When I started blogging the Blogroll in the sidebar was a vital part of building a blog community. I’d add bloggers who became friends or I’d found interesting and hope that people reading my blog would find it useful for discovering new blogs to read. I’d trawl through other people’s blog rolls for the same reason. If someone made a comment it seemed only polite to add them to my blog roll and hope that they’d do the same for you. If you used one service to produce your blog roll you could even see when friends had updated their blogs. I like the personal touch of adding and the feeling of sharing favourites. I used to have my ‘furl’ (or del.icio.us) there too so I could share what I’d found as well.
Recently people have been suggesting it’s best to ‘de-clutter’ your sidebar, reduce your blog roll, worry less about building reciprocal links, or providing a ‘discovery’ service to your readers, and more about search engine optimisation. I’m slightly seduced by this. In practice I discovered from my stats not that many visitors use the blogroll as an exit point on this blog. The feelings of community that it used to engender seem to have been a bit of an illusion. The only really strong thing about it is that it is a hand-picked set of links. I made these choices, these are blogs that I think it’s important to connect to but they are all in my RSS reader so it’s not so vital to me have them here too. In the end it’s a sort of courtesy to leave the links there.
My BlogLog is also in my sidebar and it’s quite different. These are the readers of the blog, or at least, those that belong to MyBlogLog. I didn’t choose them – they chose me. I have no control over them and they may or may not have blogs with relevent content that other readers might find useful. Mostly, I think, the widget in the sidebar is for my benefit. It lets me see who is looking at the blog and sometimes I do find new blogs that way. Unlike Andy, I don’t think much of the stats it produces and find Statcounter much more useful.
BlogRush is a new blog promotion widget for the sidebar that just started yesterday. You can scroll down and have a look at mine. You’ll see that it displays 5 headlines from other ‘related’ blogs. I’m having a few problems with this. Firstly you ascribe a category to your blog, I chose ‘education’ . The headlines that appear in the widget should be from other blogs that also categorise themselves as ‘education’. A quick glance at the first results showed mostly blogs trying to sell software, loans or ‘other things’ 😉 to students. I quickly went back to the control panel of Blogrush and added some keywords to filter out. This sort of worked, some of the more obvious spammy sites went but it didn’t filter out the word ‘loans’. Hmm.
This could be a nice ‘discovery’ tool but there are other problems, not just its roots in marketting. It’s got an inbuilt bias towards already popular blogs. Everyone who signs up via a link in your blog like this one BlogRush adds points to your blog and it is by earning these points that you end up in the widget on other people’s blogs. It seems likely that this will just exagerate the power curve and the big blogs will just get even more traffic. Early adopters are in with a chance and might do well at increasing their targetted traffic at first, though, because of the viral nature of the thing as it spreads through the blogosphere.
Anyway, I’m trying it out for one month from today so if you do have any thoughts on the matter perhaps you’d let me know in the comments.
Sign up for Blogrush to try it out yourself.
Update – checking all the blogs currently in the widget not one has the widget code enabled in their sidebar!! Which is another way to use it I guess!