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Linkers Anonymous

A few weeks back I wrote a post titled No-one links to the linkers. It had quite a few comments left on it but one (it was one of the last ones left) caught my attention above the others and as I read it I knew instantly that I could not possibly leave it as a comment hidden away on an old post. It was left by Tony Lawrence (who comments here as pcunix) who has given me permission to ‘promote’ it to be a guest post here on the main blog. Here it is:

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.

Thanks Tony – you can read Tony’s blog here.

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. razib says:

    Thanks a lot Tony for your excellent post. I am sure that because of your this good decision you will sooner or later earn more money through adsense because since you are now focusing on writing quality contents, your user base will grow gradually.

  2. Lata Tokhi says:

    That reminds me of an outrageous email I received a few days ago. I have this article on some fashion trends on my site which has some ‘picks’ which are linked to placs where they can be purchased online (not affiliate links). The links are to extremely reputable companies. Now, one smart guy who probably owns a site selling similar items read that article and emailed me asking to add a link to his site also since I had added a ‘free link’ to the other site.

    And he wouldn’t just stop after the first email. He sent me two more to follow the first one. And the tone of the email was something like ‘If you are linking to them for free, you’ve got to link to my site too’. Can you believe that?!

  3. Koen says:

    http://www.livingroom.org.au/cameraphone/

    This site is familiar. How does this fit into a post like this?

  4. Retrospector says:

    Avoiding the basic link with nothing to add is definitely something I’ve forced myself to do on my blog. Every single post is something that I want to talk about and have something I consider of value for the world to see.

    This has proven very effective for me as well. Recently Lifehacker stumbled onto one of my posts and linked up to it sending my site into the biggest traffic surge it’s ever had with 5-7000 visits a day from just a hundred or so. I’ve managed to gain a significant number of subscribers and the traffic hasn’t even started to dwindle after 2 solid days as new sites continue to link.

    None of this could have happened at all if I’d just been tossing links up by the dozens. It all happened because I’ve made every single post of mine from my own original thoughts that at best were instigated by something else I read that I had plenty more to add to.

  5. Sebastian says:

    and the credit cards blogs too and also the pda blogs
    http://www.breakingnewsblog.com/pda
    and many more… …

    at least Darren didn’t condemn it nor did he show any support for it in his writting.

  6. pcunix says:

    “Growing gradually”

    I suppose that sites do grow gradually, and maybe mine does also, but my history over the years has been to float along at around the same numbers and then see a big jump which then falls off sharply but ends up higher than it was prior to the jump. Sometimes I’ve been able to point to a particular article being picked up somewhere bigger than I am, but at other times it just seems like a thousand new people just suddenly “found” me for no good reason..

    Often that’s in the fall, which makes sense: I’m a tech site dealing with Unix/Linux and Mac OS X, so it’s probably the freshman class that “found” me.. but then you’d think I’d see high numbers of .edu domains and that hasn’t been true.. so who knows? I sure do not.

    By the way, I do have a sub section (/Web) that is probably more of interest to Problogger readers than the rest of the site. Unless you are a PB reader also interested in Unixy things, of course :-)

  7. Nuggetbro says:

    I guess I can feel your pain in a manner. It has always been a big question for me, specially running the sort of site that I do (yet another Techblog). Is it all about quanity or quality? What do techgeeks really want? Well at the moment I can’t answer that, but atleast I have your thoughts on the matter, which is more research then I’m currently capable of (such low traffic as it is). On a added note, $30 a day on Adsense, is a poop load of cash. My best day has seen $5, and that has only happened once in around 5 months now.

  8. Isn’t it a catch-22? Which came first – the chicken or the egg?

    If you wouldn’t have had all of those links, you might not have built up the traffic levels and even discovered the miracle of adsense, and would have been down in the gutter with guys like NuggetPro and me (and others who earn less than NuggetPro “on a good day”).

    If you have nothing or earn nothing and don’t link out .. it’s like a negative venture because then we are probably advertising and paying people money to bring in traffic to our sites.

    It must be nice to be at a comfortable level earning between $11,000 and $22,000 (from your figures) per annum … and say that linking out isn’t worth the time. I assume that despite this, it’s still okay for people to link back to you? Regardless, if you were back to the levels of $3 per day or less like a lot of people trying and putting in a lot of time spent .. making only $900 in a year changes your pespective a lot. I’d probably continue linking out until it gets popular enough in the search engines that you have a positive net link-flow into your site.

