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Sending Traffic Away or Keeping Traffic On Site?

Kevin at LexBlog has a post that has got me thinking. It’s called Best blogs send audience away. In it he refers to a post by Jeff Jarvis which talks about portals and how they try to lure you in to them and keep you there as opposed to what Google is doing (get you in and out as quickly as possible).

Kevin rightly points some examples of some great blogs that are great because they find great content elsewhere and point their readers to it. They are great because they find useful information and collate it in the one place – often adding their own insights, but also quite often just putting up links so that people can explore for themselves. They are successful because people know that they’ll point them to quality information on their topic of interest.

Does this mean that the best blogs should all do this?

I would argue no. There are other models in my experience also.

Another model is quite the opposite and is embodied over at Steve Pavlina’s blog.

In comparison to some of the blogs that Kevin points out Steve Pavlina rarely links to anyone but himself from his blog. Take a look at the front page of it and you’ll see that the only links in his posts (at present – and he might update and make a liar out of me) are internal links to other parts of his blog. The only outbound links on the page are sponsors links.

I know some people have critiqued Steve for this – someone told me once that he’s not a real blogger because he doesn’t link out – I disagree. While I enjoy blogs that have lots of outbound links I also enjoy blogs that don’t .

The key if you’re not going to link out is that you’ll need to have high quality content that people find useful and unique. It will be what you write that draws people to your blog and keeps them coming back for more rather than what you link to.

Of course these are two extremes of blogging and many (if not most) bloggers fall somewhere in between – with some link type posts and some longer original content type posts.

Is one method more legitimate than others? I guess that’s something each person will have their own opinion on, however my own opinion is that they are just different and both can work.

Each method will have its challenges:

No outbound linking blogs have the challenge of building relationships with other bloggers. One way to get on the radar of other bloggers is to link to them and without this you’ll need to find other ways of getting the attention of others.

Blogs that link out ALOT can be more challenging to monetize (if that’s what you’re into). Having short posts without much actual content and lots of links can make it difficult to use AdSense (which likes lots of content) and if people are always clicking on your links they are less likely (perhaps) to click your ads.

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. Keeton says:

    I think internal linking is the way to go. Sure, go ahead and point to a good source if you find one and have something original to say about it, but otherwise keep your traffic on your site where you can build a relationship with your readers.

    Steve Pavlina is an excellent example – he’s built a personal relationship with each of his readers by directing them internally.

    They come, find something worthwhile, and while they’re there Steve directs them to other pages on his site they might find interesting. When they’re done they’ll leave on their own, but they’ve had a few extra pages to remember when they think about coming back.

  2. I do occasionally link out (I’ve linked to Problogger.net a number of times), but it’s certainly accurate to say that I’m not a big linker. There’s a good reason for that, which can be easily understood if you consider my particular niche of personal development.

    When I link my goal is normally to direct people to the best info on the subject I’m aware of. Where is the best content located? For the most part, the best personal development ideas are found in books, audio programs, and seminars — not online. The top writers and speakers in the field usually don’t post original material online. They keep their content offline, and all they’ve got online are sales pages and marketing materials. If they do post any real content online, it’s usually a puny amount and not particularly valuable. So I link to a lot of books (via Amazon) instead of blogs simply best that’s where the best ideas are. When I link to other bloggers, I’m usually linking to sites outside my niche (such as Problogger).

    Contrast this with more Internet-centric fields like blogging, web design, or tech gadgetry, where you can easily find timely news and abundant quality content online.

    Also, since I write articles on a variety of inter-connecting topics, I do a lot of internal linking to make it easy for people to find related info. To me this makes a lot of sense because I usually write timeless content, so the how-to articles from previous years are still useful to people.

    So this is a deliberate strategy, but I think if you understand my niche, you’ll see it’s really just a matter of directing people to the best available content, regardless of who created it or where it’s located. It’s not really about income generation or page views.

  3. Kevin OKeefe says:

    I suspect we don’t totally disagree Darren.

