What Science, SARS & Sexual Partners Can Teach You About Blogging

78 amazing comments

lovers in central park
Creative Commons License photo credit: jaroslavd

Every now and then something in the offline world hits me like a tonne of bricks and makes me re-think my online activities. This article is all about one of those moments. It happened while watching a documentary and as soon as it finished I realized that I would have to re-structure the way I went about my blogging.

In this article I am going to talk about the SARS virus, sexual partners and Kevin Bacon and what these random elements can teach you about how you blog.

Trust me, you’ll want to hear this.

So what is all of this about?

A few months ago I was watching an absolutely fascinating documentary called How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer on the Australian ABC. This unique program was all about how the internet game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon literally changed how we think about the natural world. Everything from terrorism to the behavior of viruses and how people have sex has changed since scientists studied this game.

Say what? How did Kevin Bacon cure cancer?
He didn’t really – its just a catchy title. What really happened is far more interesting. The game Six Degree of Kevin Bacon is all about the phenomena known as Six Degrees of Separation; an idea that everyone on Earth is separated by only six other people. In the game you try to link Kevin Bacon to everyone else in Hollywood (or so I’m told I’ve never played it) but some scientists (namely Albert-László Barabási) decided to study the phenomena further.

What they discovered was quite amazing. Here is the trailer:

It turns out that its not just humans that are separated by six degrees. Its everything. Scientists are now discovering that diseases, genetics, sexual behavior and even terrorist cells are linked by what is called networks. The discovery of these networks is changing the way scientists look at the world; and it all started on the internet.

How do these networks work?

scale free network
Image: Wikipedia

I highly recommend you watch the documentary to get a full understanding of how all of this started but until then I will give a really simplistic overview of how it works and can be applied to us bloggers. Please remember that I am far from being a scientist; this article is about how the Theory of Networks can be applied to blogging.

If there are any scientists out there who can pick up any mistakes I’ve made please do leave a comment.

The internet is made up of networks and hubs
The documentary starts by talking about how the internet inspired a group of physicists to look in to how similar networks work in relation to the biological world. On the internet they discovered that websites and traffic are not totally random, they are based around hubs. Wikipedia tells us that:

The scale-free properties of the Web have been studied, and its distribution of links is very close to a power law, because there are a few Web sites with huge numbers of links, which benefit from a good placement in search engines and an established presence on the Web. Those sites are the ones that attract more of the new links. This has been called the winner takes all phenomenon.

So what you find is that the majority of the traffic on the internet goes only to a few major websites. It does not spread out randomly amongst every website. This is illustrated above in the image where you can see the Random Network and the Scale-Free Network; the grey dots in the latter might represent websites like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Youtube and so on. These websites get thousands of links and drive a lot of traffic to associated websites, partners and so on.

Can you why scientists were so excited when they realized that disease and terrorism also behave in this way? It means that if you can isolate the main hubs you can influence the outcome of the problems.

Let’s take AIDS as an example. Originally scientists thought that sexual partners were like the random graph above; everyone did roughly the same thing. But they now know that sexual behavior more resembles the scale-free model where most people have a small number of sexual partners while a few people have an absolutely enormous amount. These people can, effectively, have a massive influence on how a sexually transmitted disease spreads.

How can we apply this all to blogging?

online
Creative Commons License photo credit: E. Bartholomew

After watching the documentary I realized how important it was to tap in to the main hubs in my niche. Sure, sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter are massive hubs and we all know how important they are. But I wondered whether there were “micro-hubs” within my niche; sites that I could connect to to get connected to everyone else.

Turns out there are. Blog Tyrant’s fast growth is proof of this.

The best example of this in my niche is Darren Rowse the Problogger. After doing several guest posts on his site I realized that I was becoming connected extremely quickly. I got massive amounts of traffic, email subscribers and, interestingly, a lot more connections with other big bloggers. This in turn has allowed me to become a hub, albeit a much smaller one than Darren.

