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August 3, 2006

Do You Link?

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You’d think if anyone would appreciate the value of a link it would superblogger Robert Scoble, but that’s not the case. If you’re cool enough to be well-ranked in Google or have no need for a last name, Scoble won’t link to you. Why? Because you’re already part of the “blogging elite” and he thinks you don’t need the link-love.

I’m not 100 percent on board there. Linking is the geek way of life and the geeks own the Web. If you need proof of that click your way over to Digg or Technorati and take a look at what’s going on. Geeks are running the show. They control your buzz, your traffic, your inbound links, and ultimately your search engine rankings. Telling a geek not to link is like asking them to cut their Internet use to just five hours a day. It’s blasphemous.

Scoble’s working off the notion that his readers are Internet savvy and that if they’re interested enough in something he mentions, they’ll find it on their own. Yes and no.

Yes, I am more than capable of heading over to Ask.com to figure out which David, Diane or Fred, Scoble is talking about. Or at least, I can when I’m not elbow-deep in Firefox windows, with three half-written blog entries on my desktop and a to-do list scrolling in the back of my head. On those days, it’s not so easy and a link would be nice. Without a link, I’m likely to pass on the content, which is unfortunate because Scoble is known to come across some pretty cool things. (Like on Tuesday afternoon.)

Tuesday morning, though I should have, I had no idea who Rory Blythe was. But then Scoble came across Rory’s adorable account of his trip to a North Pole suburb and suddenly I’m blogging about it myself and directing people over there. The Internet was founded on that “I found something cool and you should check it out” concept.

Without the link I’m less likely to dig up the content on my own – not because I’m not interested, but because I don’t always have time to read the stories I want to. And in those situations, I miss out on both the content and a site that may have piqued my interest enough to subscribe, and the provider of the content misses out on the traffic and one potential life-long subscriber. (What? I’m very loyal.) Who wins there?

Linking harms no one. Just because Scoble is part of the so-called blogging elite, does that make him unworthy of a link? How will his readership grow (or Maryam’s or Patrick’s) if no one ever links to him? Tech nerds just starting out may not know yet that Robert Scoble is their leader. Or what if his blogging elite is different from mine? I’ll never get to know his if he doesn’t throw me a link in first.

That being said, I can totally appreciate him not wanting to link to the “A listers” and add to the echo-chamber of the blogosphere. There’s a definite “the rich get richer” scenario going on. But instead of depriving your audience of a link, why not throw a “rel=nofollow” in? Your readers get the link and the elite bloggers continue their reign at the top unaided by you.

I’m not advocating everyone link to everything that interests them. Doing so would dilute the purpose, but I do think you should link to things you want other people to discover. And sometimes that means linking to the “elite”. Taking the extra second to throw in a link saves your readers the time of having to dig them up themselves. And without links, what’s the purpose of your blog? To house all your personal rantings without reaching out to anyone else? That’s not fun.

Even without all that, people like (and respond to) kind words and acknowledgement. On the Web, a link equals a wave and a wave equals smiles.

Why should Scoble link? Because he’s a geek living in a geek world and that’s what they do.

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