Blog Linking Less Important?

Louis Gray believes the importance of blog linkage is declining, noting that, “I’ve seen traffic from other blogs to be driving an ever-declining percentage of visits to my site, swamped by social media tools, aggregation sites, and of course, Google search.” He offers three likely explanations:

1. People are relying on aggregators to find them new sources of information, including Techmeme, Hacker News, Reddit, Mixx, FriendFeed and others.

2. People, especially those who read this site, are relying more on RSS readers, and many have subscribed to so many feeds that they are reading through stories in an effort to clear out their unread items, not clicking the embedded links.

3. People who actually read blogs on the site (outside of RSS) are clicking through to respond to the author with comments, rather than viewing links.

Indeed, I found his piece on Techmeme and had never heard of Gray before, despite his being a relatively big player in the tech-social media space.

Gray rank ordered his referrals from the last six months and, sure enough, search engines, social media sites, and aggregators delivered much more traffic than links from very popular blogs such as Scobleizer, TechCrunch, and Micro Persuasion.  None delivered more than 500 visitors!

My experience in the politics niche is quite different.  Yes, without question, Google and other search engines provide a significant share of OTB’s traffic.  For June, Google brought in 118,236 visits; Yahoo 10,574; MSN 4764; Google Images 2522; Ask 2147; and Windows Live 1914.  Aggregators memeorandum and RealClearPolitics brought in 1722 and 3635, respectively. Social media sites brought in negligible traffic:  Fark 1891, Digg 153, and StumbleUpon 129.

Still, blog linkage accounts for significant traffic and can bring in nice surges. In June, links from InstaPundit brought in 7502 visits, Balloon Juice 3812, Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish 2371, and Matthew Yglesias 1495.  And that’s only counting top-level referrals, as I’m not ambitious enough to add up referrals from individual URLs within those sites or www/non-www variants.   Certainly, though, plenty of them brought in more than 500 visits.  And that’s in a single month, not a six-month period.  Indeed, links from any of those sites and many more can bring in more than 500 visitors in a single hour.   The key variable there is the nature of the link.  One that (Like this post, I’m afraid. Sorry, Louis.) provides significant excerpts of a post and provides extensive original analysis tend to send much less traffic to linked sites than posts that provide only a teaser.

It may well be that the ethics of linking and the reader habit of clicking through is more engrained on the political blogs than other sectors of the blogosphere.  In the celebrity gossip space, where I’ve also got a presence (albeit mainly an ownership/management one) there is relatively little linking to other blogs and, indeed, outright theft of content without even a nod in the direction of attribution is the norm.

I suspect, too, that the reading habits of tech and politics bloggers are simply different.  The handful of the former I read, for example, seem to be much more engaged with Twitter and various other social media outlets than most of us in the political space.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    The key variable there is the nature of the link. One that (Like this post, I’m afraid. Sorry, Louis.) provides significant excerpts of a post and provides extensive original analysis tend to send much less traffic to linked sites than posts that provide only a teaser.

    Of course, therein lies the rub for most political blogs worth their electrons; the political blogs that do well usually provide serious and original analysis. (Glenn being a glaring exception for the most part)

    It may well be that the ethics of linking and the reader habit of clicking through is more engrained on the political blogs than other sectors of the blogosphere. In the celebrity gossip space, where I’ve also got a presence (albeit mainly an ownership/management one) there is relatively little linking to other blogs and, indeed, outright theft of content without even a nod in the direction of attribution is the norm.

    Hmmm. I wonder if that’s why AP’s recent move didn’t make sense to us; we were considering it within the bounds of the politcical blog world, not the gossip rag world. I dunno.

  2. Jamie says:

    I agree it all depends on the content of the blog as to whether links are more important than search engines or social networks.

    I write about the occasional political issue if it suits my whim, but by and large my blog is about science fiction, movie, and television topics. most of my visitors wind up there because they searched for the latest news on their favorites or some other popular issue being debated. I even wind up getting readers from MySpace or Facebook who have found me because our interests are similar.

    I do have a number of links from smaller political blogs, but get virtually no search engine visits from political searches. it does not really matter, I suppose. searching for “Barack Obama” is not going to bring you to my site and I figure anything I write about him any visitor has already read a dozen times before he decides to sludge through my [i]Lost[/i] and [i]24[/i] reviews to see if i have written anything about him.