10 Reasons Why I Don’t Like Blogrolls and Community Link Lists

This made me LOL.

I was asked the other day if I had an opinion about blogrolls, community link lists, and other such things and I responded quickly (and perhaps a bit tersely):

Um, I don’t like them. tweet

Whoops! Sorry.

Of course, this person had a blogroll about a mile and a half long on their sidebar (I didn’t know that prior to answering or I would have said it a bit nicer) and had spent (what it looked like) hours of time curating the list to stay current and pretty.

Ugh. I felt a bad but it’s the truth: I don’t use nor do I particularly like blogrolls or community link lists.

And you know what? This is one of the things on people’s blogs that I’m more than willing to say that I  “agree to disagree” and let each blogger do as they please.

But, I personally have a few reasons why I don’t use them and here is my list of the first 10 I could think of:

  1. I don’t have time to curate the list, especially when I want to make sure that the blogs that I’d link to update regularly at a bare minimum.
  2. In addition, I don’t have time to follow all of those blogs all the time to make sure that their content focus is similar and targeted. You see, I think the best blogrolls link to similar content to establish better brand equity and even similar SEO keywording.
  3. I think blogrolls have little to no context for the value that they might bring to my readers. Why would anyone want to just go through my blogroll when they don’t know what’s on the other side? Who’s to know what’s really going on with that link?
  4. Keyword density and linking is an extremely important part of your SEO strategy. I’m going to go into more depth on this topic in a bit but the fact is that I want to generally limit the amount of out-bound links from my blog’s homepage (and all those single post pages) if I can. Blogrolls and community link lists dilute my effort here greatly.
  5. They aren’t very pretty and I don’t want to spend the time to make it pretty. Long blogrolls that force a long scroll via your browser are not very attractive if you ask me.
  6. Historically I’ve done tests with blogrolls and found the click-through rate to be exceptionally poor. In other words, it’s wasting valuable “clickable” real estate on my blog’s sidebar that I can use for something more important and impactful. No thank you!
  7. The ROI and reciprocal traffic generated from the blogs that blogrolls link to is historically pretty poor as well. Sure, a blogroll is somewhat of an altruistic gesture of support for another blogger with no expectation of click-through payback (now perhaps, but see #8 for blogroll etiquette) but every single click counts and unless I can come up with a seriously-compelling reason to have one then I don’t sport one.
  8. Blogrolls used to be a neat thing in the past but they’ve fallen out of style in our blogging culture. I don’t see many of the top bloggers using them (but to each his own again, right?). There used to be a blogroll etiquette where if you were listed on someone’s blogroll then the unspoken rule was that you’d reciprocate with a link to theirs in return. You can quickly imagine how this was abused as people’s blogrolls became lists of hundreds (if not thousands) of blogs.
  9. What’s worse is that people began to purchase spots on people’s blogrolls to get that supposed traffic and Google and other search engines began to catch this practice and penalized bloggers for doing so and not reporting it as a paid advertisement. Google isn’t stupid and can easily see the anchor text of a link that’s unnatural and typically spammy with keywords.
  10. I don’t like the word “blogroll.” I don’t know why I don’t like the word but I don’t. Sorry…!

And that’s about it for me. Again, I’m not dogmatic against using it so feel free to keep your blogrolls long and proud!

Instead, perhaps, try a “blogroll-like” system like the Weekly Top Commenters WordPress Plugin that gives credit to bloggers who are commenting on your blog with a link to their site. This provides context for why the link is in your sidebar as well as the fact that it dynamically changes every week so it doesn’t get “stale”.

Or do something as equally creative and give some context in another way.

Love to hear your thoughts!

  • http://www.thecreativebridge.com Jon Owen

    This post just gave me a great sense of relief. I have been thinking of how to do it, when to find the time, and who to give props to on the list. Your reasons make great sense and saved me a butt-load of time. The “altruistic” digital form of ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ doesn’t really play out that way in “clickable real estate.”

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      this is one of the biggest reasons!

    • Michael

      And that’s exactly why I haven’t had one for over a year. I really don’t like that part of blogging. I understand the whole wanting to help each other and community aspect of it, but the whole “scratching each other’s back thing” drives me crazy.

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        ha! and it’s not too pretty of a back-scratch either!

