What's a blogroll?
I've been trying to figure out all the mysterious jargon of the blogosphere, and one that's got me stumped is blogroll. Dave, what's a blogroll?
I'm with you, it's amazing how many different bits of jargon have now invaded the world of the Web with the increased popularity of weblogs. Fortunately, blogrolls are pretty easily defined:
A blogroll is a list of other weblogs that a given blogger either subscribes to or recommends.
Pop over to my colleague Debbie Weil's terrific Blogwrite for CEOs, for example, and down the right column Debbie has a list of "CEO Blogs", her first blogroll, and then below it (and below her advert) is "Corporate Blogs", a second blogroll. Then there's "Other Blog Resources" and "Other Smart Blogs", for a total of four blogrolls on the same Weblog.
Other bloggers approach blogrolls differently. Pop over to Paul Chaney's Radiant Marketing Group site and you'll find his blogroll is called "Recommended Sites", and it's, again, on the far right side of the page. Halley Suitt's Halley's Comment weblog has two blogrolls, this time on the left side, called "New Blogs" and "Blogs". VC and blogger Brad Feld's Feld Thoughts has "Blogs I Read" on the lower left of the page.
There are some tools that are popular for managing blogrolls, notably Blogrolling, but many weblog authors just manage their own as a simple list of hypertext references.
When asked why have a blogroll, most bloggers I know, whether business bloggers or casual, hobbyist bloggers, answer that by pointing to other weblogs, you encourage those bloggers to also point to your own blog, producing cross-links and increasing your inbound links. From a Google perspective, more inbound links means higher PageRank, so that's a smart strategy.
However, the downside of a blogroll from this perspective is that Google and other search engines only pay attention to a finite number of links off a page - many believe that the magic number is 75 - and that each link gets a proportional fraction of the PageRank value of the originating site, so having a blogroll with 100 entries, for example, means that essentially none of those bloggers receive any PageRank benefit, and further, that any links that you want to point to because you're writing about a specific site or citing a particularly smart or useful article also don't gain any benefit.
There's also a user interface issue: the more links you have taking people away from your site or weblog, the more likely they are to leave. If your goal is to be a connector and help people discover other useful resources on the Web, then that's great. But if you want to have people stay on your site to read your works and hopefully explore, then I would counsel against having lots and lots of outbound links.
Further, on my Intuitive Life Business Blog I don't have a blogroll and instead write articles about weblogs I really like or interview the bloggers, or profile their firms. It's a much stronger endorsement, much better PageRank benefit, and it's far more interesting to my readers over on that site.
So that's the story about blogrolls. Many bloggers believe passionately that without a blogroll you aren't really participating fully in the blogosphere (here we go with more jargon!) while others recognize it as just a list of favorite websites that happen to be weblogs, a feature that might or might not fit on your own blog depending on your design and preferences.
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