Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Blogrolls: Economy or Dating?

Blogrolls have always been an interesting thing to me. Even though they're just a bunch of links, they can mean so much. That's what I want to talk about with this post; the meaning of blogrolls. A lot of people seem to think of blogrolls are part of the blogging "economy," in which they promote traffic to each others' mutual benefit. In fact, I believe that was their first intended use. But there's a different way of seeing blogrolls. Some see them as an endorsement of sorts, publicly recommending the blogs listed on them as ones to be read. A list of blogs the author respects, if you will.

A pretty decent representation of both views side by side.

     I don't disapprove of the first idea, but I find it rather flawed. I am on twelve other blogger's blogrolls (that I know of), and all of these bloggers have been around longer than me. And since I don't "advertise" my blog anywhere other than Twitter, I think it's safe to say they get a lot more hits than me. And yet, the most any of these blogs has gotten me in terms of traffic is about sixty-three pageviews. All-time. My blog is hardly a hit machine, but that's pretty darn insignificant compared to my total view count and the amount I get daily. I imagine it's even worse for them, considering how low-profile my blog is. While I realize blogrolls are probably more lucrative for other blogs, it still forces the question, "Why do I have a blogroll? Because it's definitely not for traffic, for me or them."


     The answer is that my blogroll has never really been about exposure. I mean, if you've found a new blog through my blogroll, I am overjoyed, both for you and them. But really, how many people actually visit the blogs I've listed there? I know how many views the page has gotten, but I sincerely doubt that even half of those resulted in a new reader for those blogs. No, my blogroll isn't really about exposure. Instead, it exists as an affirmation of sorts. My blogroll is a list of those blogs I endorse, but more than that it's a lost of those blogs I love. I love reading the posts on them, hearing their authors' thoughts, or just browsing around. It's always been that way, ever since I first made it. The first three blogs I put on my list were all ones that didn't return the favor. I doubt the authors ever read even one of my posts (well, I know one of them did, but that stopped quickly enough). This still happens to me now. The last time I did a "link exchange," I immediately added them to my page. They did not. My blog's name still appears nowhere in their sidebar, and I don't mind. Every time I add a new link, I recognize that I'm making a long term commitment, and that most of the time it's a one-sided thing. With four exceptions, all of the blogs on my list have been there before I appeared on their lists. And again: that's fine! It's not about me. My blogroll is how I express my admiration and devotion to the blogs that appear on it and their owners. It's how I let them know that I am a fan. To me, my blogroll isn't part of an economy. It's a full-blown confession.


     That's why I put a lot of work into it, and why I encourage others to do the same. I give my precious set of links their own page, I alphabetize them, and I write individual annotations for each because that's how much they mean to me. I once said on Twitter that my blogroll page is my favorite post, and that's really quite true. I imagine it seems a little overblown to a few of you, with me making it sound like each one is the greatest thing ever. Surprising as it may seem, however, those aren't just words. While I admit some of adjectives and superlatives might be a little over the top positive, I really do mean what I say. Of course I want to put them in the best possible light, but I don't make stuff up. I spend the time thinking about what I like about these blogs and how I should say it, adding them to my reading list, putting them in the proper order, and double-checking the links because it's the amount of work I put into it that makes my blogroll meaningful. As I said, my blogroll is like an affirmation of respect. It's like a statement, saying "This is the work I'm willing to put in for you, and the reason I like you." My list has meaning precisely because I put work into it.

     So anyway, that's my views on the subject. I realize, however, that not everyone is as fervent about it as I am. I also recognize that such approaches become increasingly difficult as the amount of blogs on the list increases, and that other people don't put nearly as much meaning into things as myself. So let me ask you: what is a blogroll to you? Do you disagree with me and think it's just a way of increasing hits for both blogs, or do you think it carries meaning beyond that?

25 comments:

  1. You're totally right about this. A blogroll doesn't bring much traffic and I think unlike you I abused it a little too early on and got a lot of blogs I rarely visit sitting on it. That and blogs which asked me to add them and then a week later died and never returned. It's worse when they ask to be added and don't add you in return.

    I added Ephemeral Dreamer to my blogroll after he added me first(I could be mistaken) and then he just up and vanished a week later without so much as a goodbye. Often these people return months late but it's just not the same knowing they could jut randomly vanish again.

