Guess what bloggers? Self-promotion is just fine, as long as it is relevant

by Mack Collier

Amy Africa is one of my favorite people.  One of the things I like about Amy is that she has a very different perspective toward blogging and social media than most of my friends that are immersed in using these tools.  In fact, she often does things the exact opposite of many social media ‘experts’, and her favorite hashtag is #yousocialmediapeoplekillme.

I was thinking of this when I read Amy’s fantabulous post today on how bloggers can create an email newsletter (Seriously the post is must-read.  Please go, we’ll be here when you get back).  But as I was reading the post, I quickly noticed something: She had a TON of links in her post.  So I counted, and she had EIGHT links!  And what’s worse, SIX of them were to HER CONTENT!  And then she was bold enough to add a call-to-action at the end asking readers to email her!

And you know what?  It all works out perfectly.  Every link, even the 6 to her own content, are enhancing the post.  They are offering reference points that make us smarter.  Sure, they are links to Amy’s content, but she’s not positioning the links as being self-promotional, she’s adding the links cause they expand upon points she is making in the post.

And then she closes with a perfect call to action: “Any more questions?  Jot them in the comments below or send me an e-mail to info@amyafrica.com.  Thanks for writing!”

Sheer smartitude.  But how many of us would cringe at linking to our own content even twice in one post, much less 6 freakin’ times!

I don’t think most of us would, so to test my theory, I visited the latest post from a few of my favorite bloggers.  These are all people and blogs that are very well-known and popular.  But I wanted to see how often they link to their own content.  Here’s what I found:

1 – Convince and Convert – Post: Can Courtney Love Be Sued For Tweeting.

# of links to bloggers’ content in the post: 0 (but 2 in the bio before post)

2 – Chris Brogan – Post: Bartering in the Digital Age.

# of links to bloggers’ content in the post: 1 (company)

3 – The Harte of Marketing – Post: Saturday Morning Reads: Personas…Do You Really Know Your Customers?

# of links to bloggers’ content in the post: 2 (Both to past posts)

4 – Conversation Agent – Post: Michael Port Wants You to Think Big.

# of links to bloggers’ content in the post: 0

5 – Social Media Explorer – Post: The Cowbell of Communications.

# of links to bloggers’ content in the post: 0

And to be fair, I only added one link to my content in my last post, to The Viral Garden.  So in ONE post, Amy added as many links to her content as all SIX of us did in our last post.  I think this is another example of how some bloggers, especially in the social media space, need to get over our hangups about self-promotion.  If you told most bloggers that someone added 6 links to their own content in each post they wrote, many people would call them ‘shameless self-promoters’.  But every one of Amy’s links makes perfect sense, and improves the overall quality of the post.

Remember when I recently blogged about the Popular Posts plugin for WordPress and how smart it is to give your readers a way to find your older content?  How is what Amy did in her post any different?

How often do YOU link to your older posts in your newer ones?  If you do this often, what benefits have you seen on your blog?

{ 22 comments }

Greenleigh January 19, 2011 at 6:56 pm

The informed position against blogger self-promotion was never an ethical objection. I always tell bloggers that if it feels self-serving, it probably isn’t. I mean that posts that are blatantly self-promotional without adding something rarely get traction, trigger conversions or result in anything else that actually serves the blogger. I just rewrote our Bazaarblog mission statement to include: “Our blog must help readers before it will help us.” Because that’s the truth. I’m not an idealist–I’m a realist that tries to do what works.

Beth Harte January 19, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I LOVE AMY!!! Seriously, a huge fan. Sheer smartitude, indeed. ;-)

Want to know why I link to my own stuff? Because, as you said, it’s relevant and two, because not many people are blogging about what I am blogging about (customer-centric marketing). I try to link out more than internally, but the links have got to make sense or give someone more in-depth information than I am offering.

I think if you are in a specific industry or in a niche, it’s more than okay to link to yourself or even, wait for it… not at all.

Beth Harte
http://www.theharteofmarketing.com
@bethharte

Mack Collier January 19, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Yes Beth, you did a great job, and had five links to external posts/articles in that post. I think a lot of us could do this more by simply paying attention to what we are writing and how we could reference a past post. Thanks for giving me a good example to follow ;)

Jay Baer January 19, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Very interesting Mack. Amy is a smart cookie, that’s for sure. What’s more, I’d guess Brian Clark and Darren Rowse link to their content too. Probably Lee Odden as well.

In my defense, I did not right the post you cited. Guest post from an attorney. I typically link 2-3 times per post to my own stuff, as much for the SEO benefit as for the actual “click here for awesomeness” benefit.

