Thursday, May 04, 2006

Another Link in the Chain

Let's talk about Internet links.

The astute among you might have noticed that once again my "Blogs I Read" list has gotten longer. And though I haven't updated it in a while, the link list on my website has a few hundred links on it.

Am I doing this because I'm a generally nice guy who likes to help other writers out?

Naturally. I love you. You know that.

But there are some ulterior motives at play as well.

Anyone who has installed www.statcounter.com or similar trackers on their site can view where web traffic comes from. About 50% of my website and blog hits come from links. The rest come from searches or direct hits.

Considering I get a few thousand hits a week, half of my visitors coming from other sites is a substantial number.

So it pays to trade links with others.

But more people link to me than vice-versa. Why? I often get traffic from sites I've never heard of. Why are people linking to me and not asking for a link in return?

On the information superhighway, content is key. If you have a large amount of information on your website or blog, people link to it for both personal reasons (so they can find the site later) and for selfish reasons (because they want more people to visit their website, and links are a form of information.)

Besides being exceedingly generous (and modest) one of the reasons I link to so many people is because my site then becomes a hub for Internet surfing. I can come here and then visit a few dozen blogs from this central location. I'm guessing that other people do the same thing.

But links do more than direct traffic. They also play a large part in search engine ranking. The more links you have going in and coming out, the larger Google, Yahoo, MSN, and the rest of the engines think your site is. That means higher rankings for searches. Key words and meta tags are important in ranking, but so is site size and links.

If you're curious as to how many people link to your blog, visit www.technorati.com and punch in your blog url.

You can also check your website and blog popularity and search engine saturation at http://www.marketleap.com/publinkpop/

What's helpful about both of these is that besides checking your own sites, you can check the sites of your peers. While I strongly believe that writers don't have to compete with one another (my fans can be your fans, there's no exclusivity) and I also believe that comparing yourself to other writers is a bad idea, checking the rankings of those in your peer group can tell you if you need to spend more time on internet promotion, or if your time would be better spent elsewhere.

If your numbers are low, remember that more links and more content are the keys to traffic. Being entertaining and/or controversial also helps. So does being generous, likeable, and helpful.

That said, here are some questions I'd love to get your answers to:

  1. Did you discover this blog through a link?
  2. Do you regularly visit this blog through a link, a web search, or a direct URL?
  3. Do you ever visit any of the blogs I've linked to on this page?
  4. Do you link to me and I don't link to you, or would you like to trade links? If so, let me know and I'll add you to this blog.