    When writing that post, I changed ‘The best blogs…’ to ‘Some of the best blogs…’ in the body of my post. Probably should have gone back and changed the title which I had written before.

    You’re living proof that a blog with primarily original content, though you liberally link out, can be a hell of a resource and keep folks coming back for more.

    And a blog’s goals could alter which side of the spectrum you fall on – sending ‘em away or keeping them on the site. At LexBlog, our clients already have something to sell. Themselves. They are not looking to monetize their blog in and of itself. A lot of your followers are monetizing their blogs.

    I still believe that bloggers can offer a tremendous value by linking to other resources and save time in posting by doing so. Do not buy the hard and fast rule that you must keep all readers in the site.

    And thanks a ton for blogging about something I posted. Like it or not, you’re a rock star inn blogging.

  4. A caveat, Darren: Pavlina’s blog doesn’t link externally, but he does accept trackbacks. A recent trackback from one of my posts to his has generated 100-200 new visitors for me.

    Obviously, this is a privilege one doesn’t wish to abuse. :)

    But I agree with your central point. There are many different ways to blog, not one “right way”. Steve’s subject matter lends itself very well to strictly inbound linking. You go to the site to read Steve’s views because you value his experimental approach to self-improvement, not because you want a list of links.

  5. Mayank says:

    I think that the point sitting in the middle of these two extreme cases is the best. Everyone must provide links to other useful posts (practically, it is not possible at all to write many lenghty posts (untill and unless, one is a proffessional full time blogger) and they must write their own content as well, because that will actually help in getting the loyal readers.

    Socializing is the key to success and I think that without both these things it is not possible to be a successful blogger like Darren himself posts regularly with his own content, however from time to time he makes those small posts and links to other blogs and everyone will agree that he is a successful blogger :)

  6. Darren Rowse says:

    I should reemphasise that I’m not having a go at Steve P’s blog. I personally think it’s totally legitimate to have a blog that links out rarely. I have both blogs that link out ALOT and blogs that rarely do and it all comes down to the type of blog I’m writing.

    On my blogs that collect and collate information from around the web on one topic it’s appropriate to link a lot and I find my readers appreciate the time and effort I go to to find them the information they want.

    However on blogs that are more ‘tips’ or ‘how to’ related I find I link out less and build a community of interaction on the actual blog itself – keeping people on the site.

    I guess I’d agree with Kevin’s main point in his post though – ie that bloggers shouldn’t be scared about sending traffic away. There are benefits of it and it is one way to build y our own blog.

  7. Peter Cooper says:

    I think Steve P’s site is great, but there’s no way I’d call it a ‘blog’. It’s really a series of personal development articles. There’s little difference between his site and a general content site, other than the front page (of the ‘blog’). Admittedly, there’s a fine line, and while I love his site to bits, I couldn’t, with a good conscience, consider it a blog.

    Of course, if your definition of blog is content site with a reverse chronological front page, then you’re bound to disagree :) But there are many journals / diaries with this format, and they’re not blogs, right?

  8. Jim Logan says:

    Obviously, this is personal taste thing and greatly dependent upon a number of factors. But as a general rule, I don’t subscribe to or read blogs that primarily link to other sites and posts. I refer to blogs like this to be reporter blogs – they report on what’s going on elsewhere.

    I prefer blogs that primarily post original content. In this case pertinent links, both internal and external, are welcome. The difference to me is in how the external link is used. Your post on his subject is a good example – you started your post with an external link, but you added value and kept the conversation here…you added significant original content. If your post would have ended after the first or second paragraph, which would be the case on many blogs, you would have been reporting what was said on another site…and I wouldn’t have cared much, found much value in your post or have left this comment here.

  9. Linking out can certainly make it harder to monetize, but can definitely add to the knowledge base, and credibility of the post. Hence, adding value to the post/blog.

  10. pcunix says:

    My rule is simple: “Keep it real”. That is, if there is reason to link out (a convenient or useful resource related to my article), then I’m going to do so. I don’t seek to build a catalog of anything and everything useful I might have found, however: my main focus is the content I’m writing.