Six times is a lot!

Mack Collier January 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Jay just curious, have you seen any noticeable gain in search traffic from leaving more internal links? Or did you always do that? I know in my case, I could and probably should do it more.

And yes, I’ve noticed that CopyBlogger and Problogger do a lot more. Maybe that have figured out something? ;)

Debra Ellis January 19, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Hi Mack,

Normally, I tell people to create their own strategy, but if someone isn’t inclined to do so, copying Amy will take him or her a long way. She studies her craft and knows how to make people click.

As an add-on to your post, I’d suggest controlling your links more. All of yours open in the same window. If you have a path you want people to follow, from one post to another until they hit the revenue stream, that works perfectly. Sending people away from your site doesn’t work as well.

It’s rare to find someone coming back to the original post after being sent to a post on another site, and following the links there to another, and so on. It’s like the rabbit hole in “Alice in Wonderland”. It’s a lot harder to get back than it is to go forward.

If you set your links to open in another tab or window, your readers can explore all they want to without losing their place in your blog. In addition to helping them find their way back, you’ll reduce your bounce rate and increase your time per visitor. And, if you have internal links along with the external ones, your pages per visitor will increase, too. Links, when relevant and managed well, are very beneficial.

Mack Collier January 19, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Thanks for the tip, Debra. How could we set out links to open in a new window versus just opening in the same one?

Debra Ellis January 20, 2011 at 5:45 am

If you add target=”_blank” to your link code. For example, your post has this link in it: Popular Posts plugin for WordPress

Changing it to:Popular Posts plugin for WordPress will open it in a new window or tab depending on the browser the reader is using. It takes a little extra time, but it is worth the effort.

Mack Collier January 20, 2011 at 10:56 am

Debra both of those links opened in THIS window.

I am wondering, is the change you are talking about something that can be done in Settings or something similar to affect all links? Thanks for helping us ;)

Debra Ellis January 20, 2011 at 11:09 am

Hi Mack,

My answer included the actual html code. It was truncated and changed into a link. I’ll try something different. I wrote a post about this a while back. It is here: http://wilsonellisconsulting.com/wordpress/how-to-keep-website-visitors-on-your-site-longer/

It won’t work with every site because it uses framing. The HTML powers that be want it to go away and haven’t developed a replacement. I’m hopeful that the replacement will come soon.

Valeria Maltoni January 19, 2011 at 9:47 pm

You might want to read more often, Mack. Today’s post was about Michael, an interview… one post on a day when I usually publish reviews and interviews does not a statistically relevant sample make.

I very often tie posts together – 3 pertinent links here http://www.conversationagent.com/2011/01/why-customer-service-in-social-is-not-fair.html, 5 applicable links here http://www.conversationagent.com/2011/01/moving-pr-to-public-relationships.html, 6 illustrative links summarized here http://www.conversationagent.com/2011/01/connecting-people-is-the-secret-to-success.html. I also link out a lot to the posts and articles authored by others.

Mack Collier January 19, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Valeria I’m sorry if you took my mentioning your blog as an insult, and I wasn’t trying to say that you or anyone else was doing anything ‘wrong’. And for the record, your blog is one of the few ones I do read on a regular basis, but I will try to read it more often.

Valeria Maltoni January 20, 2011 at 9:39 am

Mack, I was just illustrating that I do dig into the rich archives of the blog often when on point and helpful to readers… statistical accuracy is a fact, not a judgment ;-)

Mack Collier January 20, 2011 at 11:02 am

Again Valeria, I wasn’t attempting to make a judgment on you or your posting style, and I do deeply apologize if I upset you with this post, wasn’t my intention.

And my post was accurate. I listed the number of links in your most recent post at the time. I didn’t mention any other posts you left, that’s information that you supplied here, and it helps us better understand the content you create on your blog.

Amy Africa January 20, 2011 at 12:23 am

Mack, you know I adore you so I am confident that you will understand why I ask “how is self promotion shameless? If you don’t promote yourself, exactly who is going to promote you?”

Granted, I know jack about social media and I read very few social media blogs. I don’t particularly want to know which body parts people want Everybody’s Favorite Whipping Boy to grow bigger. Plus, the next person who tells me that I can get everything I want in life by just “being remarkable” is going to get punched in the face. (I’m also going to kick their fairy, de-horn their unicorn and snort their pixie dust. Rainbows and butterflies be damned.)

But I digress…. I am likely a “shameless self-promoter.” I am not going to debate that. However, I don’t understand why linking to your own content is cringe-worthy. I know that #yousocialmediapeoplewhokillme believe that, but I truly don’t understand why. I was just trying to be helpful.

Almost half the people who come to my blog are new. Most of them don’t know me from Adam and they have no context of what I’ve written before. Isn’t it my job as a hostess to show them around and make sure they feel comfortable? Before you say anything, you were the one who made me realize that bloggers — myself included — really underestimate the value of new traffic.

I’ve been doing this web stuff for a very long time and a lot of the stuff I’ve found works best is the EXACT opposite of what the “experts” recommend. Do I always like what works? No. But that’s the thing, I don’t have to — I am not my customer. I am not the one paying my bills — they are — and they are the ones I need to keep happy. Maybe not puppies-and-ponies-happy but satisfied nonetheless.

P.S. Thanks for the kind words — I really do appreciate them.

Shailender @ Romantic Getaways January 20, 2011 at 5:47 am

Nice tip here Mack, You need to place your links as per the requirement of the post u don’t need to count your links just use them to make your post more relevant and complete.

Ike January 20, 2011 at 6:01 am

Hi Mack…

I wrote the post at Social Media Explorer that you reference, and as there are now 11 non-Jason authors there, it can be a little difficult to keep up with everything that could be relevant.

However, in the bio just after the post, I linked to the following:

my crisis communications consultancy – http://positiveposition.com/
my speaking page – http://occamsrazr.com/about-the-author/speaking/
my regular blog – http://occamsrazr.com/
my online business card – http://ikepigott.com/
my Twitter account – http://twitter.com/ikepigott

Additionally, that post you cited was also part of a larger effort. I promoted it with a Posterous Video ( http://post.ly/1VSLZ ) that was edited into the post later in the day — and of course Twitter, Facebook and Youtube were all littered with the links that drove people to the post:

- http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150127621382930&comments
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKEhYJ7BxOc

So, in this instance… I can have some slack? ;)

Mack Collier January 20, 2011 at 9:47 am

Guys I *really* didn’t mean to imply that anyone was doing anything ‘wrong’ based on the number of links to their own content they do or do not have in their posts. That’s why I included my last post as well, to show that I also didn’t link out much to my own content.

My main point was to show how Amy, who does NOT come from a social media background, might have a different perspective toward linking to her own content, than some of the rest of us bloggers. I do think in general, that many bloggers have too many unfounded hangups about being self-promotional, and I really think we notice it a LOT more than anyone else, in most cases.

And BTW, I listed each of those blogs specifically to show that these are the blogs that *I* read and enjoy. Not to single y’all out as doing anything ‘wrong’.

Kelly Queijo January 20, 2011 at 6:20 am

When I read Amy Africa’s blog, I expect her blog post to show me a clear example of what she could do for me/my site were I to become a client. By linking to her site’s relevant content (and I agree, that is the key), she’s implementing a strategy that keeps the reader engaged and active on the site. Internal links are subtle, nondemonstrative calls-to-action. I wouldn’t link to something I did not want you to click on. In fact, I make it point to write the majority of my content so that each post relates to something previously published on my site. I consider it an integrated marketing approach to content development.

For example, if I write about a smart learning opportunity at a university, then I consider every thing I’ve published about that school on SmartCollegeVisit to be relevant. If I’ve been successful enough to engage you as a reader about how college students at this particular school are expanding their educational horizons and building a foundation for successful careers, then I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to know more about this school and I want to be the one to provide that info. Self promotion? I hope so.

Mack Collier January 20, 2011 at 9:49 am

Kelly that is one of the smartest comments left here in ages ;) Love the ‘integrated marketing approach to content development’!

Debra Ellis January 20, 2011 at 10:17 am

Hi Mack,

Kelly makes an excellent point which leads to this question: How is a link to content that improves people’s understanding of your subject “self-promotional”?

It seems to me that sharing your knowledge freely (as in no charge) is giving, not taking. It is ironic to me that the same group that decries self-promotion created the environment that caused the FTC to issue a full disclosure ruling.

Bottom line: Providing links to free information that helps others is not self-promotion. Affiliate links are.

Nia Nielsen January 21, 2011 at 10:29 am

Mack one of my favorite non-marketing blogs, Young House Love, does this all the time. Check out this post: http://www.younghouselove.com/2011/01/claras-room/ where they reference several times previous posts/projects they had done.

I think the links work because they build on the conversation. It makes the blog seem cohesive and strategic, all while deepening the relationship they have with their readers. Reading Young House Love feels a lot like sitting down with an old friend and saying “remember the time…”

And let’s face it, there are too many blogs out there to read all of them all of the time. It allows me the chance to read deeper when I find a subject that is particularly interesting, or a quick check in when I take a five minute break.

-Nia

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