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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!