WTF Blog Clutter: Out-of-Control Blogrolls

Filed as Guides on September 29, 2008 10:00 pm

Save us from the out-of-control blogrolls, lists of links that run on and on and on and on and on and on and on…listing everyone who ever started a blog on the whole planet – well, it feels like it.

Your blogroll links are important in the minds of Google, and they can add or subtract points in your PageRank scores. You better take your blogroll links seriously, ensuring you are linking to blogs that will complement yours as well as complement theirs.

As part of this ongoing series on WTF Blog Design Clutter, let’s take a look at how we are abusing and misusing our blog’s blogrolls.

It’s All About the Links, Right?

Discussing out-of-control blogrolls in a workshop lately, the number one justification I was given for these kilometer long list of lists was: It’s all about the links, right?.

http://nyshoespy.wordpress.com/“What is all about the links?”

“Page Rank and all that. You have to all have those links in order to get good ranking with Google. Right?”

Remember, folks, Google is not the end-all-and-be-all of judgment on the web. There are a lot of different ways people can find your content. That’s not the point here either.

If you are worried about SEO in terms of Google’s Page Rank and Trust Rank algorithm, it is “who” you link to that matters, but more importantly, it’s who links to you that counts in the great algorithm-in-the-search-engine-sky. While those who link to you help, who you link to helps more.

It’s not just a link that matters. Google’s algorithm considers content-matching-content. If your site is about knitting and an automotive-oriented blog links to yours, why? What does car repair have to do with knitting? Something to do while you wait for your car to be repaired? A car repair shop that also sells or hands out knitting to give waiting customers something to do with their hands while waiting? I’m not seeing the connection here – nor does Google.

If a knitting blog links to a knitting blog, there is clearly a relationship. The keywords match, the content subject matter matches, and therefore the great SEO wizard algorithms say, “This is a great blogroll match!” If they don’t connect, you get no score or lose points, if you thrive by the SEO rules.

If you aren’t into SEO, then why have all these links?

“These are my friends, blogs by my readers, blogs I like!”

These are good reasons to have them on your blogroll. You like these blogs. You like the bloggers. You want to recommend them to others, right?

THAT is the core reason to have any link on your blogroll. Every link on your blogroll is a mini letter of recommendation to your readers.

Each link says, “These are blogs I recommend and encourage you to leave my blog and read these blogs, and be so happy, you will back to me to say thank you for the recommendation.”

That is a lot of value to put on each of these links, so think carefully before cluttering up your sidebar with links that aren’t important or don’t relate to your blog content.

Blogroll Links Are About Trust

In order to server your readers better, your blogroll links must have value. They serve as your recommendations. If you are sending your readers away from your blog, and you want them to come back, those blogroll links better be damn good ones.

When a link goes into my blogrolls, I like to think of them as a member of the family. We share a common bond. We’re related. While these blogrolls links are “mine” they are actually more for my readers than me. They are my recommendations.

Let’s stop here for a moment and consider that statement: My blogroll links are my recommendations. And I want my recommendations to matter.

Have you ever glanced through a set of blogroll links and spotted an interesting blog name, only to click through and land on a blog totally off-base from the blog you were just on? Did you think WTF?

I have, enough times to make me ignore the blogroll links. I don’t trust them.

I want my my readers to click through and visit these sites and return back to me, so the blogroll links should have a strong connection with me and my blog. When my readers click the links, I’m telling them, “Trust me. These are worth visiting.” Every link must be vetted thoroughly because your readers are trusting you to guide them through the rough and tumble sea of the blogosphere.

If your recommendation is good, they will be back for more. If your recommendations are bad, or disconnected from what brought them to your site, do you think they will be back for more?

I don’t trust bloggers with 600 blogroll links in their sidebar. I don’t even trust those with less than 25. How can you trust 25 bloggers to stay consistent, on-topic, and related to my blog content?

How can you trust someone who really can’t decide or restrict their recommendations to only a few. I like inclusive people who want everyone to be their friend, but If I’m asking for a recommendation for a dentist, I certainly don’t want a recommendation of every dentist in 40 states just because they don’t want to exclude anyone. I only want someone they really know, have experience and history with, and is someone they trust.

Play serious favorites with your blogroll. Make each one count. Make each one speak well of you and your blog, and teach your readers to trust you.

Blogrolls are very important if you decide they are. Don’t dilute them nor confuse your readers. Remember, blogrolls aren’t social competitions – no one is really counting, are they?

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  1. By Rarst posted on September 30, 2008 at 8:46 am
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    I initially added few blogs and some useful sites I reviewed to my blogroll. Later I thought “Does most of these really matter for me like every day?” and cut everything except three most relevant blogs.

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  2. By ian in hamburg posted on October 1, 2008 at 1:25 am
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    I have a lengthy blogroll which I prune regularly, dropping ones that have stopped updating or whose content has gone stale, and adding new ones I think are worthy.

    Don’t forget that some bloggers use the blogroll as a supplement to their reader – I use it to visit blogs I like to read, and hope my readers do the same.

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  3. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on October 1, 2008 at 11:17 am
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    @ ian in hamburg:

    While that is the intention of the blogroll, the abuse of the blogroll makes it an often ignored area of your blog’s structure. Give it value by emphasizing those sites in your blog posts and keeping the number in the list small. There are many ways to encourage people to visit other blogs, but an overblown blogroll list doesn’t help.

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  4. By nyshoespy posted on October 1, 2008 at 3:00 pm
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    Since you took the blogroll image in this post from my own blog, I really thought I should comment. After reading your post, which has some great points, I’m actually still not sure if my image is an example of a bad blogroll or a good one!

    I completely agree that every link should count, definitely. And thinking about each link as a personal recommendation tied to the legitimacy of that personal blog as you mentioned, is perfect and something everyone should think about.

    In the image above, only 4 links are actually blogs and they’re listed under the Blogroll section title (2 are blog directories which I actually should remove, thanks).

    I guess it’s not a common usage of the blogroll space but my Nothing But Shoes category contains a list of online shoe stores that I personally love – and unlike dentists, I do want millions of different shoes and there are millions of beautiful, quality shoes to choose from. I think most people, (okay, most women) shop at many different stores in their lifetime and if they’re reading a shoe blog, they’re probably looking for information on new shoes they haven’t seen yet and, being as blogs are online, maybe an online store to buy them at too. I like being able to be the person that told someone about the great shoe store they didn’t know about.

    If you still think I’ve been too lengthy in my blogroll/helpful-shoe-shopping-resource-guide, I’ll mention one more thing in my defense. There are a ton of online stores that sell shoes along with other items like clothing, etc. And while I do shop at and reference in my blog posts many of those websites as well, my blogroll only contains websites that carry nothing but shoes.

    I’m considering adding the Blog Herald to my blogroll, but now I’m scared! :)

    nyshoespy

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  5. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on October 1, 2008 at 4:39 pm
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    @ nyshoespy:

    Don’t be scared and thanks for the example. And you’ve made my points exactly. Honestly, it is better to put links you really recommend into your blog posts. If you want to set up a referral set of links, then do so in a post or a Page so people will understand completely that these are your recommendations – not just some links in your blogroll. Give them the attention they deserve.

    Your sidebar was an example of good and bad elements, a great combination. You understood the value of the blogroll, now why not notch it up a few steps, as you said, so people really understand why you are proud to have these links in your sidebar or anywhere.

    Thanks! And don’t be scared. We only bite once.

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  6. By pitty posted on October 8, 2008 at 1:32 pm
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    Your sidebar was an example of good and bad elements, a great combination. You understood the value of the blogroll, now why not notch it up a few steps, as you said, so people really understand why you are proud to have these links in your sidebar or anywhere

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