    So: some articles have an outbound link or two, some have none.. I’d never leave out a link for fear of “losing” a visitor but neither would I add a link without good reason.

  11. Bill McRea says:

    I also find there times when using Adsense in blog send traffic away from a site that may be selling other affiliate products. I can make a lot more off a Clickbank sale than with Adsense. I only put Adsense on pure content blogs, not on my ‘catablogs’

    External links to other blogs makes good sense on a case by case basis. So as strategy you employ what you need given the circumstance and goals for the sites/Blog

  12. Lisa says:

    I think it really depends on the nature of your blog. I link out a lot on my “mommy blog” to other resources for parents and to other favorite blogs and have seen my traffic rise because of it. Steve Pavlina’s blog is excellent and really is a resource in itself, if I had that much content, I’d link to myself more often ;).

  13. One of the things that the article brings up is the fact that you should not have links open up in a new window. Is this really true? I always personally like to have links open in a new window so that I can keep whatever reference article open and still get to the new pages. One thing that has tried to beat me with this is the fact that browsers sometimes do not allow me to open in a new window without holding down the ctrl key but that is just an aside.

    Is it still true that users hate to have links open up in a new window?

  14. k.d. says:

    I have a few “dummy” blogs purely intended to link traffic to my “real” blog, where I recently started publishing serialized versions of novels I’ve written over the years. Technorati.com is good at increasing the number of visitors on my blogs – they do all your linking for you on their own site, where thousands of people can see them. By the way, I want to make money online, but not at the rates I’ve seen so far (one-fifth of a cent per click!)

  15. Dan says:

    Bill, I’ve also been wondering about whether to open in a new window. It used to drive me absolutely nuts, but it actually makes sense if you want to compare articles or just get back to the original one easily.

  16. Jersey Girl says:

    I link out on occassion, but also am not interested in sending people away either! Though there are times where linking out has ended up being a nice thing. I’m trying to open myself to more outbound linking. I think it has to be a nice split. I like what commenter pcunix said about keeping it real…i also like to “keep it simple”!

  17. Ross says:

    great post. I was actually curious at first why you have so many outgoing links. I was even more curious why you had them all open in the same window as opposed to a new window. I always used to have my external links pop open in new windows in fear of having my visitor get lost in cyberspace and forget about me.

    But then i started thinking. What do i like when i browse? And i realized i hate having windows pop open right and left for every link i click. That’s why God (at least the internet god) invented a “back” button. So on my guitar resource blog i decided to have all my outbound links open in the same window and trus that my content was interesting enough to bring my reader back.

    what does everyone else do for outbound links? new windows or same?

  18. Ross says:

    I just Saw Dan’s comment. Looks like you are having the same issue. But to respond to you, i rarely compare articles side by side. for example, on this site if i click an outbound link i read that page (and maybe sometimes a few others) and then come back here. (Unless i feel i have read everything new her, in which case i may go exploring more on other sites…)

  19. Ned says:

    Hey,

    Steve Pavlina claims to have completed a 4 year degree in just three semesters. I knew a few exchange students who did it in three years and were basket cases by graduation time.

    I stopped reading him after that claim.

    I’m not saying that he’s a liar but he does tell some stories which make your BS alarm go off.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Darren at ProBlogger and Kevin and LexBlog tackle the issue of sending traffic away from your blog versus keeping your vistors on site. While Kevin primarily plugs blogs that are not afraid to link out and share, Darren takes a more balanced approach and looks at it at both angles. [...]

  2. [...] Kevin O’Keefe (Real Lawyers) writes about how how “your blog is not going to become all things to all people on a niche topic.” He assures that if that is your goal, “you’re setting yourself up for failure.” [Read his full post on: Best blogs send audience away; Related post from ProBlogger] Technorati Tags: best blogs kevin o\\\\\\\’keefe Real lawyers [...]

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