  • http://www.tillhecomes.org Jeremy Myers

    Hmmm. I just pared down my blogroll this week. Maybe I should have just cut it.

    I would feel bad though. All those on my blogroll also link to my blog, and I do get a few clicks a day from those other sites, which is not much, but every bit counts.

    So, just to keep myself from feeling guilty, I think I will leave mine for now.

    • http://www.tillhecomes.org Jeremy Myers

      I am now going to disagree with myself.

      As I sat here staring at my previous comment, my eyes wandered over to your sidebar, and saw your “weekly commenters” list.

      Technically, that is a “blogroll of active readers.” Since you have outgoing links, it is a great way to make sure active readers get their blogs noticed and listed, while at the same time encouraging more commenting.

      So maybe I will scrap my blogroll after all, and change my top commenters list into a “top commenters blogroll.” Want to get listed on my blogroll? Leave a few comments.

      • http://jamesbrooks.me.uk James Brooks

        Yeh I think that is a good plan Jeremy! Make them work for their link! ;)

        I <3 Tentblogger's Plugins!

        • http://john.do John Saddington

          thanks bro!

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        seriously. good incentive, right?

  • http://getbusylivingblog.com Benny

    I don’t have one but I think it’s cause I didn’t know who to put on mine. But after reading your reasons I’m glad I don’t have one. It doesn’t provide value really. Plus it just clutters the sidebar even more. Thanks John!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sure thing benny!

  • http://darrylbueckert.com Darryl Bueckert

    I like the idea of intentional linking; something that a blogroll just don’t accomplish. If you are going to point one of your readers to someone else you should give them a good reason why.
    You could draw a parallel with #FollowFridays on Twitter, which more often than not have ended up being a full tweet, or series of tweets with lists of twitterid’s.
    Thanks for going on the record with your opinion on this one. Curious to see if you get some push back.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      the idea of intentionally doing things for your blog is one of the things i do all the time. i want every portion of my blog to have a strong motive behind it and a lot of thought!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      oh, and there’s a few in here so far in terms of pushback… and on twitter. :)

  • http://micksgrill.wordpress.com Mike

    Love it. Makes me wonder why I wound give free traffic to someone who doesn’t add value to my blog. Totally makes sense.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      it’s a good place to start, at least. critical thinking is undervalued in blogging!

  • Joseph

    I have a blog roll up but I don’t take care of it. There are blogs I read that aren’t on there. I’m also pretty confident that no one has ever clicked a link in the time it’s been up. Now that I’ve read this post I may just replace it with the top commenters plug in now that I’m getting comments on a regular basis. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sweet! nice move joseph.

  • http://gbrenna.com Graham

    Totally agree with you on this. I never thought of your top commenters plugin as a “blogroll-like” plugin, but that’s totally what it is! And it serves a purpose.

    Blogrolls started when blogs were new an there weren’t many of them. People would link to other blogs because hey, if this person blogged, well that automatically means they are cool and like-minded! Not so much anymore. ;)

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      not so much anymore indeed…!

  • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

    Totally agree with you John. I’ve never been a fan of them. I have never felt compelled to click into a site from someone’s blogroll and don’t see it adding any value to my readers.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      me too. i see a blogroll and i feel weird inside. :)

  • Philipp Knoll

    Hey John,

    You created a good list of reasons why not to invest time on creating/maintaining a blogroll.

    I believe that linking to and referring valuable content is an extremely good thing. I have found lots of sites that I’m now a regular reader of through referrals by other bloggers. But blogroll referrals are totally out of context. I’d rather post those links in an article about a topic that I share with a fellow blogger. If I’d write about SEO and know of a great post or even full blog about that topic I’d link to it as an external resource. I’d also explain why that resource would be worth my readers time.

    The reward system for participation on your blog is a great idea. It might just be what it takes for some to start sharing their thought in the comments.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      cool., thanks for these thoughts phil!

  • http://www.zemeks.blogspot.com Karen and Gerard

    I love blogrolls. I use mine every day to visit my favorite blogs. I like how it shows the newest post title too so I can easily see when the blogs I love are updated. (That is how I find out your posts that peak my interest.) I do not trade links but of course am happy to see mine sometimes listed on other blogrolls.