    I think within the next two months or so I'll gradually shape my blogroll to be solely blogs I visit regularly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel it's worth noting that your blog has given me more traffic than any other. Not sure what that's indicative of, but it felt worth mentioning.

      I think the amount of work I put into my blogroll has been the best moderator for me. If I just had a list on the side of my blog I'd probably have a bunch of blogs I only briefly encountered on there. But since I have to come up with things to say about blogs (which usually entails figuring out why - or if - I like them), I end up automatically regulating what goes on there.

      I had a similar experience with Gintokiro of Anicongruence (I think you did too). Just when I added him, he left the blogosphere, and at this point I think he's gone for good. I do hope Ephemeral comes back (and I doubt I'm the only one), for various reasons.

      Go for it. Remember that's it's still *your* blogroll at the end of the day.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Delete
    2. You don't need to thank me for reading I'll always be floating around somewhere watching everything.

      I did add Anicongruence a while back but he did up and vanish. I didn't even know him to be honest so I took him of the blogroll. If he does show up again it's not very likely I'd add him back unless he stuck around for a lot longer and became an active part of the community. The same goes for Ephemeral, sure his posts are great but it's like you are breaking some kind of unwritten rule if you disappear for months on end without saying goodbye. I'm not 100% sure what to do in this situation so I'll give him and a few others the benefit of the doubt for now.

      Most views huh I'm not sure it's much but you're welcome.

      Delete
    3. For the kind of blogroll I have, I guess irregular updating isn't a problem for me. I mean, heck, I added 2DT well after he had announced that he stopped blogging. I guess I mostly add people because I like what's already there, or (as was the case with Gintokiro) because I like where it's going - though I should note that I rarely add blogs for the latter reason anymore. I agree though, I still would've appreciated even a Tweet explaining what's going on. It makes me a little worried.

      Delete
  2. Great thoughts!

    Regarding traffic, I do think it just depends. The larger sites do drive some traffic to blogs through blogrolls - 2D Teleidoscope, months and months and months after he retired, still sends readers to me every week. And certainly, readers are more likely to click on links if they have annotations like yours or if there are simply fewer to choose from.

    I use my blogroll in two ways - one is to show appreciation to the blogs on it; these are my personal favorites and I'd like to them to know so, even if it's a small gesture. And secondly, it's to drive traffic to blogs that aren't otherwise part of the "blogosphere" and might not generate much traffic.

    As for your questions, I think for many, it might begin as a way to increase traffic; later on, once a site has become more "established," blogrolls might evolve on a site to become more about connection and appreciation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks!

      Yeah, I figured *someone* had to find them useful for traffic. I just don't personally. It's just a little depressing to think of it that way, because there's a good chance that many of the images I've uploaded have probably generated more views for me (through Google Search) than all the blogrolls I'm on combined. But like you said, there are some very high profile blogs whose blogrolls definitely hold some clout.

      Sometimes it's the smallest gestures that count. :) And yeah, I've noticed some of those sites. One thing I didn't mention in the post is that there's probably a middle ground, where blogrolls function both as traffic generators and as other things.

      That's another good point; nothing says that the meaning of a blogroll for any one person is set in stone. They can change over time. I know a lot of my views have changed since joining the sphere, even if my blogroll has held pretty steady.

      Delete
  3. I won't bother going too far into this, but I think that there's a bit of the Benjamin Franklin effect (it's a psych term) going on here. You add these blogs but you are satisfied and perhaps even feel closer to the other bloggers despite the failure to reciprocate. A reciprocative addition done out of mutual respect will have a similar outcome. A link trade that involves one party asking the other won't have the same effect because the trade causes a different psychological interpretation.

    Anyway, I think that a blogroll that is curated as your is does a few things you did not list. First is that it is a shorthand advertisement for your taste, influences and associations. The analogue here is the media case in a living room which gives guests a way to assess your movie and music preferences and knowledge. Likewise, a new reader to your blog may be able to assess your writing in part based on the other blogs you feel are noteworthy. Similarly, a blogroll is something of a statement that you see yourself as a peer to these other blogs. You are implicitly stating that these blogs are within your personal sphere. Finally, since you are listing your influencers and peers you are also giving the reader a way to keep up with the blogs that may directly inspire some of your content. For instance, if you choose to partake in The Beautiful World's "Blog Carnival" it is easier for the reader to follow your post if they have already read the invitation on that site. Or in the numerous posts where you mention Queen's Blade it will have more meaning to a reader if they read the colloquiums on Draggle's blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great thoughts!

