

    pcunix, I think the real problem in your case was not the link habit itself, but the need to post more frequently. As you said it yourself: “my standards slipped” That’s probably the worst that can happen.

    Posting an interesting link is a value in itself, but it really has to be interesting. Links that have been posted everywhere else are not interesting, not are links to content which has no real value itself.

    However, there is one fundamental problem with links as primary content. As Darren already wrote, links don’t attract links.Good links can be good content from the perspective of your readers, but they usually are poor promotion for your own blog.

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  6. [...] I’m not anti link blogs – but I think bloggers (especially new ones) need to have realistic expectations about what they can achieve with them. If you’re going to be a link blogger make sure you either mix in some truly original posts, link in a unique way that is an attraction in itself or be able to find the most wonderful mind-blowing collection of links ever known to humankind! ProBlogger – No One Links to the Linkers [...]