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Perennial Favorites: Build a Better Blogroll

Blogging is 50% publishing, 50% community. Linking to blogs you love is a great way to foster the latter —…

Blogging is 50% publishing, 50% community. Linking to blogs you love is a great way to foster the latter — here are our favorite tips for putting together a great blogroll.

May I be frank? Because I feel like we’re friends.

I love a blogroll.

Like many of you, I spend a lot of time trying to find my blogular niche. I’m a Reader power user, but the ever-expanding vastness of the blogosphere can still be overwhelming. Enter: the blogroll. When I find a blog I like, I’m always excited to see a blogroll — it’s like getting recommendations from a friend rather than blindly falling down the rabbit hole of the internet. Throw in the community- and traffic-building benefits, and a blogroll becomes a win-win-win-win proposition.

Okay, that was perhaps one too many “wins,” but the point remains: blogrolls are a great way to burrow deeper into the blogging community, bring in new readers, and spread some bloggy love.

What is a blogroll?

A blogroll is a list of links to other sites you love; you can create one by:

  1. Adding your chosen sites in the “Links” tab in your dashboard.
  2. Heading to Appearance → Widgets and dragging the “Links” widget into your sidebar or footer.

The list can be as long or as short as you like, and you can have different categories for blogs on different topics. You can link to any websites you like — they don’t have to be other WordPress.com sites, or even blogs.

We also let you automate the process with the Posts I Like and Blogs I Follow widgets, which update themselves based on your activity on WordPress.com (though if you want to link to non-WordPress.com sites, you’ll need to use a standard blogroll).

Why should I have one? I want people to stay on my blog, not click away!

What is it that they say? “You get what you give”? “You have to spend money to make money”? Well, they’re on to something. Adding links you love has some great benefits:

  • Show your stuff. You can tell readers more about yourself, your personality, and your interests through what you choose to share.
  • More traffic. Sometimes, those you link to will link to you in return, helping introduce your site to new readers. At the very least, the blogger you link to may stop by for a visit when they realize you’ve linked to them.
  • Community building. The more people you introduce to subjects you love, the more that community grows. Good for the community, and good for you.
  • Mutual support. We’re all building the blogosphere together, so it behooves us to share the love and support one another. Show that you’re a caring member of the community, and the community will care about you.
  • Satisfy your readers. Giving them links you recommend is not only a low-impact way to give them more great content, it turns you into a trustworthy source of great stuff.

Do you have some tips for building a better blogroll?

Why yes, we do; thanks for asking!

DO . . .

. . . tell us why we should click. You can add hover-over text to the links, giving you an extra chance to plug your blogroll links with punchy descriptions. “The funniest blog about reptiles on the internet!” “Easy-to-follow tutorials for Renaissance Faire costumes.” You get the idea. You can also link directly to a post you love, rather than to the blogger’s home page.

. . . keep it concise. Avoid link overwhelm! If you’ve got dozens of sites you want to feature, consider either creating a separate “Links” page on your blog, or rotate your blogroll, highlighting 10-20 of your favorites every month or week.

. . . categorize. If you’re really into parenting blogs, home renovation blogs, and video game blogs, split your blogroll into categories to help readers get to the content that’s relevant to them.

DON’T . . .

. . . set it and forget it. This is our biggest blogroll peeve: if your blogroll is full of dead links or links to sites that haven’t been updated since 2009, it’s clearly not really a reflection of sites you read, throwing your credibility into doubt. Weed your blogroll monthly.

. . . feel like you have to link to everyone who links to you. This one might be a little controversial, but I’m sticking by it. Your blogroll is a reflection of what you read and love, not a quid pro quo. I don’t click on blogroll links because I want to find other people who think you’re great, I do it because I trust your judgment and want to see what you recommend. You can automatically reciprocate blogroll links if you’d like, but don’t feel compelled.

If you want to see what this looks like in practice, here are a few bloggers who are doing a great job sharing the love:

Edge of the Arctic keeps it short and sweet with a basic blogroll.

The Byronic Man gives readers a recommended blogger, rotating who is featured, along with a blogroll titled, “Bloggers Whose Wit and Prolificness I, Frankly, Resent.”