      The only thing I'm unsure I agree with is saying that these bloggers are my peers. I mean, I understand the thought process behind it, but there are a lot of blogs on there that I decidedly do not consider myself to be on equal footing with. I think my "personal sphere" is more of a one way thing, rather than a suggestion that I'm on their level. I guess it depends on how you view it.

      Delete
    2. It is, perhaps, an aspirational statement, but I do believe that putting blogs in your blogroll is meant to draw you closer to those blogs. So the authors of those blogs are either your peers now, or those who you wish to be considered as peers later.

      Obviously any statement of intent is fuzzy and each person will assess their blogroll differently. One can only assume generalities when speaking secondhand.

      Delete
    3. "So the authors of those blogs are either your peers now, or those who you wish to be considered as peers later."

      Ah, I like that statement much more. Thanks for clarifying!

      Delete
  4. I'm still working on my own annotated blogroll, but it's a lot more work than I expected...I want to make it just right! I've added you to my sidebar link in the meantime (since I was waiting to add you on when I finished the annotated one, but that's clearly taking longer than I expected). Just needed to say that.

    Anyway, this was a really interesting post, especially since I can definitely agree with you. I now use google reader, so I follow a lot more blogs than I used, but before that I would look to my own blogroll when I wanted to read some posts.

    Although the possibility of getting a few extra clicks to your blog is a plus, it ultimately is a thing more for myself, too.

    Though, when it comes to visiting other people's blogrolls...I do that all the time! I know of a lot of the blogs that are out there, so I often check blogrolls to find new ones. I believe there are probably a few people out there who do it just for the views, but for the most part I'm sure most of some sort of meaning to it beyond that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, right? I was really surprised when I first started how difficult they were (I still have trouble even after months of practice)! And that's totally fine; like I said, I'm used these things being one-sided. I'm honored to have made the cut, though!

      Blogger is nice in that it automatically includes a Reading List, which let's you know when a blog on there has updated. Since I just include the blogs on my blogroll on that list, I guess I'm like you were, since I mostly just read stuff on that. Since there aren't too many blogs I follow that aren't on there, it also makes it easier to remember other blogs (I don't use Google Reader) since there are fewer to remember.

      No wonder you're a princess, with great habits like that! Yeah, I like to visit others' blogrolls too, sometimes I just feel like the only one. Thanks for commenting and letting me know I'm not!

      Delete
  5. I actually tend to find a lot of new and interesting blogs via blogrolls (and comments), so... I like them. They are great for readers (and, well, bloggers if you want hits)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I actually find most new blogs through blogrolls. I feel like that's more because I'm on the blogger side of things, though. I've gotten the distinct feeling that people less interested in it in general - "casual readers," if you will - don't utilize them as much. And since they're probably the ones who visit my posts/pages the most...

      Delete
    2. Oh, I used to find blogs via blogrolls when I was a reader too. Then again, I'm not common.

      Delete
  6. SDB used to rotate new blogs into blogroll just as a public service if he thought that the newbie could stand promotion.

    I don't do that. Instead, I sort the OPML list with every read. Those who post something readable are bumped up a bit. The top 12 end at the Ani-nouto's blogroll. The algorithm is modified slightly to account for top-line "freezing", e.g. it's next to impossible to displace Chizumatic; it's "frozen".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've considered putting some kind of sidebar blogroll on my blog in addition to the full page. I doubt it'd be anything as elegant as your set-up and I question if I'd even be able to make a randomized one, but...

      By the way, read the response on your blog and no, I hadn't accounted for subscribers. I mean, I have no way of keeping track of subscribers (that I know of), so I can only make assumptions (and it being me, I shall assume the worst)...but regardless, you bring up a good point.

      Delete
  7. Oh goodness me, I’m exactly the same! The first blog I added to my blogroll added me back not so long ago and the rush of endorphins outta my brain was akin to if someone had responded favourably to a confession of my love! I got taken off the other week though. Yeah, I got ‘blogroll-dumped’. Gutted.

    My blogroll is a sign of my admiration of the bloggers as well as of their work, it’s an extension of the metaphorical hand of friendship if you will, s’why it’s so small at the moment- I need to get out there and meet more fantastic bloggers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, "blogroll dumped."

      It's cool to know there are other people who treat their blogrolls somewhat similar to me. I was afraid I was weird for a little while there. :)

      Delete
  8. In my case, I initially thought I could rely on link exchange to draw traffic to my blog. But soon after, I realized that it didn't work very well (with few exception like THAT anime blog or METANORN). Instead, I get much more traffic from other people's posts that send trackback to me. I think it's because when I am mentioned in the actual post, my name becomes more interesting than just having my name pasted on the side bar.

    For me, being added to someone's blogroll feels like I am being accepted into the community, that I am not alone and part of the group. ^__^

    ps. I like your post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never had a very high opinion of my own blog, so I figured from the get go that no one would ever accept a link exchange with me, and even if they did it would only result in disappointment for the readers. It seems like that attitude helped me avoid some unfulfilled expectations, going from yours and others' comments. And I agree, having a name attached with something really makes it stand out more. That's one of the reasons I write annotations for my blogroll; I think it helps make the bloggers on it a little more interesting to uninformed readers.

      I know that feeling. :) It reminds me a lot of when I was first starting out and I commented on someone else's blog. When they replied, it felt like a celebrity came up and started talking to me. I get flashbacks to that every time I see my name on another person's blog.

      P.S. Thanks Canne! And thanks for taking the time to visit my little corner of the Net!

      Delete
  9. Nice post discussing sth that I haven't seen discussed again.

    I didn't even know what it meant to exchange blogroll until lately. I feel uneasy with the practice because I don't consider I can put someone on the blogroll just coz he asked me to and I can't force anyone list my blog on theirs unless he/she thinks it's worth it. I believe it's too pushy...

    I use the blogroll thus to show who I appreciate and read and let other people know further tastes. I also use it as a check list to see if there are new posts in blogs there's no email subscription. I MUST get to google reader aomeday soon... I used to have the blogroll on the sidebar, but it always ended up removed when I changed template...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I first started blogging, I didn't even know what it was. When I found out, I was like "does this kind of thing even work?" I think the way it works best is if both bloggers comment on each others' blogs. Though perhaps knowing each other better might make refusal harder, I think being more comfortable with the other person makes it a lot easier to refuse *politely* and certainly to offer and accept exchanges. Can't say I've really had a chance to test this, though, since 8 or 9 times out of 10 when I comment on someone's blog and they comment on mine, they end up on my blogroll in two or three weeks. XD

      That's pretty similar to how I use it. I definitely understand the checklist thing. I'm practically a stone age reader: either I have blogs on my Reading List, or I visit them manually. I don't even follow by e-mail...

      You know, I remember that happening. Truth be told, I think your new one is easier to navigate and use.

      Thanks for dropping by and weighing in!

      Delete
  10. True, I've put many thoughts into what is the "true purpose" of a blogroll. As you've said, blogrolls don't necessarily provide lots of hits (unless it's (Ace and Lostty's), but in general, I don't think it's about the page views at all.

    IMHO, I think the whole concept of a blogroll [exchange] is about securing a "tie" with the other blogger. In short, mutual respect. Of course, what is this purpose of the mutual respect?

    Social connections.

    The aniblogosphere is immensely huge. Everyone needs friends, otherwise life would be too lonely. With the help of a blogroll exchange, I think it's a darn good way to make some friends. Sure it might look superficial at times, and perhaps, a bit redundant, but it never hurts.

    Also, there are readers who do "take peeks" at a blogroll, of course, because after all, a blogroll should be a "recommended reading list".

    Never forget, blogrolls are always important, whether they're sugar coated annotated blogrolls like mine or a long list of blogs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, Ace is the king of traffic.

      Hmm...But then, what about the non-exchanges? The ones where you add someone without telling them, or vice-versa (for example)? Do they not have purpose? See, I would purport that respect *is* the purpose, for both one-sided and reciprocal blogroll adds. Rather than respecting them with a motive in mind, could you not just respect them because you respect them?

      And as for the friend making...I personally feel that commenting is a better way. Blogrolls, I feel, are more an *affirmation* of a friendship than a way to start one itself. I mean, more often than not I add people to my blogroll *because* they're my friends. And they become my friends because we get to know each other better through comments. I don't know that just seems to be the more natural way to me.

      "Never forget, blogrolls are always important, whether they're sugar coated annotated blogrolls like mine or a long list of blogs."

      I definitely agree. As I explained in the post, I think the sugar coated ones can hold *more* importance, but either way they can mean a lot.

      Thanks for weighing in!

      Delete