A guide to hobby & social media – Effective Blog Networks (Part 6)
Blog Networks or Blog Alliances – what ever you wish to call them, this is the place to learn more. I’d like to first to clear up a terminology issue, otherwise things are going to get very complicated very quickly.
What is a Blog Network
A Blog Network is set up by a web site owner in order to share other people’s content. The Network is an idea, it’s not something that you can see on a web site. It’s just the idea of a list of sites that sign up to the Network.
A web site owner does this to showcase other blog content in the hope of getting that content out to a larger audience. In order to become a member of a Blog Network they usually require you to link back to them.
What is a Blog Roll
The Roll is something you can see, it’s a list of blogs or links to recent articles. A Blog Roll is used by bloggers or web site owners to showcase who they read and to support their wider community of bloggers. Their isn’t, usually, any need to link back to the blog in order to appear in the Blog Roll. I have one for example in the right hand column. The Blog Roll is a cosmetic way of showcasing blogs, the Network is just a way of managing those blogs.
Bigger sites tend to have Networks as they command more authority and therefore can drive more traffic. So asking for a link is a small price to pay to appear on their Blog Roll. Smaller sites just do it for blogs they like and for other bloggers they interact with regularly.
They’re very similar, but there is a subtle difference. The Network is a concept for managing the list and the Roll displays the list. It’s not very important but it’s worth noting so we don’t get confused. When I talk about the Roll I’m just talking about the links being displayed. And when I’m talking about the Network I’m talking about the wider concept of managing a list of blogs who are members of the a Network.
Why are Blog Networks Useful?
Adding your blog to other sites is relatively easy, you fill in a form and add a link to your footer. Finding such sites that provide this Blog Roll style service can be hard. Here are the ones I know of and I’ve been successful with;
The main reason for doing this is to drive traffic to your blog from new and relevant sources. By placing your blog into other sites you should hope to gain some traffic from those sites, especially if they are in the same field of interest. To be honest you should only be placing your blog into networks that are hobby related. Placing them anywhere else is a waste of time as the readers will not be interested in your content.
In return a lot of these sites will want a link back to them, see the footer of this site for instance. It’s a small price to pay for getting a new inbound link that gives you free traffic.
The other reason you may want to get linked to is for SEO. Inbound links help give you credibility this should make Google hold you at a higher authority. This in turns moves your pages up Google’s search rankings. However this isn’t always the case as some Blog Rolls use the ‘rel=nofollow’ attribute on their links. This basically tells Google ‘don’t pass any link goodness on to this site’. That effectively removes any positive effect to SEO so really this is a bonus benefit, not the primary reason you want links from other Blog Rolls.
This is my reality, this is my experience of using Blog Rolls. If you’ve had a different experience or you feel I’m wrong or I’ve missed something please let me know and leave a comment.
I am on six Blog Rolls I believe, the six listed above. Six isn’t many because they’re not that many 40K related Blog Rolls out there.
When I first signed up to these sites I thought it was great, free traffic from high profile and established sites! But you don’t get loads of traffic from these sites. The sites that set up the Networks are big sites, they are established and they do get lots of traffic – but translating all that goodness into clicks to your site via their Blog Roll is very difficult.
Making the Most Blog Networks
It’s difficult because there is very little you can do to drive traffic to your site. When you publish an article it’s posted automatically onto the Blog Roll of the Network sites. It’s then there for others to see and click on. But that’s it, you can’t make it stand out from the others. It exists there until enough people publish their articles for yours to be pushed off the bottom.
Publish More Often
One thing you can do is to publish more often to ensure your content appears on the Roll. But if everyone else does the same it just means the Roll moves quicker and article move off the bottom faster. You also don’t want to post articles for the sake of posting an article. Your articles should always have a purpose and relevant topic.
The title of your article is probably the most prominent aspect of the link you’ll get on a Network’s Blog Roll. So having a simple, catchy and short title is key. This can be very difficult. The most successful articles I’ve had using this method are;
The least successful are;
And so onto probably what you’re all wanting to know; the stats, the raw hard facts of using Blog Networks to drive traffic. The following stats are from 26th September to 26th October 2014.
