It’s Blogroll Cleaning Time

Filed as Features on November 5, 2007 10:59 am

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When was the last time you cleaned out your blogroll? Okay, when was the last time you even looked at your blogroll?

For WordPress bloggers, the blogroll used to come set with examples links to some of the founding developers of WordPress. Now, it comes with a bare minimum of links to the core WordPress information sites. These were included as examples of blogroll links, easily changed to whatever links you wanted to include in your blogroll.

If you understood what a blogroll was.

A blogroll is a list of links to other blogs that you recommend to your readers. The expectation is that your blogroll will link to bloggers that cover topics related to your blog, not just any old blog you happen to like.

This expectation is not just held by your readers and visitors, but also by Google’s PageRank. With recent changes in how their algorithm works, blogrolls now play a role in determining your blog’s ranking. It helps when links in your blogroll has content and keywords match your blog’s content and keywords.

When Was The Last Time You Clicked on a Blogroll?

Unfortunately, too many blogrolls became link exchanges which felt commercial (link to me and I’ll link to you), or hodge podge collections of whatever caught the blogger’s eye when putting together their blogroll. Over the years, the blogroll has lost a lot of its importance, as readers, who like digging through related content more than scrounging, got burned with badly organized and sponsored blogrolls.

As people used these as link lists, blogrolls grew longer and longer, until they were two, three, or more page scrolls down the web page. Such lists were intimidating rather than inviting, and were ignored.

Are you still clicking through on blogroll links? Or have you gotten burned.

Lately, I’ve talked a lot about the difference between the blogger’s perspective of their blogs versus the reality of the reader’s experience and needs, which often don’t line up. Blogroll links may be put there because the blogger thinks they are important, which they should be, but do they still have the importance they once had for the reader?

Are you clicking through blogroll links to investigate blogs the blogger recommends on their blogroll? Or honestly, do you ignore them as clutter?

Bringing Back the Power of the Blogroll

To make your blogroll effective, it must look like it more than just a long, laundry list of anyone and anybody you thought of linking to. It must not look like a link exchange list. It also must not look like a list of links to ads, like those “sponsor links” lists.

Does this resemble a description of your blogroll?

In order to make your blogroll effective, it must look sincere. It must look “chosen”. It must look like recommendations. Your recommendations. Your personal endorsement.

How?

Some bloggers are trading their blogroll links for feeds which list recent post titles or excerpts of their favorite bloggers.

Others are cleaning out their list to only a precious 4-8 they recommend, often with a line that defines the blog’s purpose and intent, and maybe why they recommend them.

I’ve seen a few use Gravatars/avatars or icons next to the blog name to add images to reinforce the importance of the recommended blog visually.

No longer are just names or blog titles enough to recommend a blog. It has to have meaning and intention to get the attention of the reader.

What are you doing to improve the effectiveness and quality of your blogroll?

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  1. By Ian posted on November 5, 2007 at 8:32 am
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    Hi Lorelle, interesting thought.

    When it comes to blogrolls I think that quality is a far more important consideration than quantity.

    If I’m reading a blog I enjoy, there’s a good chance I’ll click on links in their blogroll. I’m curious to know what they read.

    But regardless of how few or many links they have, if the quality of the target sites is poor then I probably wont click on too many more of the links.

    If the quality of the sites you link to is high then I may even click on every single one even if there are 50+ (like at http://www.creativereview.co.uk/crblog/).

    So when doing a blogroll clean out I wouldn’t say “I’m only going to have 8 links” but “I’m only going to have high quality links”.

    Reply

  2. By pelf posted on November 5, 2007 at 8:57 am
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    I don’t have a blogroll on my personal blog, because I use the feed reader! :)

    But I am including a blogroll in my Giving Hands blog, and I am using the Random Link plugin to randomly pull 5 blogs on the main page.

    This way, I will not intimidate my readers with a list of 50 links to other related blogs, and at the same time, I get to introduce to my readers some other blogs that they may find interesting :)

    Reply

  3. By Jack @ The Tech Teapot posted on November 5, 2007 at 10:09 am
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    Blogrolls are a much under appreciated resource. I read other people’s and maintain mine regularly. I am slowly growing it when I find more related blogs.

    Reply

  4. By J. Lynne posted on November 5, 2007 at 11:34 am
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    I very rarely look at someone else’s blogroll, though I will do so if he or she has recommended blogs in posts and I’ve found those blogs excellent fits for me. I especially won’t if the list looks like a link exchange though. I also find it frustrating when I click on links in other people’s blogrolls that are dead.

    I am constantly updating my own blogroll. I use it to keep track of the blogs I read regularly. If a blogger stops posting or becomes uninteresting to me, I remove the blog from my list. I use sub-headers to keep track of what sort of blogs they are so if an interested someone else wants to know what kind of political blog or knitting blog I’m reading, they are welcome to do so easily. I also have a list of non-blog sites I visit that are important to me.

    I also admit to having del.icio.us and digg widgets on my blogroll page. They’re really more for me. This way I can get to the most recently tagged links more easily because generally I’m either going to post about them or use them for some other reference.

    Reply

  5. By Steven Hodson posted on November 5, 2007 at 11:47 am
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    I agree that most blogrolls are a waste of time and for the longest time I never had one. Then recently I decided to add one but only those bloggers I consider a part of My A-List were added; or get added.

    I figure this way folks who click on the links will be gettiing something of value rather than just a long list of questionable content.

    Reply

  6. By Darnell Clayton posted on November 5, 2007 at 12:10 pm
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    Hey Lorelle,

    IMHO, the best way to organize a blog roll is to divide it up into “sub categories.”

    Example, on one of my space blogs, I noticed that my blog roll was heading towards the 100 link mark.

    To make it easier for readers, I divided the blogs according to their type or focus. I listed the astronomy blogs in one section, those focused on Mars on another, corporate space blogs on another, etc.

    This makes it much easier for people to find interesting sites, and makes it easier to exchange links as well (as long as they are quality sites).

    Reply

  7. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on November 5, 2007 at 1:10 pm
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    Darnell: Yes, it is easier for people to find interesting sites, but even 100 links categorized is still a bigger list than just 100 links. Ouch!

    As I’ve said, we often make assumptions about what our readers need based upon our needs not theirs. Would your readers benefit more by you creating a blog post for each of those groups of links, explaining their value and why they should visit? Or is the blogroll enough?

    We need to give value to our links no matter where we put them. And they need to value the reader not us. Our blogs are about us, but they are also about those who read, the more important viewers of our blogs.

    Reply

  8. By cerebralmum posted on November 5, 2007 at 7:20 pm
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    After removing the blogroll altogether, and leaving it for a while as it was such a big job, I have recently set it up as columned, categorised list on its own page [READ] rather than my sidebar. I have included brief descriptions of the sites, so that people get an idea of what they will be clicking through to.

    I had to set up a new page template in WordPress to call the list and descriptions so that I wouldn’t have to write it manually, and it still needs more work to get get the presentation perfect, but I know that I have found many of the blogs I read through other people’s blogrolls. I think the blogs we read deserve some acknowledgement and appreciation. It’s not a small job, but for a blogger, it’s a job worth doing, and worth doing well.

    There has also been a sustained boost in my traffic, which is good for me, but not my motivation. Links are for sharing what we find valuable, and for saying thank you to those who give value to us.

    Reply

  9. By Candice posted on November 5, 2007 at 8:10 pm
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    I would never click anything in the blogroll most blogs about blogging, or any log that seemed like it used pay-per-posts, had more than one or two ads, had sponsored-anything, or just looked like it was out to make money or had making money as one of its top priorities. Those links are 99% guaranteed to be garbage (often enough, many of those links are to other sites the author runs with yet more ads to look at — actually, I try not to look at those sites in the first place). For most other sites, though, sure — I use them all the time. Whenever I can make a reasonable assumption that the links aren’t just trades or BS, but personally picked because the author thinks they lead to quality sites.

    This site is one of those where I wouldn’t bother with the blogroll. I *might* click through a link mentioned in a post, but I probably wouldn’t even do that much.

    Reply

  10. By HART (1-800-HART) posted on November 6, 2007 at 1:01 am
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    I haven’t looked at about 75% of my blogrolls and link pages .. however, I always try to edit the “blogroll” name and create different categories for the links .. like “Interesting Links” .. or “Canadian Blogs” .. or “People I know” .. or “Accounting Blogs” .. or even Related Blogs”! so, if you are at a site of mine and see ‘Blogroll’ as the header, there are probably even dead links in there ‘cuz I haven’t looked at since 2006 I think.

    Reply

  11. By Jessi posted on November 6, 2007 at 11:05 pm
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    I got rid of my very small blogroll last week. I never looked at it anyway, so I condensed the few worth keeping with a small section I listed as “other sites to visit”….which I really wanted ‘others’ to visit and wasn’t for me anyway, so it works well.

    Reply

  12. By Jeffro2pt0 posted on November 17, 2007 at 12:25 am
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    Lorelle, this post has encouraged and inspired me to rethink my blogroll strategy. When I began my WordPress blog, I treated the blogroll as a link exchanged. Then I treated it as a place to show off links of sites I visited on a regular basis.

    Now I am going to go through my blogroll and re-evaluate everything. I’ve noticed on blogs such as Steve Hodsons WinExtra, he has a sidebar container called My A-List of bloggers. For those that are regulars in the blogosphere, people assume A-List means high quality or highly valued. I found myself clicking on his own A-List of bloggers to check them out to see why he put them on his list.

    I think I’m gonna follow Steve’s path and create my own A-List. These links will be sincere and because it says A-List, I think more people would be inclined to check out the list.

    Reply

  13. By Guilherme Zühlke O'Connor posted on November 28, 2007 at 9:30 am
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    Great thoughts.

    I was precisely thinking about this and concluded that a list of links is not useful anymore. Either you provide more info, or is just cluttering your site.

    So I created a plugin to build informative and useful blogrolls.

    Reply

  14. WinExtra - My A-List AdditionSeptember 4, 2008 at 7:30 pm
  15. WinExtra - Getting out the blogroll dustpanSeptember 5, 2008 at 1:46 pm
  16. By craig posted on March 3, 2009 at 2:11 pm
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    I like blogrolls–I find them very useful. As a matter of fact, I found your thoughts/comments while LOOKING for blogrolls.

    If anyone wants to add my blog to their blogroll, I would appreciate it greatly!

    Reply

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