Choose Your Friends Wisely

You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their friends. The same is true of blogs, the choice of who they link to, who is on the blog roll, who their sponsors and advertisers are. What do your blogs “friends” say about you?

One of my blogs has been getting far more attention from me than the others, it is a labour of love on a subject I really enjoy (photography) but I would like it to pay for itself. Another of my blogs hasn’t been updated for years because I don’t get a kick out of the topic (ASP programming) but despite being a mess still gets reasonable traffic and gives me a moderate adsense income.

The first of the two is brand new and so I am busy making friends and connections and building up traffic. I am conciously doing the things that made the other a success in its day.

Looking back I think the reason why the ASP site worked was because I was very much part of the community. My site was regularly referenced on email discussion lists and programmer forums. At one point even Microsoft staff would point to certain articles in official newsgroups. You can’t buy that advertising.

By referencing my work it was giving it authority, each link was a vote of confidence. Nowadays people do not reference my site quite as much, why would they there hasn’t been new content in over two years, but a trickle of traffic still comes from the old links. Many of the best links dissapeared, naturally because of lack of live indexable email and newsgroup archives or because my articles have been superceded by more up to date content. My sites friends have moved on to new friends, it is not in their social circle any more.

Who you link out to says a lot about your blog. One of the first things I did when I set up my photography blog was to talk to a guy I knew with a digital camera ecommerce store and discuss him sponsoring the site. Ideally I don’t want to run adsense on my blog at all, eventually just run it through sponsorship or sponsor plus CPM ads. The ideal will be top quality community and content first with monetization second. I was really pleased that my sponsor said yes.

Funny thing happened almost immediately. I started getting traffic for the sponsors company name. Cool, I thought, that’s a bonus!

What I didn’t know was they were seeking him out because they couldn’t get in touch any other way. Not good for an ecommerce site. Then some promises from him were not delivered. I realised something was dreadfully wrong. What finally cleared up the mystery was several comments complaining about the sponsor. Sometimes I am slow on the uptake, I never checked out the guy to see if his operation was something I should associate with. His business was in trouble and reviews of his company on the web were not pretty.

I had linked my brand new blog with a company with a bad reputation.

The guy is still a friend, and the troubles his company was facing were not his fault, but I really should have done at least a little research. My blog could have been made to look guilty by association, effectively I was still recommending a company that could not possibly deliver what they were promising!

Who links to you and who you link out to can have very unexpected ramifications but there is no secret to doing things properly. It just underlines what we often say here, emerse yourself in the niche you are targetting. Don’t just write about it, be part of it. I would never have made my mistake with the ASP blog, the company would have already been on my RADAR, with the camera blog I am still on the outside looking in and I almost suffered the consequences.

6 thoughts on “Choose Your Friends Wisely

  1. It never hurts to state the obvious here, what is your obvious might be another persons “d’oh I should have thought of that”, heh. I do think about reviving, or at least tidying up the asp blog, I just can’t find the enthusiasm. If I was suddenly short of cash I probably would look at it more seriously. (Recall a previous conversation, I am an “away from” person, heh).

  2. Going back to something Markus wrote earlier, “it’s not important if the fisherman likes the worm; it’s only important that fish like it.”

    That’s particularly true with Web content. Many times projects that I love, fail miserably and projects that I find mildly interesting become huge successes.

    It all reverts to empathy and rapport or as Dale Carnegie Sales Training taught me, “In order to sell your prospect, you must speak to her or him briefly about somethitng that interests them.”

  3. A niche is like a village. Know your neighborhood. Imagine a stranger walking up to you asking for a recommendation for a good place to have dinner. You are literally his host in that moment.

    That’s what makes the reputation of a blog. You are hosting strangers. If you are a nice host people will come back.

    Double check your recommendations frequently!

  4. I remember that. You were one of the ones clamoring for someone to make a decent ASP Blog. Nice to see your forward-thinking has paid off in Performancing.

    -Don Makoviney

  5. Chris, no doubt if you posted new stuff, you’d start building traffic again. (I’m not a big fan of ASP, but I have done contracts where it was the language of choice.)

    Regarding your experience, thanks for uncovering yet another aspect of the pitfalls of online publishing. As I said somewhere else yesterday, this business of blogs and networks and online advertising is still relatively new (10 yrs), and a lot of this is uncharted territory. Thanks for sharing.

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