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Secret Confessions of a Link-A-Holic


Is it just me or has everyone been becoming a little ‘link obsessed’ lately?

This week I’ve been counting the number of posts I’ve seen written about getting links for your blog – I’m over 40 and still counting.

Posts I’ve seen this week so far have covered:

  • How to ask for links
  • What type of links to ask other bloggers for
  • How to write content that is linkable
  • What type of links are best
  • What type of sites to target for links
  • How to do internal links on your blog
  • How to get .edu links
  • Link building tips
  • Linkbaiting techniques
  • How to get links that increase traffic
  • How to buy links effectively

The list goes on…. and on…..

Not only have I seen a lot of posting about links, this week I’ve had around 40 emails from bloggers ‘asking for link exchanges’ (not including all the emails with suggestions for posts that others have written).

So what’s my problem with all the link building articles and exchanging links? Am I ‘anti link?’

No – that’s not it, I believe that SEO has a place in blogging and that one of the most powerful ways to grow in your search engine ranking is to build incoming links to your site. I’ve written many times about this and have covered a lot of the topics in the list above here at ProBlogger. I value the incoming links that I have to my blogs and would like to see their numbers keep growing.

However this week my alarm bells have been going off and I’m starting to wonder if we (as a blogging community) might be getting a little distracted from…. from…. well blogging itself.

Two main thoughts come to mind:

1. Blog Holistically

Beware any type of blogging obsession. I’ve talked about the temptations that bloggers face to focus in on one aspect of blogging at the expense of others – link building is one of those that can lead to blog destruction. Give it some attention by all means – but keep things in balance and realize that of all the factors that make up a successful blog – incoming links is at best midway through the list.

2. Blog well and the links will follow

This might be easy for me to say as a reasonably established blogger – but I’m a big believer in the principle. How do most of the top bloggers going around build their readership? From talking to a few of them I’d humbly suggest that the main thing in their favor was that they built blogs with compelling content which engaged their readers – the links followed.

My Secret Link Obsession

Let me let you in on a little secret. I’m a recovering link-a-holic.

In my early days of blogging I stumbled across the idea of incoming links as the key to SEO and so I began a campaign of gathering links to my blogs (at the time I only had a couple).

I wasn’t all that blog-savvy at the time and so did a pretty crude job of it (I bought a few links, I tried to exchange links, I got into listing my blogs in directories) but I managed to increase the numbers of links to my blogs over time. In the process here’s what else happened:

  • My posting frequency dropped
  • Readers became frustrated with my content (which was obviously linkbait)
  • I lost some of my passion for blogging and my topic
  • I sold out content wise (started picking topics to write about that didn’t really add value to my blog)
  • I started watching my metrics more than the news in my industry
  • Frustration crept into my blogging when the links didn’t come
  • My Page Rank increased – but my actual SERPs (the position of my blog in search engines) dropped

It wasn’t until I took a step back from blogging for a week at one point that I realized how distracted I’d become and how the very thing that I thought would ‘make’ my blog was in danger of killing it.

I decided to focus again on my readers and on producing content that would be useful to them and in doing so saw a reversal in all of the above points.

Do I think about incoming links these days as a blogger? Yes I do – they are one aspect of blogging that is important. However as a recovering link-a-holic I attempt to keep that side of my blogging well in check. I think my blogs and I are in a lot better shape for it.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Great post. I started blogging last year a little bit on and off with a few sporatic attempts at personal blogging sites, and this year started writing regularly and blogging daily starting this week. Your blog has already been an enormous help and also inspiration for my work. Thanks for all the great insights, and I’m sure I’ll be a long term reader. I am blogging on Zoom In Online. I’ll link it here in case your readers would like to check out a growing online community and resource for creative pros. Your posts remind me that balance and moderation are very important principles in blogging, and in everything I do.

    Thanks again, and keep up the great work.

    Todd Howard

  2. Hmmm. I have been blogging for about 2 months and LOVE it! Since I currently don’t have any ads or wiki’s or anything on my site I have been focusing on content. I have never asked for links but have discovered people linking me. I am still ranked 5 million or so (okay only 1.5) but I can see in 2 mo. I have gone from 8 hits to 80 – 100 hits just by commenting on people’s blogs and eating enormous amounts of chocolate so that I can produce content. I have been posting once to twice a day and the posts are about 300- word counts. I love writing but am starting to feel this pressure to compete and chase after links and I am afraid that I will start to hate blogging if that is my focus. I have tried to look for other blogs similar to mine but haven’t found to many…Apparently there are’nt too many blogs focused on the mating habits of the chinchilla. Okay, just kidding.

  3. Hi Darren,

    Love your site! I found somewhere here last week “What Bloggers Want From Readers and What Readers Want From Bloggers” (I think that was the context) and I wanted to share your findings on my site. Would you be so kind as to redirect me to the post/info? You are the best-Thank You!
    Derrick Sorles
    [email protected]

  4. I wouldn’t say that I’m obsessed, but it is something I’m thinking about now. How am I going to get placed in Google, etc. Right now Google is running a month-old copy of my site, and it’s basically a test pattern. I’m trying to do as much as I can right now, because if this next spider doesn’t go well, it looks like I’ll have to wait a while.

