What Happened to the Link Love?

Old Rusty ChainYears ago, when I first started blogging, I was always astounded by the links that would be shared on the blogs that I read. It meant that surfing from blog to blog was a random feast of ideas – that you never knew where an idea, a stream of thought or the next piece of underlined text would take you. Participating felt like an act of grace.

Some would share their media habits. Others would provoke us with critical thinking and dramatic insights. But no matter where you ended up, it always felt like an easy, fluid ride. One of the joys, despite apparent contradictions, was the capacity to move quickly beyond first impressions.

Each Sunday evening I would follow the hypertext wherever it may lead. There were no straight lines – and if there were, I would always prefer a more cavalier approach. But no matter whether I was connecting dots, shifting perceptions or simply chasing conversation, I knew I was always in for a surprise.

But recently, it seems that enthusiasm for link love has dissipated. My feed reader discourages both links and comments. And I feel the poorer for it. (It’s why I am excited by Feedly. Perhaps it will bring the link love back!)

18 thoughts on “What Happened to the Link Love?

  1. Thank you for bringing this up, Gavin. It seems that the Web is focusing more on search than on linking these days – we would be all the poorer for it. A retweet flows in the stream, indeed a link in a post and comments provide more context.

  2. Good piece, Gavin. Yes, I don’t see as much linking lately, although so much on Twitter seems to be links and retweets.
    Maybe the novelty of blogging is wearing off and the it’s the devoted who are sticking with it. Time will tell.

  3. Ah Gavin, reminiscing on the days of yore when somehow, the world did seem smaller and community interaction rates were higher. Alas with the expansion of our interaction circles into larger numbers of acquaintances and platforms, it seems time has become the precious commodity which we’ve deemed too important for the seemingly arduous task of link loving, a process of reading, cataloging, and creative curating for reasons of both camaraderie and intellectual/fun mind sharing.
    While perhaps the gesture has declined in practice, the spirit is still here with us should we decide to believe in it.

  4. Gavin I think the linking is still there, it’s just moved away from blogs, IMO. I used to love doing the Viral Community News posts where I could point out links I found interesting. But now with Twitter, I can share as many links in a day as I used to weekly on a blog. I think many others are doing the same thing.
    I think we are all actually sharing more now, but with the advent of new tools, that sharing is easier than it used to be by writing a blog post and adding in links.

  5. Gavin, thanks for bringing this up. To be honest, sometimes I don’t find links that meet my subject content or level of passion for a particular subject and sometimes there are so many great links I wonder if I am just regurgitating content and wasting people’s time with a post that’s already been written. It’s definitely a balance.
    Also, search engines look for inbound links…that’s how we all get higher rankings when it comes to search. Not sure if that’s changed, but in the past the method behind giving link love was to get it so that both parties would rise in rank.
    I agree with Mack there are other tools that just make it easier to share great content. But, I also think it’s a time issue when it comes to blogging. I don’t know about other people, but I want to make sure that the links make sense or lead people to other great content. I don’t want to fall into the trap of providing links because it’s expected or quid pro quo. I don’t think that ends up being the right reason in the end…
    Beth Harte
    Community Manager, MarketingProfs

  6. You’re spot on. The links aren’t flowing like they used to. As easier channels of sharing and communication present, like Twitter and facebook, the conversation is evolving. This isn’t to say that blogs are going away, but the role of the blog is changing.

  7. Appreciate this post – perhaps many have forgotten or never really understood that a do-follow link (as opposed to no-follow ones on Twitter, Facebook, etc.) is still the only way to really help a blog’s search engine ranking. Links on Twitter, etc., are great for info flow and human traffic, but they don’t have SEO validity.
    The nicest thing any blogger can do for a blog/site they like is to link to it, old-school style. 🙂

  8. Interestingly, I seem to provide almost all the link love at the start of a post. Often it will be another post or article somewhere that has got me thinking and prompted a post so I feel it necessary to provide context through the links and often to achieve this it must occur early.
    However, I only provide a link either 1) out of courtesy (say I am disagreeing with someone) or 2) because I really do think that the reader should follow it.
    I also wonder if bloggers feel as though their content should be enough to attract readers rather than through linking?

  9. We’re always going to tend toward the immediate and easy – which in this case, means sharing links on Twitter or similar platforms. The blog as a centralized and critical source of links does tend to suffer, inevitably. I have mixed feelings about it…

  10. Thanks Mack … yes, I share far more links on Twitter than what I actually write about.
    I guess I am wondering not just about the idea of sharing, but the service of contextualizing emergent marketing practices.

  11. Agree, Steve. Twitter is great for its immediacy, but I am finding that the blogs I read are tending to no longer provide the surprise or revelation that I know is out there.

  12. Hey Gavin,
    Link loving is sadly a behaviour in decline
    Call me bitter, but there’s a whole new generation of bloggers out there who neither link back, nor comment on blog posts…. and that’s a real shame.
    I use the Tweetmeme WP plugin which does a great job at tracking re-tweets or Twitter comments on blogs posts.
    Thanks for the link-loving BTW 🙂

  13. I am all for the old school approach. It seems like there are some manners and a touch of etiquette that comes with linking. It’s like respect.

  14. Yes, I think a lot of bloggers are writing opinion rather than putting forward a considered (and researched) point of view. The thing to remember is that no idea happens in isolation … and showing via links that you are aware of a range of other viewpoints only strengthens your argument (IMO). I think there should be more of it!

  15. You are absolutely right, Beth. It’s about linking where it makes sense or where it adds value for the reader. And that’s the point. We are so connected in a variety of ways that it sometimes is unclear where ideas originated. Or it is easy to forget where we read something …
    But we all feed off the zeitgeist. It’s good to nourish that energy from time to time too!

  16. Great post Gavin. I think linking has become rather insular and almost too strategic. In the long term, surely user experience will win and everything will be hyperlinked.
    The problem with linking, however, is the visual effect – with too many links a post because congested and hard to read. Perhaps one day, it won’t need to be obvious that text links somewhere – it could become intuitive.

  17. I’m all for link love too. So much so, that I use the “LuciaLinkyLove” plugin on my (wordpress) blog to drop the “no follow” tag for regular commenters.
    As an ironic aside (as I tweeted to you), I use the NoScript add on in firefox and it took me a while to work out that I had to select “allow typepad.com” before I could see any of the comments and/or comment myself!

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