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How to use a blogroll on your blog

A blogroll is a list of links

© sunshinecity, the list, via Flickr

A blogroll has nothing to do with toilets (so you can stop smirking now!). This isn't about loo paper, but refers to the American word for 'list', which is 'roll'. I'm sure WordPress had no idea how this word would appear to British bloggers, but there you are.

A blogroll, therefore, is a list of links to blogs or websites you would like your readers to know about. Such as bloggers you admire or other recommended reading, you follow or they follow you, consisting of the same subject or niche, you write for them or are connected in another way, or just blogs you'd like to promote.

It is placed on your blog's sidebar via its own special widget. It usually shows as a list of blog name links, but it can also be adapted into a series of linked images if you are feeling more adventurous. I shall explain how to do the name linking in his post, and the image linking in another How-To post later.

What are blogrolls used for?

They are basically a list of links to other blogs. In olden days this was a great way of connecting to other bloggers, but some bloggers view them with suspicion now, especially in the light of recent changes to the search engine algorithms that regulate links to and from blogs.

However, I still think blogrolls have their place on sidebars, especially if you want to show how receptive you are to other bloggers. It is a way of building a community, as your friends and followers will love to see a link to their blog from yours.

This is not necessarily a one-way method of losing your readers to other blogs. Showing you regularly read other blogs by linking to them can enhance your credibility, other bloggers' trust, gain genuine followers and a chance for each blog to be regularly read and commented on.

An impressive blogroll looks good to a passing visitor. It shows you are an active member of the blogosphere, and not blogging away in isolation. This can contribute towards popularity, which makes your blog more noticeable to the search engines.

Take care with your connections

When you add a blog to your blogroll, don't forget to ask the blog's owner permission beforehand. This will alert them to the fact and may trigger a return visit to check this out, and even a reciprocal link on their blogroll if they have one.

Don't think that linking to high-ranking blogs will gain you favours with the search engines and a better page rank. Blogrolls are not about increasing your web traffic. Other unscrupulous linking tactics through your blogroll will probably get you penalised by the search engines for abusing its proper purpose.

Avoid creating a massive blogroll and then forgetting about it. Regularly update it for broken links, and ensure its relevancy at all times. It might even help to add new links to replace old and tired examples. Let it grow and develop organically as you come across new blogs and others contact you.

So how to you create a blogroll?

First, think of a selection of blogs or websites you'd like to link to. This simply could be your website, or a colleague or supplier's website, or some relevant blogs from your niche who you admire.

I like to use a blogroll to list the other blogs I write in. This good linking practice takes my readers to read the other posts I've written, so they can see I am prolific elsewhere. Hopefully this will encourage other blogs to ask me to guest post for them too.

Right, now you've got your list ready, we need to find the 'Links' link in the Dashboard left sidebar. But before you do, I've just noticed that for self-hosted WordPress.org blogs, this default option has been removed. This means this tutorial is purely for WordPress.com blogs only, unless you find a suitable plugin that will provide this facility for you.

At the top left of your blog you'll see 'My Sites'. If you mouse over it, a drop down menu will be activated. Select 'WP Admin' from the list:

How to get to the Dashboard

And this will take you to the Dashboard page. Now you can search for 'Links':

Links link in Dashboard sidebar

And click on 'All Links' to be taken to the Links Page:

Links Listings Page

Now if your blog is new, there will probably be a lot more links added in by WordPress than what you see here. And they will definitely not be what you want.

So, let's get rid of them in one swoop! If you click the square next to 'Name':

Click button next to Name

All the other squares below will have a tick in them. Above 'Name' is a drop down menu called 'Bulk Actions'. Click on it to activate it:

Select Delete

Select 'Delete' and then click on the 'Apply' button next to it:

Two links deleted

And all the links will be gone! Now we need to add in your own links.

At the top next to the word 'Links' is a button saying 'Add New'. Click on it to bring up the Add New Link page:

Add New Link Page

Now you need to start filling it in.

