The Missing Link


Sunday, June 8th, 2008 — 10:00am PST
Comments 15

I’ve noticed an overall trend in the blogosphere which involves a conspicuous decrease in link love. Blogrolls are disappearing and going the way of the hat tip.


Photo © Waxy on Flickr – All Rights Reserved – WaxyPhotography.com

Blogrolls are link lists often found on sidebars of blogs or websites that list other blogs. People can display recommended reads, useful website tips, show off their friends, and give some overall link love when using a blogroll. Lately I’ve noticed a trend of moving this off of the main page and having a “links” page instead. Here are some pros and cons of a “links page” that I’ve discussed before with Duane.

Thumbs Up…

  • You don’t have to be limited to the sidebar width, meaning you can include little descriptions of the sites under their listing.
  • You can add photos or icons for the bloggers on your list.
  • You may be inclined to add more, which is always good for those you chose to mention.
  • Somewhere in the middle…

  • Your page rankings will probably go up. Technorati (although pretty much still a mystery to me) counts your “incoming” and “outgoing” links against each other, from what I’ve heard anyway. So if you have fewer “outgoing” links on your home page it works in your ranking’s favour.
  • Thumbs Down…

  • Do people look at other pages on your site aside from your home page?
  • “If everyone got rid of their blogroll it would throw Google Page Rank for a loop” – Duane
  • Some people can get very obsessed and possessive about their placement on your blogroll. Any sudden movements might cause disruption in the blogosphere.
  • If I didn’t have a blogroll on my sidebar it would look pretty empty, then I would consider removing it entirely. Then I would realize I like putting things over there, I’d miss it, I’d have to code it back in and really, it would really be a big waste of time.
  • I’m not going to be restructuring any time soon, I simply I put this out there to see what’s working for everyone in terms of link love – actively in posts or on a static sidebar or links page. In the blogosphere honor system, should there be an equal amount of give and take when it comes to links? Are there any rules or are links just from the goodness of one’s heart and no one is really obliged to provide info for any outside websites?

    “I just hope blogs, no matter how big they get, don’t forget that at one time they prided themselves on not being mainstream media, and likewise held themselves to a different standard, including a basic respect of the friendly, easy hat tip.” – [David Markland on LA Metblogs]

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    15 comments

    1. Raul says:

      My blogroll has grown substantially since I started blogging, and (in my case at least) it helps me as a reminder of whom I read. Some people whom I read are NOT on my blogroll (for reasons that shall remain a mistery, hehehe). But I do try hard with the link love and the hat tip.

      A couple of times I have found myself thinking “ouch, I’m not on so-and-so’s blogroll” but then I quickly make a point of just letting go.

      I really couldn’t care much about my stats or page rank or technorati. I don’t understand it very well anyways! Just being part of the blogosphere is good 🙂 And being friends with bloggers is good too.

    2. If your observation is correct, this is serious. I pay a lot of attention to what influences the rankings, especially with Google. Google is VERY generous in ranking bloggers. (Thank-you Google.) I am guessing, but I suspect it is due to Google deciding that bloggers provide real content. A blogger is a real person, and some other real people might care what is in the blog. It is almost impossible for a spammer to create a link farm that looks like a network of blogs. My tiny blog (linked here with my name) ranks far better with Google than my professional web sites.

      Why? It is all the times that I link in my sidebar (yes Google grabs my own sidebars every time I post), and other people write, and my listing is in their sidebar.

      My sense is that a link in an article has more impact in ranking than a link in the sidebar. But, I can see the benefits of the sidebar links when I do a link-test.

      I have also noticed that when I post on wordpress.com, Google will receive the ping, spider, catalog, and have me in their listing in less than 7 minutes. Usually Google is faster than Technorati. I have also observed that a fresh post ranks VERY well, but fades precipitously as the days and weeks pass. To maintain a good position, requires a continuous stream of posts + lots of incoming links.

      One more observation, and then I’ll stop. Some themes don’t show the blogroll on the page with the individual post (like this one). I think that this seriously erodes the opportunity for providing links.

      I am pretty clear that one of the best ways to secure incoming links is to provide links to other worthy and friendly sites. The rule for successful blogging (as I read somewhere else) is: post, post, post, link, link, link. Sorry about this long comment, but I believe that bloggers should be thoughtful about these issues — if we care about people finding and reading what we write. I trust that blogrolls are important, and each of us benefits from being generous in adding to our blogroll.

    3. Beth says:

      Ever since I started reading blog RSS feeds in Google Reader instead of going to the actual blog (I only go to the blog itself if I have a comment to make or if the person doesn’t include their full posting in their feed), I’ve kind of forgotten about my blogroll. It’s still there on my site, but I forget to update it when I start reading a new blog, as I just add it to my Google Reader. Perhaps it’s time to update the old blog roll, eh?

      Personally, I’m all about linking to people within my actual blog postings. It gives context to the reader and I think that someone is more likely to follow a link within a posting than to click on the blogroll. Although your idea of having a whole link page, that gives a description of the blog, would help with that.

    4. Luc says:

      Another “thumbs down”: it slows the loading of the main page. If the blogroll consists of a list of links, then it still loads fast, but bloggers are tempted to decorate the page with little images, dynamically generates content, counters and even video clips.
      All these widgets slow the loading to a point that 5+ sec. pass between the time the top banner shows up and the rest of the page. It’s not only the host – some blogs are hosted by google and they still present this problem.

    5. Duane Storey says:

      Yah, I think the blog roll is a somewhat dated concept. Especially because I’ve had emails before from people either asking to be added to mine or upset where they current rank on mine. It’s not worth the effort.

    6. Christine says:

      I ran a survey last Christmas asking my clients/friends/colleagues to answer a few question about my company’s blog. I was interested in knowing how to make it better and what content I should focus on. My blogroll consists of reference/inspirational sites which I think are good sites for my clients to read. One comment I received from my survey was that this list was “intimidating”. I them decided to trim down my list and just focus on the blogs which I think are the best ones.

      It’s a pretty tricky situation, because I don’t think that the average “non blogger” knows what the blogroll is and additionally some bloggers just don’t want people to leave their site. In my opinion blogrolls are a must for personal blogs as I think it helps define who you are and shows what other stuff interest you.
      As more and more companies use blogs, I don’t think that this list is as important.

    7. chicklet says:

      On the sidebar, I’ve always got the top 3-5 blogs I’m reading, but I limit it to that as I just find it too cluttered if I list out all the ones I surf through. But cuz I wanna give out the link love, cuz I like link love myself, I use the blogroll page to keep things all tidy. Admittedly the whole page right now is infertility blogs as that’s the sphere I’m in, but it works for what I want it to.

    8. Larry says:

      Rebecca
      RSS Pieces’s Mary McKnight did a videow talk on this topic and suggests that Google considers the blogroll something akin to a directory and if it sees that it not being used it begins to penalize your blog for ranking. I admit I don’t understand any of this but for those care it may be of interest.

    9. Mostly Lisa says:

      my link love page is my second most viewed page after my about page. plusss, i do love adding the descriptions and have way more space layout-wise and my sidebars are so narrow that the blogroll looked crappy there.

      i think it’s the continuation of link loving that’s more important than the placement within your blog. did that make sense. uh, i’ve been off the internet for 5 days. i’ve lost my edge.

    10. Didn’t someone use to call it “Roll of Honour”?

      Personally I use it to show which blogs I really like.

      I don’t mind giving away link love. Technorati rank og Google PR doesn’t really mean much to me anymore.

      It looks like some bloggers are limiting the number of links on their blogroll due to design issues.

      So what’s more important a good looking blog or link love? 😉

    11. Duane Storey says:

      @Dennis – interesting that those are you two choices? What about content? 🙂

    12. @Duane: Content is, of course, the most important thing. What I meant was: Do you prioritise that your blog looks good over giving away link love? Or the other way around?

      Some argue that the blogroll is ruining their blog’s design 😉

    13. Saskboy says:

      Was this blog posting a sneaky way of reminding people that they don’t have you on their blogrolls? If so/not, it worked 😉

    14. […] should the old blogroll stay or go. I could discuss the pros and cons of killing it, but Rebecca recently did a good job of considering the issue. Looking at my site stats, it ranks #68 in popularity over the past two years.Do you ever use my […]

    15. […] never come across. As a hat tip, this post is largely inspired by Rebecca Bollwitt’s “The Missing Link” that considers (as of 2008) the changing characters of link lists and […]

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