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October 02, 2007

Tech Blog Link Power: Spiky Visitors or Sticky Visitors?


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While many tech bloggers live for the instant, drug-like satisfaction of hitting the Digg front page, or getting picked up by StumbleUpon or Slashdot, that rush of one-time visitors doesn't last long, and they won't come back again. A Digg visitor is usually one that won't comment, won't bookmark, and won't remember your URL.

Repeat visitors to tech blogs usually aren't forged by traffic spikes from well-known news hubs. Nor are they from search engines. It's a rare blog or Web site that can drive both high levels of both one-time visitors and repeat visitors. In fact, in my experience over the last two years of technology blogging, the very best sources for repeat, engaged visitors are:

1. Robert Scoble / Scobleizer
2. TechMeme
3. My own comments on similarly-focused blogs
4. Links from other B-List Bloggers
5. Shared Link Blogs (such as those from Scoble, Webomatica and others)

In fact, while I don't want to give Robert all the credit here, I have seen his hand in some of my highest-traffic posts. Often, his addition of my posts to his shared link blog or his own blog later leads to other bloggers linking, which pushes my post to TechMeme, in turn, leading to more follow-on posts and residual traffic.

But I can't just sit around and "write for Scoble", hoping he'll throw pixie dust my way. In order to engage with the crowd and encourage return visits, I need to link to others, make comments on other similar blogs, and make tools for engagement, like my RSS feed and MyBlogLog, easily accessible.

Thus, I've broken the Link Power Index into four sections:

1. High spikiness, low stickiness (Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Megite, Slashdot)
2. Low spikiness, low stickiness (Google, Facebook, Technorati, Yahoo!)
3. Low spikiness, high stickiness (RSS, word of mouth, comments, LinkedIn, B-List linking)
4. High spikiness, high stickiness (Scobleizer, TechMeme, Shared Link Blogs, MacSurfer)

Last month, "BeachBum" asked, in regards to some of my less-desirable visitors from Google Images, "Do you find that the porn traffic converts or do they just come and go?". The answer is no. None of them convert. Unless I start writing about porn full-time, they're not coming back, and that's okay. While a one-time visitor may have found a keyword sequence on Google that had your blog listed #1 overall, it's unlikely they're your demographic.

In fact, surprisingly, links from B-List and A-List bloggers have been more useful to me than links from more mainstream media. While I was flattered to see coverage of one of September's posts on MSNBC.com and the Houston Chronicle, they didn't drive the traffic of a strong link aggregator, and their visitors, as far as I could tell, were one-offs.

If you want a one-time spike of traffic, go ahead and write to make the front page of Digg (Yuvi Panda's Round 2 analysis of Digg's front page shows how...) or get a group of friends to Stumble your content. But to cultivate readers and engage with the blogging community, you should comment often, share ideas with your peers, and hope somebody with real pull, like Scoble, or MacSurfer, notices your effort.

The above image is how I've interpreted sticky traffic vs. spiky traffic to louisgray.com in the last year-plus. Do you have any comments or insight? Am I off the mark, or have you seen similar behavior? Please let me know, and feel free to use the image yourself. Links back are always appreciated.

Also on this topic: Chris Brogan: Scoble Effect Better Than Digg and Search Engine Land: December 2006 Statistics Review