Take a look at the graphs above again and think of Darren’s site as a grey dot with thousands and thousands of other websites pointing to it sending him traffic and authority. By featuring on Darren’s site I was able to attract links of my own which then enabled me to connect to other hubs like Copyblogger, Smart Passive Income and Daily Blog Tips.

By connecting to Problogger I was able to reduce the number of links between me and the other big websites out there. If I had not done those guest posts there is a good chance I would not be enjoying the relationships that I am today on this relatively new blog.

Applying this to your niche
The important thing to take away from this is that there are networks and hubs in each niche. Forget about the big ones like Google and Facebook for a second and start searching for the big ones in your niche. Who has the majority of the traffic? Who gets the most links? Who is experiencing continual growth because of those links? Most importantly, can you tap in to those network hubs in order to set yourself up as another hub with other websites pointing to it?

To discover which blogs and websites in your niche are the hubs look for things like:

  • Subscriber numbers
  • Twitter followers
  • Facebook followers
  • Number of back links (use Market Samurai)
  • Number of comments on their blog posts

Remember, from a blogging point of view we can understand that not all big hubs are useful. For example, you could appear on the biggest website in the world but unless you are able to get that website to send you links and traffic it is mostly irrelevant. You want to isolate the ones that are big but also active and engaging.

How else can we use networks?

I’d be really interested to hear if anyone else has any experience with this type of thing or whether you can think of another way we can use the theory to benefit our blogs. I find the whole idea fascinating but my extremely small brain sometimes struggles to see the best ways to make use of ideas like this. I’d love to hear your ideas, experiences and even ways of isolating the hubs in your niche.

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78 Comments. Join in. *Closed after 30 days*

  • Diggy

    Hey Tyrant,
    Wow that’s interesting, I’ve never really heard about the 6 degrees of separation but it makes a lot of sense.

    Of course guest posting for the biggest blogs in the industry will get you connections to many of the slightly smaller blogs in that niche.

    Unfortunately I can’t post for blogs like Problogger or Copyblogger because I’m not in that niche, but there are other options for me like Zenhabits.

    Keep on doing what you’re doing because you’re growing into a huge authority!

    Cheers!
    Diggy


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hey Diggy.

      Thanks for the kind words man.

      Yeah the docco is well worth a watch if you have the time. Really blew me away.

      Have you posted on Leo’s blog? If so, did it send traffic? I once had an ad on ZH for another blog and it sent so much traffic it was unbelievable.


      1. Diggy

        Nope, I’ve tried a couple of times but Leo didn’t seem to like what I offered. I haven’t sent anything for a couple of months now because I didn’t want to be a pest and burn bridges with him.

        I’m going to try again soon, I’ll let you know how it works out if I get up on ZH.

        I know a guy who gained like 800 readers from just one guest post on ZH, so it’s really worth it if you can get on there.

        Cheers!


  • Vivek Parmar

    first thanks for sharing your personal views how we can educate from anything we saw or what we do.
    Guest posting is something that makes a great difference in your niche, target high traffic blogs and one guest post on that high traffic blog offers you unique visitor (like i read your post on problogger) and pretty good amount of traffic and recognized in your niche.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Vivek. Do you do a lot of guest posting?


      1. Vivek Parmar

        Nope, i only write when anyone pays me for that 🙂


        1. Radu Tyrsina

          Vivek, buddy, you shouldn’t think about guest posting like that. Think about a guest post as a way to get lots of subscribers, thus money later 😉


  • TJ

    Tyrant! You fascinate AND scare me. Love this post and your mind. Best from germany, tj


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Why do I scare you TJ?


      1. Heather@Family Friendly Frugality

        because you’re a tyrant. Duh. heehee


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Ha ha.


