2 min read

The Long Tail of Linking

Back when the Internet and subsequently the blogosphere was in its infancy, there were two concepts that seemed to win the day: link exchanges and blogrolls. Each provided a way of gaining more traffic and visibility.

As each matured, however, these models went from being mutually beneficial to annoying. High-volume traffic websites and “A-list” bloggers became constantly bombarded with requests for recognition and linkage. Eventually, many of them simply stopped their involvement in these exchanges. Blogrolls, for example, are not nearly as popular as they were even a year ago.

One of the reasons for that, was that the link – as a form of currency – could exist in other forms besides a comfy spot in the sidebar. Bloggers in particular could give props through trackbacks, hat tips, quotes, and even comments to those they held in regard.

The problem, however, is that in many ways when it comes to linking, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. If an unknown blogger is first to break a story but has no traffic or visitors, do they break it? The answer is plainly ‘no’ – they reap no benefit whatsoever.

All bloggers who are not part of the upper class blogosphere fall into the same trap – they almost always link to those who are on the ‘A-list’. At the same time, those who are on the A-list also link to each other…because many of them are friends or at least have a blogosphere relationship.

Therein lies the rub. Linking to uber bloggers often reaps little reward for the little guys. Not to stereotype completely but the big bloggers have big schedules (and some have big egos) – they often won’t check every single trackback or comment. And they likely won’t link back…sigh.

But what if those outside the prestigious ‘A-list’ employed a new linking strategy or perhaps returned to the early days of the web and blogosphere, where clout and status didn’t exist and everyone was on the same plane? What if there was a more horizontal approach to linking, meaning that bloggers sought to reference those in their “peer groups” (or below) instead of vertically to those with 3 gazillion links? Could a long tail approach to linking significantly improve readership, comments, traffic, etc.? Could the sum total of crosslinks from middle class bloggers be more significant than one link from a big blogging player?

Well, I am poised to test it out – and not solely from the perspective of those goals. My Web 2.0 headache has been persistent for the last couple of months and I hope the long tail of linking is something that will abate it.

Yesterday in a meeting, a very wise and experienced consultant said something that really hit me between the eyes – “take the time to develop and invest in your professional peer group.” There are some really smart people that I read out there, many of whom I would consider my peers. I’m now set to try engage their ideas via the power of the link.

To the Long Tail of Linking!

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