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Wild wild west of blogrolling

Wow. Apparently I missed another round of gunfire in the blogroll wars. Blend contributor Terrance of The Republic of T had a post up at his pad, How I Missed the Great Blogroll Purge, a longish reopening of the debate about A-listers, blogrolling, and the latter’s influence in promoting traffic to smaller blogs (or not). A headline like “Things Which Make Me Want To Shoot People In The Face” as a reaction to T’s post seems, well, I’m not sure why Duncan is that angry. It reminds me of the PMS-level reaction I have to screaming children when trapped with them on an airplane; but maybe I am missing something.

Sigh. Can’t we all just get along?

There was some sort of infamous Blogroll Amnesty Day that I missed, where some A-list blogs “cleaned house” and purged their blogrolls and repopulated them, in an attempt they say, to reduce the unwieldy irrelevant links, including only blogs they read. This in turn, left a lot of B, C, D and the rest of the alphabet-level blogs in the digital ash can. Some bloggers, noticed a traffic drop, others didn’t, but quite a few folks were unhappy at the loss of link love.

I think tempers get hot and egos bruised because both sides have valid arguments. Some observations  are below the fold.* Linking through blogrolls matters. If you are an A-list blog, and your blogroll is not unwieldy, I would think the power of those links is maximized if the reader feels the choices are relevant — meaning the blogger actually reads the blogs. It makes it more likely someone will click a blog on the list if there are 50, not 500. The exclusivity may be meaningful, but no one is under the illusion that the blogroll serves as a way to expose readers to lesser-known blogs. In this vein, the argument can be made that there lies some responsibility of those who have lots of traffic to share link love, but is the blogroll the best place for this? Hmmm. I don’t know.

* Linking through blogrolls may not make a difference. However, for some larger blogs, the blogroll is less of a list of what’s important to the blogger or a reflection of what is regularly read; it’s a reciprocal endeavor to expand community. This approach means the list of links is likely to be long, and perhaps less useful to the reader, and thus less click through. If I see a heinous long blogroll, I usually pass it by, particularly if there is no logical grouping (alpha order, category, etc).

* A-listers can drive enormous traffic to smaller blogs by linking to them in posts. This, to me, is where the rubber hits the road. If you can find an A or B lister to link to you (usually because of some story or access to something newsworthy that others do not), it’s not hard to get a link. Otherwise, it’s a lot of blogwhoring and hard work to get your work noticed.

Example: last week the Blend had an enormous jump in traffic (30K a day) because of two posts — my interview with former AFA columnist Joe Murray, and I had copies of the original emails that the bigoted Army recruiter sent to a gay job seeker. These posts were picked up by quite a few big blogs, resulting in the explosion of traffic: Daily Kos, Eschaton (Atrios), Crooks & Liars, Think Progress, Andrew Sullivan, Raw Story, CorrenteWire, AlterNet, Shakes Sis, Queerty, Towleroad, and many more.

The blog averaged about 4000 hits a day before last week; it’s likely that it will settle down from that initial peak of 30K to somewhere around 5000-6000, a net gain of readers. That’s usually been the cycle of growth at the Blend. Big bumps with overall gain. So from my experience, I can say that specific post link love matters a heck of a lot more than a blogroll link; smaller blogs can gain instant credibility and leap several levels if favored or noticed by bigger blogs.

* Traffic = revenues, so we’re not talking about an abstraction. For those bloggers who sustain themselves on ad revenue, traffic is the game. If one sees a sudden traffic drop, it’s a problem.  If there is a drop after being purged from a blogroll, that’s a clear sign that link love matters. Is it important to A-listers that B and C listers grow? I would think so, but I’m not an A-lister, and I’m not ad dependent, so I don’t have a problem with linking to new sources or good blogging.

[Folks out there — this would be a good opportunity, if I’ve linked to you, to let me know how much traffic I actually drive to your site. I have no idea how significant a jump in traffic a link from a C-lister like the Blend causes.]

One problem I have noticed, as PHB has grown, is that I simply don’t have time to surf and find new blogs to read at my (non-existent) leisure. I can’t even answer every email anymore, so I imagine that A-listers have an out-of-control inbox. Then again, I have a day job, maybe if I blogged full time I’d have more of a chance to read, write, surf and reply. Who the heck knows? It just seems like this A-lister argument goes round and round without a resolution, sort of like the “where are the bloggers of color” and “where are the women bloggers” dustups that pop up from time to time.

My master blogroll’s a bit of a mess, btw; I rarely have time to update/add to it unless something major occurs (like Shakes moving domains today). My last major effort at overhaul was when I moved to my Soapblox digs, and took the time to make a “Blogging in Color” list, and a “Blogroll of regulars in the Coffeehouse” (folks who comment here regularly).

Blogtopia really could be a more civil place if links flowed generously outside of the circle of A-listers without a foodfight, er, gunfight, and there was a recognition that blogrolls aren’t everything or the only thing.

* A-Z list blogging — what is it really about?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding