NBI: Blogrolls and You

I’m a blogger who enjoys discovering new blogrolls as much as updating my own. The blogroll is an important part of my blog’s layout; it deserves a prominent spot and serves different purposes. In many ways, it tells my readers that I consider myself part of a community while recommending other bloggers I enjoy reading to them. The MMO blogosphere is a small place – but my blogroll tells me every day that I am not alone. As someone who greatly values the exchanges between my own place and others, as someone who believes that my own writing can only get better thanks to blogger interaction, I can only recommend keeping an up-to-date (!) blogroll somewhere on your blog where it’s easy to access.

nbimedium

Whether to keep a blogroll and what kind, is a frequent concern for newly starting-out bloggers. What benefits are there to having a blogroll? How long should it be? And how do I get other people to link to my page?

…There’s not one correct answer to any of those questions. I have my own reasons to blogroll and so have others. Whether you set up a blogroll or not and what your personal approach to linking is, depends on the type of blogger you wish to be. It’s about how you see yourself, the purpose of your blog and how much you wish to connect with others. If you do however currently entertain the notion of adding a blogroll to your own site, let me share a couple of thoughts that will hopefully prove useful to that decision.

A) Why to keep a blogroll
There’s a variety of things a blogroll can do for you, more than meets the eye at first. A blogroll…

  • ..is a personal statement; it tells your readers where you position yourself within a greater community and that you are part of it. It tells them what blogs you enjoy reading, which other bloggers you associate with and consider resources. And it tells linked bloggers that you follow them.
  •  ..spreads linklove; linking to other bloggers keeps the blogosphere alive. It lets your readers discover new resources and helps fellow bloggers to receive attention. Most bloggers wish to be read by many people and appreciate being linked – so linking to other blogs is part of a fundamental give & take. If nobody gives, nobody receives.
  •  ..is a personal resource; besides promoting other bloggers from your blogosphere, a blogroll can serve as a reader or eye-catcher while you are busy with your own blog. I use my own blogroll that way and seeing new posts from fellow bloggers pop up is always exciting and keeps me in the loop.
  •  ..is a “hub” for others; bloggers that keeps particularly long and up-to-date blogrolls are often used as a hub by readers who frequent other sites from there. I’ve been told before that my blogroll gets used this way and I can see the outgoing traffic I generate via my blogroll (as much as the traffic I receive from other blogrolls). Not all of your frequent visitors use dedicated readers for their daily reading – instead, they use your blogroll!

B) Things to consider when setting up your blogroll
Once you decide that your blog is going to have a blogroll, there are both formal and more qualitative aspects to consider. Popular concerns include:

  • Where to put my blogroll? Will you give your blogroll a prominent spot on the sidebar or is there going to be a dedicated stand-alone page? Some bloggers feel that long blogrolls ruin their layout. On the other hand, blogrolls don’t get frequented and used nearly as much when they’re not visible on your front page. It sounds lazy, but readers don’t usually go for that extra click. Ask yourself how important effective linklove is for you when making that decision.
  • How long do I make my blogroll? Are you going to be selective with your linking and if so, what criteria do you employ? Some bloggers share their love generously in an attempt to unite as many bloggers as possible. Others only link to thematically similar blogs, to blogs they read daily, to bloggers they call friends. A few bloggers keep multiple blogrolls for different interests. There is no right or wrong way here as long as you keep in mind that a) blogs you link to = blogs you are essentially promoting, and b) all selectiveness is a statement of personal preferences (it will be interpreted as such even if you don’t think so).
  • What type of blogroll do I choose? Both blogger and wordpress allow for different blogroll layouts: alphabetic order or recently updated, blog title only or including latest post title and date, with snippets or not. You can also restrict the number of blogs that are displayed in a “most recent view”. If you’re looking for a minimal and light-weight solution, alphabetic and non-dynamic blogrolls work fine. Personally, I prefer “most recent on top” with added post title and date because I use my blogroll like a reader. While blogger has always offered this type of dynamic functionality, WP users require to install “WP Link Manager” (new versions) and “WP Social Blogroll” plugins to get the same result.
  • What’s my personal blogroll “philosophy”? Over time you will develop a routine of when/why you add a new blog, as well as when/why you remove a link, be it due to inactivity or other. Again, there are no correct or wrong ways to handle this, although I would recommend to tend to your blogroll regularly and keep it updated. Horribly outdated public blogrolls don’t serve much purpose, except maybe a very sentimental one to the blog owner.
(artwork by Martin Handford)
(artwork by Martin Handford)

C) How to get on other blogrolls
This last question is often raised by beginners since naturally, you would like to start appearing on other blogrolls and get word out there of your existence. However, there are as many ways to get on somebody’s blogroll as there are different bloggers and in almost every case this process isn’t one to be rushed. So, a few basic tips from my humble experience:

  • Be patient. Keep in mind that all bloggers handle their blogroll differently; some link everything, others are picky about topic, for some it’s all about friendship and others only link in return. A mixture of all of these points probably applies to most of us, so there’s not really one way of getting on someone’s blogroll. This also means you cannot intentionally cater to somebody’s selection process; it’s too complex (and you don’t wish to do that anyway).
  • People can only link to you if they know about you. The absolutely best way of getting noticed is to read other blogs and then comment on posts you enjoyed. Almost every blogger checks out more frequent commenters and where they came from. Another way to make yourself visible is via pingbacks; include links to articles in your own posts where appropriate to reference. In time, more and more bloggers will notice you. It’s also okay to send blogging neighbours a friendly /wave via email (what I wouldn’t recommend however is linking your blog URL in comments for no good reason or asking to be put on a blogroll). For more ways to get yourself noticed, also see this article over at Liore’s (and take point 7 to heart!).
  • Be patient. Getting on a lot of blogrolls takes most people years, during which their posting frequency, quality and consistency will either win more and more people over or not.
  • Accept that you won’t be linked by everybody. Some bloggers may never link to you, even if you’ve been linking them. Don’t over-analyze this either; there could be all sorts of reasons for this, most of which aren’t personal. Sometimes your blog (=/you) just doesn’t fit someone else’s blogroll philosophy and there’s nothing you can do about it.
  • Really, be patient. Write on. Be the best you can be.

I wish you lots of fun with your new blog and good luck in choosing the right blogroll. Luckily, there are no final choices here, so you can always change your layout and approach as you keep finding out what works best for you. Allow yourself to experiment! I’ll see ya on the next blogroll!

8 comments

  1. bhagpuss

    One thing I try to do is to click through the link on the name of everyone who leaves a comment on my blog to see if they have a blog of their own. If they do then unless I actively dislike it or find it objectionable or inappropriate for some reason, I add it to my blog roll. Sometimes I mention that I’ve done so in my reply, sometimes I just add it and say nothing. And not infrequently I forget!

    There does come a point when a blog roll becomes so long it starts to look ridiculous or suggests the blog owner has no discrimination whatsoever and it’s entirely possible mine is approaching that state now. I plan to prune it at the start of November when the NBI Month ends, but it will inevitably grow back.

    • Redbeard

      To piggyback on bhagpuss, I’ve also perused the Google stats to see who is checking out the blog. When I see something new, I go check the location out. Sometimes it’s a link validator, but sometimes it’s a new blog.

    • Blue Kae

      I always click through on a new commenter, I don’t always add them to my blogroll though. I will often drop them into my RSS reader first and add them later if I find myself reading them regularly.

      • Syl

        Yeah, I have my own approach to all of this – most of the time I’ll give it a few weeks after discovering a new blogger, before I add them to the blogroll. I am also rather quick to remove people again for various reasons, so the blogroll is a very lively thing for me that changes from month to month. :)

        And WP is nice for seeing pingbacks, on the other hand I miss blogger’s stats functionality a lot. I haven’t used google stats yet or the WP stats addons though, so maybe I should check that out.

  2. Belghast

    Great post. Considering the amount of effort I have put into making my visual blogroll… they are obviously extremely important to me. I love seeing the blogs that other bloggers link to, and often times I end up picking up one or two new blogs for my own roll just by following the links.

  3. Cuppy

    I have to admit — I am a blogroll junkie. I am addicted to reading other people’s blogrolls and trying to find new blogs to read. I think blogrolls are massively important. They’re a great way to give traffic to other people, which in turn comes as a referral and can get you as a blogger more traffic yourself. :)

    TEAM BLOGROLL FTW! =)

  4. Gazimoff

    I agree with you about the blogroll -I’ve been trying to rebuild mine since I started blogging again over at Mana Obscura. But I’m having a couple of problems:

    I’d used the WP Social Blogroll plugin to find the most recent articles for everyone in the list, then sort them by most recent.Unfortunately it was taking a long time to load, and I eventually disabled it. If you know of an alternative then let me know!

    The other is finding new bloggers to link to. I’m on the prowl for new reads to add to Feedly, so I’m hoping to find a few gems to add in. It’s a little barren since I cleared it out last week, so suggestions are welcome :)

    • Syl

      Hmm, the link list & WP social blogroll plugin is still the way I do it – afaik it’s the only way of getting that type of blogger functionality on a WP blog. Does it load slowly for you on MMO Gypsy? I notice sometimes there are downtimes but it’s not the norm, so for now I’m quite happy with it. Maybe it’s also a question of length.

      As for suggestions, check my blogroll hehe! ;)

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