The relationship between who you link to and who you read

Today, I cleaned up my blog roll. I think I could call it an annual event since it's been quite a while. I deleted broken links and also some blogs that have been abandoned or whose topic has changed enough that they aren't as relevant to my space anymore. As I was doing this, I couldn't help but wonder (in my inner Carrie Bradshaw voice), for bloggers, what is the relationship between our blog rolls and what we *really* read?

Does the difference between your blog roll and your feed reader represent the difference between what you are interested in and what you think your audience is interested in? Is it even important that they are the same? Or for the armchair psychologists out there, does your feed reader represent the "real you" and your blog roll represents the more likable version you want the public to see?

I write my blog for marketers and business professionals, mostly marketers (though I'm thrilled that others find it interesting enough to come here as well and comment). So I include lots of marketing sites and blogs on my blog roll. Do these folks care that I'm fascinated by sites that critique celebrity fashion? They are wicked and funny, but the relationship with marketing? Nada. So it goes in my blog reader account.

Which brings me to the topic of recruiting blogs, or as I like to call them "blogs by recruiters" and "blogs for recruiters". There's a diff. Mine is a blog *by* a recruiter (or used to be a recruiter and still part of recruitING). There are a larger number of blogs *for* recruiters; blogs about the recruiting function for those of us that are doing it. As you can imagine, they attract different audiences. Blogs *by* recruiters (according to my classification) are those whose target readership is the candidate base they are focused on (for me, that's marketing). Blogs *for* recruiters (many of which happen to be written by recruiters, recruitment vendors, third party recruiters, industry leaders, etc.) are blogs whose target audience is recruiters themselves. Got all that?

How does this relate to blog rolling? I get the occasional request from a "for recruiters" blogger asking me to link to them. Some of these bloggers are quite assertive and I suspect that they think there's some secret reason why I am not linking to them. The reason is, I don't necessarily think their topic is relevant to my target readership. And once my blog gets loaded up with too many recruiting links, it becomes a different blog (see above).

So while I may read "for recruiter" blogs as a practitioner, I also read marketing blogs as a practitioner. And I link to what I think my audience (if I can call you all that) will enjoy.  So for folks thinking of asking me for a link (something that I have never been able to bring myself to do out of pride and propriety), I am going to ask you who your target audience is and how it relates to my target audience. I'm not special...I think we all should be doing that.

I'm also curious to hear what other bloggers out there think about the relationship between blog rolls and feed readers. Are blog rolls intended to be a comprehensive list of what you read? A subset of that? Or really more focused on your target audience's interests? If you answer this, please let us know whether you blog for work or fun.

Comments (16)

  1. Dennis Smith says:

    Well, my blog been an evolution…morphing a couple of times, in fact.  

    I like to blog about recruiting, but i did that mostly in my early days of blogging (which was not that long ago…a year maybe).  

    My blogroll has always been a reflection of who I read.  As I think about it, I guess that’s because my initial audience was the recruiting community.  And, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve never given it a 2nd thought since then.  

    Now, my audience has changed.  While I still hit the recruiting related audience from time-to-time, the focus of the blog is aimed at those within the wireless community & and those interested in joining the wireless community.  And until you mentioned it, I’d never thought about gearing my blogroll toward that audience (ok, so I’m slow – I admit it).

    My feed reader is a different story – it’s fairly eclectic and focused on educating me with regard to the larger blog community….which is pretty darn large these days.  But it definitely has a slant toward "all things wireless."

    Good stuff, Heather.  Thanks for making us think about "why we do what we do."  Hmmm….now, where’s my blogroll?

  2. Helen says:

    I blog for fun, and I don’t have a blog roll. And of all the blogs I read, I’ve not found a single one that has a useful blog roll, so I ignore them completely. Mostly because they are out of date, point to blogs that haven’t had a new post in months, blogs that don’t exist, etc. Your post has just confirmed the validity of this approach.

  3. Hi Heather,

    We write our blog about Online Recruitment Marketing because we are driven to, for fun, for work, but not for an employer.

    We really enjoy the process of how a person finds a job and the ever-increasing role that online marketing plays in that world.

    Our audience spans HR folks, online marketers, recruitment marketers, agency people, and family and friends that we beg to read us.

