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Monthly Trends + 10 Tips for a Flawless Linking Strategy

This guest post is written by Kimberly Turner, cofounder of Regator.

To link or not to link—that is the question. What should you link to in your blog posts? How many outbound links should you have? When and why should you use outbound links?

We’ll answer those questions today, using posts about the month’s most-blogged-about stories to illustrate good linking strategies. The top ten stories of the last month, according to Regator.com’s blogosphere trends were: 1. Thanksgiving, 2. Midterm Election, 3. TSA, 4. Black Friday, 5. Korea, 6. WikiLeaks, 7. Sarah Palin, 8. Harry Potter, 9. Kanye West, and 10. Call of Duty. Let’s look at how a few bloggers used links to improve their posts about these stories…

1. Build relationships and community.

When bloggers in a particular niche link to one another, it shows mutual respect and helps build the community around that niche. Don’t immediately reject the idea of linking to blogs you consider to be your competition. Showing that you’re reading a competitor’s blog (especially if you take the extra step to leave thoughtful comments there) can be the start of great relationship that has advantages for you, the other blogger, your readers, and the community as a whole. Make your content as useful as possible.

Example: Serious Eats links to a number of food blogs in “Weekend Cook and Tell Round Up: Thanksgiving Leftover Derby.”

2. Give credit where credit is due.

One of the most common reasons to include outbound links in your posts is to provide references for facts, or as a hat-tip to a source that brought a particular fact or story to your attention. You will not always be the original source for the information you blog about. Providing links to your sources makes your content seem more credible, shows your appreciation of the work done by your source, and lets readers know that you’ve done your research—if the sources are credible. Remember: quality counts and linking to a site or article does, in some ways, imply endorsement.

Example: Despite its humorous tone, Cracked’s “6 Things You Won’t Believe Can Brainwash You On Election Day” links show that the information for this post came from reputable, trusted sources such as MIT, ScienceDaily, California Institute of Technology, and others.

3. Don’t go overboard.

You can have too much of a good thing. While relevant links can help with SEO, Google’s own webmaster guidelines advise you to “keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number.” What’s the cutoff between reasonable and unreasonable? No one knows for sure. The safe bet is to use outbound links when they are relevant and add something to your post and not to use them gratuitously to attempt to improve your SEO. Think of them as part of your content. And when it comes to link exchange schemes, just say no. Outbound links to scammy, spammy, or low-quality sites do you more harm than good for a number of reasons.

Example: Death and Taxes’ “Harvard Law Students Sue TSA” provides only enough links to give relevant back-story and additional information to benefit the readers.

4. Recognize guest posters or image sources.

No budget for guest bloggers or photography? You may find that a link to a writer’s blog or photographer’s flickr page can serve as compensation, particularly if your blog is popular. Try allowing guest posters to include a very brief bio with links at the bottom of their guest posts and look for Creative Commons images that are free to use with attribution.

Example: Business Insider’s “Window Shoppers Dominated Black Friday” provides a link to the photographer’s flickr page below the image as required by that photo’s Creative Commons license.

5. Provide a deeper understanding of your topic.

Use links to provide back-story, additional information, or context for your post, but don’t rely on links to the point that your post can’t stand on its own. Links should let readers who are particularly interested delve a bit deeper but shouldn’t be vital to a reader’s understanding of your post.

Example: Danger RoomHowitzers Fire, Jets Ready After North Korea Shells South” links to posts about relevant history, articles from Korean newspapers, and the Wikipedia pages about a particular weapon, among other things. Each link gives the reader an opportunity to learn more but none is required to grasp the post.

6. Support your opinion.

Your opinions are (hopefully) based on facts and knowledge that you’ve picked up about a given subject. Being opinionated on your blog is a good thing but presenting your opinions without any sort of support is likely to cause some readers to question your ideas. Use links to share information and facts to back up your claims.

Example: Valleywag’s “Amazon.com Evicts Wikileaks. Who’s Next?” takes the position that Amazon’s eviction of Wikileaks was inappropriate and uses a number of pertinent links to support that opinion.

