Thursday, August 11, 2005

Benefits of Blogrolls

Benefits of blogrolls
are many, but let's explore, together, just a few.

We shall now consider why a blogger would go to the trouble of having a blogroll, and of maintaining it like any other element of a blog.

Blogroll: a list, generally in the sidebar (left or right column), of other blogs that a blog author considers relevant, interesting, fun, or of potential value to his or her readers.

There are automatic programs that can make adding a blog to your blogroll fast and easy.

But I prefer to hand code them into my blog template, which I think gives me a little more freedom to order the links, compose the wording of the link, and add any descriptive text to clarify what the site is.

For example, you might want to add the blogger's name, since the name might have more recognition value than the blog title. Thus: "Contentious (Amy Gahran)" could be the link wording. Or: "Jakob Nielsen" rather than, or in addition to, "Useit".

Another example: "futuristicky (robot cartoons)".

What about blogs that have one stable URL, but the title of the blog changes constantly?

I suggest you then use the URL (web address) name. Carrie Snell's URL is omnamaste [dot] blogspot [dot] com, but she uses "The Wrath of Grapes", "It's A Blog", "A Grain of Salt", and other titles for the blog.

So you could safely and accurately refer to her blog as "Omnamaste". That's what people need to remember if they are typing the URL into their browser, rather than selecting the link from your blogroll.

Also, it's common practice to categorize your blogroll links. Categories might be "Computers", "Marketing", "Avant Garde", "Conservative", "Environmentalist", "Philosophical", "Other Mothers Who Blog", "Literary", "Friends", or "Daily Reads".

Okay, now--some reasons for having and maintaining a blogroll.

Benefits of Blogrolls

(1) Blogrolls showcase your expertise.

If you want to position yourself as an expert, it might be a good idea to display what you consider to be important blogs or web sites in this field. If you have no blogroll, your readers might think you are jealous of similar blogs, or just don't really read other blogs, or are new to blogging and don't know of other blogs in your field.

(2) Blogrolls establish your own blog presence.

I mean, if you always link to your favorite blogs *from your blog*, those other bloggers, when they view their blog statistics and referer logs, will notice your blog as a location from which someone visited their blog.

Thus, those bloggers, whose blogs are on your blogroll, might be curious to visit your blog.

Plus, if those bloggers, whose blogs are on your blogroll, check, for example, Technorati "Other Blogs That Link To My Blog", your blog will appear in the link list of Technorati, or other blog tracking services.

(3) Blogrolls make it easy for you to visit blogs you like.

Keeping point (2) in mind, your blogroll also makes it easy to visit blogs you like. I find that the blogroll is easier to use than my Bookmark Favorites list in my browser, which is clogged with so many sites, it's bewildering.

(4) Blogrolls are the new feed readers.

I had to echo Evan Williams' funny statement. This is point (3) again: you go to your own blog, maybe to respond in a timely manner to comments readers have posted, then you check what's happening at some of your favorite blogroll blogs.

(5) Blogrolls introduce your readers to new blogs.

Your readers benefit from having blogs to visit, hopefully relevant, valuable, or at least interesting, that they might otherwise never even know about.

In this way, every blog with a blogroll acts as a "portal", or starting point, from which to explore a "pre-surfed web", or recommended blogs. This saves your readers the time and trouble of trying to sort through millions upon millions of unknown blogs.

(6) Blogrolls extend a favor to worthy blogs.

By listing a blog in your blogroll, you are directing traffic to a blog you deem worthy of popularity. So be sure to check those blogs to make sure they remain honorable, valuable, and blogroll-worthy. Delete any blogs you no longer trust, like, or find valuable.

Now, what's your opinion?

Do you believe in blogrolls, or do you, like my buddy Paul Woodhouse the Tinbasher, reject blogrolls as clutter or dead ends for search engine spiders?

There is a contrary view on blogrolls, a perspective that is opposed to blogrolls.

What do you think?

How do you use a blogroll? How do you decide what blogs to put on it?

Have you ever asked another blogger to blogroll you? (I advise against this.) Did they do it?

(I've seen blogs that had a written "Link Policy" to clarify their position on blogrolling other blogs.)

Let me know your opinion and your insights.

Email me, or post a comment. Thanks!

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate


carrie said...

i just did a post on a similar topic, what you have termed "clinking."

it annoys me when every blog i go to has the exact same blogs on their blogroll. click on one and that blog, too, has the same blogs on its blogroll as the blog that led you to it had.

that gets on my nerves.

steven edward streight said...

Thanks for enriching the content of my blog with this comment.

I should've said something about clinking in this post. I just forgot to, plus I rant against clinking quite often in other posts and such.

Clique Linking aka Clinking is a dreadful disease, whereby bloggers hope to increase search engine page rank and link popularity rank for each other.

Voix said...