Thoughts of a Lunatic’s footer offers up both recommended posts and recommended blogs (using the “Posts I Like” and “Blogs I Follow” widgets), with hover-over text to help guide the reader.

The internet without links is like a road with no intersections. However, unlike with public infrastructure, we can build the connections ourselves without risking arrest. Make the blogging experience better for yourself, your readers, and your community with a blogroll.

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  1. I love that term “Blogroll” and I’m immediately imagining the wild names that would get called aloud taking attendance or rollcall. “Bumblepuppie? Here. GiantGag? Here. Nevermind Arthur? Present. Thoughts About Nothing? Out with the sniffles.” ;-)

    Great and highly informative post. Especially about hovering over links to give out further details. I want to learn how to set that up!

  2. This was extremely helpful! I felt kind of sad that its hard to truly make everyone so visit your blog, your writing. Thanks! WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE people to take time and let me know what YOU think of my writing! <3

  3. Ok so I’m trying this out and I want to show my favorite blogs. When I set it up it shows all of the blogs I follow, how do I pick and choose which ones I want to show?? Thanks for your help!

  4. I had a blogroll for a year and not one single reader clicked one of the links, so I got rid of it. I have streamed lined my blog so it looks cleaner and less cluttered.

    1. Given my own experience, that’s not surprising. You have not only reduced front page clutter you have reduced your site’s page loading time – woo hoo!

    2. You’re welcome. I also write Haiku and it’s so bad that I don’t share it on my blogs. That’s why I laughed out loud when I read your title title/URL. The doodle and Haiku combination is cool. Best wishes with your blog.

  5. I eliminated my Blogroll in 2009 and created a Links page instead of a Blogroll.

    Why?

    The days of the mile long Blogrolls of reciprocal links (reciprocal links = you link to my blog and I link to yours) in the sidebars of every front page of every blog are long gone for good reasons.

    Firstly, Blogrolls slow down page loading time. Several studies reveal that folks will wait only 3 – 4 seconds for sites to load, and the click out rates are very high when pages aren’t loaded within that time frame.

    Secondly, they leak page rank unnecessarily.

    Thirdly, many reciprocal links in a Blogroll look like spam links and search engines like Google have not assigned much importance to unrelated (two-way) or reciprocal links, and will assume that unrelated reciprocal links are solicited links.

    It’s important for bloggers to recognize that if too many of your links are of low quality it may make it harder for your blog to rank for relevant queries, and some search engines may look at inbound link and outbound link ratios as well as link quality when determining how natural a site’s link profile is.

    Fourthly, I have years worth of data I can examine and examining it makes it clear that the trickle of traffic from Blogroll links wasn’t worth the pagerank drain. Since shedding my blogs or Blogrolls and creating Links pages instead my traffic from the Links pages has been higher than it was from Blogrolls.

    The purpose of my Links page is not to identify who my blogging friends are and not a single link on my Links page is the result of a reciprocal link exchange. The purpose of my Links pages is to direct my visitors to high quality authoritative sites with useful resources in the blogging tips niche – sites like this one.

    This is my Links page description: “One Cool Site: WordPress blogging tips, tools & tutorials blogroll of links to recommended resource sites aimed to enhance readers’ knowledge of blogging, building a better blog and effective blog promotion.”

    1. I agree with this. Linking out is crucial for the success of not only the blogging community but the entire web as well. If you know of a blog or piece of content you like then you should share it with the world. But having 20+ blogroll links is not a great user experience and it does leak PR on every page. Sitewide links ended a couple years ago. I had to force myself out of the habit. A better way to go, like you said, is to create a “Friends’ page and give them some link love there.

      1. @aadvancedautoglass
        I’m not surprised by your response regarding site wide links and SEO. I think Staff tend to be are focused on community building and tend to steer away from talking about linking practices and their effects on SEO for a couple of reasons. I believe tend users they are primarily in contact with at a support level are probably beginner blggers blogging for personal reasons such as self expression and making online friends.

