I’ve had several online conversations lately with people which have clarified my own position about online marketing. I have long had the policy that I am only putting energy into blogs, social networks, bookmarking services etc. if they have followed links. That is, other than twitter. I prefer blogs that are self hosted, but that’s not totally necessary.
Twitter is the exception, because at twitter there’s community. More: there’s a community of bloggers there. So twitter, while it doesn’t have followed links itself, is still a great place to combine promotion (getting to people) and search engine optimization. Lately another exception is facebook. But facebook is little work, because I post my tweets there (yes, twitter again). And of course if a conversation should start, I take the time to participate.
In other words: with a zillion ways to do promotion, I focus my efforts on people and search engines combined. This does not exclude posting my RSS feed in several places, but that’s so low maintenance that it’s another story.
I have long known that you are only going to get a reasonable amount of click throughs on sites that get a LOT of traffic. But a good link can get your site 10 times that amount of traffic, because suddenly the page linked to is taken seriously by google.
I’m going to illustrate this with a graph. This graph is only an approximation. I’m trying to illustrate a general idea.
The blue line is traffic. It’s an approximation of a Zipf curve, which describes traffic online. It also roughly describes click through rates on google serps: the first site listed will get far more visitors than the second. The 10th will get only a fraction of the visitors. The 20th will be lucky to get visitors at all.
The red line describes the value of a link from that page for google. As you can see this one is linear. A link from the tenth website listed in google will give almost as much value as the first. This graph doesn’t fall as quickly, which means that links from pages with few visitors may make a lot of difference. [Which is why black hats have been targeting link plexos recently, btw: links from low ranking squidoo pages are still going to get a website a better link profile. At least until google stops trusting squidoo altogether.]
Does this mean not working for people – no. Any page I make should be so good that a person landing on it gets informed, inspired or entertained. Any page I make should be so good that people might choose to link to it. And that’s not just good promotion, that’s good (white hat) SEO. This is one reason why I put effort into my group pages.
I turned down an offer to contribute to a community blog today – precisely because it did not start out with followed links. Similarly I’m not very active on tagfoot, because the links aren’t followed.
It’s just simple math. A social network that gets me one visitor a day, but no search engine vote, is not as valuable as a social network that gets me one visitor a week, but 10 visitors a day from google because google takes the links seriously. My online projects strengthen each other when the links between them are followed.
I don’t really want to start checking every link I get for followed links, but every once in a while I do (just check the source cod). Try it sometime on prominent squidoo blogs. You might get some unwelcome surprises.
So, back to my title. People or search engines? My answer is: both. If you are going to pick online communities – pick ones where there are real people AND where the links are followed. In other words: better go to squidu, than some new community blog with links that aren’t followed 🙂 (Sorry people, not naming names here. If the policy were to change I’d be happy to contribute AND link to this new project. You know who you are.).