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Build a Better 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 think I have seen some sort of widget of a list of people that you are following (using wordpress.com). I kinda like that because it is an honest reflection of who you actually have in your feed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a modified carryover from when I was self-hosted, I use a variety of link categories and display them all with a number of Link widgets:

    Places I Love, Places I Like, What I Use, Friends, and Lego.

    The categorization is simple, but effective. Grouping links together helps create some sort of order, and with the visual division these groups create, I can actually add MORE links without it being overwhelming.

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  3. Thanks for the advice. I really want to try and increase my blog traffic and I’ll consider creating my own ‘blog roll’ now!

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  4. Ah ha! So that is the secret.
    Now getting the hovercards to work will jinx me for sure.
    If it ever works…oh the tales I will tell!

    It may be a small thing but this had me in hover wonder for months. I love youguys for facilitating my gradual submision to the laws of the blogesphere.

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  5. Thanks for this post. I hadn’t done much with my blogroll because I didn’t understand its significance or any of the (often unwritten) etiquette that goes with this function.

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  6. Very helpful! I’m always looking for ways to connect with other writers out there and see what they are doing. This is the perfect way to share my favorites! Thanks for sharing. Do you have any advice on how to get traffic from one blog to another? I have two: One is a place to share my writing journey and the other showcases my work. I want people who are interested in my daily journey to stop by and see what all my hard work goes into.

    Hoping you can help,
    ~ O

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  7. This was so timely for me! About a week ago I eliminated my blogroll because, while I did like the blogs, I thought the list was pretty stale and I was thinking about how to have a blogroll that I can manage that offered something more varied. Love your idea of rotating items on the blogroll! (No one likes stale rolls.) So I’ve put my blogroll back into play, rotating three at a time and we’ll see how that goes!

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    1. You’re welcome! Which option you choose is purely personal, and will depend on how many blogs you read, how much time you want to spend maintaining your blogroll, and whether you want to categorize the links for your readers.

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  8. I love the blogroll/blog community widget which I already have on my blog. It’s a rotating reflection of some of the blogs I follow that do check in. I love the fact that it updates and changes in real-time and it’s more accurate than having a laundry list of blogs that are inactive or have no interaction with my blog. I used to have a blogroll page but had to keep updating it… I like the widget best and it works nicely… I’ll think of something more in the coming weeks. Thanks Michelle! 🙂
    Eliz

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  9. It would be great to be able to integrate all of these blogroll types onto a page. When placed in the footer or sidebar they often take up a large amount of space. Having a blogroll page with the widgets on it would be great. Then you could have your pages I like, pages I visit, favorites, and other categorized blogs showing in one resource center.

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  10. I’m a big believer in blogrolls that explain what the linked blog/site is primarily about. I’d guess that most of us have very varied interests, so it’s nice to know if the link I’ll be clicking on will take me to blog about baseball and beer (good) or one about root canals and racism (bad).

    For this reason, I think a separate page works best. On my blog (Feit Can Write) I named my blogroll with a similar name (Feit Can Read) so I’m keeping an overall theme together.

    But I do need to make sure all the links are good…

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    1. A racist root canal blog might be the worst of all possible blogs. But yes, it’s always good if you can let readers know what they’re in for before they click.

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  11. ah…now that I’ve updated my blog roll, I clearly need to organize it into categories! oh such fun 😉 glad I found this post again so i can follow those directions. thanks again for the tips!

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  12. hmmmm, have a question. I figured out how to create blogroll categories but only the one I started with is showing. How do I get the others to show? thanks!!

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  13. Thanks for this great post to motivate me to update and revise my blogroll. I’ve checked all my links and added some more meaningful categories to help my readers find blogs they’ll like. And I like the idea of rotating them occasionally too — I might try that.

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  14. I still had chilli in my eye when I first read this, thought it was bog roll and building it? Like paper mâché on a grand scale. Second looks I was sadly wrong but still learnt something.

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  15. Great post, Michelle. I’ve been thinking about building a blogroll for some time. Still on the fence about how many to include, but I think I’m getting closer. This helps!

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  16. Michelle,
    This article prompted a few changes on my own blogroll, aesthetically, but as I use images to promote bloggers, also in the content I use as the alt-text content (it should be updated by end of week). Thank you for the tip.
    A sarcastic free Le Clown comment.
    Le Clown

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  17. Love this, Michelle and fairly and humbly pleased with myself that I have done most of that you have advised. (Need to check out the ‘hover’!) I have a page and blorolls on my WordPress.com and WordPress.org sites. I just have to remember to keep coing back and updating both of them. Wish there were a widget for that! 😉 thx again

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  18. Too bad that since WordPress 3.5 this feature is not included in the wordpress.org code by default. I know I can download the plug-in, but why did WordPress make that decision?

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