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Link Popularity Case Study: The Domino Effect of Inbound Links

April 3, 2015

For the link-building search nerd, little matches the joy of scoring a really great link. About a month ago, a post on my personal blog got a link from The Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan's blog, which is ranked #12 on Technorati's Top 100 Blogs and has a Toolbar PageRank of 8.

Now, I'm pretty sure Andrew Sullivan doesn't subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter (to be fair, I don't follow him either). So how did this come about? Via domino effect: Over the course of about 15 days, I accumulated a series of inbound links, including a few quality links early on, one of which was clearly the tip-off for the Daily Dish link.

Domino Effect Infographic

This very high-authority link (which, sadly, went up over a weekend) sent a big spike of traffic and led to a mini-long-tail of links from sites and blogs with mid-range to low authority, amounting to more than 4,700 page views in total for the post.

Here's a closer look at the data, not including links that sent five or fewer visitors.

Domino Effect Data

Most of the links that followed the Daily Dish link came from new referrers, many of the sites "outside my space" (I primarily write about poetry on my blog). So they were clearly a result of the domino effect, rather than unrelated links.

Here's the narrative I impose on this data:

  1. Bookslut's Jessa Crispin saw the link in The Rumpus and blogged it.
  2. A Bookslut reader submitted the post to StumbleUpon.
  3. The Bookslut and StumbleUpon links led to several other low and medium-authority links.
  4. Someone at The Daily Dish (perhaps not Mr. Sullivan himself) found the post via one of these venues, most likely Bookslut.
  5. The sheer number of eyeballs rained on The Daily Dish that Saturday led to dozens of additional links, though only two of those subsequent links drove significant traffic. 

The lesson here, to state the obvious, is that a high-quality link is worth a lot more than its face value (domain authority, traffic delivered), because it has the tendency to trigger a chain reaction of additional inbound links.

(By the way, the post in question was not created or promoted specifically as linkbait, though we encourage that strategy. This just goes to show that every now and then, good content finds its audience with minimal help. In other words, being awesome is half the battle.)

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream's Sr. Manager of Content Marketing and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.