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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. You are so right Darren. As most of us have heard before. “Content is Key” or “Content is King”

  2. “I started watching my metrics more than the news in my industry”
    While I’m not obsessed with getting incoming links, this is a jewel of wisdom for me. Now all I have to do is figure out what industry I’m in :)

  3. Hi,
    Although I completely agree with you that content is “King”, I did notice that you said that you had originally focussed on getting links. As with any venture, progress moves forward by fits and starts, with frequent course corrections. I would posit that your link creations had a long-lasting effect – which complemented your excellent posts to provide us with a truly excellent blog. It is so interesting to me how the field changes – and the marketing that goes with it. What worked in the beginning may not work now – and yet it may. I very much appreciate that you have provided us with all of the “basics” of marketing our blogs.

  4. So right. I don’t think I’ve ever begged other people for links. I just try and write interesting stuff about what I enjoy (sailing) and over time the number of links to my blog has just grown naturally. What has surprised me is that although I am just an average guy doing a bit of weekend sailing I am getting links now from top sailors such as Olympic campaigners and a couple of the America’s Cup syndicate blogs. Can’t imagine what they found of value in my blog but I guess I must be doing something right.

    Perhaps my motto should be, “If you can’t sail, blog!”

  5. I agree. Content and community is key. I believe everything else will fall into place once your content is established and you’ve built a loyal community of readers.

  6. I wrote a getting links post lately ;-)

    “Blog well and the links will follow – This might be easy for me to say as a reasonably established blogger”

    Your exactly right, easy for you to say!

    I agree content is king, however like Gray Wolf Said Recently…..

    “Content without promotion is like locking William Shakespeare in a closet to write for you, you’ll have great novels that no one will ever know about or read.”

    I had the most visitors to my blog on a single day, ever, this week (at over 350). Why? Because I wrote good content AND went and actively got links. The best one was from you (thank you).

    I’m not for directories or random links, however writing good content and then going and letting people know about it (getting links) is the only way to fly, for the little guy.

  7. I noticed that in this month.But it actually worked.Every reader likes to have things changing in the blog.Read something different than the same stuff(no offenses its a state of human mind.)

    You are few of bloggers i have been seeing linking the other blogs and its a good thing

  8. I agree too. But, it depends actually. For a established blog, author can mainly focus on building community and writing good content. But, for a just starting blog, link building is very important to get more traffic to the side. We must strike a balance between writing good content and link building in order to make a successful blog.

  9. Riffing on the theme – Blog well and the links will follow. I blog well (at least in my own mind). So how come you’ve not linked to me yet? After its a me me me world out there. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek).

  10. You ve’got a point there!

    Actually not I find myself getting distracted by other activities like reading newsfeefs, commenting on many blogs and hanging on forums. While those factors can help to promote your blog sometimes they deviate from your core business.

  11. I must admit I’ve spent very little time builing inbound links to my site, its not something I’ve ever really concentrated on. I’ve had plenty of emails asking for link exchanges, but I rarely take them up. I’m probably suffering long term from being underlinked, but part of me feels that my site should survive on its own merits, and not because a couple of big sites have got a link to it.

  12. I just started my blog , so I will try to exchange links with others , but soon after my blog has become more established then I will consider focus on content …

  13. I see what you mean. I’ve been putting a lot of work into links lately, but when you’re trying to build a readership it’s tough to choose the right balance. Great content is great, once people start finding it.

  14. One way of getting new links that I have found useful is to spend a few days doing some good ol’ fashioned marketing, getting to know people, and all that good stuff. Then take some time off from link building, then go back and do it again.

    It seems like many people constantly try to get links all the time, instead of concentrating on their blog’s content. I prefer doing it in pulses.

    The thing that many blogger’s fail to grasp is that Google takes FOREVER to update the backlinks to your site. So they do link building and keep doing it because they don’t think Google picked up the links.

  15. Emails begging for link exchanges are starting to really get on my nerves. Especially those that try and lecture me on how good it is for me to place their link and the “we have placed your link here please place our banner/link on your site”. I have never emailed anyone for a begging for a link and never will. I have added some of the links people begged for in the past, but you find many of these people don’t even bother to reciprocate or remove the link when they think you will not notice, so the deal becomes one sided. I’m going to remove the links page from my site and its going to be a simple case of write something interesting about film and I may link to you from an article otherwise send the begging letters to someone else.