          1. TJ

            As far as tyrants go, you’re very generous and kind. I’m way out of my league here hanging out with y’all but I have taken a lot of the information and tucked it into my brain for a rainy day.
            Tyrant, promise you’ll only use your powers for good and then I’ll promise not to be scared of you!!
            Your fan in germany, tj


  • Pete Carr

    Hey BT,
    I do a lot of blog hopping, I enjoy it and it helps me stay connected.
    I meet (in the virtual term) a lot of other great bloggers. Real what I call community bloggers. People that reply to comments, post on a regular basis etc.
    I guess these are like mini hubs formed around smaller blogs.
    Now if one of these blogs makes it to the big time (so to speak) it will have a knock on affect to all the other blogs in it’s network.
    This is a great article highlighting the need for blogs to be connected. If you go it alone, it will be a long road.
    Blogengage and Bloggerbase are good examples of hubs also.
    Thanks BT.
    Pete

    PS: I have an opt-in now.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Good work Pete!


      1. Pete Carr

        Thanks BT, you are a inspiration

        Pete


  • shea

    I never heard of the 6 degree’s either, but it is fascinating. I’d love to learn more about it.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Get the docco Shea. Its really cool.


  • Shaun

    Hey Tyrant,

    Love your title, great lesson in human behaviour too. The flow on effect is quite amazing and so are the opportunities. Something I learnt recently though was it means nothing if you don’t have something great to show people when they come visiting! No trouble with that here obviously.

    Cheers


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Agreed Shaun. You have to make your page as sticky as possible.


  • Stuart

    When I first heard about the 6 derees of Kevin Bacon, I thought it was just some fun game that might grow out of fashion in a few weeks.

    Turns out I’m very wrong.

    What truly surprised me was not the info from reading this post, nor the video, but the fact that I somehow ‘knew’ this all to be true. I instinctively understood that we’re all connected, and I have no idea why.

    But that’s another niche. I’m in the self-help/personal development niche, although I did a guest post for Chris Ducker at Virtual Business Lifestyle which was well-received.

    Does it usually work when you write a guest post for a website in another niche? Can it backfire? Be interesting to hear your thoughts Tyrant 🙂


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      I doubt it could backfire other than wasting a little bit of time. What do you reckon?


      1. Stuart

        I’ve only written a handful of guest posts so far, and though I’ve had mixed levels of success, none of them had any negative feedback whatsoever.

        I think it would be good from my P.O.V. to expand my horizons, and work with people who I wouldn’t be able to work with normally. We’re all in the ‘blogging’ niche after all 😉


  • chris

    I’ll take this one step further…in a week, I’m releasing my first product and it’s marketed somewhat towards my own visitors and their unique position. And my articles at related hubs will help. However, the primary customer is not my primary visitor. Sounds weird, I know. However, by working in the field that I do, there is crosstalk between these two groups. Now, by targeting my secondary users, I have the potential to move into their hubs.

    Ok, I need coffee as that’s not as clear as I’d hoped. Let me simplify…

    You can categorize hubs by how they relate to your site. Those that are not 100% like you are micro-niches to you. Now you have another type of audience to consider.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Dude you’re giving me a headache! 😉

      Good luck withe the launch.


  • Todd@PhitZone

    An online compatriot and myself recently started a private “invitation only” Facebook group just for fitness bloggers. We’re now up to I think ten members. We’re promoting one another in other avenues. We were just having a conversation this weekend that we’ve all seen a huge jump in traffic since the beginning of the year when we started.


    1. Heather@Family Friendly Frugality

      Hmmm, I love this idea. Facebook is a place a lot of my people would hang out. It’s just finding the right people though. I’ve tried other blog commenting groups before that have fizzled almost as soon as they start.

      May I ask how specifically you promote each other?


      1. the Blog Tyrant

        Nice one Todd. Great idea.


  • Rick

    Another great post, BT! I am anxious to get started with guest blogging for all the reasons you highlighted. While as bloggers, we may cover different niches, there are many common threads between us. If we step back from viewing our knowledge as soley niche based, we can find that much of what we do is common to us all.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Good point Rick. But remember, you want to guest post in places where the interest carries over.


  • Erika

    1) I have been loving your blog lately. AWESOME!!

    2) One way I’ve been trying to target for a client’s niche is just by seeing who comes up first on our keywords and offering to guest post. Haven’t implemented yet (I am doing this part-time…so hard to fine the time!) but will let you know how it goes.

