A forthcoming paper in Management Science investigates the theoretical reasons behind blog links. Linking one’s blog to another blog by way of static or dynamic links is common in the blogosphere.
In a small random sample of blogs, we found that 61% of blogs contained at least one link to another site in the last 10 posts, with approximately 72% of links going to other blogs, 13% to newspaper sites, and the rest to other sites.
However, on face value the practice of linking to another (potentially rival) blog might lead to some complications, and thus seems counter-intuitive.
First, a reader who follows the outgoing link may not return to the original site in the short run. Second, a link implies that the linked blog has interesting content, which can improve the reader’s perception of a competing site.
Using a game theoretic model, the authors of this paper show that bloggers link to another blog, not just in mere expectation of reciprocity (i.e. link to me because I linked to you), which happens to be the most common reasoning given by blog gurus.
Instead, bloggers link due to their desire to signal the quality of their own blog. By linking to another blog, bloggers not just showcase their own ability to find breaking news, but also signal the ability of the linked blog to break news. On the whole, this kind of behavior leads to an increase in the overall experience of readers.
Bloggers link because doing so improves the reader’s inference about the blog’s quality and ultimately increases the readership to their site
An important implication of these findings are that the sum of links of a blog can be a proxy for blog success / quality.
… we find that both the number of incoming and outgoing links may serve as a
metric of blog quality.
So what are you waiting for? Let the links begin!
Image by xkcd
Mayzlin, D. and Yoganarasimhan, H. “Link to Success: How Blogs Build an Audience by Promoting Rivals”, Management Science.
mnsc.1110.1510; published online before print July 30, 2012, doi:10.1287/mnsc.1110.1510