Blog Links Are Important, Just Not For Traffic
Louis Gray started up an interesting conversation that asks if blog links have lost their importance now that readers are finding their news through aggregators and relying more on news readers. I agree with all the things he mentions regarding how blogs and links have changed, I just don’t think it adds up to what he thinks it does.
Here’s what we know:
More and more readers are finding their news through aggregators and RSS feeds. They don’t have a choice, they have to. Without it, readers would get lost at their computers for days, be forced to live without sunlight and grow 2 week old beards that would scare their children into orphanages just to keep up. Today’s noise pool is being eyed by SeaWorld.
Louis actually ranked his referrals for the last six months and found that social media sites and aggregators trounced popular blogs like Scobleizer, TechCrunch and Micro Persuasion in the amount of traffic delivered. Surprising? No.
It’s true; a link from Robert Scoble probably isn’t going to bring the same traffic that it once did simply because that’s not where the conversation is taking place. Today’s conversations are happening and breaking on sites like Twitter and FriendFeed. That’s where links are getting passed and clicked on and that where readers are commenting. Fans of Scoble can read his blog post on Facebook and then have a conversation about it there, without ever having to visit his blog. Have you read the conversation threads on FriendFeed? They go on forever.
These two factors combined have changed the concept of blogging and how users are taking in information. That can’t even be debated. But does that negate the value of blog links? I don’t think so.
Links are what blogs and the Web are based on. The only way a blog link has no value is if you’re pointing to another A-lister or a TechMeme favorite. Does your link to Michael Arrington’s recount of today’s news have much value? Not much, no. Most people probably caught that article from somewhere else. They saw it on TechMeme, someone mentioned it on Twitter or it was on Hacker News about five hours ago. When you’re reading that story from TechMeme on TechMeme, you’re a day and a half late to the conversation.
However, in the cases where you’re using your links to stand up for an unheard voice and to help your readers find content and opinions they wouldn’t have otherwise, that’s when blog links carry a tremendous amount of weight. You help them build their own site authority (both in Technorati and in the court of public opinion) and you help spread the conversation. Those links may not produce the same amount of traffic as TechMeme, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. That’s how people find the faces that are going to make up their RSS feeds. That’s how new blogs build a loyal following. That’s where the constant traffic comes from and when you stop having to rely on the peaks and valleys. That’s when you help break up the all-powerful echo chamber. Those links carry a huge amount of value; traffic is part of it, it’s just not the only thing you should measure.
Louis makes the argument that A-listers have lost their power to drive a huge influx of traffic to your Web site or blog. I don’t think that’s true. I think they’re driving less traffic to your blog from theirs. The overall traffic is likely growing, it’s just fragmented. Scoble is sending you traffic through his blog, through FriendFeed, through Twitter, through video, though other social networks. Getting a “like” on FriendFeed can generate a huge amount of traffic, and even more, it can get you readers that are going to stick around. Ten readers who found you via Scoble on FriendFriend and trust you are worth far more than the 500 who found you through TechMeme and won’t even stick around to finish the post.
Blog links may not be generating as much traffic as they use to, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their value.