Journalist’s guide to linking and getting links

Jeff Jarvis, a City University of New York associate professor who blogs about the media at Buzz Machine, raised a good point about my list of 10 Tips for Journalists Who Blog. I didn’t mention linking. I didn’t because I felt it was such a key topic that it warranted its own post, but I think linking is so important it should have made my list. Thanks for the observation, Jeff.

So here’s my primer on linking for journalist bloggers:

First, what is linking? It’s simply connecting from your blog through hypertext to another blog, online news story or Web site. Getting incoming links is when another blog or Web site links to your blog.

So why is linking important?

  • Linking creates a conversation: Blogging is a conversation, not a monologue or a lecture. To blog well you need to connect with other bloggers in your niche, share ideas, respond to their posts, get your posts noticed by them. Jeff puts it well: “Links are an act of enlightened self-interest, for it is when you link to others that they discover you and what you have to add. That will get you linked back.” If another blogger links to your blog, you get a shot at that blogger and his or her readers checking out your site. The blogger also may link to your blog in his or her blog roll, so that gives you a continuous potential for new readers from that blogger’s site. (Readers often check out the blogs on the blogroll).  If you’re linking to sites relevant to your niche, in time you’ll get links back and create a community that increases your blog traffic. This can happen through conversation or tweets, as I explained in my Wow! The Power of Blogging Post.
  • Linking increases your “Googlebility”: What’s Googlebility? It’s related to search-engine optimization — increasing the chance that your blog will show up at the top of a Google search. Google likes blogs that link to other blogs; it considers these blogs more relevant. And Google really likes blogs that get linked to because it sees a blog with lots of links from quality sites as providing better content. So a blog with lots of links will get a higher ranking than a blog without links. By the way, Google also likes if you link to your own content, previous posts, your about me page, etc.
  • Linking serves your readers: It just gives so much more relevance to your posts if you link to the original article you’re blogging about, the background of what you’re writing about or a blog that makes a similar point to the one your making. It’s a bit like the “showing your work” requirement when you were in grade school and did a word problem. You’re showing where you got the ideas you’re writing about. And you’re augmenting your own ideas with valid thoughts from others. That just makes it good journalism

So now that you know why you should link out. How do you do it. It’s not complicated but there are ways to make it more effective. Blogger and consultant Yan Susanto at Thou Shall Blog offers seven tips for highly effective one-way link-building that are really worth reading. His tips include some topics I’ll deal with in detail in later posts such as guest blogging and commenting on other people’s blogs, both of which will help you get links. He also notes that contextual links —  links that connect to a particular post within a blog rather than the main blog url – are best.

Vandelay Design notes that linking to other blogs, helps those blogs’ Technorati authority (which is a measure of ranking that I’ll get into more in a separate post.) And Vandelay Design gives a practical tip: Don’t just link out to the A-list bloggers in your niche. It’s fine to link to the VIPs, but be sure to link to relevant, quality less-trafficked blogs, also. Bloggers who get less traffic will be more likely to notice your link and return the favor than bloggers who gets hundreds of comments and many blogs linking to their sites. (Of course, if the A-lister links to you, you’re really golden.)

And don’t be afraid to link out to a site that you see as a “competitor” for your traffic, reassures Jeff Chandler on the Performancing blog. (He also offers nine valid reasons you should link out). That’s often the knee-jerk reaction: Why would I want to lead people to another site? The truth is readers will find you blog valuable if you’re the spot where they can find out what they want to know even if some of that knowledge comes from someone else.

Stay tuned for my next post: Why bloggers should comment on other blogs in their niche.

Gina

Edited on Jan. 5: I forgot to mention one vital thing. Also link to your colleagues’ blogs from your blog. So if you blog for a newspaper, link to other bloggers at the newspaper when it’s relevant for your readers, of course. It gives your colleagues a boost in links, and it makes it easier for readers to navigate related issues on your newspaper Web site.

15 thoughts on “Journalist’s guide to linking and getting links

  1. Linking is also often faster.

    If you’re trying to teach your readers that your blog is a place they can come to for the best information fast, there are occasions where it makes more sense to post a link than to write a story.

    Recently, I watched more than an hour drip away while an interesting local story – which was told fairly well in a PRNewswire release, available online – was re-written by a local reporter.

    Should that story have been written by a local reporter with more facts and perspective? You bet. Was draft number one, that took an hour to post, that story? Nope. Just a rewrite of the release, which the paper could have linked to earlier and served its audience better.

  2. “Google likes blogs that link to other blogs; it considers these blogs more relevant.”

    Sorry, gotta call bullshit on that one. No it doesn’t.

  3. Tim Windsor,

    Good point about the speed; why regurgitate when you can link.

    Tim Burden,

    Thanks for commenting.

    I’m not an SEO expert, so if you are, I totally defer to you on the power of outbound links. I’m a journalist who blogs and reads a lot about blogging and is writing about what works for me. Much of what I have read has pointed to a belief that outbound links to quality sites do help your site’s ranking. (But I do know there is differences of opinion on this.)

    I guess I stand with Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, who blogged: “So for me – the SEO benefits of outbound links are something I believe in but they are also something I don’t get to worked up about.” (Read the full post: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/03/21/do-outbound-links-matter-for-seo-and-more/)

    – Gina

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  10. Nicely written article. You made some pretty good points; however, I’m not sure about the ‘”Google likes blogs that link to other blogs” bit, either. I just can’t understand why Google would consider a blog with a lot of outbound links more relevant.

    Of course, I could be wrong. If you could elaborate, I would like to know. Still a good article, either way.

  11. @adam

    Here is how it has been explained to me by people who know much more about SEO than I do. The Web is about interacting and aggregating and connecting.

    No one blog can say everything. So there’s value, I think, in linking out to original sources (the article, the report, the news release, the news story) to make a point in a blog. I’ve been told by my newspaper’s SEO folks that you should link out with keywords that sum up the link (not use click here or something) because that will make the outbound link appear relevant.

    Why do that if Google doesn’t care about outbound links?

    My understanding is that when Google is crawling your page and finds relevant outbound links to authoritative information it helps. (The automated outbounds that many news sites use, by the way, I think our almost useless.)

    Obviously, I don’t work for Google and don’t know exactly how their algorithim works. But even if this doesn’t help you from a Google standpoint — which I think it does — it helps add value to your blog because you’re giving your readers more information.

    – Gina

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  14. Linking out is natural and one of the fundamental building blocks of the internet. If another post of site says something better than you can or provides useful additional information, then link out to it. All I would say is don’t overdo the outbound links. Inbound links however are not within your control but very important if you are to get a high Google ranking for a post. Writing valuable content is the key here to getting others to link to you.

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