Is Your Link Party Earning Its Keep?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Is Your Link Party Earning its Keep?

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Last week, we talked about how to make Google+ comments grow your blog and the benefits and features of them. If you've been considering switching to G+ comments but aren't sure if it's beneficial, then be sure to read How to Get the Most Out of Google+ Comments.

Is your link party earning its keep? from www.anyonita-nibbles.com

After two weeks talking about Google, it's time for a change! Today begins the first in a series on link parties or linkies! We'll talk about what you should and shouldn't be doing as a party host to get things started.

If you've been visiting my blog for any length of time, you know that I'm link party mad! I participate in linkies nearly every day of the week. I'm also guilty of concurrently running two parties here on Anyonita Nibbles: a Tuesday food party for recipes and food posts and a Friday party all about pleasing the man (or men!) in your life with good, elbows on the table, grub. (Both of which you'd be more than welcome to participate in, by the way!)

Let's begin with looking at what you should and shouldn't be doing as a party host. Do you want the good news first or the bad news?

The Good News
So you wanna run a successful link party? Can you say yes to all or most of these questions? If not; consider making some changes and monitor your party growth:
  1. Do you visit all of the links at your party (even if you don't comment)?
  2. Do you provide an incentive for people to share with you (ie: pinning posts, featuring favorites or exclusive inclusion in giveaways)?
  3. If you do leave comments do you leave thorough, valuable comments that reflect the quality of the post?
  4. Do you require your participants to provide you with their email address?
  5. Do you use their email addresses to reach out to them and inform them when the party is live or of other important news on your blog?
  6. Do you encourage that all participants click on links in the party?
  7. Do you welcome co-hosts to your party?
  8. Do you share some of the links outside of the features?
  9. Do you market your party?
  10. Do you follow any of your participants? 
If you said no to any of those questions, let's quickly look at what the benefits of doing them might include for you:
  1. Visiting all of the links might be time consuming, but it's just a nice thing to do. By hosting a party, you're undoubtedly driving traffic to your blog; share the love and return the favor.
  2. There are thousands of link parties out there. What makes yours different or worthwhile for you participants? It's not just about you; do something for them, too. 
  3. Comments that just say: "Yum! Thank you for sharing this at XXXXXX" or "Cool! Thank you for sharing this at XXXXX" are pointless and considered to be spam. Instead, try engaging with them. Talk about what you like (or didn't like!) in their post. Say something valuable that can spark a conversation and then say "thanks for sharing at XXXXX" or some equivalent. If you don't have anything valuable to add; don't say anything at all!
  4. You should be keeping email addresses. Include a clause in your party rules that states that by participating, linkers agree to be added to your email newsletter list and utilize these valuable sign ups! They can unsubscribe at any time, but most don't. People who don't have a party page, might like the reminder of when to link up, for instance.
  5. Ditto to number 4.
  6. People link up to parties because they want others to read their blog. Remind your participants about this and encourage them to visit at least one other link!
  7.  This isn't for everyone, but I've found having co-hosts to be really helpful for spreading the word about the party. Also, by offering my co-hosts something in return, I feel it's a good fit for all involved parties.
  8. Sharing my favorite links from the party helps me to engage with my participants and followers who don't yet participate across all my social platforms.
  9. Marketing is key! Come up with a clever way and do it! 
  10. Again, if you're averaging 50+ links, following ALL of your participants just isn't practical. Devise a way to follow certain ones each week. Don't forget to let them know that you're following them so they can do the same back!
The Bad News
As you can see, there's lots of things you could be doing for your party, but only one thing you shouldn't:

Don't be a bad link builder!

You will never, ever, ever in a million years see me telling you that to participate in one of my link parties you must provide a link back to my site in each post you link up with me. Personally, I feel that this is a cheap way of pumping linkbacks solely for the benefit of the party host and frankly, it's despicable and unnecessary

 You've seen those long sprawling lists on other people's blogs: 

"This post is being shared at these parties: [insert a bajillion links that promote other people and not yourself]"

Let's think about this logically: what's the purpose of that? Sure, you could argue "to generate interest in the party so more people can be involved". But honestly, how many people actually sit through and read all of those links when they see them appear at the bottom of someone's post?  I certainly don't! And if I'm looking for a new party to attend, I won't find it on those lists. 

I'll be frank: the purpose of those lists is to generate traffic, but not to grow the party! It's to get more backlinks for the host in a roundabout and sneaky way. Which is wrong. People should link back to your site with a direct text link because they want to. Not because you're threatening them with not being featured at your party if they don't! 

And yes, you better believe, that Google is aware of this policy and it is considered to be link scheming. Just think about it:

I average between 130 and 170 links each Tuesday at my party. If I required every entry to have a link back to me that's 130 to 170 backlinks hitting the search bots and it would undoubtedly help to increase my page rank. Say I keep that up for a month. At the end of the four weeks, that's a whopping 600 weak backlinks flooding Google. At the end of a year, if the pace stayed the same,there would be over 3,000 backlinks pointing to my blog. 