Hmmm -- I guess I take a different view on asking someone for a reciprolink on a blogroll. I linked to tony pierce in different posts a few times and he did the same. Then I put him in my blogroll. Later, I linked to a post of his and put in a "I should totally be on your blogroll, tony" in what I was writing. Next thing I knew, there I was. I even have a "Reciprolink me, Hot Stuff" above my blogroll, just so people know that is what I'm after. So why not ask for what you want?

steven edward streight said...

Michele: good reasoning.

I have no argument against direct requests, for that is a solid marketing principle.

People need to be clearly, and sometimes aggressively, instructed on what to do; we can't assume that they automatically know.

It's just that a personal blog and a business blog may fall under different guidelines for effectiveness.

If a personal blog asks readers to blogroll it, I can see this as smart.

But if a business blog asks readers to blogroll it, I think: only if this blog is indeed relevant, informative, unique, valuable.

And if it is a highly useful and interesting blog, I will blogroll it without being told to do so.

It really is a subjective thing, and no hard fast rules can apply to every situation.

On a Similar Note:

I'm timidly trying to add a few more self-promotional items to my sidebar. I think I need to make it clear what services I offer for hire, but on the other hand, blogs that plead "donate", "put a tip in the tip jar", "hire me", "buy my e-book", or whatever, it turns me off big time.

It can seem to be desperate, greedy, or amateur.

I'm still wrestling with the finer points of all this.

If we promote our services, or the blogrolling of our blog, it has to be done wisely, with proper wording.

carrie said...

once or twice tony linked to my blog (because i asked him to) and each time i got maybe 10-14 hits from it. so, i put a link to him on my sidebar for a while.

that was nice while it lasted.

but it felt contrived and i felt cheapened. :-P

steven edward streight said...

What's the deal with Tony Pierce?

Who is he?

His blog violates many usability and credibility guidelines, including posts that are way too wordy and dense blocks of text that are difficult to read comfortably, and long download time.

However, he has a few interesting photos on his blog.

I don't know if anyone noticed, but I've been hit with a buttload of comment spam all of a sudden.

Don't click on any links posted in comments here by unknown visitors, especially when the comment is that BS "Amazing job on your blog! [etc.]" generic pseudo-flattery.

carrie said...

i haven't noticed the spam.

tony pierce is a bigwig in the blogosphere. surely. maybe you have to look under the name of busblog.

but see, some ppl are so cool that they can violate "rules" and have it be ironic and cool because they are hip enough to pull it off-- or, at least, i think that is the theory

steven edward streight said...

You mean all Tony is, is a person famous for his blog, and no other reason?

Why does he have a photo of Axl Rose at the top of his blog? I don't like it when someone puts up a photo of sexy lady or cool dude, to cover the fact that they in actuality are ugly or uncool looking.

Busblog I've heard of.

But I never hear anyone mention Tony Pierce and I get lots of blogospheric reports and alerts.

Maybe he is successful in a certain corner of the blogosphere, and nowhere else, kind of like me.


But I don't begrudge him his success, whatever that may be.

As far as being so hip you can violate rules, I doubt it.

It sure doesn't work in any other media, like direct mail, music, art, etc.

I mean if a famous actor puts out a CD of songs, it usually fails.

If a famous singer starts painting, nobody much cares.

Sure, an already popular blogger can violate norms and guidelines, but all blogs, whether popular or not, are governed by the same laws.

And one law of online text is that it should not be too long or too dense, or visitors will not read it.

So Tony could have far more readers if he used some better strategies.

Too much visual noise, too many ads on his blog for my tastes.

I'll glance at it again sometime and give it another chance, but right now, I'm not impressed at all.

That's not to say that anybody is "wrong" to like it or blogroll it.


I'm sure there are blogs and music bands and artists I like, that few others would care for.

Individuality makes the world go round dizzily.

steven edward streight said...

Carrie: what I AM impressed with is your brief posts with big images.

This is a brilliant strategy, one I might imitate a little for a while.

I really like what you're doing. I think it's fun, informative, personalized.

Voix said...

Seems like you know a lot of rules that I'm not aware of, Steven. Have you done a How to Blog post? I'd be interested in seeing what the guidelines are that you follow.

One of the things that got TP a lot of attention last year was that he won a bloggie award for a "How to Blog" post that was entertaining.

steven edward streight said...

Michele: Tony's doing something right if he is obtaining large numbers of readers. I don't know what to attribute his popularity to, but it is not due to writing technique, I'm sure of that.

Many times a blogger is popular due to being first in a category, non-blog activities that attract attention, media coverage, contacts in entertainment, etc.

Since this topic of Tony Pierce and the quality/value of his blog is of some concern, I will go back and try to determine what's going on.

Maybe I'll learn something of value to my own blog.

But my first impression was of utter irrelevance and reading it was a chore, not a delight.