    One thing’s for sure – and I’m sure everyone will agree – people are rude savages and will drop you like a hot potato if you don’t keep it up .. If you stop linking out – will people stop linking in? Will people think you are too good to link out? Will people stop coming by? Then, you’ll just have to start linking out again.

    It’s a viscious circle. I wish I could jump in this circle but I think I’m on the outside looking in anway.

  9. Another technique that compulsive linkbloggers can try is to create a separate blog just for their linking activities. Put Adsense on it, and post all those “check this out!” entries on that blog, keeping your ‘real’ blog nice and clean with only original content.

    Maybe once a week you could summarise the best links from that week on your linkblog into a single post on your main blog (kind of like how Darren somehow does those Speedlinking posts here). Don’t copy over all the links, just the truly useful ones. If there weren’t any great links this week, then don’t post anything.

    Doing this for a while will really show you, through both your site stats and Adsense earnings, that users really do value original content way more than they do other peoples’ surfing histories.

    Plus, it keeps your real blog clean while still accommodating your linkblogging temptations.

  10. James says:

    I agree and disagree with this post. I agree it is lame to put up lame posts, but I would think once you have had a few really good adsense days you’d want to keep plugging along and keep increasing your daily revenue. One thing I don’t understand is that there seems to be a lot of bloggers that think making money or putting ads on your blog is evil.

    I don’t get it… unless you already have a nice high salary job and you are blogging for pure fun – then it makes sense I guess. But then again, why not profit from your blog and save money for your kids so they can go to college?

    And to nuggetbro:

    $30 isn’t really a poopload of cash. There are people out there making over $100,000/month with adsense. Personally, I started devoting almost all of my time to blogging in late April 2006. I started completely from scratch and am now averaging close to $1000/month. I have worked quite a bit to get to that level…probably putting 12 hour days in 6 days a week. But now the momentum is building. Hopefully, with a little luck I’ll reach a $50/day goal in the next two or three months.

    Anyway, I’m going on and on… but think everyone out there should be motivated. If you’re not motivated, take a look at THIS adsense check for one month of work. I’d really like to kill this guy (just kidding…I’m jealous, that’s all):

    http://www.shoemoney.com/gallery/v/misc/adsensecheck.jpg.html

    I hope this didn’t depress anyone… lol!

  11. Mary Emma says:

    A lot to think about here. Great post.

  12. palister says:

    yup, after reading your blog i decided to give it a go.. i started posting last week and applied adsense with google. didn’t bring me a lot of revenue since then but i don’t care, at least i started something that i never dream before.. a BLOG! heheh.. anyway, thanks man for the cool and motivating info. check out my blog at http://palister9.blogspot.com/ and leave comment so that i can improve more. peace!!

  13. Terry says:

    Hmm….$40 bucks a day. How many uniques a day?

    -Terry

  14. pcunix says:

    Some responses and clarifications:

    “How many uniques a day?” Around 6,000+

    “If you wouldn’t have had all of those links, you might not have built up the traffic levels and even discovered the miracle of adsense, and would have been down in the gutter”

    No, no, no. Before adsense, I was never doing any “look at this” posts. It was Adsense that drew me into that sort of post.

    “and say that linking out isn’t worth the time. I assume that despite this, it’s still okay for people to link back to you? ”

    You’ve misunderstood. I “link out” all the time. If I’m writing about X and you have a good post on some aspect of X, I’m very likely to point at that within my larger post. What I do NOT do any more is just say “Great post about X over at abc.com”.

  15. renee' says:

    Good Evening , I justed started a website about two months ago and in that time I have been adding different links some friends , google and some stores that I find unique and I added them because I felt that I would shop at them so maybe someone one else would find them interesting too .

    I have worked hard with my website designer to have just the right colors and design and balance so that is all blends well .

    Newlookimage.com is in the fashion field so to me content and design were real important . And as you pointed out I just did not want it to look like one run on link.

    thanks so much for this post – it is very timely for me

    take care :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I will not link without additional value. [...]

  2. [...] When I wrote yesterday’s post suggesting the use of two forms of linkblogging (speedlinking-linkblog-style and semi-linkblog-style) when you’re “late to the party” (i.e. late at blogging on breaking news), I couldn’t have predicted that Darren Rowse would promote a post by Tony Lawrence on how you could screw yourself by linkblogging poorly onto ProBlogger’s front page. [...]