- BoLS – 217 visits
- Talk War Gaming – 18 visits
- 40Kings – 49 visits
- Tale of Painters – 53 visits
- Natfka – 82 visits
- House of Paincakes – 29 visits
- Total – 448 visits
At face value these seem pretty low compared with how popular the sites are that we’re getting traffic from. But if we breakdown those sites and take a closer look it all makes more sense.
BoLS (Bell of Lost Souls) is probably the most popular site of the six sites that link to me via their Blog Network. Using sites like Alexa, Web Traffic Estimator and the whole host of web site stats I have access to via my job I can make an estimated guess at BoLS’ monthly traffic. A conservative estimate is around 450,000 page views per month, and if I’m more optimistic I’d place it nearer 600,000 per month. For the purposes of this exercise we’ll go with 500,000 as it’s a nice round number we can easily work with.
Half a million page views, that’s a lot. BoLS is ranked 48,000th most popular site in the world. So from half a million page views what can we expect?
Let’s first look at the Blog Roll itself on BoLS, it’s 156 x 748 pixels, that’s an area of 118,932 pixels, this is pictured on the right. The whole of the BoLS homepage is about 5.5 million pixels – 1,043 x 5,528 pixels, this is also pictured on the right. So the Blog Roll accounts for 2% of the homepage space on BoLS.
Out of 500,000 page views, we could assume that 2% might see the Blog Roll, so that’s 10,000 people who might look at the Blog Roll. The Blog Roll is also below the fold of the BoLS homepage so that 10,000 figure can be safely halved, as users may not even scroll that far down on the homepage. The Blog Roll on BoLS is shown on every page so using the whole of the 500,000 visits is fine. If it were just on the homepage we’d have to divide it again. is for the whole site not just the homepage. This gives us, probably, 5,000 sets of eyes that may look at the Blog Roll, seems a lot! If we then apply the magic 1% figure that marketers use for an average conversion rate we get 50 clicks.
Taking all that into account the figure for clicks from BoLS now makes much more sense. BoLS is a popular site but translating it’s traffic into traffic to your site is hard. I have had 217 clicks in the last month or so, not 50. Perhaps my maths is off or perhaps some people keep checking the Blog Roll for articles again and again so they are more likely to view something interesting and click it. Or it could be because I have been rather prolific this month at writing and have published more content in the last 30 days than I usually do.
One thing is for sure, 448 extra readers per month for little to no extra effort is good.
Blog Networks are worth it, go and sign up to them all, now. The number of visitors who go to my blog against on the total BoLS readership seems really low and hardly worth it at all, I get 217 clicks from a possible 500,000!
But really we’re comparing the wrong stats. If we take the Blog Network traffic and place it against my other passive sources of traffic then the story is very different. A passive source is a source that needs no effort in order to drive traffic. Twitter, Facebook and Reddit are not passive because I need to post on those platforms in order to get traffic. Google Search is passive because it just happens on its own.
These passive sources of traffic are the best sources because they require no effort to drive traffic to your site. Imagine getting loads of traffic by doing absolutely nothing. You just write content and people visit your site. You never need to post to Facebook, write elaborate 140 character Tweets, submit links to Reddit or write forum posts that link to your site – people just arrive via passive sources. That would be a nice situation to be in.
If we compare the Blog Network traffic with my other passive source, Google, then the Network traffic makes up 47.6% of the traffic! It’s nearly on par with Google and is effectively doubling my passive sources of traffic. That’s not bad for doing nothing.
The other benefit is that you’re tapping into a new audience. The readers from the Networks may not know of you and your blog. So by signing up to a Network you’re opening yourself up to a whole new audience.
I thought I would update the stats as its getting on for 6 months since I wrote this article.
The following stats are from 16th February to 18th March 2015.
- BoLS – 75 visits
- Talk War Gaming – 0 visits
- 40Kings – 44 visits
- Tale of Painters – 9 visits
- Natfka – 40 visits
- House of Paincakes – 11 visits
- Total – 179 visits
So a significant drop! The main cause of this is that I have not been writing as much. Although Talk War Gaming has completely disappeared – I should probably check up on that. The morale here is;
If you don’t write anything then they wont come.