    Our blogroll is a reflection of who we read, who we find interesting in this space and life, and if *our* readers are interested in our blog – then they are probably interested in my blogroll as well.  So it is both.

    …and, I’ve added your blog to our blogroll.

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Dennis- We’re all just learning from each other, right?

    Helen- I don’t find that most blogrolls are in such a state. But I can’t say I pay *that* much attention to blogrolls. Usually I notice them when i find a new blog I like and I want to see if they link to others I might like. I guess my point wasn’t that people should ignore blogrolls but just that they might not represent everything a person reads.

    Shannon-interesting. So the difference might be that some of us are doing it for an employer and some, though the write professionally, aren’t.

  5. anon says:

    I use my blog roll as a convenient way to keep track of links that I use every once-in-a-while.  

    If someone finds that interesting, great.  However, my primary purpose is to keep a list of links that I find interesting.  If no one uses my list of links other than me, I do not really care all that much.  My blog does not cost me cash.

    I have found there is a certain element of insecurity out there on the internet.  Successful people are sometimes hesitant to link to an unknown person, or someone who has not been acknowledged as successful by an established organization.   There is also an element of tit-for-tat, quid-pro-quo, and reciprocation in blog land: both among individual bloggers and across organizations (certain organizations like to link to certain other organizations).

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    anon-that’s true…I have witnessed that. People probably should get over the idea of only linking to people that are linking back to them. But it’s human nature to care.

    I guess for me, it’s more about keeping links to my guilty pleasure blogs (nothing dirty, just embarassing, perhaps)off the blogroll of my blog that I do for work.

    Good points

  7. Great post. I blog for fun, but also just launched a group blog aimed at senior-level job seekers. Our blogroll is focused entirely on the interests of our target audience.

    I do link to a couple of recruiting industry blogs because I feel that job seekers can sometimes pick up good insights from reading them and can also make contact with recruiters through their blogs rather than sending a resume.

    I use my RSS reader to track guilty pleasures like American Idol blogs!

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    Louis-me too! I’m hooked on PinkistheNewBlog.

  9. I was wondering when I would be dropped out of your rolls.  My blog has been very dry lately and to tell the truth it has been boring.  I am moving it to be more focused on software development and business innovation so it should have been dropped from your marketing roll.   I will not take it personally and will keep you in my primary reading list. 😉

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    I know Chris, I felt bad!

  11. Tim says:

    True enough, Heather (I’m just catching up with some old blogs). I haven’t looked at my blog roll in months. I remember trying to put it together and figure out what it really meant to put all those links up there. Basically the same quandary you had. Though I’m sad to see my link go, I understand where you’re headed with this. I do think it makes sense to be of value to your readers. Instead of believing readers will be wondering, "What is he/she reading for fun?" the links should serve as a resource. Which is why we started posting local events on our blog, since we’re focused on the LA creative market and not the national market. Which means, of course, I should go back and make sure my blog meets everything we’re currently trying to do. Hey, you just made my week busier. Good advice!

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hey Tim,

    Are you going to the So-Cal EMA meeting in Long Beach next month (the 12th)? I’m speaking there on blogging and would love to meet you in person if you are planning on attending.

  13. Tim says:

    You know, it wasn’t even on my radar! I’m sure as heck going to try. It’ll be weird to put a face together with a blog, huh?

  14. HeatherLeigh says:

    I was just at ERE and met a bunch of people I knew online but not in person. It is definitely a worthwhile thing to do ; )

  15. Thanks… your post made me realize that my forgotten blogroll is in dire need of being cut down. At the same time, I don’t want to cut so many links out that I lose the benefits of the cross-linking…

    My blogroll is a mix of 1) blogs I read, 2) blogs I think my readers will be interested in (primarily other blogs on coffee), and a third category you didn’t mention, perhaps because it is not encouraged… blogs with which I simply exchanged links with because I wanted to get some more incoming links… Typically there is some commonality, (such as being a Colorado blogger) but my main motivation was to garner some traffic, which seems to be working.

    Nonetheless, I do need to trim that blogroll down… 🙂

    Great blog, by tthe way. My wife is a recruiter, I’ll pass it on to her.

  16. HeatherLeigh says:

    Denver- hopefully the people lining to you don’t have strict rules around you linking back to them. Maybe at least clearly labeling categories of links will work on your case.

    Good luck and thanks for the nice words about the blog!

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