The Biased Link Love Game Meets The Blog

For the past two months or so I’ve noticed a big jump in the amount of link love the ‘unofficial’ networked blogs have been giving each other. There’s a flury of activity – this incestuous cross linking is on warp speed. Are the links becoming exclusive though?

One of the most frequent statements you’ll come across when discussing ‘how to be a success online’ is that you need to make friends and establish relationships online. Friends link easily to friends. Friends link very well to friends. I think that’s part of the game and it’s smart. And fairly acceptable.

How does it fit with the blogging world? Linking to friends is one thing, but is there any value to the blog reader for the exclusivity and witholding links from other ‘unconnected’ blogs?

Here’s a good example of how missing links just leaves the information lacking or unfinished:

Time Magazine Blogwatch – Jan. 23, 2006

PONDBLOG said, “China is trying to make Internet censorship palatable by putting cute faces on its online thought police.” JACKARANDA derided the “Great Firewall of China,” deeming the cybercops proof that “the Net can be developed and strangled all at once.” But a cautious FREECASHSPACE questioned the upside of “life in a lawless frontier, cyber or otherwise.”

The article quotes the bloggers by name, but ermm, where are the links to their blogs so readers can get the full context of what those bloggers said and who those bloggers are?

Years ago when webmasters realized the power of a link in terms of search engine benefits – the links stopped cold – unless there was something in it for them (build relationships). Bloggers however, didn’t care about all that link manipulation. At least for the most part.

One thing that was so appealing about blogs – oh so long ago – was that they were above all that. Everyone had a blast linking to all the things they read or came across online. And the blog readers had a blast following it all.

When you wrote a blog post, driving traffic to your friend’s blog wasn’t a top three priority. Or about keeping the traffic in a well confined target area or building some intricate link farm. Blogging really was about sharing cool ideas, having good conversations, sharing information and pointing out neat finds.

Not only were googlebots following the discussion link by link, blog readers were. And they were enjoying the ride.

Now that the blogosphere is growing up and becoming more savvy (and the pros hit town), the linking can be quite restrictive on a good percentage of blogs – more so problematic on the higher profile blogs.

The links are going to two places: top resources (such as slashdot, cnn, matt cutts), or to networked domains and link loving friends. There’s a whole chunk in the middle being shut out.

I remember commenting on a blog somewhere that it’s the smaller blogs I enjoy more. I realize now it’s because the ‘spirit’ of the blogosphere is still intact with them.

Darren over at ProBlogger touches on the linking problem:

Insular Linking on Blog Networks

As I’ve reflected upon this even in the last half hour I realise that it’s a bigger problem than just a blog network one. All bloggers face choices when acknowledging sources of information.

I think it’s simply that the blogosphere is growing closer to the Way of the Pro Webmaster. We’re not seeing as much ‘unconnected and free’ linking with blogs like we used to for reasons of traffic control and SEO.

More reading: When network blogs change history

The link to my story, which is obviously where TUAW found the story to begin with, is gone. Now, HackADay didn’t even run this story, TUAW is just sourcing an emailed tip to HackADay as the new source, but after they had originally posted my article as the source:

Snippet from the comments:

Sounds familiar…once money really came into the picture I think a whole lot of bloggers lost their integrity.

I don’t know that the problem is integrity (although it’s definitely an issue for some bloggers). I’m thinking it’s more to do with too many ignoring the concept of blogs being about conversation, hopefully interesting and informative conversation.


I've been trying to find my way online for more years than I care to admit.