Your blog and Carrie's blog are far more interesting to me, and better written, so feel good about that.

On the other hand, feel free to ignore my opinions about anything that you like.

When someone criticizes something we enjoy, it does tend to rob a little of the joy we once had. This is why we sometimes will not expose our cherished enjoyments to public scrutiny.

For your benefit, I will re-examine Tony Pierce blog and even try to find good things to say about it.

However, I generally hate popular movies, rock bands, fashion, even technology.

Wonkette is hugely popular, as are all the Gawker Media blogs, and I find nothing of interest in any of them. I'm not into political sarcasm or gossip, so I avoid Wonkette.

Other top tier blogs are popular for their own legitimate reasons, but leave me cold.

No one has to like something just because it's popular.

No one has to shun something just because it's unpopular.

"Rules" that I mention are proven web usability/credibility guidelines formulated by leaders in this research, based on actual observation and analysis of users attempting to complete tasks at web sites.

Jakob Nielsen is the leading expert at

steven edward streight said...

Michele: Please don't be offended, unless you really really want to be.


But, no offense to you is meant, Tony Pierce SUCKS.

Screw him.

I hate his blog. And that stupid PayPal donation crap, asking his readers to buy him things. Gross commercialistic capitalistic greedy nonsense.

That photo of Axl Rose would be good for a Guns N Roses fan site, not a football or baseball or whatever player he is or used to be. I don't have time to try to figure out who this schmuck is.

"nothing in here is true" his blog proudly proclaims.

He uses cuss words like a Junior High school fart lover. The "f" word a lot. Boring.

Tony defends strip clubs because a nude body is "art". A nude body is not public "art", it's a body with no clothes on. He'd change his tune real fast if strip clubs contained only women 85 years old and older.

He is a first class jerk and moron.

Brags about quiting "weed", like some convert to the status quo.

His blog feels sleazy, like a strip club that objectifies women as nothing but pleasure machines for domineering male creeps.

I'm done dealing with this topic.

Sorry for such a grim report.

You are now allowed to pick something I like and rave about, and burn it to the ground with harsh analysis.


Voix said...

Hey Steven -- It makes no big difference to me whether or not you dig Tony's blog, really. I like the fact that he always has links to other clever things. No biggie. I'm glad you like my blog, and I think my writing is better than his too.

But I do want to know the rules that you follow, because it seems like I don't know them. That was my only point.

steven edward streight said...

Michele: I like the fact that he says he is a black guy. I don't many black bloggers, so I'm really sad that I don't like his blog at all.

But again, there are, I'm sure, many things that I absolutely love with all my heart, that you and others might despise, be repulsed by, and wish to harshly critique. And, of course, I'd love to hear it.

I love attacks on things I like, they prevent me from wild-eyed adoration of unworthy objects.


Both Vaspers the Grate and Blog Core Values are full of posts on not "rules" but guidelines on blogging.

I've written tons of stuff on this topic, so much that I know try to veer away from repeating myself and angering my long-time readers.

I will be doing some sidebar Post Category lists soon, a very labor-intensive & time-consuming chore, but extremely important for any business or professional blog, or even a hobby or special interest blog.

Thanks for your goading and encouragement: you give me great ideas on things to post on.

I really like that aspect of your readership of my blogs. You challenge me, you think for yourself, you are smart and diplomatic. I can learn a lot from you and your highly amusing and delightful blog, which is in my Triumphalist Blogger list. Big honor, huh? Ha. Like I'm anybody.

Try these posts for starters:

18 Characteristics of Good Blog Content

Blogging Best Practices: 16 Tips

Voix said...

Thanks for the links. I'll peruse them so I can learn more about these standards that I may or may not choose to follow -- or maybe am following already without knowing it?

steven edward streight said...

Also my new post today:

Where do blog guidelines come from?

I'll dig thru my archives to find my essays on how to blog, basic fundamentals, how to start a blog, etc.

See? That's why a major flaw of my blogs is lack of Categorical Archives. Don't follow my poor example here. I need to get on this yesterday, if not sooner.

Please understand:

you cannot make a good blog by following rules.

The real secret mystery about any communications tool is simple: if you have an interesting, unique personality and writing/thinking style, you can blog about almost anything and capture an audience.

But people tend to visit blogs because:

(1) they already know the author

(2) others bloggers or blog readers rave about the blog

(3) it appears high on blog tracking site lists (DayPop, Blogdex, Blogstreet, Technorati, etc.)

(4) it deals with topics they need to learn more about

(5) it has other things of value, like links, art, photos, news, etc.

(6) it's really funny, weird, entertaining, hip, innovative.

Many people blog, but have boring personalities, empty personal lives, nothing to say about anything, just rambling on too long about nothing.

My bias is toward funny, radical, informative, professional, inspiring, and smart blogs.

Your blog must have some or all those qualities to get any attention from me.