    I am having some issues with mine though. I noticed that my other blog is not showing my newest post in my blogroll-have no idea why this is. Also, my “show all” at the bottom of my blogroll has disappeared on my main blog and I had to move my blogroll to the very bottom on the right because it doesn’t load anything after it. Very strange.

    I have considered putting my blogroll on a separate page. I follow just too many blogs to go through my google reader every day. Just don’t have the time.

    I also check out blogrolls on other blogs too and have actually discovered some of my favorites that way. Maybe I should do a post on why I like blogrolls. Sorry for such a long comment, but you got me going on this one!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      karen/gerard,

      awesome! i’m so glad you spoke up since most of the people here are tracking with me about not liking them.

      if done well then they are helpful… and if it’s a part of your overall workflow then keep it! as i said, i’m not dogmatic about my position!

      thanks for being brave to voice the other perspective!

  • Wayne Cordova

    I had a blog roll this morning. Very tasty with some cream cheese or cinnamon butter!

    • http://jamesbrooks.me.uk James Brooks

      LOL!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      this i like.

  • http://jamesbrooks.me.uk James Brooks

    I don’t like them at all. I haven’t used them for YEARS! I have a blogroll on one of my old sites, but don’t tend to use them anymore.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      you are a chicken.

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        as in… you like chicken fingers.

  • http://davemiers.com dave miers

    blogrolls are so 2004

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      so 2000 and late!

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        hmm. whoops. goto second 44. ;) puaha. black eyed peas.

      • http://davemiers.com dave miers

        catch track.
        i’ve often laughed at that 2000 and late lyric!!
        haha

      • http://gbrenna.com Graham

        1:25 he says 8Bit …

  • http://www.irishmark.net Mark

    I can relate to this well. I agree with the sense of not wanting to link out to sites that need to be monitored, it all adds up in time.

    Howevere I do use a brief roll on my site with all my sites rekating to me. So it’s – me on About.me / me on blipfoto / me on facebook…

    This works wll for me because my blog is a personal blog about me and the rolll links out to my on-line presence.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sweet! i like this custom use. definitely neat.

  • http://www.carusophotography.com Jay

    Man, the “blogroll” is so 2003. At one time it was a pretty big deal to be added to a blogroll of a blogger that had lots of traffic especially amongst political blogs.

    I remember Blogrolling. They had a service that used some javascript code to insert your blogroll (back when TypePad was still what most people used) and as of November 2010, they’re no longer around.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      gross. i remember services and apps like that.

  • Brandon

    I don’t like blogrolls because they go all the way down the sidebar, and it doesn’t look professional. I do have a “links” page where I list all the sites I follow though…

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      this is a good alternative, for sure.

  • JD Eddins

    I have struggled with this issue as well, even though I have not had the blogroll in my sidebar. Instead I had it as a separate page on the website. This may have caused it to eat up even more precious real estate because that meant that the heading for it was at the top of website.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      don’t give your real estate away unless for high value features! yup.

  • Meghann Chapman

    Thanks so much for this one. I had a blog roll on my site when I first got it up and running. It was something I did to just be friendly and help out a couple fellow bloggers. But it just seemed like baggage more than anything. I took it off a only a week or two ago. Thank you for following the decision up with this blog. It makes me feel more secure in my decision.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      cool! glad I could give you that extra support for your decision! you’re on the right track.

  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    Agreed – blogrolls are old-school blogging. Back in the day, bloggers used them to increase Technorati scores so that more people could find their blogs.

    Bottom line, though, is that blogrolls don’t work. People don’t click them. If you admire a certain blogger, why not allow them to do a guest post or mention them in a post – people are much more likely to click those links.

    Would be interested to hear why you want to limit outbound links – not sure I agree with that.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      oh, you definitely should limit outbound…! i’ll go into more depth on this in a new series i’m preparing. … or i might do one for the current content series.

  • http://lifexpresseddigitally.me/blog Brian Alexander

    and to think WP makes blogrolls default on all of their sites. Tisk. Tisk. Shame on them!

    I deleted mine as soon as I added the top commenters plugin (which has been working great BTW) and haven’t gone back. I love the way it looks, it updates on it’s own, and I don’t have to worry about the links on that list because I know that my community will get value from their sites/blogs.

