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Hurdle 9 - Rock & Blogroll


I have just undergone a bit of a redesign of DJ and it has led me realise that managing your blog roll(s) is important to successful blogging and strong relationships with fellow bloggers.

What is a blog roll?

A blog roll is a way of sharing links on your blog page, simple as that. Sadly for some, this is where the simplicity starts and finishes. You are faced with a series of choices. which are mainly political and practical. Practically, its all about space...less is more. Politically, its a little more complicated and is explained in the following paragraphs. 

By the end of this post you should see the importance of these small decisions, even if you go back to managing your blog roll in the same way you always have.

Why have a blog roll?

There are two reasons you might have a blog roll; to share blogs you read, or to share blogs relevant to your topic. The hurdle you have to come over about blogging is that it is a community activity, not a competitive activity. Its not about who has the better blog, or who has the most visitors...it's about people with similar interests and values sharing information, ideas, thoughts and feelings on the topic. So using a blog roll is a great way to add depth to your own blog, and to build bridges with your fellow bloggers, even if you may see them as your 'competition'.

A blog roll exchange can be the first step in a long friendship with other bloggers. This friendship matters because when you are getting few visitors in the beginning it is these fellow bloggers that will keep your spirits up.


Decision the first


When i started blogging, the organisation of my blog rolls was fairly fluid and responded to the changing types of links i had. This is the best way to do it, so consider this post as something that gives you an idea of one way of managing your blog rolls, and not the necessarily the perfect way.

The first decision you need to make is about the above question, are you sharing links of blogs that you read, blogs that might be of interest, or both? There is a subtle difference between the two. Blogs that you read may also be of interest to your readers, but there may be some blogs that you don't read but would like to share because, for example, they are the leading blog in your topic. It will depend on how personal you want your blog to be. If you are trying to offer an objective blog, it may be better to stick with a 'blogs of interest' blog roll only.

Lets make the presumption, for the purpose of the rest of this blog, that we are going to have both. The first one will be blogs that i read, and the second will be blogs that might be of interest to readers.

The further decisions...


We have our two blog rolls, now we need to name them. Having experimented with various ways of naming blog rolls I have come to the conclusion that the best format for a title is short and descriptive. Other options are; funny, personal, topical, or abstract titles. Our two blog rolls are going to be called "Blogs i read" and "Other blogs of interest". They are short, will stay on one line and clearly tell the reader what the blogs are going to be about. Naming complete.

So lets say we have 5 or 6 blogs on each blog roll. We need to think about how to order them. If you are using the blogger site you have two choices; Alphabetically and by Most recently updated. This is where blogging politics starts creeping in, and blogger has solved the problem for us. The two choices involve no biased decision from us...it's either down to the name of the blog, or the frequency of posting. Therefore none of our fellow bloggers will fall out with us because we are treating one more favourably than another. 

Lets look at them both individually.

Alphabetically is self explanatory. A at the top, Z at the bottom. It offers a completely bias free order, and makes blogs easy to find. No more need be said. Ordering by date updated would be my preference.

Say i have these 6 blogs, and the blog "Amazing Blogger" hasn't posted in a year, yet "Zulu Warrior" posts every week. I want to share the most up to date and fresh blogs with my readers, which is why i would want them ordered like this. I also see an element of justice. Zulu Warrior is working really hard, yet never gets top spot on my blog. Amazing Blogger doesn't post at all, yet gets prime real estate. So lets recognise the hard work of our fellow bloggers and order by 'date last posted'.

Our next choice will be number of blogs to show. In blogger the choices are All Blogs, 5, 10 and 25. Decide this based on the 'clutter factor'. Do you want your top 5 most recently updated blogs always displayed, allowing for the reader to click "see more" to see the rest, or do you want a very long list so that the reader can still be seeing links to other bloggers when they are half way down the page? The choice is yours.

This next bit is based on the blogger site, but i should imagine other blogging sites have something similar. The tick boxes. This is all about balance. On the one hand we want to give the most amount of information to help advertise our fellow bloggers, but on the other hand we want to avoid 'the clutter factor'. The choices in blogger are; icon; title of most recent item; snippet of most recent item; thumbnail of most recent item; date of last update. My current configuration is Icon, Title of most recent, Date of last update. I chose not to have a snippet or thumbnail because i don't think they add anything more to the 'Title of most recent item'. Having the icon is useful because it tells you what type of blog it is; Blogger, Wordpress etc...it takes up very little room. 

That's tick boxes out the way, which was a lot easier than i thought it was going to be. The next section is about Blog Roll Politics.

Blog Roll Politics

Over the past few weeks my 3 blog rolls have consisted of both personal blogs and corporate blogs mixed. For example; The Guardian Law page was always topping my Law Bloggers blog roll, meaning my fellow personal law bloggers were being bumped down the list. So i decided to divide it all up between Personal Bloggers and Corporate Bloggers. 

Bloggers stick together
It is important that personal bloggers stick together, support each other, and ensure our community isn't overshadowed by corporate bloggers, or other social media. I therefore suggest that you separate your links into Personal and Corporate, and ensure that Personal bloggers have a more prime location on your blog.

Having introduced two new categories of blog roll, we need to make sure we don't clash with the clutter factor...remember less is more. By this point i have suggested that you have 4 blog rolls; Blogs i read, blogs of interest, personal blogs and corporate blogs. An easy way to reconcile them, and to half the number of blog rolls, is to merge "blogs i read" with "personal blogs" and "blogs of interest" with "corporate blogs". This isn't as arbitrary as it may seem, it is based on the importance i assign to each one. I would want my readers to see the blogs i read, and the personal blogs first. I am happy for my readers to see the blogs of interest, and corporate blogs second. The point is, its flexible, you can configure it depending on the importance you attach to each.

Blog Roll Exchange

Unsolicited adding gives
me a tingly feeling
This brings us back to why we have a blog roll, and you have three choices. You can either actively enter into link exchanges; "Hi i will link you if you will link me". This is the best way to get integrated into your topic's community. This is less relevant to linking to corporate blogs as they probably won't participate in a link exchange.

The other choice is to add blogs unsolicited...without anyone asking, and without expecting anything in return. The best time to do this is when you feel fairly established in your topics community. I like to do it to give my fellow bloggers a bit of a confidence boost. Rather than doing a link exchange where it is mutually beneficial, its nice for a blogger to see that someone is adding them without asking for anything in return. What is likely to happen is that that blogger will notice that he is getting referrals from your site, and will add you as a 'thank you'. Having found myself fairly well established, this is my prefered way of blog rolling.

Deleting...not easy
Deleting

Deleting someone from your blog roll can be dangerous, but you should start with a clear policy in your mind and stick to it. If you start without a policy in mind, and add everyone and anyone, it can become harder to delete them, which you will probably need to do to avoid 'the clutter factor', without causing offence in the future. 

My policy is that a blog will get deleted if there is more than 6 months of inactivity. I did experiment with keeping formerly active blogs on there for reference, but changed my mind. I changed my mind because the blogosphere is fickle, and i have come to conclude that that is a good thing. It encourages bloggers to keep up posting. I think a blog roll should be a fresh reflection of what the current community has to offer, not what it had to offer 6 months ago. Should that blogger start up again, i would happily add them of course.



To Conclude

  • Less is more
  • Fresh is better
  • Keep it simple