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August 04, 2005

How To Get Linked

There's a little debate about this going on in the comments. Just thought I'd share some insights. Some of these are personal to me, but most will be common to any blogger you're hoping to get a link from.


First, blogrolling. A lot of small blogs ask me to add them to the blogroll. I'm worse about this than most, because I really hate dealing with my template. It's a pain in the ass and I always screw something up. Plus, there are so many blogs already on there.

Still, I'll be adding some blogs to the blogroll soonish. If you want to be added, let me know.

But here's the thing: getting added to a blogroll doesn't get you many hits. Repeat customers -- your actual readership -- will know your URL and maybe even have it bookmarked or have some RSS feed or something. An actual link in a post gets you hits. Being on a blogroll just moves you up the Truth Laid Bear ecosystem, which is nice and everything, but it has very little effect on the real measure of a blog's reach, which is readership.

Just as a bit of etiquette, don't ask a much-bigger blogger to "trade links." A bigger blogger doesn't really need your link. You're basically asking for a favor, but you're not couching it in terms of asking for a favor. You're putting it in terms of "let's do something which is mutually beneficial for both of us," which, quite frankly, it's not.

On occasion I've asked bloggers to exchange links. Iowahaw, for example. But he was/is pretty big, and even though I asked him for a link exchange, I told him I liked his blog and I would be adding him to *my* blogroll whether he saw fit to add me to his or not.

I think that's the better way of doing it.

Ask for link-exchanges for bloggers of about your weight class. Like, you know, I really should exchange links with LaShawn Barber; I'm really not sure how we've avoided adding each other so far.

I don't mean to be all arrogant here, but small, new bloggers sort of have to understand that there's really little to be gained from getting a link on their blogroll. At most, maybe one or two hits a week. So don't couch the request as some sort of equal trade. Just say, "I've got a great blog, I think you'd like it, please come check it out, and I've already added you to my blogroll."

Anyway. As to getting an actual story linked:

First of all, if you've got something good, definitely send out emails to people you think might be interested. I rely heavily on my email box for stories. I don't have all the time I'd like to read other blogs, so yeah, I tend to check out the things people send me.

But I only post about one-fifth of all tips, at most. Some just mention stories that everyone already knows about, without adding anything of importance. (Yes, I do this a lot my damn self, and I know it; but there's little reason for me to link other people doing the same thing.) If it's on Drudge or Instapundit or any of the other big hitters, you'd better have something really interesting to add. I assume most of my readers read Drudge and Instapundit, so I don't bother linking many pieces about stories that those guys have already linked.

Some are things I already covered (yeah, sometimes even I link something before it's eight years old).

Some are just things that don't interest me. For example, one reader was always sending me stuff about New York local politics. It's an interesting subject, but not one I'm personally interested in. I just don't cover local stuff, partly because it's not interesting to the 90% of my readers who don't live in New York, and partly because it's kind of a futile endeavor. It's not like we can't predict how New Yorkers will vote 90% of the time.

Some are humor bits that I just don't find very funny. This is a big category, so let me just say: I don't avoid posting humor pieces because I'm jealous or whatever. I don't post them because humor is very subjective, and what might strike one as hilarious might strike another as just lame.

John From Wuzzadem is a funny guy, as you all know. But occasionally he sends me Green Acres or Beverly Hillbillies parodies. They might be screamingly funny, but as I've never really seen either show, I just have no idea what the joke is, no way to evaluate such parodies.

Just a gap in my own humor, no reflection on him.

The other thing is: this site is already kind of unserious as it is.

It's not that I think I'm so funny that no one else's humor can touch me; it's that I spend a lot of time being glib and unserious that, as far as links go, I'm looking for more substantive, serious stuff to balance out my frankly juvenile and shallow take on the news.

So a lot of people have the misimpression that because I do a lot of joking I'm looking for humor pieces. Actually, it's the opposite. Because I spend so much time being shallow and silly, I'm looking for serious analysis or serious news to counterweight the idiotic crap I post all day myself on this stupid moronblog.

Doesn't mean I won't post a solid humor piece. Just means that I'm less likely to post a good-but-not-great funny piece than a good-but-not-great analysis piece.

The anti-humor bias is personal to me, but the general rule extends to other bloggers. Instapundit, for example, doesn't care about the Air America scandal, but he knows other people do, so sending him a good link about that could just get you an Instalanche. Not because it interests him personally, but because that link plugs a hole in his coverage.

Counter-blogging, so to speak. Offering a blogger something they know they should be writing about but either can't or just don't.

I haven't written anything about Darfur. It's a gaping hole in this blog. So if someone sent in a background piece explaining what the hell precisely was going on there, I'd probably link it in a second.

Some links build on strengths or known interests (all the goofy LARP videos). Other links cover weaknesses or stuff readers will find interesting but a blogger personally doesn't.

Most of the time I don't respond to tips. Sorry about that, but I get more than 50 a day. I don't expect a reply from NRO or Instapundit when they don't reply to my links (although, of course, they're getting thousands of tips), and I hope people understand that I just can't say "Thanks, but I'm not posting that" to everyone who sends a tip.

Another way to get linked is to link a piece and add more analysis. Like most other bloggers, I check my trackbacks and my referrals. Not just because I think I owe someone who's linked me, but the fact they're linking a story of mine means, by definition, we're both interested in the same story. If I'm hot on the subject X, I'm interested myself in reading more about it, and I know there's more about it when I see a trackback.

Still, that's not a guarantee of a back-link or anything. It just raises the odds that another blogger will check out your post.

Ultimately, what gets linked and what doesn't are limited by two factors.

One, the time factor; there's just not enough time to read every potentially interesting tip or link.