    The other thing about blogrolls, I also hate the name. Makes me think of a tootsie roll, while tastey, they sound disgusting.

    As I am writing this comment I am getting the red squiggly line under blogrolls. IT’s NOT EVEN A REAL WORLD. Common’ people. Take them off your sites now. Install the top commenters plugin and have a nice day! :)

    P.S. Sorry for the length of this comment. Wait, I don’t apologize.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      haha!

      yes, it’s true. blogroll isn’t coming up as an accepted word in my native dictionary. sad! ;)

  • Ryan Card

    I feel so ashamed… haha. Great post. I totally see where you are coming from. Thankfully, I can say my blogroll is brief. I think maybe 5 links and I don’t expect it to grow much larger.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      ryan,

      ah, no need to feel like that! they aren’t necessarily all that bad!

  • Jacob Musselman

    I can totally see your point about blogrolls.

    I think the only time I could see me wanting to go through someone’s blogroll is if I admire the person and want to learn from what they are learning from. But I think this could be accomplished in a better way through a post.

    I am also not a big fan of top commenters either, until this conversation. What a great way to reinforce the value of commenting by acknowledging those who invest in your blog.

    • http://gbrenna.com Graham

      through a post or by following them on Twitter ;)

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      cool jacob! it’s not for everyone, but could work for a few.

  • Sharon @ HikingTowardHome

    I agree with your list and don’t have one on my site. HOWEVER, I got into reading blogs by clicking through blogrolls and that is how I found some of my favorite blogs. So for me they did have a purpose and provided entertainment when I was sitting in the middle of nowhere in a developing country as a missionary. Reading blogs for a while caused me to want to start a blog, now I have my own and I’m even self hosted, thanks to some help from tentblogger!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      neato! definitely a great place to start! i think it can be done well, but in most cases bloggers don’t think through it.

  • http://www.geekforhim.com Matthew Snider

    What is the overall difference between this and your top commenters? I think it’s the same thing honestly, except the top commenters could become spammy as opposed to the blogroll.

    I don’t think either are beneficial in my eyes but that is just me.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      overall difference? one is self-curating while the other is not? differences are the basis of merit…? not sure they are the same thing at all.

      sure, the comment thing could become spammy but it hasn’t happened yet.

  • http://blada.wordpress.com/ Lisa

    I know for some this is a trend, but if I enjoy someone’s blog I love to check into who/what they are reading. Whenever I take the time to run through such a person’s list, I almost always learn something new. Really, they’ve been an invaluable resource to me. We can’t all do ALL the research, so it’s nice to share what we’ve learned and gain from the resources others have gathered. I don’t worry about the reciprocation thing and I don’t expect anyone else to reciprocate either.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      lisa, great points here! i think you’re right on here!

  • http://fritzimages.com Fritz

    I am a photographer. I use bloglinks of photographers I follow and admire. They may be pro, amateur or family. There still exists in photography circles, a you help me and I’ll help you ethos. Your blogroll says what type of photography you may like so that others may visits and be influenced and introduced to.

    It cost space to say who your friends or mentors are in a blogrole and if your to miserly to announce your associates then it demonstrates an unwillingness to share.

    …… Having a blog is more than you own SEO and keeping readers linked into your own site…..

    From what I read here, it is a bit of a dilemma, why else would one rationalize and write ten points to convince ones self and justify what one is doing is right when it is clearly inconsistent with the sharing nature of the content of this site.

    hmmmm….could I get a blogrole……please!

    who got you here ?, who do you read ? what’s important to you ? when your daughter has her first blog are you going to exclude a link? where do you go for info? what Gallery or creative is inspiring you ?

    For my part, these are people who have journeyed with me for the past few years, over various themes and servers….

    Madeline Fritz flickr
    John C. Bruckman Flickr
    Moose Blog
    Thom Hogan Blog
    Lloyd Chambers Blog
    John Paul Caponigro Blog
    Jason P Odell Blog
    Jeff Synder Blog
    Vincent Versace Gallery
    Jay Maisel Gallery
    Ben Palmeri Gallery
    Debora Lewinston Gallery
    The Kid, ‘Jeremy p. Grey’
    Flashy-Lash

    PS: #1 is my daughter

    Interesting Blog very thought provoking…..

