Blogrolls: Why and How

A lot of the people that find my blog do it through searches and referrals — but did you know…

…that MOST of my recent traffic comes from people who found me on another blogger’s blogroll?

original images:

So it might be shocking to hear that I don’t love typical blogrolls. I think that in many cases, the well-meaning website owner makes the list once, at a fixed moment in time, and never revisits, reassesses or updates that list. Plus, a list is just that…there’s rarely any context for why a blogger added that link or even a short description of what the website is.

And I think that POSTS should be honored most than bloggers. Sure, if your favorite blogger hits a home run with every press of the publish button, that’s worth sharing. But when you blindly recommend a full blog, I think it’s less effective than endorsing a particular post (and then its up to that blogger to make it easy for the readers you send to them to subscribe!)

(BTW, some of you do fabulous work with blogrolls, so just keep doing what you’re doing!)

So when I saw Tina tweet:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/CarrotsNCake/status/62918519557332992″]

I knew I needed to jump in.

Now, in more than 140 characters, a few suggestions that I think work better than a traditional blogroll.

1. Google Reader Bundles

I love bundles! They allow you to drag and drop your favorite blogs into a little collection (and easily add or delete as you go) then offer that bundle to your readers as a subscription. You can set up bundles for different topics — say fitness blogs, social media blogs, your Top 10 picks, local bloggers, etc. Each bundle has its own subscription, so your readers can trust your judgement and add all of those blogs to their Google Readers with one click.

I especially like bundles for special events — say, Fitbloggin’ or the Healthy Living Summit. You can all all of the attending bloggers into a bundle then read those posts leading up to the conference so when you meet the writers in person, you really know their points of view or previous experiences.

To set up bundles, see:

2. Google Shared Items

I currently use Shared Items on my blog (see the left sidebar). It auto-updates every time I click “share” at the bottom of a post in my Google Reader (it also sends it to Google Buzz, if you happen to be following me there). Less like a blogroll than a bundle, because there’s no option to subscribe to the pack. But I think it’s a good way of highlighting individual posts.

One drawback? I can only share posts that are in my Google Reader, so it’s not the best way of sharing posts from across the Web. But it does give my Shared Items list a big of a bigger endorsement for my readers.

To set up shared items, see:

3. Auto-Updating Blogrolls

(BIG BIG BIG h/t to Kelsey, for this post explaining how she sets hers up)

One way of getting around my concern that blogrolls are often used as “set it and forget it” items is to ensure that blogrolls auto-update as you add new blogs to your subscriptions.

4. Five for Friday posts

Yes, this is a bit of self-promotion, but one of the reasons I share five posts from other bloggers in my weekly Five for Friday posts is that I want to highlight the posts that were published in the previous seven days that made me laugh, made me think…made me want to share.

Often, I have already posted these items on Facebook or Twitter, but selecting five posts is a good way for my readers to see what sparked my interest that week.

5. Social Bookmarks

This is the least like a traditional blogroll, but I include it because I think it fits the spirit of sharing posts rather than blogs. So whether it’s Facebook, Twitter favorites, Delicious, Digg, StumbleUpon or Reddit, sending your readers to a place where they can find all of your shared links may be a way of efficiently letting people know what really hit home in a given week.

None of this really addresses the philosophical issue I know many of you have with blogrolls — that by nature, they are exclusive. That is an issue I’d love for you to tackle in the comments. When you see blogrolls, do you like them because they expose you to new bloggers in a given niche, or do you dislike them because they leave people out?

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  1. says

    I don’t really see blogrolls as exclusive … I’m more of the camp of believing they help lead me to like-minded bloggers. Kind of like those cheap perfumes you can get at Walmart, that say “If you like [real perfume], then you’ll love [imitation.]” NOT comparing bloggers to cheap imitation perfumes; rather, I appreciate the suggestions. Hey, maybe I will love this! And if I don’t, then no harm no foul.

    I fall into the camp of “setting and forgetting,” but I have refreshed mine at least twice since I started my blog in July. In fact, I was looking at it the other day and thinking I need to go back through, delete some, add some. But you’re right in that it falls low on the list of priorities, at least for me.

  2. says

    Re: #2
    You can share items from outside your Google Reader using Google Reader. If you go into the Reader settings under the Goodies tab, there’s a option to add a “note in reader” bookmark to your toolbar. Then, when you are on a web page with something you want to share, you can click the button to share it with your followers on Reader.

    I just discovered this and it’s awesome!

  3. says

    I don’t mind blog rolls. I don’t spend a lot of time looking at them, but they don’t bother me.

    This post made me delete my blog roll page…it was a hot mess. I’m going to revamp, or figure something else out.

    Thanks for the tips!

  4. says

    I have to be honest Katy your blog is one of the most valuable that I read!

    You are 100% right about the nature of blog rolls — it is time to re-evaluate mine. LOVE the idea of highlighting posts instead of just bloggers alone.

  5. says

    I don’t maintain a blog roll because of what you said about referencing out whole blogs. I love a lot of blogs but that doesn’t mean I love all of their posts. I have a tendency with both my friends and my clients to just email them directly when I think they would benefit from a specific post. I also share on facebook and retweet when I think something would benefit most of my people. I have considered adding some blogs to my resources page but have not made a decision either way yet.

    Great post!!

  6. says

    I’m so guilty of having the outdated blogroll. I honestly can’t remember if I even have one anymore or not.

    As far as being exclusive, I think it’s very easy to let yourself feel excluded in the blogging world. There are so many blogs and only a handful (well, a generous handful) that have a large following. So many bloggers with large followings know the other bloggers with large followings and refer to their blogs more often than the bloggers who don’t have many followers. For someone trying to accumulate a following it’s hard to feel like you’ll ever “make it” in the blog world and it’s easy to be intimidated by the bloggers who have already grown a huge following. I think blogrolls are just a small part of that problem.

    This was a great post! Definitely got me thinking.

  7. says

    Thank you for sharing this! I really didn’t know those options existed, and I just have the typical blogroll (although I do try to stay fairly current!) on my page. I’ll definitely have to try out some of your suggestions.

    As far as exclusivity goes, I’m kind of on the fence about it. I love blogrolls because when I was just a reader/lurker, I loved finding new blogs through others’ blogrolls, but now that I blog, I do see how it can be seen as exclusive. I don’t think people intentionally make it that way, but sometimes it’s hard to not feel excluded when you add people and no one seems to add you or even look at your blog. It’s definitely a toss up!

  8. says

    You are totally right about blogrolls being a set it and forget it feature on my blog! Thanks for the tips ~ I love reading your Five for Friday and checking out what peaked your interest during the week. I also think that’s a good way to give sort of an honourable mention to the bloggers you really enjoy &/or admire but in a way that says “Yeah, I read your blog and I totally dig/relate to/love . It shows you’re actually reading and mulling over what they had to say. Now, you’ve got me thinking; I think I need to do some brainstorming so I can do something more personalized.

  9. says

    I like them when they expose new bloggers and lead me to a blog I wouldn’t have otherwise found, but I have to main problems with them: I see identical blog rolls over and over and over, and a lot of people try to list every blog they’ve ever read. Neither of those things helps me discover new blogs.

    I really, really love the idea of a “post” blogroll- either listing your favorite posts, or doing your own post about you favorite blogs (like your Five for Friday!).

    • says

      I agree! I definitely feel like I see the same blogs constantly. And even if they’re great blogs, I probably would have come across most of them even without the blogroll. I’d much rather find something new!

  10. says

    I’m kind of indifferent to blogrolls, I think. I’ve definitely found a few great bloggers through links on other blogs, but I also find that I more often just skim through them without clicking. I’m much more likely to read the blog of someone who had an interesting comment.

    I love the idea of focusing on great posts instead of just on specific blogs…those are much more likely to catch my eye. Then Heather Said has a great list of her favorite posts that I love to peruse. I’m much more likely to look at a bunch of those than pick a random name off of a list of bloggers.

  11. says

    Oooo, great post. I have a love/hate with blogrolls. I love them because I do like finding new things to read, but I also hate them because I don’t want someone who knows I read them regularly (because I comment on their blog) to feel bad that they aren’t listed.

    I’ve actually toyed with the idea of getting rid of my blogroll, but then I think…is that going to make the people that are on it feel bad that I deleted them?

    However, I do update my blogroll regularly.

  12. says

    i love blogrolls – i often find new blogs to visit through them. i do really enjoy the post-rolls you described above though. i think i enjoy being directed to a specific post better than a whole blog!

