I like link lists. I think they serve a great purpose in directing your readers to articles and blogs you know would be of interest to them, especially if they are inline with your blogging purpose, the reason your readers keep coming back to you.
I also hate link lists. I find few people put a lot of thought into their link lists. They give them titles like “Links for the week of Nov. 5 – 10” or “Fun Links For You”. They are just lists. They offer me no reason or incentive to visit, and if the title of the link doesn’t give me a clue, I got nothing.
I like link lists with a purpose, with a focus, that have a central theme that connects each link with each other. “List of top SEO blogs”, “List of my favorite blogs about blogging”, or “Lists of Free Photo Sources”, lists with value as each item in the list is related and of benefit to those looking for those subjects.
I call those types of link posts resources lists. I have a few on my blogs such as HTML, CSS, PHP, and More Cheat Sheets, CSS and Web Page Design List of Resources, Hundreds of Resources for Finding Content for Your Blog, and More Must-Have Bookmarklets Than You Can Swing a Browser At. Their intent is very narrow. I built them based upon research and searching I’ve done to find the resources I need on the subject, and share them with my readers to help them when they are hunting for the same resources. All are inline with my blog subject matter.
The fad of finding stuff once a week to link to is dying. It’s been done. Sure, it’s nice, but is it still working for your readers? Or is it just something easy you do once a week to fill up an empty space in your blog calendar?
When Link Lists Had Value
In the early days of the web, before Google became a household name, such link resource lists were invaluable, acting as a directory for finding related content. Searching was painful. It took forever and didn’t always connect you with what you were really looking for. Creating these link resources helped your readers connect with the sources of information and data you both needed.
Today, when you need to get information, you turn to search engines first. These types of lists are not a replacement for searching.
A friend described how the educational system was changing. She said:
Instead of going to the bookstore and getting a book on plumbing to fix a leak in your sink, you use a search engine to find a plumber near you, email them for an appointment, and by the time they show up, you’ve Googled everything you can find on how to fix the leak in your sink, and greet the plumber at the door armed with the information on how they are going to proceed – and an estimate of how much time and cost it will take to do the job right.
We don’t need those types of link resource lists any more. Oh, the occasional one is a nice resource to have on your site, but random collections of weekly links just don’t do it like they once did.
Make Your Link Lists Have Value
In order to make your link lists work for your blog, bring back their value.
- Use Words: Don’t just copy and paste the link in a list. Give it descriptive words that let the reader know why they should click on the link and leave your blog. You’re asking them to leave you, so give them a really good reason to do so, and they will reward you by coming back for more. Links are now evaluated for PageRank for the content in and around them, scoring higher with content than just as stand alone links in link lists.
- It’s About the Relationships: Keep the link list relational, with the links coming together because of what they have in common. Because you liked them isn’t reason enough any more. Increase their value by making the links a collection.
- Title Your Links Specifically: Title the post accordingly, so we know from the moment the title appears in our feed reader that this is a list about X – the information we want and need. Link titles like “Weekly Links” or “Links for January 3” don’t give us any information we can use.
- Link With Intent: While you might find interesting links as you surf through the week, the best link lists are the ones you put together with intent, with a purpose and focus. Collect links as you browse the web, making notes on them in a text file or notebook. When you have eight or ten related to each other, then create a link list post on that subject.
- Link Inline With Your Blog’s Purpose: If your blog is about training horses, a link list of SEO articles might not be in your reader’s best interest or yours, but a list of schools which train you to train horses would be a perfect match. Make your links benefit your blog and your readers.
- Link With Your Readers in Mind: Never create a link list because you think it’s a good idea or because everyone else is doing it. Link because it’s information your readers want and need. Always keep their needs in mind when you create your link list.
- Don’t Copy Other’s Lists: The past two years have been about producing a link list and then having everyone copy and republish that link list on their blogs. Stop it. The link list belongs to the one who created it. Post a single link and words recommending the link list, or highlight a couple of the links, but don’t copy it. It’s not yours to copy.
- Your Links Are Recommendations: Your link lists are recommendations. Make sure they speak well for you and your blog.
- Make Your Link List a True Resource: Think of some of your favorite link lists you’ve run across in the past few months. Was it Daily Blog Tips’ “Top 25 Blogs About Blogging”? Or maybe Darren Rowse’s list of articles covering How to Sell Your Blog? Whatever compelled you to link to that list or remember it are the characteristics you want to bring to your link lists.
Here are some more articles to help you put a little more thinking into your linking: