Why the Fuss about BlogRush?

Seriously, guys. I’m getting bombarded with BlogRush requests from left and right. Even Sphinn has seen its share of requests.

My question for you all is: Why?

For those of you who don’t know, BlogRush is essentially a traffic exchange BlogRoll. You install a widget on your site and get “free syndicated blog traffic” (if people click on the links!)

As I said this morning on Search Engine Roundtable, I admit, there are some pretty good spokespeople who are helping promote the product. I’ve read from Jeremy Schoemaker, Andy Beal, Maki, John Chow, Sean at Mashable, and Darren Rowse, among others.

But here’s the only thing Blogrush has going for it right now:

Blogrush's Alexa Stats

One word: Hype. That’s it.

Ben Cook wrote an incredible review about the shortcomings of BlogRush. His post is worth a read (there were referral concerns at first, as all URLs contain a referral ID; this seems to be addressed now, however), but there are other issues that bother me.

BlogRush isn’t a novel idea. A couple of months ago, I was contacted via MyBlogLog about the Criteo widget that displays related blogs. I gave that a try for several months and it didn’t do much to drive traffic. In fact, I noticed that the pure existence of another widget is clutter. I like MyBlogLog because avatars are unique and catch the eye, but blog titles are just words on a screen. In a way, I would consider having a blog with titles simply banner blindness and would tend to ignore it. I don’t think I’m alone.

Let me ask another question: how many of you actually pay close attention to the widgets on other sites? Do you even pay much attention to the sidebars of blogs? If you do, how often?

Eye Tracking

According to this image above (source), this is where your readers will typically go: the content first, the sidebars second. If your widget is below the fold, the chances of them accessing that content decrease substantially. (This is from an eye tracking study, but heatmaps will do the same thing.)

Are you primarily an RSS reader like me, or do you actually find that people are utilizing the widgets on your sidebar? I write regularly for three blogs. I stare at those homepages for hours. I can’t possibly do the same for other blogs that I don’t have a personal investment in, even though I may be very active in that blog’s community (in commenting, etc.) Right now, I think all the people who have jumped on the BlogRush bandwagon are thinking primarily about how great BlogRush is for them but they’re forgetting their users. Sure, it doesn’t hurt, but will it work? Maybe you shouldn’t rush into it after all.

I don’t know BlogRush’s founder John Reese, but from what I’m reading on other blogs, he must be very good at what he does. However, “instantly drive a flood of targeted readers to your blog?” I disagree. Do you think his product is sustainable?

35 Comments

  • that is true – I do not really pay too much attention to the sidebars – that is another good point – we tend to become immune to banner like situations

  • Jon Kelly says:

    Hey Tamar, I’m with you on this. Having just moved from Utah (the home base of about 75% of all pyramid schemes), all the BlogRush gush just made me ill. I think the biggest reason not to do it is similar to why people shouldn’t install AdSense — it degrades the quality of your blog.

  • Jon Kelly says:

    It was especially sad to see everyone begging for a downline (isn’t that the technical term?) on Sphinn.

  • I suggested in one of the many threads about it at Sphinn that it was yet another pyramid scheme. The only response I got it that it’s not illegal, but of course that wasn’t my point. If it’s at all useful, it’s only useful to early adopters, and the main benefit of having it is going to come from getting people into your network, not writing posts that look interesting.

  • Sebastian says:

    You’re spot on. And Bob too. Also the “niches” to choose from are way to broad. Niche blogs won’t get any traffic but provide free advertising for the trafficked mainstream blogs. From my tests I got *one* referral from literally tons of impressions, and this was from a weightwatchers blog, which is certainly able to funnel targeted traffic to a niche SEO/Web-development blog like mine. Since every dog and his fleas have the widget on the sidebar, I checked each blog I’ve visited for my links, not so surprising to no avail.

  • Matt Jones says:

    There is only 1 way to find out if it works. The way I see it, for some bloggers (like yourself) where the widget may not suit the heavily RSS based readership or appearance of the blog, for them them it is more beneficial to question the service to differentiate themselves. As for me, I know I can build a downline and there is only 1 way to find out if it will bring traffic.

  • TheMadHat says:

    Amen to that. For one I’ve found readers don’t do much in the way of the sidebar unless it’s really in your face, which is annoying on the other hand. Also I prefer to keep my design clean and not clutter up everything with a bunch of garbage. There are other similar widgets out there without the popularity that blogrush has right now so we’ll see what happens to it. Not exactly worth the excitement level in my opinion.

  • modano says:

    I agree with Jon Kelly,
    Sad to see how it went down on sphinn, Chasing referrals for a hype instead of focusing on better things, as said quality content and proper marketing…

    its just another link exchange wrapped into the hip web2.0 word “widget”.

  • TDavid says:

    It gets worse. Blogrush was supposed to launch on Friday and stats would appear within 24-48 hours. Here we are on Tuesday the 18th, over twice that amount of time and only excuses from Reese and bogus error messages showing up in place of links (see signature link for screenshot and details).

    Bloggers need to tread carefully with this one, if they bother at all.

  • It’s a ‘wait and see’ game with this one….thank you for the insight!

  • Urbanist says:

    I’ve clicked through all five links on some BlogRush widgets only to find that NONE of the target sites have the widget, so they are clearly scamming the system somehow. Add to that the fact that a lot of the links are semi spammy/scammy and you’ve got a widget likely to vanish as fast as it appeared. Get Romlet and MBL instead and be done with it, IMHO

  • “Iíve clicked through all five links on some BlogRush widgets only to find that NONE of the target sites have the widget.”

    Wow, that’s kind of … awesome.

  • Tamar,

    What happened?!!!

    In a matter of a day all of a sudden all the blog posts about BR are negative!

    Have you noticed that?

    But I think it’s wise. I mean, we’re all pretty jaded about “big launches” and this had better perform.

    So thanks for the wisdom :)

    -Alister

  • re: no widget showing on your advertisers site

    I noticed this on day 1, and posted about people gaming the system after I could not find ANYONE from my own site that was using the widget…

    But, the next morning I found a legitimate explanation – since my chosen category was technology, the Blog rush inventory was still very low, and I was showing their static placed RSS feeds.

    I do expect that once inventory increases in my category, I will only be showing ads for other users, assuming I don’t just take your advice and declutter ;)

    re: why are all the posts negative now?

    Perhaps people’s expectations were just ridiculously high? Who really believed text ads would drive a ton of traffic? I only got it so I could to test it out, and it’s not horrible… Any free visitors that want to read a post of mine are welcome any time.

  • Symbian says:

    As Alister has said this is another AmWay-like company.

  • Webomatica says:

    Sidebars can easily become cluttered. I’m thinking the costs must be considered – confusing readers, slowing page loads, and even distracting readers from the content.

  • Jason: I remember when you removed MBL for that reason. That slow page load issue was huge back then.

    In any event, I can’t believe people are still talking about it. ;)

  • Colin says:

    Hi Tamar,

    Something else to fill the sidebars with which is not really appealing anyway :)

    There are far better ways of generating traffic, and good SEO and keywords play a main part in this as well as content and quality.

    This is just another 5 minute wonder which is likely to have no impact on your blogs whatsoever.

  • Sueblimely says:

    I did read up about Blogrush and was reasonably interested until I saw the widget. After culling my sidebar of all but the MyBlogLog images and relegating bumpzee and others to links, I was not about to add any more slow loading elements, especially a blog roll. I tend to join everything to see what it is like but I think I have had about enough of this kind of thing. I do not have the time to give them all the attention they need to make them worthwhile.

  • TheMadHat says:

    @Sueblimely – I made that mistake when the MyBlogLog craze started…one of my posts got dugg and probably lost me 5k visitors before I took it off. Now I wait until the initial buzz has died down and see what came of it. I think it’s time to put that one back on.

    @HMTKSteve – I’ve never seen any feedback on adgridnetwork. Have you used it and to what results?

  • Simon says:

    AdgridNetwork looks (at a glance) to be similar to link exchanges such as Link-Vault and the DigitalPoint Co-op Network. Correct?

    Even if BlogRush wasn’t the first of its kind, I think it opens up some interesting possibilites for taking the concept of “related posts” from the single blog level (the wordpress related posts plugin for example), to the blogosphere level. Even though it’s a link exchange, focusing it on related blog posts makes sense. There is a real *potential* traffic benefit to the idea….

    Having said that, I don’t think the blogrush model is the way forward. As people have said, the sidebar gets cluttered all too easily, and widgets can be slow to load. I don’t even think the posts will be that well matched (category based never are), and the 10 tier referral system is a bit rediculous. It also means the little guy will get almost zero exposure from what I’ve seen so far.

    As a developer myself, it is still interesting to look at what the blogoshpere is going for right now, and what their criticisms of new technoloy are.

  • D says:

    I agree it was just hype and they also used a lot of people in the process. BlogRush accepted a lot of members and got them to promote their service. And how did BlogRush repay them? They deactivated their blogs and removed them from the system.

    They did this to over 10,000 people just this weekend.

    I can see sites not accepting a submision. But donít accept someoneís submission, get them to promote your site, and then turn around and screw them over.

    You might want to see this article:

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/423910/review_of_blogrush_a_t errible_company.html

  • Silveraden says:

    All I can say is, blogrush is giving me around 20 unique per day… I’m sorry to hear about your story.

  • Michael A says:

    BlogRush doesn’t work for me.. it’s been almost 2 months..lots of impressions, only 1 click.. not really worth it, IMO..maybe I’ll take this out soon

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