The Selflessness of Top Bloggers

Filed as Features on June 11, 2007 5:11 am

Except for a few of the top notch bloggers (I’m sure you can name names but I won’t), the majority of the most popular bloggers on any subject have one key characteristic in common: selflessness.

According to the simplified definition, selflessness is a form of altruism, “the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others”, and “acting with less concern for yourself than for the success of the joint activity”.

Many assume that a blog is characterized by the part of its definition with includes “my opinion”, “my perspective”, “my thoughts”, and “my words”. A blog is about “my story”, but when you really boil a blog down, it’s not about “me”, it’s about “them”. The others.

Part of the function of a blog is to make recommendations. The core architecture includes blogrolls and link lists. There is even <blockquote> and <cite HTML tags to contain references and recommendations of what others say.

Estimates range from 75-96% of all content on the web is not original. In other words, ignoring splogs, scrapers and plagiarists, the majority of the content on the web references other sources, not original content.

There is more to this inherent selflessness found within the top bloggers. It’s a confidence that the blogger’s recommendation to leave their blog for another will establish a reputation that will make more readers return.

Think about that.

I recommend a blog or website resource. You leave my blog to go check it out. My expectation is that you will return, not just you alone, but bring friends with you when you come back. That’s a lot of self-confidence wrapped up in my selflessness.

How many businesses rely upon that kind of business plan? They tell you to go away and you come back with more customers?

Welcome to the New World of Business

Pixelated handshakeBlogs are changing the way we communicate and do business. I think of this new trend as part of the “playground” of the blogosphere. The Disneyland blog effect. It’s so much fun, you don’t want to go back alone, you want to bring friends and family back with you.

If the recommendation is good enough, you will be so delighted, and can’t help but tell your friends about the recommendation. Oh, by the way, casually mention that “Lorelle recommended it”, and boom, I become a resource for good recommendations.

There is a fine line to the success of this selflessness.

If all you do is recommend your visitors go elsewhere, without much content to explain why a reader is justified in leaving and returning, then you become an outsourcing blog, specializing in offering little or no original content just links off your blog.

That works for some blogs like Engadget and TechCrunch, but look closely. They review and describe what it is you will find when you get there, building excitement about the product or service. Their outgoing links come with content. You learn to trust their recommendations because they come with wisdom and insights. It’s not about the links, it’s about the trusting relationship built through those well-written recommendations that keeps people coming back to the source for more places to go visit.

Without the content to back up the recommendation, you are just a link resource, which can work in some cases, if the links are well categorized and themed. Purposeful. Otherwise, you are just one of many linking to anything and everything that catches your eye and not a consistent resource.

With nothing but reviews, recommendations, and links off your blog, your blog isn’t about you. It’s about what you recommend. With the increased awareness in blog branding and identity, if it is important to be known as “you”, the blogger, trusted for what you have to say and who you recommend. This needs to be matched equally as you, the blogger, as a resource, offering content that brings readers in, only to let them go, knowing your reputation for quality outgoing links will keep them returning for more.

Finding the combination of “me” content with “them” content is a balancing act. Some bloggers can get away with a lot of outgoing links and only a little original content. Others need more original content, as they are the “expert”, and only a few outgoing links. The rest fall in the middle.

The key to becoming a successful selfless blogger is finding that happy medium, but also not being afraid to give your audience away. Link because the link matters. Because you understand your readers and know the value of what you recommend. They will appreciate you even more for that trust.

Don’t equate selflessness with link games. Yes, many hold memes and contests that look like selfless promotion of others, but they are really ways to get many to link to them through the illusion of linking to many. You are smart enough now to spot when there is sincerity in the selfless meme or contest and when there is link juice involved, right?

But there are those who sincerely want to help you blog, live, and work better. Who reach out with open, honest, trusting mentorship to point you in the right direction. Their altruism goes down to their toes. It’s not a game for them, it’s part of their life and blogging experience to care about others and want to encourage their success, using link recommendations as part of building those relationships with other bloggers and their readers.

They are the bloggers you want to return to.


Lorelle VanFossen blogs about blogging and WordPress on and author of Blogging Tips, Tips Bloggers Won’t Tell You About Blogging.

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