I'm getting enough emails for reciprocal link exchanges that I thought I'd take a moment to write out my link policy here on my blog. I'll also discuss what I think it takes to create a successful blog. Comments and suggestions from other bloggers are very welcome!
I believe that my blogroll is a reflection of my brand. The people on my blogroll have one of the following characteristics:
- They participated on my blog through comments and trackbacks. They already established themselves as part of my community, and I thought they had some smart things to say. I've met many of them in person, and have probably had email exchanges with almost all of them. (or even hired them, as was the case with Johnnie). Or,
- I somehow stumbled across their blog and was blown away by the originality of voice and smartness of content (like Headrush). Or,
- They're highly trafficked blogs that refer a decent number of visitors to my site (like Fast Company and Tom Peters). And I also read them.
If you leave a comment or a trackback, you can be assured that I will click over and look at your blog. If I like what I see, it's likely that I'll add you to my blogroll. Probably not right away, but if you're persistent, it increases your odds. I'm not terribly good about managing my blogroll... I've got several people in mind to add, and I just haven't gotten around to it yet.
There are a lot of well-written blogs with decent content that I probably won't add to my blogroll. No offense, but there are too many blogs out there right now and I don't want a blogroll that's 10 miles long. At this point, I'm only adding blogs that are really original. They've got a viral component. They either have unique content (tough to do) or they're talking about it in a fresh and different way. They inspire me to look at the world through a new lens.
So I suppose this is a long-winded way of saying that I don't do reciprocal link exchanges. When I started my blog over a year ago, I did exactly what I'm suggesting here in this post... I found blogs that I liked, wrote comments on their posts, did trackbacks and commentary on my own blog, and linked to them voluntarily without asking them to return the favor. I was fortunate that those people visited my blog, liked what they saw and added my link voluntarily to their blogroll. I felt good knowing that I was being added because they thought my blog had value... not because I asked them to add me.
True, it was easier a year ago to get visibility; there were a LOT fewer business blogs. I could count most of the marketing blogs on two hands, and we formed a small community. Unfortunately for blog newcomers, it's harder to break through the clutter. And it will be even harder for those who don't start for another 6 months.
Bloggers who break through the clutter say what's on their mind and have learned to remove the "political-correctness" filter. But most importantly, they actively participate in the blogosphere through links, trackbacks and comments. It is a very time-intensive process to do; I probably spent 3 to 4 hours a day when I started my blog. Part of that time was trying to think of something original to say; the rest of the time was spent finding like-minded blogs and participating on their sites. When you engage in dialogue, your visibility will increase. Unfortunately I've gotten lazy... there are a lot of great discussions that I could be having, but I've gotten busy with other things.
Maintaining a blog is a lot like having a child (I don't have one, but I can imagine.) It takes a lot of time, nurturing and care. It's not as easy as asking a bunch of bloggers if they'd put your link on their site. So I suppose to sum up this post on driving traffic:
1. Compare your blog to others in your space... do your posts sound distinctly "you"? Or could they appear on someone else's blog and no one would know the difference? What unique value are you adding to the blogosphere? This is the "product development" phase.
2. Participate, participate, participate. Give first in order to receive. This is the "marketing" phase.
If you check off on these two items, you should do fine. If you're not getting links, think about a way to boost the value of your content... don't resort to link exchanges. That's like relying on advertising instead of creating a buzzworthy product. In blogging, like in business and life, there are no effective short-cuts.