Two, idiosyncratic decisions about what is interesting or funny, both to the blogger you're trying to get linked from, as a personal matter, and his or her best prediction about what the readers will find interesting. Sometimes, for example, I'll post stuff I don't give a rat's ass about but which I figure readers might. The Kelo decision, for example.

Definitely send out emails concerning the stuff you're most proud of, because that's one of the easiest ways to get linked. All bloggers need stuff to post, and if a great link comes to me with no effort expended on my behalf, so much the better.

On the other hand, don't just send out links about every other post you write. No one's so good that 50% of their posts are must-reads. Some people do this, and I can tell you from personal experience, after the tenth email notification in two weeks those emails just stop being read at all. You kind of have to pick your shots.

I know this is a frustrating thing, and I know all bloggers want more readers and, of course, think they ought to have more readers (or else you wouldn't be sharing your off-the-cuff ramblings with the world), and it seems pretty arbitrary and unfair regarding who gets linked and who doesn't.

If it's any consolation, it's frustrating for me, too. In the past year and a half I've sent maybe 15 good, solid pieces to NRO people hoping to get an NROlanche, and I think I've gotten maybe two of those linked, if that. (I had a couple more random NROlanches that came out of nowhere.)

I had even less success with Instapundit, until I eventually gave up entirely. Powerline-- fuggetaboutit. Michelle Malkin-- an angel, but still, pretty selective. Your piece still has to be something she's personally interested in and it still has to be well above average in either humor, analysis, or advancing-the-story-by-finding-an-interesting-but-buried-nugget-in-an-MSM-article.

I don't know if this is helpful or not. Just some observations.

I guess I want to apologize for not linking more, but I can't just link everything people send me. Some stuff I just don't even read because I know from the headline I'm not interested in the subject; some stuff is okay, but not really worth spotlighting and telling readers, in effect, "You must check this out."

That's a big one. When I link, it's basically a strong review for a post, telling readers "Must read!" If I don't think a post is so strong as to give a hearty recommendation, I usually can't link it. Doesn't mean it's bad. Just means I can't in good faith tell someone to take the time to read it, either because it doesn't say anything particularly original or whatever.

The Guaranteed Link

Just thought I'd mention this at the very end.

There is a way to get an automatic link, but the opportunity doesn't come around very often. Still, when you've got it, make sure you let everyone know about it.

Buried/almost completely unpublicized news items -- stuff that seems important but that few have covered -- are the absolute gold standard of linkability for any blogger. Not just a full story, but something important hidden in a story that some liberal MSM reporter felt compelled to report but equally compelled to hide as best he could.

Analysis/opinion/humor... well, geeze, that's everywhere. Dime a dozen.

But some little hard-news gem you've discovered before almost anyone else-- that's rare, and everyone would like to be the second or third person to link to such a bit.

Tom Maguire has been getting Instalanched every f'n' day just because he bothers to read the Plame/Wilson/Rove stuff in the NYT and find something interesting buried in the eleventh paragraph.

Not a true scoop, but every blogger would like to at least be early on something big and interesting before the usual suspects have discovered it.

If you find something that's important or interesting that few others have noticed, that's an almost guaranteed link. Everyone's on patrol for that story that slipped by everyone else.

Oh, And... You know what else is link-bait?

Posts about blogging itself.

Bloggers are narcissistic little shits. Trust me on this.

Man, do we love talking about ourselves. Could go on and on about our little hobby. Just the same way the MSM looooooves talking about itself.

Metablogging, blogging about blogging, is navel-gazing, self-indulgent, boring for everyone in the world... except for other bloggers.

So, Fat Kid, don't weep for me for "having" to write this post. Were it not for this little addendum I've, erm, added -- sort of giving the game away -- I'd get a fair number of trackbacks on this, possibly from some big bloggers, 1, because they actually agree with what I said and would like to direct people to this to explain to other bloggers why they post so few links, but also 2, because posts about blogging itself are catnip to bloggers.

Posting about blogging isn't the guaranteed easy sell it used to be -- too much about it has already been written -- but still, one of your best chances of getitng linked is to write a think-piece about the nature of, future of, or problems of blogging.

It hasn't really worked for me, but I know it's worked for others.

And, I should say, I'm less interested in this topic than many bloggers. This is a general rule, not so much one particular to me.

Seems to work with Instapundit.

And Do Link Other, Bigger Bloggers Covering The Same Thing You're Writing About: Even if you just say: Also discussing this is BloggerY, BloggerX, and BloggerZ.

Because then you're in the trackback list, and people do check out the trackbacks.

Some blogs give better trackback hits than others. Wizbang, for example, has a list of trackbacks underneath each article, with a title and the first several lines of the linking piece. Some days I'll get a good number of hits off him just because I linked him and people scanned down to see what others had to say.

And don't be afraid to pimp your own stuff in the comments. Not as good as a front page link, but people do read the comments. Again, just don't go crazy with it; if you do this constantly, especially in an off-topic kind of way, people will just start scrolling right on by. Pick your shots.

And This Is Probably Not Reproducable, But... Remember RiehlWorldView? I used to link him more, but he started blogging mostly about the Aruba disappearance.

I'm not interested in that story, so, alas, I don't link him very much lately.

But baby, I don't think he's exactly noticing the lack of Ace of Spades traffic.

You want serious traffic? I'm not sure if RiehlWorld's amazing success can be replicated -- I'm not quite sure how all this happened, actually; I'd be curious to know when/how he suddenly got ginormous -- but I've been wondering about the efficacy, traffic-wise, of picking one big topic and trying to become the go-to guy on it, by just reading everything on it and posting at least one item on it every day.

Maguire seems to have had success with the Rove/Plame/Wilson deal. RiehlWorld now laughs at the idea of an Instalanche.

It's an idea.

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posted by Ace at 04:49 PM

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