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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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