  13. says

    oh wait, I just realized how much I like the comment luv thingy that some bloggers have … I like how it puts the title of their most recent post, because it makes me more likely to click it … I think I should add that to my blog!

  14. says

    I like your 5 for Friday posts because they are so specific. That being said, I love certain blogger’s blog rolls because they have very similar interests as I do and their faves are also mine. Sometimes I use blogrolls as a Google Reader of sorts because I’d rather avoid Greader when it’s crazy. Plus, going straight to a blog gives them a “hit” and Greader doesn’t.

  15. says

    I have a post blog roll where I share posts, separated in categories that are my all-time favorite reads. Some are recipes that I adore, some are great blogging tips, and some just impacted me in some way.

    I had a traditional blog roll a long time ago and it was very hard to keep up with. Also, to be honest, I had blogs on there that I didn’t read anymore and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by taking them off.

  16. says

    I really like blogrolls. I’ve found SO many great blogs by checking out the blogrolls on many of my favorite sites. Granted, as others have mentioned, I do see many of the same blogs over and over but every now and then a new (to me) diamond in the rough jumps out!

    I keep a blogroll on my own blog & update it automatically via Google Reader. I follow a lot of blogs, but only about 15 or 20 of my most favorite (meaning those that inspire me the most, or make me laugh the most, or get me thinking the most) feed into my blogroll.

    Before I discovered that G-Reader would feed to my blogroll I definitely had a “set it and forget it” I think I change it up at least monthly based on whether or not the author’s posts are still keeping my attention or if they’ve transitioned over to topics that are no longer relevant to me.

  17. says

    Great post! It actually reminded me to review my blogroll because I had been basically setting and forgetting it. I completely left out the description of the sites too! Even though I’m a tech guy, I’m still learning this blogging stuff. :-) Thanks for the informative post!

  18. says

    this is an AWESOME post. I try to keep mine updated but this makes so much more sense :)

    Thanks for all your awesome posts on social media/blogging :) I consider myself a well versed blogger but learn so much from reading your blog and so many others :) Keep the awesome posts coming ๐Ÿ˜€

  19. says

    This post prompted me to remove my Blogroll pages (yes I had them in categories & updated). I like the idea of Google Shared items, Five for Friday, Facebook & Twitter share.

    Thanks for posting this because I have been wondering what to do with my Blogroll for about a week now.

  20. says

    I have one, and it’s mostly for me. I use it to keep up w/my fave reads and follow them each and every time they post. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Semi-stalker-like and all. But I also like to skim them and find new people to read, so I’m for them. But when they’ve got every and ANYone you ever read, I’m headed elsewhere. I’m all for promoting friends, but I think about 10 or so is enough. If you have 30 people I’m out. But I do have a page w/some links to my bloggyfriends, and that’s a free for all for anyone I enjoy.

  21. says

    Great post! I don’t do blog rolls either, but these are some fab ideas.
    Love your blog!


  22. says

    I found alot of this info very helpful! I’ve recently started a new sports blog, I have contacts in the world of sports, athletes and sports anchors/writers, I was wondering if you have any advice to help me to start driving traffic to my blog. I have commitments from a few high profile guys to write guest blogs periodically but not until I drive my traffic up considerable. Any advice on how to do that, I published with google search and yahoo. Trying to figure out RSS and I’m trying to figure out the hole blog roll deal. Thanks for any advice or tips!

    • says

      Hi JB — welcome to the blogging world!

      You’re asking a *very* difficult question — because page views are really the holy grail of analytics, and unfortunately, it takes both hard work and time!

      Not to hype my own site, but I’d go back through all of my posts on social media:

      and on blogging tips:

      There’s really no ONE way to increase traffic. It’s a combination of having great content and making it easy to share. In fact, if you spend 20 minutes writing a post, you should really spend an hour marketing it, or connecting with other bloggers. That means reading lots of blogs (and commenting on them in a meaningful way), posting regularly to your own blog, doing enough research that you provide information that readers can’t get elsewhere and then, making it all optimized in a way that you’re picked up by search engines.

      When you say you published with google search and yahoo, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. RSS is a tool that allows your readers to get “pinged” or alerted every time you have new content. And blog rolls, as you see from this post, are a different animal altogether.

      Hope that helps!

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