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      fritz,

      appreciate this! i believe i gave a fair shake on how I’m not opposed to you using it, for sure. to each his own and perhaps the context is where it’s at.

    • http://stephenbateman.com Stephen Bateman

      Fritz, I understand where you’re coming from, and I think the focus of your blog is probably a bit different. For more relationally-focused blogs (as opposed to content-focused), it may indeed be appropriate to link to other bloggers who you are friends with.

      A while ago, I was blogging and linked to all the people I *wished* were reading my site ;)

      But as you threw the word ‘miserly’ out there, I’d like to point out that your blogroll is buried in the footer of your site. Hardly prime placement.

  • http://laceyraewilcox@gmail.com Lacey Wilcox

    The only value I can see in a blogroll is if you’re wanting to help out fellow bloggers. If that’s your goal, an even better idea is to do that through a post. I’ve seen lots of people use a post on a certain topic strictly to share articles written by other bloggers who have proven to provide high-value info on the topic. You still make sure your readers receive incredible value, AND you get to help some fellow bloggers out…:)

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      it only helps if people are clicking through the links though, right?

  • http://are-review.blogspot.com Karina

    Nice to read this post. I don’t use a blogroll either. If I want to share a pertinent site, I’ll do it in the context of a post. The link has some meaning then and I’m not just “telling” readers to leave my site. Thanks!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      the context of a post is one of the best spots, for sure!

  • Jane | Find All Answers

    Hey John,

    Just like you, I too simply don’t like the word blogroll; it sounds just like toilet roll and I LOLed by seeing the picture here at this post.

    What I don’t like about blogrolls are that they make the blog’s home page look rather ugly. And as you say, making it to look pretty takes time and effort. Second, I don’t want to drain my homepage of all the juice. I am not against giving link love; I support commentluv, my blog is do-follow enabled, and I do Friday roundup posts highlighting best reads from other blogs. But I simply don’t want people and bots to jump out just from my homepage. It is also a great distraction.

    Cheers,
    Jane.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      jane,

      great thoughts here and yes, the toilet roll image made me seriously LOL.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    You noted something I didn’t even think about, a top 10 list of commenters, and connected that to offering exposure to other blogs. I know that commenting connects me to potential readers, after all I check out other people’s websites all the time, but it never occurred to me as a strategy. And, to be honest, I don’t want that motivation to creep into my willingness to enter the conversation.

    As for blogrolls, I generally wouldn’t follow the link based on someone’s list. I’m prompted more by an interesting comment or, as I’ve offered in a post, following a link based on a specific article that ties into what I’m reading.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      good points. some people will definitely be interested in getting some “link love” via the comments but i can’t control that. if they are offering great comments and conversations i’m all for rewarding that!

      great points here.

  • http://ichrch.com Rich Langton

    Just to add my two cents worth… I don’t like blogrolls either!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      ;) word up!

  • http://tlamarca.com Tony LaMarca

    I totally agree. Some of my friends link to my blog in their blogrolls, but I do not reciprocate. I don’t see traffic coming from their sites and I honestly think it looks ugly. A couple of my friends have awesome sites that I want to support, so I either had them make a 125×1125 image for me or I made one myself. They look so much more prettier!

    • http://tlamarca.com Tony LaMarca

      sorry, that’s 125×125. 125×1125 would be a huge link!

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        hahah! that would be a big endorsement.

  • http://betweennapsontheporch.blogspot.com/ Susan (Between Naps on the Porch)

    John, How do you feel about “My Top 10 Referrals for the Month of XXXX” lists on blogs? I’m seeing that a good bit now on some larger blogs I read. I did it for a while on my blog, but stopped when I redesigned it recently.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      i think that’s fine.

  • http://betweennapsontheporch.blogspot.com/ Susan (Between Naps on the Porch)

    Ooops, meant, “My Top 10 Referrers for the Month of XXXX” (not referrals.) The blogger will list the 10 blogs that sent the most traffic to their site the previous month. This list has to be updated once a month. Good idea? I’m trying to decide if I’ll go back to listing my top 10 referrers or just leave it off my site.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      same thing. i think. not a bad idea at all.

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