7. Know that it’s okay not to link.

A number of studies have shown that simply including links in text, regardless of whether they are actually clicked, reduced comprehension and slows reading time. The theory is that each time you see a hyperlink, your brain takes a moment to assess the situation. Click or move on? Each of those small decisions disrupts your train of thought enough to break your concentration.

Example: Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker’s blog presents “Decoding ‘Sarah Palin‘s Alaska’: Top 3 lessons from the debut episode” in simple black and white with no links, making for a quick, distraction-free read.

8. Promote your older posts and keep readers on your site for longer.

Linking to other posts on your own blog can increase your page views, help with SEO, and make you a better resource for your readers. Feature related links at the bottom of each post or intersperse links to older posts within the text when relevant.

Example: MTV Movies Blog has written about each of the Harry Potter movies and, because it stands to reason that if you’re taking the time to read one post about Harry Potter, you might be interested in other posts about Harry Potter, the blog linked back to its previous posts on the franchise in “Which ‘Harry Potter‘ Film Is Your Favorite So Far?

9. Bring information together.

Occasionally, you may want to quote extensively from a source or bring a number of opinions on a given issue or story together for your readers. Linking back to the original source when quoting or doing round-ups pays respect to the original author’s work and lets your readers read more from the story you’re quoting. Just remember that a link does not give you license to plagiarize.

Example: Idolator’s “Review Revue: Kanye West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’” rounds up a number of reviews of Kanye West’s new album, each with a link.

10. Use good anchor text.

Anchor text is the visible, clickable text of the link you’re sharing. For the purposes of search engine rankings as well as readability, it’s best to avoid anchor text such as “click here,” “this,” or other non-descriptive text when possible. Imagine that the reader can see only the anchor text; would he or she still have an idea of where you’re sending them? If not, rethink that particular text.

Example: GamesBeat’s “Call of Duty Black Ops Sells $650M in five days” has very specific anchor text that lets readers know exactly where they’re headed when they click.

What’s your linking strategy? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator, as well as an award-winning print journalist. Find her on Twitter @kimber_regator, get free widgets for your blog, or nominate your blog for review.

Google Feedburner Delivers Real-time Traffic Stats

This week, Google unveiled an upgraded Feedburner stats package that provides real-time data on clicks, views, and podcast downloads.

For the social media fanatics, the Feedburner team add that, “if you use the FeedBurner Socialize service, and your platform uses PubSubHubbub or you ping us when you post, you can for the first time get stats on how much traffic your feed items are receiving from Twitter, as well as feed reading platforms like Google Reader in one place.”

Looks like those Refresh buttons are set to get a workout… Have you tried the new stats? What are your thoughts?

Aussies! Join Me at MarketingNow Conference in Melbourne [Now FREE]

If you’re in Melbourne Australia (or can get here) on 22-23 September you should check out the Marketing Now conference. I’ve mentioned it previously but since doing so there have been some changes.

Previously this conference was $1000+ to attend – the organizers were going to donate the profits to charity. However they’ve rethought things and have decided to go with a new approach. It’s now FREE – on the condition that you make a $100 donation to charity.

The speaker list is pretty cool and the agenda is one that I think many will find useful.

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I think it’s going to be a great couple of days and am really looking forward to being a part of it. I’m also excited that it’s now much more accessible pricing wise and that from what I can see on Twitter the numbers are going to be quite large as a result.

I also think that it’s great that this conference is all about raising money for charity – I’m donating my time to speak and am excited to see the local blogosphere and social media networks joining together to make a difference – whilst also learning from one another.

I hope you can join me!

Speedlinking – Discount Deal, Jobs, Blogger Group, Free Reports and Interview

Time for a little speed-linking. This time there’s a deal, reports, some jobs, an interview and a new group for professional bloggers.

More on Top Aussie Blogs

Welcome to readers of Melbourne newspaper, The Age, from today’s article on the Top 100 Australian blogs that I mentioned yesterday (the print version also was accompanied by the Top 10 blogs on the list).

A few readers have asked me whether I’m upset by the final paragraph that reads:

“One blogger, who did not want to be named, told The Age that the top blog, Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger site, was outperformed by a lot of other top Australian blogs in terms of visitor numbers. He said Ms Tsiamis’ methodology would skew the results towards “extremely geeky” blogs, or blogs with an unusually strong overseas readership.”