  16. “My Page Rank increased – but my actual SERPs (the position of my blog in search engines) dropped”

    Darren, I’m curious about this. Why did your SERPs drop if you were receiving more incoming links?

    Was it because of a corresponding drop in keyword density or was this because of the sort of links you got (i.e irrelevant/non-contextual etc.)?

  17. I agree with Scott: “Content is King”

  18. I think you touched on a problem that is far more endemic in the blogger population – the analytic-o-holic.

    In my experience web entrepreneurs and wannabe professional bloggers can become so obsessed with the performance of their websites that they check analytics and earnings figures every couple of hours. I’d bet that a huge percentage of people that attempt to make money online actually fail for this very reason.

    Become a slave to your content guys, and don’t become seduced by your numbers!

  19. “Anything happen,will happen with a reason”,i do believe, anything we do or putting effort on,it’s will get back to you. Maybe some are a bit negative when you start, now you are putting back the positive to neutralist it, well done darren!

  20. […] 5 Blogging Methods That Work Secret Confessions of a Link-A-Holic Digg Lets Banned Domains Back In Internet Explorer loses ground to Firefox, Safari in US, holds its ground worldwide […]

  21. My montra is that if you have something worth linking to then people will link to it.

  22. Darren,

    Interesting indeed. I had been thinking the same thing for the last week or so. I’m glad you posted this. I absolutely agree that blogging is about the content. Frankly if one has nothing to say, one should find another line of work (or another hobby as the case may be).

    THanks for taking a stand on this. A lot of people look to you to set the pace.


  23. brilliant confession. well done. really enjoyed it.

  24. Great Post, Darren. I’m going to link to it…just kidding.

  25. This is a very good article! It gave me a lot of insight, thanks!

  26. “My Page Rank increased – but my actual SERPs (the position of my blog in search engines) dropped ”

    This is a really important point.

  27. I too have seen the increase in requests for links.
    What irks me is not the request for links but how the request is phrased.
    There’s often no reason given why out of all the blogs available I should link to their’s.

  28. I completely agree, and frankly have been a little turned off by all the (subtly positioned) discussions about ways to game the system here and at many other blogs. I don’t suggest your are doing it on purpose, just that competitive people often focus on how to get results for themselves and not creating value for others. In some cases that is still okay, but most of the time these days you get results for yourself by focusing on how to provide more value for others. Too many people want to “loose weight without dieting or exercise!” So it’s good to see you recognize this situation and are trying to address it.

  29. Interesting point. “Blog well and links will follow”; that’s what most people have to realize. Even commenting on a hundred other sites everyday and having links all over the internet won’t help if the content on your own site is not good enough for readers to enjoy or learn something from.

  30. nice read, my first thoughts were to link to this.

  31. […] Excellent post on Problogger that talks about how Darren (the webmaster) went through a phase of working really hard on improving his inbound links, to the detriment of the quality of his blog. Makes good reading especially the lessons learnt. Incoming links are important, but like everything in life, focusing just on one thing, to the detriment of everything else, can be a very bad thing. […]


    1. Write a good a article.


    Maybe I should put that into an e-book and sell it for $49.95


  33. for some reason that post was oddly (spell check on oddly) funny!

  34. I don’t understand everybody’s opinion of

    “Write a good a article.” and that is it, or

    “Blog well and links will follow:”

    that doesn’t make sense to me. If Darren spends $8 and anonymously sets up a new blog, then writes the post of his life, it will just sit there and nobody will see it, UNLESS he gets out there and promotes it (e.g. gets links)


  35. […] Inspiration has hit after reading all the way through this thread on Darren’s ProBlogger.com. I’m immediately going to register RecoveringBlogger.com (yeah it is available so if YOU really want it, be my guest ;), just don’t tell my friend, Steve over at TechquilaShots.com about my getting yet another new domain! ) […]

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

  37. Of course you have to promote it, but if the content isn’t there, no one will come. Write good content first, then worry about promoting it. If you’re sweating the promotion now without any good content, you’re putting the cart before the horse.