From the point of view of someone who's trying to grow their blog and do better in Google, that's very appealing, but the way those links would have been acquired is wrong. Building links that way doesn't level the playing field. Those weak backlinks can falsely catapult a crappy blogger who runs daily link parties for exposure above a better blogger who doesn't run link parties.

Begging, demanding and bartering for links is inappropriate, guys. 

So what can hosts do? I'd suggest incorporating buttons for your party that display information about your party and not just about your blog. Also, don't beg people to post your button. Of course, you can let your participants know that you have a button and I even include mine in my party post but I'll never mention it in a comment or hound someone to put it on their page. They will if they want to. And if they do, great. If they don't, that's okay too.

Also, refrain from demanding that people go back and edit their entries or alter their post template to include the badge! It's their blog. Their work and their reputation. Why would you want to plaster your name all over it? Think about it: would you go into someone's house and demand they put up pictures of your family? 

And what can party partcipants do? Take a stand! If you don't want someone elses's button or link on your post; don't put it there! If you don't want to display party buttons on your sidebar: don't. 

At the end of the day, link parties are meant to be fun ways for the blogging community to engage with one another, find new posts to read and new people to follow. When people turn them into popularity drives and demand backlinks and for participants to jump through hoops just to be involved, it demeans and detracts from the purpose of a link party. 

Remember, I'm no expert on blogging or on link parties. Everything I've discussed is opinion and first-hand explanation of how I and my bloggy friends run parties.  

What are your thoughts? Are a party host who asks people to link back? Why do you/did you? Are a party participant who links back to every party? Why do you? Do you feel that it's exploiting and bad link scheming? 

  

4 comments:

  1. Hi Anyonita, love the blog!
    Just come across this post from a search I was doing in Google. I'm so glad you posted this, I don't host parties but do attend them every now and then. I have a small list published on my blog that has a text link to it in my sidebar for the parties I visit. This is there for 2 reasons: 1. I tend to forget which parties I like to join as I don't have much time to do so very often, and 2. I have found these lists on other peoples blogs really helpful when I didn't know how to do / where to find link parties when I was starting out.

    But my word, am I glad you feel the same way about the whole backlink culture! It really puts me off joining a link party if the party post states in capitals that you MUST do this you MUST follow that and you HAVE to link here in every single post. I agree, it's your blog that you've worked hard on, including your branding. You don't want other people's branding all over yours, it gets too messy for your readers. I love your 'putting your family photos up in someone else's house' comparison. Although these backlinks do give you a higher ranking, surely it would feel a bit fake to the party host when they know that half their views are forced.

    We all know it's tough to get your blog out in the world for people to see, but as you say, the parties should be about joining together to appreciate other blogger's talent, not forcing people to advertise your own site.

    This blogging world is a wonderful community that I'm proud to be a part of, but it's even nicer to finally find someone that feels the same way as me, I was starting to wonder if I was the only one that didn't like the demanding of links culture!

    Will definitely have to remember to join your parties in the future. :) Thanks for this fab post! X

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  2. Hi!
    Thank you for stopping by: I'm so sad that my G+ comments have been wiped out. There was a good discussion in there that you would have liked! It got pretty heated about people talking about why they ask for linkbacks etc. It's always refreshing to hear the opinion of a party participant. And ya know, Google's on your side, too! They consider that type of link building to be spam so party hosts are in danger of getting their pages blocked for requiring participants to link back.

    Please do feel free to stop by one of the parties I run & share some food with us! :) You'd be more than welcome to!

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  3. Another helpful and informative post! When I first started participating in link parties I put their buttons at the bottom of my posts. But my posts got junky really quickly. So I created a "Spread the Love" page where I include buttons with no follow links back to the blogs I link up with. That way everything is one place for anyone who cares to see it and doesn't junk up each post with stuff most people don't want to read. I do actually look at those pages on other blogs to find out about other link parties and guest posting opportunities so it's possible the blogs will get some traffic out of it from mine. Periodically I check my stats and if I see that I've gotten only 0-2 clicks from a certain blog after participating in a link-up numerous times, I delete the button. I like to promote and support people that a) do the same for me or b) I think my readers will enjoy. Beyond that, anything else just detracts from the experience on my own blog. On top of all that, for the SEO reasons you mentioned, it's not a good idea to have those links each post.

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    Replies
    1. I think that's exactly the thing to do! It was always so disheartening for me when I took the time to link up (I don't get to as often these days) & hosts wouldn't even acknowledge my contribution! It can be a difficult balance to get right; like on those mega parties with 400+ links. That would take a lot of time, but I personally think, if your site is being accessed 400+ times and people are paying you in traffic; you could at least give them something in return!

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