  5. It is tough at times to find the balance. I focused on content & post frequency for quite awhile, yet nobody seemed to notice. And although my site visit stats were gradually on the rise, nobody ever left comments, even despite appeals for said.

    Then about 2 months ago I did a massive site makeover and also intensely focused on basic SEO techniques & getting my site noticed more. (I’m hopeful that having overhauled the code made a difference too.) Now things seemed to be on the upswing. My site visits are still inching up, but more importantly, I’m also getting more feedback in the form of posted comments and emails from the site.

    I can attest that community-building makes a big difference. A significant number of our hits every month come as a result of my wife’s activity on the newbeetle.org forums where she’s posted about her beloved Caliente car. (Yes, that’s a shameless plug, but by golly, it is a beautiful car!) Point is, a large percentage of our site traffic is generated from forums and other community sites.


  6. I don’t know much about link exchanges. Does it inadvertantly promote the blog to a different theme / category in Alexa, google etc ?

    Meaning if I am doing a fitness blog, and someone puts my link on his/her site which is a news blog, will my related links in Alexa try to categorize my blog also as a news blog, when it is not ? Hope this question makes sense.


  7. […] Secret Confessions of a Link-A-Holic Coming from Darren Rowes on why one should not become obsessed about link buildings. It is all about putting the content first – blog well builds the foundation for which success can follow – linking is secondary. […]

  8. Very familiar stuff. Thanks for an interesting entry. I’m an utterly unambitious blogger (commenting on ProBlogger, I know). My blog is fairly schizophrenic – there’s no red line whatsoever. Yet I find that there’s two things that really excite me about the blogging experience:

    1. The writing experience itself and the joy of writing for an audience.

    2. The thrill of analyzing my visitor statistics. I’ll probably never earn a single dollar off my blog, but I think it’s great fun trying to find new ways to get hits. A few of my posts are shameless (and completely unsuccessful) attempts to attract an audience, but most posts are based on genuine interests and experiences. And should my blog against all odds suddenly become a huge hit, I’ll likely get Adsense up and going in a matter of hours – me hungrily analyzing the stats every two hours…

    Point is: To me both aspects are perfectly good reasons to be blogging. No. 2 even more so if the blog actually had profit potential. And somehow I imagine most pro bloggers must feel the same way? Mr. Rowse, even though you’re a recovering link-a-holic, you’re still slightly obsessed, aren’t you??

  9. I agree…I have had the same experience in the initial phase of my blog. Metrics and linking used to take up more time than blogging. The problem is even after realizing the problem, it’s difficult to get out of it…sort of becomes a vicious circle…no incoming links hence the increasing need to linkbait…excessive linkbaiting leads to even less backlinks. While I agree that content rules, I have seen many good bloggers with great content getting almost zero attention. I guess that’s what forces them to indulge linkbaiting.

  10. […] Problogger has an interesting article on the dangers of spending too much time on trying to build incoming links to your website. He points out: Give it some attention by all means – but keep things in balance and realize that of all the factors that make up a successful blog – incoming links is at best midway through the list. […]

  11. I have a few blogs among which are
    Blogger Tips and Tricks
    Dummies Guide to Google Blogger
    I do get a lot of comments, some of them are complements, and most of them are question related to blogging. I do respond to the comments, and after doing that, I go to the commentator’s blog to leave a comment to thank him/her for leaving a comment with a link to the post and letting him/her know that I have responded to the comment. And I leave a signature line with a link to a blog that I hope will help people become more environmentally concious.

    Does this sound like a labourous way of building up your links?

    Peter a.k.a. enviroman
    Enviroman Says

  12. […] Secret Confessions of a Link-Aholic – Darren explains how the obsession for links can harm bloggers. […]

  13. Step 1. Concentrate con content
    Step 2. Concentrate con content
    Step 3. Build linking
    Step 4. Repeat

  14. As another recovering linkaholic I have to agree there’s just too much noise out there that suggests the biggest secret to a profitable blog is back links, it’s simply not true any more and I personally love the fact that I can get on with writing rather than trying to invent ever more cunning link bait techniques.

    Linkaholic cold turkey is tough but it’s worth it when you realise you’ve gone for months without checking your stats to see what you latest bank link count is, or had a mild panic attack when you’ve dropped a typo in one of your domain name checks and seen a big fat zero!

