Lately, I’ve been besieged with pleas for me to…
…review books in a sort of “reviews for links” mutually beneficial pact.
…join a network of bloggers.
…sell ad space on Cerulean Sanctum.
…list my site on the latest Christian group blogroll.
All four have been troubling, but only one of those will receive the most attention in this post. Care to guess which?
* I like books, but I can’t do book reviews. I simply don’t have the time. While the Canadian government has successfully cloned Tim Challies so he can attend conferences, review books and DVDs, write books, work as a Web designer, and post meaningfully 365 days a year for years on end, I stand for hours at a time somewhere in the middle of my house mumbling, “Now what was I doing?” Like everyone else, I blame George W. Bush for halting the American counterpart to Canada’s wildly successful human cloning program. I suspect, though, that should a clone of Dan Edelen ever be delivered to my household, the two of us would collide in the middle of the house, stare at each other vacantly for hours, and eventually get around to asking in stereo, “Now what were we doing?”
* Network of bloggers? Last time I looked, they called that The Internet. It’s some little doodad Al Gore devised out of carbon offsets.
* Long ago, I promised not to sell ad space here. While some bloggers make $10,000+ a month off ads, I spend about that much per month trying to fend off hotlinkers, sploggers, and a host of other vampiric creatures from the nether regions of cyberspace. Selling ads makes you beholden to your advertisers, and since I manage to cheese off just about everyone in Christendom at some point or other during the course of my regular blogging, I can’t see how that would ever work. Don’t want to sell my soul to the company store, if you catch my drift. I do put in a few hours a day on this blog, and that does take me away from paid work, so I’m considering a tip jar. And yes, I’ve been sweating that consideration for about eighteen months now—but that’s not what this post is about.
* No this post is about that last item of the four: listing my site on (and subsequently hosting) group blogrolls. Seems like a score of people are pushing their homegrown group blogroll or award badge. Just Add Your Link Here! and you’ll be assured of instant blogging success! Here’s the code! Just shove it into your sidebar! You’ll be at the top of the charts in no time!
I started blogging in the Cambrian Period of blogdom, when giant Web Trilobites roamed cyberspace, feasting on the dying flesh of Usenet. Glenn Reynolds was known mostly as a geeky law professor in a Red State, while James Lileks was actually still shopping at Kmart. Back then, having anyone link to your blog seemed tantamount to a marriage proposal, as if you were legally indebted to the linker. To not reciprocate the link sent shockwaves through blogdom, causing grown men to faint dead away and women to spontaneously combust.
Nowadays, though, some people must spend all day signing up for (and hosting) group blogrolls and adding yet another award badge to their ever-increasing numbers of sidebars. It used to be a sort of knowing wink-wink, this game. See, these newfangled sites like Technorati and will rate your site and—clap!—PUMP YOU UP, or at least pump up your blog, so you can, well…be pumped up.
Now I admit I have a TTLB Ecosystem listing on my site. I joined the Ecosystem during the Permian Period of blogdom. Thought the darn thing kind of cute, truth be told. But what then to make of all these folks trying to get me to join their own group blogroll?
Now before I go any further in this little exposé, I want to put up a disclaimer:
I’M JUST HAPPY THAT ANYONE READS CERULEAN SANCTUM.
I mentioned recently that my failure to slavishly check my logs led to 200,000 hits in the last three months from MySpace users hotlinking my image files (all public domain images, ironically). Visitor logs? For me, it’s not about how many readers this blog gets. I was ecstatic when I got a comment early into my blogging life. I’m still ecstatic when you folks comment here. Tells me people do read what I write. But it’s not about numbers and never has been.
Unfortunately, it seems to be about numbers for some other Christian folks and that bugs me, especially when we consider why it matters to them. So I did some digging over at The Truth Laid Bear.
If you take a look at theover at TTLB, you’ll notice rankings listing the real movers and shakers in Godblogdom. You can also mosey over to check out the Ecosystem rankings. The two go together in that the higher ranked Christian blogs in the Ecosystem populate the tops of the Blogdom of God, too. As it should be.
Yet all is not what it appears to be, for if you starting looking behind those top Blogdom of God blogs, you begin to see a lot of unfamiliar blog names. Now I’m not going to name any of those blogs here, but if you’ve been blogging long enough, you get an idea of which blogs are the ones most people read. The same blog names keep cropping up as references in other blogs. (There’s a reason for this, which I’ll explain later.)
I decided to do a little detective work on those unfamiliar blogs at the upper echelons of the Blogdom of God and found a curious trend. Randomly picking out a bunch I’d never seen referenced anywhere else, I checked to see if they had any stat counters on their sites. Most of them did, because most people like to know how popular their blog is. What I found surprised me.