        I read somewhere on an authoritative site (I do apologize but I have no time to search for bookmarks today) that a new blog is created roughly every 9 seconds and another one is abandoned or deleted very 6 seconds. So let’s accept that for argument’s sake most WordPress.com blogs created today will be deleted or abandoned within 6 months to 1 year of being registered.

        As thin and as tenuous as such “friendship” mbonds may be when we refer to online relationships, what keeps personal bloggers blogging is online interaction with other bloggers. Dunbar’s number comes into play, as we humans and other mammals don’t have more than 150 actual relationships at any given point in time, yet we still hear the blah, blah, blah from all sides of the blogosphere about attracting more freinds/followers and some have thousands.

        Well deleted blogs have no advertising income and abandoned blogs don’t attract readers for long. The advertising income to WordPress.com (Automattic) comes from active blogs without No-Ads upgrades. The more active the blogs are the better it is as more traffic means a higher likelihood of more advertising button clickers who help support the expenses involved in running a free hosting blogging platform like ours is. It also means that the more active the blogger is the more likely they are to make valuable contributions to our WordPress.com community.

      2. Sigh. I’m sorry about the unintended bold lettering. I still have not found my glasses and hope Michelle will be kind enough to edit and fix it.

    2. Although i’ve had my blog for about a year and a half I’m really only getting into the swing of things now, working out a whole lot of things, including writing voice, focus of my blog – even whether to have one – and the business of a blogroll. This conversation has been very useful! I deleted my blog roll a couple of weeks ago, was tempted to put it back, and now after reading your comments Time Thief I think I’ll stick with not having one. I like your idea of a links page and will look into that. So thank-you, this discussion has helped me along the way. One thing’s for sure there’s heaps to learn!

  6. I tend to disagree with the opening statement of blogging’s being 50% publishing and 50% community. As I see it, it’s certainly 50% community; but the other half should be 35% publishing and 15% what WordPress lets us publish in terms of your chopping and changing how we can do so.

  7. Instead of any of the suggestions above, I add Links of Interest at the bottom of each post. These expand on what I say in the post. A few are used fairly regularly. I have no idea if anyone links to them, but offer them anyway. I like it when others do the same and will often visit those sites.

    As I often use a Word Press Daily Prompt that is one of my more regular Links of Interest. As you know the Daily Prompt offers Ping backs and I have found some bloggers following me as well as a few I have chose to follow.

    Works for me, might for someone else and then might not. Such is life.

    Stay strong all and enjoy blogging or it is not worth the time or so this Cranky Old Lady thinks.

  8. I am very interested in #TIMETHIEF’S comments regarding why people blog and using a link page rather than the blogroll. I am a new blogger and I am blogging to attract clients, to educate the public, and to become a voice of reason for my profession, all while trying to keep it on the light side!!!! Not an easy task. Am I hearing you correctly that search engines view reciprocal links less favorably? I am sorry I am new to all of this…..

  9. Sorry this isn’t related to blog roll (although great article) but when is Community Pool? It used to be at 4 o’clock on Sundays but the past two weeks it hasn’t…
    Thanks

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    FOLLOW &READ MY STORIES PLEASE!

  11. Added to my list of things to do. Trying to resist tweaking my layout for at least a month because the last few days have seen 20 revisions at least lol. Thanks for sharing :)

  12. When I started out with WP I did a page for ‘blogs I visit’, then ‘more blogs I visit, and ‘yet even more’. A blogroll on the sidebar is great on blogger where all the blogs are automatically updated with new posts (an extremely good feature) but it serves no purpose to put one on a WP sidebar.

    I always leave redundant blogs up, because over years, I’ve found people come back. Not all, but some do. It’s not about me not keeping up to my list, it’s more about not wanting to cut people off at the knees, and maybe I might want to look at or direct someone to something as a point of reference. I did put a lot of work into it, describing what blogs were about and putting them under different headings.

    Having said all that, I’ll be changing my pages soon, so my blogroll, such as it is, will get moved out of the way as I suspect few people visit it apart from spammers (luckily caught by Akismet). A lot of people tend to follow new blogs via comments rather than reading blogrolls.

    I still do pingbacks to other blogs but I suspect blogrolls per se have had their day.

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