When everyone is linking to everyone and everyone has their own publishing platforms to share their thoughts, what happens?
One of Google's amazing gifts is how it is able to take one page of web content and assign some level of authority to it. Many people (specifically in the Search Engine Optimization world) debate how valid and valuable this PageRank truly is, but in a world of fewer choices, it's the best we have (and the majority of people are still doing their everyday searches on Google). Their search engine works, and that's why people use it.
We tend to forget that Google came before Blogs, Twitter and online social networks. It was never intended to understand the semantics of all of these personal publishing platforms, how they connect, who they connect to and which ones have more value over another one.
Let's accept the fact that Blogs are still new. Let's accept the fact that every tweet on Twitter is highly indexed in the search engines. Let's agree that everyone's time is becoming more and more compressed as we're publishing more and more with less and less time to comment and add additional insights on other Blogs. That was one of the clear messages in the comment section on the Blog post, Mass Media Lazy, and it's abundantly clear if you look at the majority of comment sections on other Blogs. You can even feel the pace and speed in spaces like FriendFeed shorten and compress. Overall: more people publishing with less time to link and comment on anywhere but their own space.
If the way to build traffic was always by having a robust community of people commenting and linking out (and getting links in), what will be the metrics of success in the future?
Personal anecdote: I wish I had more time in the day for all of the ideas and thoughts I want to Blog about, but never get the chance to. I spend a good chunk of my time making sure I link out appropriately and that your reading experience is highly "digital" (meaning good hyperlinking). I also love getting comments. There is no doubt that strong and well thought-out comments add energy to the conversation and incite newer pieces of content - on the Blog, Podcast and even Twitter.
But, there's only one metric that counts (still).
It's still about the first (and only) metric that really matters: are people reading? Does anyone care? (that being said, let's agree that there are many people who Blog simply to put their words out there, and they don't really care about building an audience, etc...) You can measure audience with some basic web analytics tools (like Google Analytics), and you can also better understand who is subscribing via RSS with something like FeedBurner. Metrics like how many comments your posts get or how many people link to your content are still valuable today, but what about tomorrow? At some point, there's going to be too much published content online to the point where both the links and comments will not add any significant level of authority to your piece of content over someone else's.
Can Google get clogged to the point where comments and links don't really carry all that much merit and weight?