  15. […] How do you KNOW? For me, it’s when I get things in 3’s. For example, I was getting frustrated with the pace of things with the blog. So, I journalled about it on Sunday. I felt I was doing all this stuff and moving further and further away from the intent. After free-form writing for about 30 minutes, which I had not done in about 3 months, I realized how much I loved writing. Ideas started pouring in again. Later on, I was on the phone with my cousin and she mentioned how much my aunt (one of my heroes) in Trinidad loves my blog. So much so that she’s asking for a blog of her own. Then, I opened up Bloglines to read my daily feeds and discovered that Darren wrote about turning the focus of blogging back to, well, blogging. […]

  16. […] Darren Rowse wrote about the secret confessions of a Link-A-Holic […]

  17. What problogger is saying is that, yes, links are important but if that becomes your focus, you’ve lost the most important thing. Not only that, but linking needs to be natural, such as posting insights in related blogs. I find it is better to consistantly post just a few times a week to someone elses blog CONSISTANTLY than trying to go crazy over a few days.. Thats when you’ll really get burned out.

    Find a blog you actually LIKE and write comments on articles that actually INTEREST you. Over a few years you’ll find your ranking and readership growing.

    Too often people get GREEDY trying to ramp up their page views ‘overnight’… Thats when things go south. Both your writing quality and ranking go DOWN!

    Wayne – Web Designer

  18. Thank you so much for this article to get my head back on track!! I am wanting to blog and have great content.. All of the other stuff will follow!

  19. The debate on the effect of links is never ending. No one will ever agree on the true effects of links whether reciprocal or inbound.
    The bottom line is that your rate of inbound link growth determines the amount of traffic you get.

  20. Is it not more a chick and egg issue? You make a site and there are no paths in so no one can find it so no one can link to it so that people can find it and link to it…

    There is a sort of critical mass of linkage and content that must be reached before a blog can do anything. When starting fresh you will find that in short order you must link from any other work you stuill have access to, submit to search engines, get in dmos and join forums and communities and chat a good chat with you link at the ready as an answer of illustration whenever possible.

    It’s not something you have to do forever but it is something you have to do. In any given week as many as one in twenty of your readers might link to you. But when you have three readers if you count granny you really are not going to ever get links.

  21. I have just read your post. and may I say I am impressed! I, too, am a link addict and a button addict too! The addiction tends to screw up the real reason why i began blogging in the first place, i.e., to be the premiere content source of everything related to the Philippine pool scene and around the world. Your article is an inspiration to me, and to people just like us. For this, I am forever in your debt. More power to you! Mabuhay!

  22. I agree. I noticed that everyone is so linked obsessed. I think giving bloggers something to want to link to is the best way in building links.

  23. So, why isn’t Mark Levison linking to me? (;-)

    I’ve taken a can’t worry about my blog count attitude. I post every day on an eclectic field of topics, and people (I hope) will come. I have links to people who interest me, I comment when I find something intriguing. It’s my blog, not my life – though the blog is ABOUT my life.

  24. […] Secret Confessions of a Link-A-Holic […]

  25. carazed mike says: 01/19/2008 at 7:59 am

    great advice and I 100% sure the gurus that write the search algorythms would agree. Focus on creating great original content.

  26. Great post, good solid original content is the way to go.

  27. Still new to the blogging scene and I keep getting assured by my Blogging King of a friend that quality will draw people in. It is nice to see that he’s not the only one who says that. :)

    I admit, the last few days I’ve been checking my numbers more than I should. Thanks for the heads up on how damaging this can be.

  28. I’m glad I found this site. I am not so clear on building links, and I do love writing. In fact, the idea of the blog is to promote the writing I love to do. So now I know to keep writing and stay away from hard linking…or at least, not to inhale when I am around it.

  29. I wanna to understand we must type hyberlink of the website title or type the link directory

  30. we all get carried away once in a while. We focus on one aspect more than others. The famous quote applies here, “over commit and then disappoint”
    we over commit our time to things that aren’t important and don’t give value to anyone other than the idea that you at least did something.

    I’ve had to ask the question.
    -is what I would like to do going to help me reach my goal?
    -What is going to be the ROI?
    -How is it going to do this and would I be able to confince someone off the street with this information?

  31. we all get carried away once in a while. We focus on one aspect more than others. The famous quote applies here, “over commit and then disappoint”
    we over commit our time to things that aren’t important and don’t give value to anyone other than the idea that you at least did something.

    I’ve had to ask the questions.
    -is what I would like to do going to help me reach my goal?
    -What is going to be the ROI?
    -How is it going to do this and would I be able to confince someone off the street with this information?

  32. I have been link building on some of my sites for 12 years. I have one site with over 1,400 natural links all built through good content. I did ask for a few but not many. Don’t try to beat the system. You can still rank in niche areas without many links.

  33. This is a great article, way to go.

  34. I do not agree that optimization and backlinks are not that important. Come on, if you are trying to appear on the first page for the keyword with 20,000,000 competition, you need to use both of them.

  35. I am a link-a holic too. However being an owner of backlinks.com I guess I am also an emabler. hehhehe

  36. I am yet to get into this. I just dont get the point on how to get good backlinks..

  37. I had been wandering over the internet for backlinking methods, came up a post of yours about backlinking which brought me here. And I think this is the best article. I should focus more on quality blogging instead of backlinking!

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