Guest post by Daniel Cassady.

A blogroll, usually located in a sidebar of your blog, is simply a list of links to other blogs or Websites you recommend to your readers. While the ideal situation has readers staying on your pages and not wandering off to other blogs, a well-crafted, strategically built blogroll will not only protect your turf as a blogger, but send a whole new audience in your direction.

Whether you’re building a blogroll from scratch or refreshing a stale one, there’s an entire framework to doing this right. To start, there are three things you should ask yourself when building your blogroll: How can I trade links with higher-ranked blogs, how can I protect my territory as a blogger, and how can I crib readers from other blogs?

Though the last two may seem a bit harsh, remember that traffic and loyalty are a blogger’s manna from heaven. If you play your cards right, you can have your cake and eat it too, linking out to other blogs while solidifying your base and bringing in new readers at the same time. Here’s how to do that:

Find blogs that are counterparts, not competition

Suppose you’ve found another blog that covers your territory. This blog is far more popular than yours and even though you tread the same ground, the other blogger has entirely different ideas and opinions about what’s going on in your (shared) neck of the woods.

If you think the other blog will enhance your point of view and not spark a mass exodus of reader over to the other blog, by all means, add them to your blogroll. This will not only show your readers that you’re open minded, but that you’re confident enough to link to other blogs they might find interesting.

Trade, trade, and trade again

After you’ve found a good, well-written blog that has something in common with yours, it’s time to propose a trade. Craft an email that explains why you should trade links. Here’s a good structure for a link-trading email.

  1. Start by buttering up the other blogger. Tell them you admire their work and even bring up a few posts that you like, showing them that you’ve spent time at their blog and you like what you see.
  2. Propose a trade and “make the case” on what the other blogger has to gain from trading links. Maybe the other blog has a higher search rank, but your readers are more active and comment more on posts. Maybe you have better traffic, but the other blog gets more high-profile attention. Focus on the pros of the trade and forget the cons.
  3. Link back to your blog, and even include a few links to your best posts. Obviously not every blog you post is gold, but if you can show that you’re capable of writing some amazing posts, you’ve got a better shot in landing that trade.
  4. Thank the other blogger for their time and end with how they can reach you.

Remember – when it comes to trades, the other bloggers, like you, are going to ask themselves  “what’s in it for me?”. If you do your homework and answer this question in the strongest way possible, you’ll get your trade without any problem.

Use Alexa to aim high

If you’re unfamiliar with Alexa, an Alexa Rank is a numeric listing of how you rank in search engines. This can include Google, but also Yahoo, MSN and other search engines. If you’re not sure what your Alexa rank is (around the world or in your own country), you can visit the Alexa Website or download a toolbar that shows the rank of every site you visit (including the blog you want to trade links with).

The lower the Alexa rank, the higher a site ranks in search engines, so optimally you want to trade links with blogs that have a better rank than yours. By trading links with a site that has a higher Alexa rank, they’ll lift your blog up in search engines and increase traffic to your site.

Keep it (reasonably) short

From a brand standpoint, the point of having a strong blogroll is to have people visit the sites you have linked to. If you have too many links on your blogroll, you’re giving readers too many choices, which ultimately is a bad thing.

On that note, if you think that having a blogroll stacked with dozens of links will keep people from leaving your site, the trade-off is that anyone you want to trade links with will turn you down, thinking they’ll get nothing out of the trade.

So, before you start firing off link-trading emails to everyone and their grandmother, always remember that having a solid blogroll isn’t just about networking with other bloggers. A good blogroll is about giving your readers the opportunity to get to sites they may not have known existed before. When you turn a reader to new, interesting content, they will remember your site and they’ll definitely come back for more.

This is a guest post by Daniel Cassady who is a freelance writer and regular blogger for an email marketing blog hosted by Benchmark Email.

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