    @Todd, that is a great strategy. I’ve always heard that you don’t need a huge network to make a big impression. Small, targeted “hubs” that promote each others content seem to be working well.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Erika!


  • Heather@Family Friendly Frugality

    110% agree with this. I owe a LOT of my success from guest posting, commenting and getting linked to by a specific blogger in my niche.

    She is most definitely the hub of my niche and when she links to me, amazing things happen.

    That said, it can be difficult to rely on one method or “hub” within your niche. I’ve started broadening my hub little by little and dipping my feet into other arenas and that is working out well for me as well.

    Truth is though, even that wouldn’t be possible without the initial support of the big blogger in my niche. That’s why I always say that bloggers don’t have competition. You can’t afford to be competitive with others in your niche. That doesn’t mean you don’t try to offer more, or that you kiss the ground the big bloggers walk on…but it does mean that you don’t piss them off, LOL.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Interesting point Heather. I can think of a few sites who made it pretty big by pissing off the big guys in the niche. Its risky though!


      1. Heather@Family Friendly Frugality

        Totally not my style. All that leftover Catholic guilt from growing up. I can’t stand for anyone to be mad at me ever (even when it’s not my fault). Even bloggers who live in another state/country who I’ll never meet.


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Agreed. Not my style either.


  • Jo Ann

    I completely get what you are saying! I am a newbie as far as blogging, websites etc and am trying to learn as much as I can about the subject. I am a photographer and want to start my business. I began reading digital photography school blog by Darren Rowse and clicked on links to learn more which in turn gave me more links.
    I have learned so much and have been taken to so many great places. This is very much like 6 degrees of separation. However I wouldn’t want to try to trace it all back because it would reveal how much time I have spent on the Internet 🙂
    (I think this is what you are referring to?)


    1. Rick

      Hey Jo Ann,

      If you’re interested in getting some free publicity for your budding photography business, check out my site. We specialize in featuring photographers from all walks of life.


      1. Jo Ann

        Thank you! I just did and signed up for the updates


  • Denise Hamlin

    I can see why this would give you an aha moment BT. The idea of six degrees of separation has always fascinated me, it’s interesting to learn that scientists are building on that idea to include so many other possibilities. I can see how you could apply that to blogging too.

    We are all connected. For me that’s a given. What’s interesting is to see how and of course ultimately to figure out how to make the most of that.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Absolutely Denise. Very interested to see where the scientists take it.


  • ABDPBT

    You make a good point about finding blogs further down the chain . . . sometimes it’s easier to target a blog that is well known in a niche but not one of the giant powerhouses. They tend to have less requests and more time to entertain your requests for guest posts, etc.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Let us know how you go.


  • ER

    I read a book on complexity theory a few months ago, and I found the sections on networks and six degrees of separation just as fascinating as you did.

    I think you’re idea about taking advantage of networks is great!


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      What was the name of the book ER? I’d like to read it if it was any good.


  • Art of RetroCollage

    My blog has been about art and collage, my own, an historical overview of collage, and special techniques. I haven’t yet been invited for a guest post gig. Most of what I do is not advice-oriented or how-to. However, I do have some usual how-to info published a while ago. Is it reasonable to offer to other artistic blogs a series of blog posts from months ago which is still timely?


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hey there Art.

      The normal procedure is to write a killer post and then offer it to a blog. Very rarely do blogs invite people. Make sure you write something relevant to each site – I always make sure my best work goes to guest posts.


  • Radu Tyrsina

    Finally, BT, a blog that went to my heart!

    I call this – unconventional post type! 🙂


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Ha ha. Glad it hit the spot.


  • Rachelle

    What a remarkable post and one after my own heart. Before I started blogging, I hung out at a site called Canadian Money Forum in the real estate section, just helping people commenting on things in the industry. I helped a few landlords there do their own evictions but never got any business from it. The co-owner of that site was the gentleman who asked me to do guest posts on real estate to expand his own blog. Then another blogger asked me to write a series of Tenant From Hell posts.