Many of those unfamiliar blogs proved unfamiliar because their stats showed hardly anyone read them. One of those top-ranked blogs got an average of just 29 hits a day. Several of them were under 100. But if that’s the case, how’d they get to be Large Mammals or Playful Primates in the Ecosystem, or wind up so high in the Blogdom of God rankings?
Answer: They had a gazillion outsider group blogrolls in their sidebars.
The TTLB Ecosystem loves blogs that contain a bevy of blogrolls. So do Technorati and the rest. This explains the sudden surge in people asking you and me to join their group blogrolls. Those folks load up their sidebars with group blogrolls like “Association of Reformed Bloggers,” “League of Christian Women Bloggers,” “Bloggers Against Arminian Bloggers,” “Bloggers Fighting Mad About This U2 Liturgy Thingie,” “The Cabal of Bloggers Who Think We Should Kill ‘Em All and Let God Sort ‘Em Out,” and “The Holy Exalted Host of Bloggers So Exclusively Reformed As to Deny Calvin a Chair in Our Club.” (Every once in a while you get a “Hey, Pentecostals Blog Too, So Can We Have Blogroll?” blogroll, but that one only has a dozen blogs on it, so technically it doesn’t count in this discussion.)
Some folks think this proliferation of hosted third-party blogrolls will push the Christian blogs displaying them up the charts of those ranking sites. They consider this the chance for us Christian bloggers to show the rest of the world that we’re a force to be reckoned with. Onward Christian Bloggers and all.
But loading up our sidebars with group blogrolls to artificially pump up our blog site rankings is precisely the wrong way to get the world to sit up and take notice.
I have one sidebar on this site, and two blogrolls, my own personal roll and Joe Carter’s. Joe’s been out there for a while, and his The Evangelical Outpost tops the charts because of hard work. Joe put up his group blogroll, , in an effort to let other Christian bloggers out there find other Christian blogs. I link to that blogroll because that’s how I saw it, too. For being one of the first to feature a diverse set of Christian blogs that crossed denominational lines, Joe’s blogroll made it into my sidebar.
Today, however, blogrolls proliferate at a rate unheard of when Joe created The Church Directory. And considering that most of these new group blogrolls feature the same blogs ad nauseum, the point gets lost. I don’t even look at these third-party group blogrolls anymore because I don’t have the time to scroll through a thousand blogs. Nor do I have the time to scroll through the sidebar at a Christian blog that loads up with twenty group blogrolls of mostly duplicated blog titles. While the Ecosystem loves to rank a blog with a trillion outgoing links near the top of its rankings, I’ve got to believe a better means exists for us Christians to make a stand for Christ in the blogosphere.
How about writing great content? Don’t posts that get us thinking make all the difference? If we Christian bloggers merely add noise to the signal, we’ll be ignored. Better that we write the kind of profound words that will have others linking to us rather than us linking somewhere else in an effort to look more important than we are. Honestly, why should we care that we’re in the top 5,000 blogs at Technorati if we got there only on a sidebar jammed with external links? If no one reads us, isn’t that counterproductive to the plan some of these bloggers have to use blogroll bloat to show how important Christianity is in the blogosphere?
We know the Bible. We know what happens to people who make themselves out to be bigger than they are. They get exposed. Then shamed.
When a blogger puts a dozen off-site-hosted group blogrolls in his sidebars, I ignore those rolls. Let’s be honest here. If someone offered you a thousand links that came from outside the blog you were visiting, what’s your chance of picking one name out of that list and finding something worth reading? Who has the time for that kind of random excursion through the blogosphere?
Those of you who have Cerulean Sanctum on one of your personal blogrolls (as opposed to these group blogrolls I’ve been discussing), I wish to thank you. People do take those small, personal blogrolls to heart. On some of the smaller blogs with limited numbers of blogs listed in their personal rolls, they do result in people coming over. I get links from other blogs that way.
Even then, I get far more traffic from people googling. They’re googling content. They’re looking for something in particular. Yes, some want the images, but even then, many drop me a line and later stay on as readers. For those looking for the written word, what ends up in text on Cerulean Sanctum matters. Some folks need help and they’re desperate to find it. If you’re a Christian blogger, fill your blog with meaningful words that will minister to others. Don’t fill it with someone else’s blogrolls.
Truth: If you’re a Christian blogger, prove Jesus Christ lives and breathes in you by offering Spirit-filled posts that build up others and point people to Him. Don’t waste your time playing a game of pumping up your blog ranking with a bunch of outsider blogrolls so you appear important. Be important by saying something important. If you do, folks who need to hear what you’re saying will find you.
Just something to think about.