I’m not disturbed by it at all. I’m not really sure why the blogger wanted anonymity – I mentioned something similar to the reporter myself – but that’s up to them.

When asked about the list and whether I think I’m ‘the most read blog in the country’ I responded by saying that I didn’t really know. While on any given day ProBlogger is read by between 5000 and 15000 unique visitors (that’s been the range over the last month according to my sitemeter stats – my AW stats are higher) and my RSS feed is subscribed to by around 22000 readers I’m never going to claim to be the most visited blog going around. In fact from day to day my other blogs do more traffic than that and I’m sure others are at that type of level too.

A ‘Top blog’ is a pretty difficult thing to define – some would say it’s about traffic, others about incoming links, some might consider it about earnings, others would talk about profile or influence, others might consider how many posts you’ve written, while others would talk about who was ‘first’ and had sustained their blog the longest.

Ultimately – there’s no definitive way to declare any give blog ‘the best’ and to do so when blogs are written on different topics to different audiences is not really fair anyway.

Do I care that I’m listed as #1 on the list?

It’s a nice feeling – it’ll be a nice article to show my parents – it’s always nice to be written about – but in the scheme of things it doesn’t really matter who is at the top of the list. The fact that a list of Australian blogs made it into the paper at all makes me smile – but looking at the numbers of referrals coming in from the online version of the article it’s not that big a deal.

update: Duncan responds to the article here.

Online Consumers Spending Up these Holidays – How are Your Earnings?

Clickz reports on the latest stats of online spending this holiday season.

Spending online is up 24% (with last month totaling $11.75 billion) on last year and traffic is up 13% (it seems people are buying more per visit this year).

Obviously those taking the majority of this income are the big online retailers – but I’m wondering how many entrepreneurial bloggers are enjoying an increase in traffic and earnings?

As I analyze my own earnings for the last couple of weeks I’d estimate that they are up about 50% on two months ago. Particularly performing for me are Amazon Affiliates (up by about 70%) and Chitika’s eMinimalls and Shoplinc (up by as much as double across Chitika’s different ad types) (aff) and to a lesser extent AdSense (up around 20%).

How have others earnings been going in the last few weeks of this holiday period? What’s working for you? What’s not?

YouTube Comes of Age

We’ve recently been playing with video blogging more. Darren has done several in the past weeks and I’ve got a couple buried around too. The most popular video hosting service around, YouTube, has come under fire recently for performance and availability reasons. It’s a big service. They have done a reasonable job, in my opinion, of scaling well with astronomical growth. Truth is, serving up video is a massive undertaking, especially on that scale. I don’t really fault YouTube for having growing pains. AOL did back in the mid-90s when they made the bold move of offering, wait for it… unliited dialup. MySpace seems to experience “glitches” regularly. It seems natural for a growing service to hit some bumps.

This graph was posted on the Qumana blog today (originally from Read/Write Web) charting Yahoo Video (Green), Google Video (Blue) and YouTube (Red) visitors.
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My question is how much more can YouTube grow without self-imploding.

College-Startup for Sale!

College Startup is a wonderful little blog that I was turned onto some time ago by Darren. Since then, it has been a notable little item in my Bloglines account which was where today I found out that its owner, Ben Bleikamp, has decided to sell. The auction is being held over at the SitePoint Marketplace and he is taking bids. Opening bids start at $1000 with a Buy it Now of $6500.

This really is a gem of a website and if I had the cash I’d make him the offer he can’t refuse. Hopefully, someone else will find the value in this site and give him the offer he can’t refuse.

Non English Posts make up over Two Thirds of Total Blog Posting

What is the most common language used by bloggers?

It might surprise some to know that it’s not English but Japanese according to David Sifry. English comes in second with Chinese third.

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The interesting thing is that Japanese is on the rise in the last six or so months. In November 05 it made up 31% of posts, in January 06 it made up 32% and now it’s up to 37%. English makes up under a third of total posts.

Of course this measures total numbers of posts in these languages and not numbers of bloggers – perhaps Japanese write a lot more posts per day than English speaking bloggers but I suspect it says more about the international state of the blogosphere – something that doesn’t get a whole heap of attention.

Anyone want to translate ProBlogger into Japanese?