October 17, 2012

A blogroll on your blog

We are prompted to write this post on maintaining a blogroll on the blog as we’ve  found that quite a number of blogs carry a blogroll without applying their mind to its utility. (We are presently scrutinizing Hindi blogs for compiling the Directory of Best Hindi Blogs. We find that this tendency to have a blogroll at all costs is quite prevalent among Indian bloggers and even more among Hindi bloggers.)


Why a blogroll?

Blogroll is just a list of blogs (and other websites) that you display on your blog. A good blogroll should serve one or more of these purposes-
  • First and foremost, it should enrich your blog’s content by providing additional resources.
  • It should link your blog to good and relevant blogs over the www.
  • It should help build a community. If you put someone’s blog on your blogroll, he /she would put your blog too on their blog unless there is a reason for their not doing so.
  • It should get relevant back-links to your blog. When those in your blogroll link your blog on their blogs, your blog gets those many back-links. Back-links are a prized asset for a blog’s listing on search-pages.


How to put a good blogroll on the blog?

The blogroll can be placed in a sidebar, at the bottom of the blog or as a separate page that is linked from a tab anywhere on the blog (preferably on the menu-bar). You can also put a blogroll in your profile page.
The placing of the blogroll should go with the basic design of the blog. In a typical 2-column blog, a small blogroll fits very well in the sidebar. However, if the blogroll grows long, it is better placed in a separate page.
Blogroll can be put using a widget (in-built in the case of major platforms such as Blogger) or can be created manually by typing each entry individually. You can put just the URL or title of the linked blogs or can give some details about them; it depends upon the space available vis-à-vis size of the blogroll, and your personal preferences.
Though manual lists need labour, and sometimes re-arranging entries, they give you the liberty to arrange entries according to their importance or relevance, put blogs into various categories, and even put them arbitrarily. You can also play with color and font size of individual or group entries.


Do’s and don’ts

  • Not all blogs require a blogroll, so don’t force yourself to have one only because a blog that you like has a blogroll.
  • When compiling a blogroll, do ask yourself whether it will serve a good purpose. Even if so, a blogroll should not spoil the design of the blog.
In our blogosphere surveys of Indian blogs, we have often come across many blogs with very long blogrolls, as if the blogger wanted to show off his / her range of links. Instead of serving the intended purpose, a poor-quality blogroll looks like a burden on the blog. It also shows the blogger in poor light, as an un-focused, scatter-brained , unprofessional person.
  • Keep only the blogs you really want to keep there. The criterion of selection of entries could be any: your friends’ / relatives’ blogs; blogs on related subjects; blogs by blogger friends; blogs and websites that you like your visitors to read because of their very high quality or because they complement your own content…
  • Check each entry for its link to the correct resource. Re-check links when you re-arrange entries later.
  • Remove ‘%20’ and such other html codes for special characters, which are not part of the URL but sometimes come in when you paste a link.
  • Keep only blogs that are regularly updated. Check the blogs every 3-4 months to see that they are not only alive but also are updated and have not become restricted to registered visitors.
  • Keep the blogroll small. In case you want to have a longer list, give it a separate name and put it separately (e.g. a small blogroll on the blog’s main page and a ‘list of blogs that I often visit’ on the profile page). 
How big is too big, you may ask. Depending on the subject and the space available (see the next point), we would recommend that the list is no bigger than 10-15 lines if it is in a sidebar. On a separate page or on the profile page too, 50 should be the extreme upper limit. Bigger than that would deserve to be called a directory, no?
  • Keep uniform the number of lines each entry takes. It should ideally be only one line or two [e.g first line gives URL and the second line a brief caption]. Shorten the expression in the link to fit in the width of the column where the blogroll is placed.
  • Arrange entries with some logic, even if you want to look random. The most popular way of listing blogs and websites in the blogroll is alphabetical. You can also list blogs / websites according to their importance or relevance – starting with the strongest. You can group them in sub-categories if you find a widget that has this feature; otherwise you will have to do that manually.
  • The blogroll should not pull the entire blog or the sidebar down the screen. For this reason, avoid putting a blogroll bigger than 5-7 lines or any other long list at the bottom of the blog.
  • Give each link in the list an expression that the viewers can easily associate with the linked blog or website (e.g. URL of the blog / title of the blog – but it’s likely to change over time / a relevant caption such as ‘Rita’s blog on her child’).