    Both these people are long established bloggers and are a very big part of my hub.

    There is no one with a niche site like mine. First of all real estate in general tends to have two very separate groups, those who think that real estate is going to collapse and those who think that real estate is a never ending cash machine. Second property managers are always pretending to have everything under control which is a big fat lie there is no such thing ever. We deal with people and people are unpredictable and capricious.

    Between these two extremes is reality. I work hard to present both pictures so people can be informed. It is hard, last week the Canadian Real Estate Blog Carnival was boycotted by the positive real estate people en masse.

    Lots of people in my industry do not even have blogs they just have websites that they hired some guy to build. Usually not even a good guy. They don’t understand the net at all or anything about it or how it works.

    I like bloggers believe me after being in Real estate for years it’s refreshing to be part of a community. Real estate operates in a scarcity mentality. Everyone is scared to share idea or information.

    Great Post BT.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Rachelle. And great comment, as always.


  • marzana

    I have a personal blog and am having trouble finding out to find other big niche blogs because my blogging style right now is kind of random and I am blogging to improve my writing overall. What can I do to find ways to guests posts on similar sites?


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      I’d start on a massive blog like Dooce and look at the comments – see which people commenting are doing well.


      1. marzana

        but i dont get why i would look at the comments, what am i looking for when i look at the commenters on another blog?


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Their websites.


          1. marzana

            so in other words go through the commenters, find a couple i like and ask to guest blog on thier sites, am i right?


  • lisa chiodo

    An Urban Myth put to use curing cancer, who’d have thought! 6 billion people with only 6 degrees of separation.

    So I can work with this to look at where my connections are and how to find the hubs.

    When I actually started looking at the stats for the blogs in my niche I was suprised to find the ones I interacted most with were not the hubs.

    I went through and jotted down my favorite sites stats and found the ones to concentrate on, and sent my first guest image (and text with links to my site).

    There are many people blogging about renovating elegant farmhouses in Italy or France, our difference is that we are going to renovate a village (and get down and dirty doing it).

    PS just installed Thesis yesterday (thanks for your link) and most of my blog vanished arghhh I know it’s there somewhere just working it all out! Now where did my about page go???

    ciao Blog Tyrant

    Lisa


    1. lisa chiodo

      Quick question about the thesis theme,

      can anyone tell me how to get rid of the 7 wordpress page tags on the blog. I have our home, about, contact etc and then these others?? I have been looking for an hour, can’t be that hard can it?

      ciao Lisa


      1. the Blog Tyrant

        Lisa they look like PAGES.


  • Dorothy

    Hi Ty,
    This was fascinating. It makes sense to me, too. I sent it to Twitter and FB. Now I want to watch the documentary. Will have to try getting it? Your layman’s description was fine.

    BTW, re guest posting and becoming ‘famous overnight’: Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz talks about reading all Darren’s writings,then asking for a guest posting spot and making a deal with him she could ill afford. But, she won, just like you did. Same reasons as yours.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Yeah Problogger is a great site if you can hit a nerve.


  • Tim

    I think it’s Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody which discusses interconnectedness of people and the best way to harness what you describe.

    Small groups of highly interconnected people (you and your friends) with one of those people being supra-connected e.g. they know a LOT of people, which allows you to leverage into other networks.

    This type of network also is very resilient against attack or failure.

    You’ll find similar theory discussed in 6 Pixels of Separation and a few others, the names of which currently elude me (they’re in my book-reading notes at home, I shall see if I can find them tonight).


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hi Tim.

      I actually first heard about it from Buddhist Philosophy – the Buddha taught that all things are interdependent and nothing arises without causes and conditions. Its interesting that 2500 years later scientists are applying it as a theory to different areas of biology, medicine, etc.


