Friday, August 15, 2008

The Assumptions About Links & Comments

With all due respect to Jonathan Morrow at Copyblogger, his Why No One Links to Your Best Posts (And What to Do About It) is more than misleading, it's based on assumptions that could cost you.

In the article, he discusses the reason why your "best post" has no links &/or comments ~ even when you've emailed "all of the top bloggers in your niche, pointing them to the post". He states that content is not king and that the problem, your problem, is one of cronyism. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”; and you don't know enough of the cool kids. His solution, then, is to give you a short list of ways to butter-up popular, powerful, bloggers.

But I'm not buying it ~ at least not completely. And neither should you.

It's not just because the things he suggests on his How to Make Friends with Popular Bloggers list are rather Internet circa 1999, with its "guest post" idea (very "free article service"). It's not just that a majority of the list's actions are down-right bribe-tastic, with its "Volunteer to 'vote' for any posts that they’re pushing on social media sites like Digg, and StumbleUpon" and "Join their private membership program (like Teaching Sells) and make lots of smart posts in the forums". (Both of which set my teeth on edge.) It's because I take issue with his whole take on what is important in blogging and writing in general.

If you are blogging to connect to & communicate with Big Name Bloggers, then perhaps the 'desperation suck-up to appease the popularity gods' Morrow suggests will work. ("The key is finding ways that you can be genuinely useful to them. Make yourself relevant and then use that opportunity to start building a relationship." Arg! I hate such insincerity, myself. And it's too much like those high school games of trying to make the cheerleading squad or just to get to hang with them; I never did that. There's an entirely long post on this whole subject.)

But blogging is done for many other reasons than to be a "cool blogger" or a pundit. Some of us, many of us, blog for those other reasons.

We blog to connect with current customers/clients &/or potential customers/clients. We blog to connect to readers & researchers who have an interest in our topic. We blog to increase conversation about an issue ~ even if that conversation occurs around the dinner table or as pillow talk. We blog to take reader interest and turn it into a concern and then an action via voting & activism, and supporting organizations and issues with memberships and donations (which is rather like connection with customers &/or potential customers, really; but still bears mentioning).

While getting linkage at cool kid sites is welcome, such linkage, as noted (second part of post), may not not really mean anything for those goals. But the absence of such linkage &/or commenting does not mean failure or that no one is reading your "best post".

Morrow's post forgets about such valuable things as The Long Tail & the silent visitor (reader).

I am a huge fan of quality information being available for the if & when of a searcher, no matter how long after that post has been published. It may not make you cool to anyone other than that searcher, but I think that searcher is important. That's you reaching your audience. The value of such a "long tail" has been discussed over and over again by many people, so I'll let you check that out for yourself & move on to the often overlooked importance of the silent visitor.

Contrary to what people will tell you, not everyone has a blog. And yet the blogless have incredible power of their own. They do have purchasing power & potential for other action (activism, word of mouth influence on others, etc.) Getting caught up in who is powerful &/or basing it on popularity (links in, page views, comments) isn't necessarily reflective of

Case in point: My mom.
She doesn't blog. Not having a blog, she's no user ID and that can (& does) intimidate her even more from the technical point of view; but really, she is too polite to even consider posting a comment at a "weblog of a person she doesn't know." However, this doesn't mean my mom is irrelevant in any sense to the blogger, large or small.

She talks everyday, on the phone, chatting with friends, mentioning who & what she was reading and passing along blog names like she once gossiped about the neighbors across the street who kept weird hours and never spoke to anyone in the neighborhood. And she emails. Yes, she is the one who forwards all those goofy & annoying email jokes and stuff (in her circle, she's cool for passing them along!); but she also sends links to those in her circle. And because she is respected by her peers & family (not to mention cool from the aforementioned email forwards), we all read what she has taken the time to send us. Mostly. (Or suffer the guilt of ignoring her.)

My mom & others like her may not cause your site stats to increase wildly; but she probably has brought you a few new fans &/or sales ~ and without her regular visits and emails, your traffic & sales could decrease.
Case in point: My dad.
He still has his homepage set to Yahoo! for news and has RSS feeds plugged in from "everywhere". But he has no blog and doesn't post comments.

He says that if it's a good article, he feels no need to post a comment. It's complete, addresses his questions & concerns, and as far as the author goes, he thinks it's 'nuff said and won't bother with a comment or email. He does, however, relay the information to family & friends, including recommending sites & stories for others to follow.

If it's a bad article or post...

He'll get good and worked up. But like yesterday's Letter To The Editor, he finds himself not making the effort to write his full argument in light of other more pressing and practical things. (And he won't bother with a partial, lame argument.) He does, however, perform more than the occasional live heated debate with the paraphrased, and not present, author.

Would you dismiss his passion & interest simply because he's blogless & therefore cannot link to you & has not commented?

Case in point: My sister.
She's a high powered corporate attorney at a huge world-wide corp ~ the names of which I cannot drop because of implications she'd not wish. This precisely illustrates why she cannot, will not, blog or comment. As for making a user ID, she finds that "silly & time consuming". However, she reads quite a bit of news online. And she does a huge amount of shopping online.

That's not only for convenience, but due to her wide circle of similarly financially endowed, privacy requiring, friends, who, for the same reasons, email one another about the latest sale, best baby find, and coolest scrap memory book making sites & tools en route to China, London, and Ohio. She, and her friends, read and buy online quite a bit; but no one is publicly talking.

