The politics of blogrolls

Filed as General on November 29, 2004 5:01 pm

by Duncan

Duncan Riley> There was a great response to the post on “Building blog traffic for newbies” from last week both in comments, traffic and direct emails. The guide was purposely short and sweet and a number of things have been raised with me directly since, and I’ll slowly detail each one in the lead up to Christmas.

I was taken to task over my comments about not linking to major blogs as they wouldn’t return the favour. This was a general statement that does not apply to every blog in the top 100 or even 1000, but just most of them, and there is only limited value in promoting a new blog by linking to a top 100 blog, however I am not, nor am I encouraging people to not link to top blogs.

The politics of blogrolls continues to evolve at a similar pace to the general blogosphere. What once was a way of demonstrating that you had friends, blogrolls have evolved into a place new bloggers and traffic-junkies alike crave to have their blogs listed.

Before I proceed, I would note that I use the term blogroll in a generic sense to describe a list of links to other blogs found on a blog, not as an endorsement of the Blogrolling service, indeed, I would actively discourage the use of Blogrolling due to its use of javascript.

The 5 rules of Blogrolls

1. Have one.
One of the wonders of the blogosphere is the ability to discover new sites and read new things often by cruising the links in a blogroll. It can also be seen as a reflection of your interests, your readership or influence. Not having a blog roll may also open you to criticism: Jeremy Zawodny once named not have a blogroll as No.6 in the top 10 of The 10 Habits of Highly Annoying Bloggers and I do remember other instances of bloggers being criticized for not having blogrolls

2. Be generous with links
Bigger is not necessarily better, but there is merit in spreading the love of a blog roll with fellow bloggers.

3. Reciprocate
This is easier the younger or smaller your blog is. In the early days I would eagerly place blogherald.com into technorati to see who was linking, and I would often find myself adding a link in the blogroll back to them if they hadn’t already asked for one. There was fun in seeing how many links there was although I’ll leave this story to another post one day on “true confessions of traffic-junkies”

If you’ve got better things to do than type your blogs URL into technorati, and are keen on building up links in both directions leave a note at the end of your blogroll saying you’re happy to swap links or reciprocate to those linking to you. You’ll be surprised with the result you’ll get. Always where possible respond to the requests, even if you don’t provide a link: as a rule I won’t link from the Blog Herald to porn, gambling (unless its a paid ad) or commercial material (again unless its paid for). You will get emails from commercial companies of dubious repute asking you to swap links, don’t get involved. By all means though do swap links with commercial blogs, but only when they are legitimate, for example Weblogsinc or Gawker blogs

4. Blind link
I also tossed up calling this “linking for love without gratification” but was worried about what the Google spider might think :-)
If you cruising the blogosphere and find a site you like, link to it. This can be a positive reflection on your personality, particularly if you blog is a personal blog as opposed to a topical blog. I’ve mentioned that there isn’t a lot of benefit in linking to the big blogs, which in terms of building traffic and profile there isn’t, but as a reflection of your personality and beliefs its great. See any number of blogs of political persuasion to get the idea. They may even end up reciprocating from the link on day as well.
In topical blogs linking is often a service that is better served by topical links, a gadget blog would do well to link to engadget and gizmodo for example.

5. Ask
If you never ask for a link on someone’s blogroll you’ll never know. Even if they don’t have a statement pertaining to their blogroll on the site ask anyway, the worst they can say is no, or not respond.
There are two things to be aware of in asking, methodology and rejection.
Methodology
In methodology it is important to consider the method in which you ask for a link to the blogroll.
Sending an email saying “Hi I read your site, will you link to me?” has a very small chance of success and personally I would either ignore this or respond saying “where’s the link to the Blog Herald???”. A rude response, true, but I take the request to be rude as well. The request says I don’t really care about your blog and all I want is a link. There is no right way or wrong way to ask the question but use the rule “would I respond to an email like this?”. Whilst in the early days of a new blog the answer may be yes if your really desperate to drive traffic, for most it would be no to the first example.
Instead try something along these lines, but try not to sound to contrived
“Hi XXXX
I really like/love/ enjoy (select one) your blog and am an avid reader. I’ve recently added a link to xxxxx to my blog which is about xxxx and was wondering if you would consider providing a link back to me?
Regards and keep up the good work xxxx”
Yes, it probably sounds a little contrived here but the more you personalise the email and, in all due honesty, suck up to the person your trying to get the link from, the better. After a long day filtering through the spam and other rubbish in my inbox a nice, genuine request for a link is often dealt with immediately but one that is short, generic and obviously self serving (i.e. gimme, gimme) is ignored.
Rejection
Be prepared for rejection, and don’t flip out if you are rejected.
Rejection can come through an email response or through not receiving a reply for your request (and hence no link). First things first, remember big blogs (and even medium sized blogs like the Blog Herald) are often run for love and like you time is to spend on blogging is often limited.
Some bloggers will respond with a thank you but I’m not adding to the list now, or your blog doesn’t fit my criteria, or another reason. Accept this, perhaps even email back and thank them for responding and wishing them the best of luck or similar. They’ve had the courtesy of responding and it’s their choice to link or not to link, a choice you also have with your own blog. Do not, under any circumstances, send back a nasty email or slam them on your blog. It may bring in some extra traffic but memories are surprisingly long in the blogosphere and people remember.
No-response
Many will just not respond to your email. Don’t take it personally, its not because they don’t like you, it’s just a time issue. Again another warning, do not inflame the situation by emailing again saying “why haven’t you responded? ” or abusive comments for non-response. Although I have personally had a few requests for links I have not responded to, mainly due to an influx of email and a mental note to get back to the request that is subsequently forgotten, I’ve also responded to requests 4 and 6 weeks later (yes, I learned to file them!). I’ve also had the odd rude email that said nasty things or demanded that I provide a link . Guess what, after that they never got a look in. I even remember once where I put up a link and forgot to email the blogger. A week later I got an abusive email saying why hadn’t I provided a link when I had. Suffice to say the link was removed.

Its probably a good time to mention context: if you’re a black lesbian left handed pot smoking autistic female blogger, don’t bother asking for a link from a evangelical ku klux klan white male 4WD (SUV) driver from Texas. An exaggeration maybe but if what your writing about is diametrically opposed to the blog your want a link from you won’t get the link 99% of the time, and you might get a nasty email in response as well.

Any thoughts, post a comment.

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  3. By Christopher posted on November 30, 2004 at 7:17 am
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    One of my greatest frustrations is taking the time to read someone’s article and responding to it..only for them to essentially blow me off. By this I mean people need to interact with their readers as such helps to build a lasting audiance. And leave comments on sites that you visit… even if it is a brief few words to say you agree or disagree or whatever. In this respect, I think there are far far too many weblogger’s who are essentially territorial..e.g…. do for me while I ignore you. See to me, if someone asked for a link to my web site and claimed they were an “avid” reader and “loved” my site.. I guess I would base the genuineness on the extent that they have left comments ~ in other words, actions speak louder than words.

    Christopher
    http://www.lostinamerica.blogs.com

  4. By Duncan posted on November 30, 2004 at 2:26 pm
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    Christopher
    I here what you are saying, and I suppose one thing I could have added was “don’t get to rapped up in blogroll politics” as at the end of the day its not the most important thing in blogging, and the intent is to help. I do see great value in commentors although I also make a choice to allow links from commentors as well which some no don’t do, this in itself is a link if you like, if not in the blogroll then from the site. The only issue I use to have is that it is often difficult to read all the comments on a blog, and I say use to as the amount of comment spam I received on the Blog Herald when I was running MT was so huge but that the only comments I saw where the ones I was deleting through MT Blacklist. These days I’m back reading some comments in spare moments and WordPress allows easier reading and management of them.
    The moral I suppose is if you’ve got the time by all means link to regular visitors if you have the inclination, time and ability to do so.

    On territorialism your comments are true, but the bigger you get the harder it is to please everyone, and some times you’ve got to say “right, what’s in it for me”. Its unfortunate but it’s a grim reality forced upon larger blogs and bloggers by time constraints.

  5. By Christopher posted on November 30, 2004 at 4:32 pm
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    Ducan ~ when a site reaches the point of having an abundant amount of comments, I can certainly understand your point. So I guess I am really speaking of the smaller sites that allow comments. And the lack of interaction from the webloger’s that only carry’s with a negative appearance that they don’t really care what you have to say.

    One of the things I have just done in effort to help boost my traffic is creating a community message board in association with my web site and placing a direct link to the board on my side bar. I am hoping that it will be a success, but like all things in the blogsphere..it depends upon people using such.

    Christopher
    http://www.lostinamerica.blogs.com

  6. By Christopher posted on November 30, 2004 at 4:37 pm
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    Ooops, guess I should have included the name of the message board.. Citizen Talk and the direct link is on my left side bar under the heading of “message borads”

    Christopher

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