First, add in your blog's name and URL (web-address):

Fill in name and URL of link

Remember to include the 'http://' of the blog's URL, or the links won't work properly. And also be aware that some blogs don't have the 'www.' as part of their URL, so it's a good idea to check that what you've entered is correct, especially the '.com' or '.co.uk' bits as well!

Next comes the description:

Fill in description of link

You don't need to bother with this if you don't want to. However, these details will show up if someone mouses over the link in the sidebar, or if you have activated this option in the widget.

Next you have to choose a link category:

Select a Link Category

You will only have one option, which is 'Blogroll'. Don't worry, I will show you how to change this to something much nicer later on in this post. Just select it for the time being.

Next comes how you want your link to behave:

Select blank for your link

I have selected the '_blank' option. This means the link will open a new browser window next to your blog's window, so your blog won't get lost or obscured.

Below that you can decide which connection the link has to you:

Select link relationship

Again, you don't have to bother with this menu if you don't want to. It doesn't have much impact on the link.

Below that is the option to make your link into an image. This is quite complicated, so I shall cover this in a separate How-To post.

When you've finished, don't forget to click the 'Add Link' button at the top right of the page:

Save and add your link

And you'll then see confirmation of this at the top of the page afterwards:

Confirmation link is added

Now repeat the process with your other links you've got ready, to complete your list.

Once you're done that, go check your link list. In the left sidebar, find 'All Links':

Click All Links to see your list

And you'll see all your new links in all their glory:

Link List

Note they are in alphabetical order, which unfortunately you cannot change.

Now that category called Blogroll. Really this is such an unappetising name, so I want to change it to something much better, such as 'Blogs I write for', for example.

That is what a category should be: a description of how the links are connected. These blogs are where I regularly guest post.

So back to the left sidebar, you'll see a link called 'Link Categories':

Select Link Categories

And it will direct you to the Link Categories page:

Link Categories page

Here you can see where you can create new Link Categories, and see which ones you've already got.

Unfortunately, you cannot delete this default Blogroll category, you can only rename it. So let's do that! (Any other categories you create later can be deleted, so no need to worry.)

If you mouse over the word 'Blogroll', the editing options appear:

Editing Link Category options

And if you click on 'Edit' you'll get this page:

Edit Link Category page

All you need to do is to highlight the word Blogroll, and type in something better:

Edited Link Category

And don't forget to click the 'Update' button to see your new Link Category:

Showing new Link Category

Yay!

You've added some links. You've renamed your link category. Now you need to place those links in your sidebar.

Let's look at the left sidebar and find the link 'Appearance'. If you mouse over it, the drop down menu will appear. Select 'Widgets':

Appearance and widgets

And you'll go to the Widgets page:

Widgets Page

The widgets are listed alphabetically, so scroll down to find the 'Links' widget:

Links Widget located

And you can see it is connected to your blogroll.

Click on the widget and it will open:

Opened Links Widget

Select the sidebar you want and click on the 'Add Widget' button. The widget will appear at the bottom of the sidebar already opened for you to work on. Select the category you have just created:

Select Link Category in widget

Keep the Link title option:

how your links are selected

I've opened up the drop down menu, but I wouldn't expect Beginner Bloggers to bother with the other options.

You aren't showing your links as images, to that option needs to be unclicked:

Uncheck Show Link Image

And leave the rest alone. Don't forget to click on the 'Save' button.

Now you need to go look at your blog's sidebar to see what it looks like!

Go to the top left of your blog and mouse over 'My Sites' to activate the drop down menu. Select 'View Site':

View your blog to see what's new

And you will see your blog with its new widget in the sidebar:

My blogroll suitably updated

I hope it meets with your approval!

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Alice Elliott writes the Beginner Bloggers blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She specialises in simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Why not also visit her award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog to learn some more.

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  • Do you think there’s much of a place for a blogroll on a business blog, Alice? I can’t recall that I’ve seen one there. I tend to see blogrolls on personal blogging sites, and even then their use has declined.

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