You'd be a fool to ignore their buying power & influence.
Case in point: adult content visitors.
When it comes to the mature side of things, those of us in the adult industry know we are blogging for and to a huge population which will not out itself. For every comment posted I receive at least double the emails (more like five-to-one, but I've never really calculated the numbers); but still, most people do not declare their private desires in public places. Don't let the number of sex bloggers fool you; far more of we humans are having sex (& even talking about it) than are blogging & commenting. The interest in and popularity of sex blogs alone doesn't prove that; increase in population itself does.

Would you dismiss such silent traffic? If you do, you dismiss the majority of your visitors.
Dismissing silent readers such as these are a mistake. Hell, just as not everyone clicks links on blog sidebars or in blog posts, there are those who don't even read blogs or online at all. Yet the silent visitors who do may be the very people carrying on your organization's name, your product, your service, your mission, via word of mouth. Real mouths to real ears.

Silent readers may be your vital connection to real world people, purchases, votes and other actions which help your bottom line, no matter how you define the success or action taken.

And they have to matter just as much as those cool kids, the Big Bloggers.

Sometimes we spend too much time focused on the statistics, rankings, links in, comments and other things we can see ~ simply because we can see them. I'm not saying these things are meaningless; but neither are the actions we cannot track, like the silent reader.

Sometimes we have to operate without such stats & tracking ~ not driving blind, but using our common sense. Throughout the history of communication, there have been undocumented, untrackable, unseen & not heard, results of communication. People who listened & said nothing but then went to others and gossiped and whispered behind backs, carrying on the news. People who listened & said nothing, but then directed another based on that information. Just because we cannot count them, doesn't mean they don't matter.

Morrow's entire article on courting big name bloggers does not consider, for even a moment, the worth of all the silent visitors.

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Blogger Audacia Ray said...

This is a really really amazing post. I hate what seems to be the prevailing notion that there is really only one way to be a popular, much-linked blogger: curated content (link + picture) posts, snarkiness, and sucking up to other people.

This is such a great reminder about the way most people relate to internet content.

August 16, 2008 9:17 AM  
Anonymous Lutra C. said...

Thanks for this great post. It prompted me to post this on the original blog:

So the way to get really, really popular is to write mediocre stuff and spend most of your time sucking up to the 'Top 100'? Thanks anyway but I'll stick to doing what I actually believe in the best I can, make sincere efforts to get the word out, hang onto my integrity, and let the chips fall where they may. I've been doing business on the Internet this way for over 10 years and I'm still here, still prospering ... even though the Technofarti 100 have never heard of me. I couldn't care less. I'd rather have 1,000 loyal, enthusiastic customers than 100,000 witless lookie-loos.

I wonder if they'll have the balls to post it...

August 16, 2008 10:43 AM  
Anonymous Simon Middleton (The Purposer) said...

Your post has so cheered me up. I hate the whole premise that it's not what you know it's who you know. Fundamentally, speaking as a brand marketer... I think it's just wrong. So thanks for speaking out against the web elitism and in favour of the long tail and silent visitor. I believe you have to focus on your core 'purpose' and ignore the pressure to conform. Thanks.

August 17, 2008 4:08 AM  
Blogger The English Courtesan said...

This post has been removed by the author.

September 20, 2008 5:09 PM  
Blogger The English Courtesan said...

This is fascinating stuff, Marketing Whore, and I couldn't agree more. It also ties in with your link above on ethical blogging. Blog growth is and should be an organic thing. If people find what you write is useful, they'll link. If they don't, then you should think about what you're writing, rather than trying to rally support where there's nothing worth supporting. I guess it's about whether anyone else thinks that 'best post' of yours is actually of interest to them.

That may sound harsh but it's true. There's nothing I hate more than people emailing me asking for a link when they've got nothing interesting to say. I link to those I read and I don't welcome pressure from those I don't.

It should go without saying that I read you! That's because you're an original and you say it like it is. Link request spammers take note - if you learn to write like the Marketing Whore, you might get a Livvy Link, but until then, you'd better just read her every word... :-)

Livvy xxx

September 20, 2008 5:11 PM  
Anonymous Carol Bentley said...


I followed your link from the CopyBlogger website out of curiosity... never expecting such a well thought out and well argued consideration of blog readers.

My blog has been active since October 2007 - probably quite young in terms of the many blog sites out there - and although I know I have a loyal following I do not get a huge amount of comments or backlinks.

But I know my content hits the spot because when I run the occasional survey my readers' comments say so.

So I agree about the quality of content, I agree absolutely your thoughts on the 'silent reader' and just to add another thought...

tying in with your Father's view; if people are happy with the content and they don't feel the need to comment - that's cool, because you don't have to spend time responding to them either. You can simply get on with your next content-rich post. And that's better for everyone.

So quality content and the respect that generates is King (or Queen ;) )

October 20, 2008 9:52 AM  
Blogger molave said...

Very good arguments, especially with respect to the long tail. Not every topic can be part of the Technorati 100. Not every blogger should aspire be part of it, especially not someone who wants to remain true to her passion.

Besides, audience quality trumps quantity, always.

Great post! Thanks, Marketing Whore. (Why does the act of writing the W word send thrills down my spine?)

January 3, 2009 10:06 AM  
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