      1. Rachelle

        Don’t forget Douglas Adams 🙂 who preached about the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things”


  • Sue Tamani

    Hi there

    I remember watching that doco on ABCTV when it came out. Your link to iView takes you there but ABC has taken the streaming video down – and advises us to go to abccontentsales – poooo! I searched but can’t find a free link to watch it again.
    I think Facebook with it’s new groups is growing more like a network connecting users more than before. In the old groups, only the owner could email everyone with messages – very one way traffic! That is not now possible with the new groups.
    In the new system, people are just added to groups by anyone in the group, not invited with a message like before.
    There’s also a group IM system – a bit scary for some people who don’t realise how the new system works cos a box just pops up in the bottom toolbar when they’re on FB, with all these people chatting! I’ve had a few people leave really nasty messages demanding to get out LOL even tho it’s really easy to just leave.

    Can I please copy this article to my blog with acknowledgement?

    Sue


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hi Sue.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Yeah the ABC link is annoying but I couldn’t find anywhere else to show people the docco.

      You can copy the article if you like but remember that Google can penalize blogs that have duplicate content. Maybe it would be better to take sections and add your own insights?

      Up to you.

      Cheers.

      Tyrant


  • Adam

    I’ve heard of the 6 degrees of separation before and it can be very interesting when you get to look at how true it is. While I do want I to connect with the bigger hubs to grow my blog, and guest posting is one thing I want to do. One thing I’m in making sure I do before anything is getting my pillar content in place before trying anything else. I’d feel really bad if I got accepted as guest blogger got a lot traffic and then only had two posts for the traffic to read when they arrived at my blog. Excellent blog you have here BT, and new reader that will frequent here. Thanks for the input and advice. Happy Blogging!


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Very wise about the pillar content Adam.


      1. Adam

        Thank you BT. I’d just feel like a goober if something like that happened.


  • Michael

    Insightful. Stunning. More than SEO and page rankings, it’s forging the connections and relationships that really matter. The “six degrees” thing lends credence to this belief. SEO et al is just a symptom.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Nicely said.


  • Ande Waggener

    I love seeing this science applied to blogging. I’ve noticed that I’m seeing the same names over and over in comments as I visit other blogs in my niche–I love the linking. Though I’ve yet to see a huge impact in my subscriber numbers, I’ve received some tremendous help from the networking I’ve done, the one connected to the next and the next.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Good work Ande.


  • Christian Fey

    Great post! I knew about Kevin Bacon, but didn’t realize that many other areas of life actually follow that type of organization! It’s almost like the fact that scientists who first discovered fractals didn’t know that the implications were HUGE for the natural world. Now they are continually discovering new ways to apply fractal geometry to natural phenomena like forest spacing and diversity and population growth.

    Totally worth the Retweet!


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Christian!


  • Richard G. Crockett

    I find this so fascinating, I’m having a hard time drinking it in. But my first gut instinct is to not much worry about trying to connect with a hub nor to try to be one; rather, it is simply to keep doing what I have been doing, finding interesting people that I like and who communicate back.

    Somewhere in that journey, I am bound to connect with their connections in an organic, natural way.

    If the theory is true, that is the way it works already.

    Thanks for a really great post, Rick


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hi Rick.

      Thanks for commenting.

      I definitely see your point but I’m not sure I agree with the final sentiment. If you are happy to do your own thing I think that is wonderful (I wish I could be more relaxed like that) but I don’t think it will necessarily lead to connecting with the big hubs.

      For example, there are a lot of amazing singers out there who want to be stars but if they just sing in their home to their friends and family they aren’t going to meet with the big hubs.

      Even if they meet with a branch of the big hub (as you suggested could happen) it is no guarantee they will get in because the min-hub could have 15 other links before getting to the main one.

      Its a great topic. I really like your take on things.

      Thanks again.

      Tyrant


      1. Richard G. Crockett

        Yes, I totally see what you are saying. I worked for years as a painter and never tried to sell or display my work. I made no money, and worse, lost my fire because I was never getting the return flow from others—not money, but something better.

        When I started to show my work (now carving, not painting) I immediately started making new friends and connections, and money, so, absolutely! Don’t be a damn hermit! Not anyone!

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Yes. Great topic. Makes you think. Makes you consider untapped possibilities. Stimulates the imagination.


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