This is cross posted from our ImpactWatch blog.

In trying to measure blogs, a lot of people put a great deal of stock in inbound links.  It might not be going too far to say that inbound links have become the standard by which the influence of a blog is measured.  Theoretically, the more links you attract from other sites the more influential the blog must be.  Right?  It sort of makes sense.

But I really think inbound links became the standard out of the lack of a better way to measure.  Specifically:

  1. Legit traffic figures for blogs are impossible to obtain.  Sites like Alexa and Compete are notoriously inaccurate and don’t have data at all on smaller sites. We simply don’t know how many people go to the various sites out there and don’t have a defensible way to make comparisons.
  2. Inbound link information is really easy to get on Technorati and Google.  This became the standard because it is readily available and easy.

But I really think inbound link information is entirely anecdotal and not a defensible way to truly measure influence or even popularity.

Let me explain based on personal experience.  We launched the current iteration of our main corporate blog, The Bivings Report, around two years ago.  In the beginning, I had an unhealthy interest in our Technorati ranking, a measurement based on inbound links.  The result was an unhealthy number of linkbaiting types of posts, participation in blog carnivals etc.  Basically, I was focused too much on attracting links and not enough on building an audience.   Frankly, it worked – we rocketed up into the top 5,000 blogs on Technorati.  But in the process we learned that attracting links doesn’t really mean more readers (as measured by site statistics and RSS subscribers).  Most links you attract only lead to a few referrers.

Anyway, at some point we all grew bored with trying to attract links and just focused on writing about what interests us.  The funny thing is that as our Technorati ranking has dropped our readership has continued to grow.  We have far more readers (and hopefully influence) now than we did when we had a higher Technorati ranking.

This isn’t to say that looking at inbound links is a useless exercise.  It is a great way to identify an initial list of big players from which to work from.  Just keep in mind that inbound links are not the sole way we should measure the influence of blogs.  Instead, it should be part of a bigger methodology.

More on this later.


About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.