  38. mark – yes it’s important to find ways to promote your work – but I guess what I’m seeing is that people are becoming obsessed with building links – quite often at the expense of content.

    What I tried to emphasize in my post numerous times was that it’s about moderation and balance rather than becoming obsessed with any one aspect of blogging.

    Nothing wrong with links, self promotion, marketing and networking with the hope of bringing visitors in – but I’m seeing more and more bloggers putting their main emphasis on these things when I think they’d do a lot better to put their link building efforts into writing good quality content.

  39. Amen, Darren – if only we could remember the reader –

  40. Darren,

    It’s posts like this that have lead me to choose problogger.net as my blog of choice on the topic of blogging. With both the website and blogs I’ve been building, I found myself becoming an incurable tweaker.

    If it wasn’t the look and feel, then it was plugins, then widgets. I’m sure links would be next. But I often wonder about the quantity and quality of content I could have developed by now if I had limited my tweaking to one day a week.

  41. What FARK teaches us about linking, community, and finding your voice…

    I bet those who know what FARK is would never think you could learn that sort of thing from FARK …

  42. Kirby says: 02/24/2007 at 3:25 pm

    Part of the problem is that most bloggers dont have anything unique or original to say.

  43. Regarding content which engages readers – I think the attitude and personality of the writer can be as important as the written information if getting links is to be of any use.

    For example, Darren comes across (to me) as a genuine guy who is interested in his subject and keen to help others learn from his experiences, such as being a recovering link-a-holic. Hence I’m a regular Problogger reader – because of the content AND the writer. On the other hand, if I’d viewed Darren as a self-promoting know-all guru who wrote purely as a vehicle for selling e-books, I wouldn’t keep coming back, despite good information and copious links to it.

    I recently stopped reading another blog for this reason, because the tidbits of good content were buried among advertisements for the bloggers own e-books. The writer’s efforts to get links may have brought me to the blog, and some useful content brought me back a few times, but the writer’s attitude (or what I perceived it to be) deterred me from hanging around. And isn’t that what we want – not just visitors, but readers who want to stick around?

  44. if someone is anonymous and is page rank is zero?

    what is his first step???

    any suggestion!

  45. Hi Darren, you are right! We should spent more time in creating good content instead of watching trafic, keywords, incoming links etc…
    I spent more time for link exchange – instead writing new articles…
    Greetings from Germany

  46. This is one of your best posts in recent days Darren (imo).

    Sometimes you can be quite repetitive, (I recognise that it’s difficult to blog everyday about the same topic without being repetitive – plus most of us need reminded of things frequently to keep us on track) but this is fresh.

  47. Darren,

    Thanks for your reply.

    “quite often at the EXPENSE of content” . I understand better now.

    “Nothing wrong with links, self promotion, marketing and networking with the hope of bringing visitors in ”

    Amen! Somehow I missed this point in my starting with websites. Maybe the info is out there and my introvert “filter” kept me from seeing it. But I’ve had a slight epiphany lately that I (and probably many others) really miss this point.

    (maybe a blog post idea for a rainy day for you, “how to do a self promotion campaign for your blog”)

    “moderation and balance”, two words I could learn to include more in my vocabulary ;-) Thanks again.

  48. What a nice post about the links.I am also now searching for the details of the links.Any way its a nice work.

  49. Mhhh, funny Adsense ad by John Chow in thies article O_o

  50. I would say I partially agree with the lot of you, but having to add that it definitely isn’t of importance to every blogger to even be worried about incoming links at all. It just serves no purpose on some blogs, if you are blogging about your own life not generally on a subject it’s a bit of an if. But if you’re blogging about something in my opinion as stupid as the life from your cat from a standpoint of that same cat…. you can keep on trying to get links but it’ll pretty much end up with no results at all.

    In general though it are not those kind of bloggers actually busy with trying to get link exchanges and such going on, trying to build up as many incoming links as possible. The focus of the bloggers which do in general always tends to be money, throwing up adsense ads all over the place and hoping to get some incoming links along afterwards believing this’ll be the key to success and along with that money, lots of it.

    It’d be nice to see the blogosphere actually turn to blogging simply for the fun of blogging, rather than all the second objectives which have taken up top priority.

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