For the past few months, rumors were flying that WordPress was going to remove the Links/Blogroll feature of WordPress. As of August 2012, it is now gone from many WordPress.com. MacManx, Happiness Engineer at WordPress.com, recently stated:
The Links section was removed from the core WordPress.org software, which means that it will probably be removed from WordPress.com soon.
In preparation for that, new blogs no longer display the Links section.
Fortunately, only a few WordPress.com sites have been impacted by the disappearing Links feature. If you have links listed in your Links panel, it should still be there, but not for much longer.
With the release of WordPress 3.5, it is likely the WordPress Links Manager will be gone.
Don’t fret. The WordPress Development team knows that many of you still rely upon your blogrolls. They’ve created the Link Manager WordPress Plugin, the official replacement for the original Links Manager in WordPress. This will restore the Links Manager once WordPress 3.5 removes it. Consider adding it first before updating to preserve you links, just in case.
A year ago, WPBeginner asked if blogroll links should be removed in favor of WordPress menus and the response was fascinating.
Back in the days when we started using WordPress, the Links feature aka blogroll was fascinating. It allowed us to add and remove links on the sidebar without dealing with code at all. It was a dream come true for us beginners. However, now the links feature seems a bit outdated and quite frankly not as easy as the “Menus”. In this article, we make a case of replacing the Blogroll “Links” feature in favor of WordPress menus.
In our recent projects, we have found ourselves using a custom menu where we used to use Links. It is much more flexible for our clients to control the order of links by simple drag-drop interface that the menus provide. This is by far one of the most requested feature that our clients ask for.
They offered a comparison between using the Blogroll/Links feature and custom menus and found that among the powerful features available in the Blogroll/Links Manager, link images were the only thing they would miss, but a little CSS and creative design could easily add icons to links in the custom menus. Why not get rid of it?
Many agreed, stating they hadn’t used it ever or rarely.
The History of Blogrolls, Links, and Link Management in WordPress
As described in “Do I Need to Ask Permission to Put a Blog in My Blogroll?,” a blogroll is typically a list to sites you recommend and are related to your own site’s content.
By default, WordPress Themes came with blogroll links to some key WordPress sites including the official WordPress site. In 2006, some people became sensitive about these default WordPress recommended links pre-installed as an example of a blogroll and Matt Mullenweg and WordPress developers eventually changed the links to only the official WordPress links.
WordPress caused some confusion with the Links Manager when they made the assumption that link categories should be associated with post categories. Link categories suddenly appeared in post category lists causing no end of confusion. While this assumption should be true, since you should be blogging about the same subjects your link recommendation and categories should be, it isn’t always true. It wasn’t for many of my sites.
Blogrolls began as a simple method of showcasing links to other sites (blogroll) to promote them from your sidebar – to show you cared enough to link and recommend. Search engine algorithms like Google’s PageRank and search results gave them a little more love in their calculations, assuming that if you link to a site, you must recommend and trust it. When spammers moved into control of the web, this assumption came tumbling down as they abused blogrolls to gain more Google love, so much so, noted Wall Street Journal technology columnist, Amit Agarwal, recommended adding a Blogroll to add even more “PageRank Juice” to “pass on Google PageRank goodness on to the blogs you link to.”
Google caught up slowly on the abuse and recently slammed down harder than ever on blogrolls in the “Penguin” update. According to Brade Shorr in “Are Blogrolls Still a Good Idea,” blogrolls work only if they are not on every page of your site.
Zaheer Abbas on BloggingInfo explained it even better: stop excessive and unnecessary irrelevant and abuse linking and advertising gimmicks.
So where does this put the future of the blogroll, especially for your blogroll in WordPress?
Links are Letters of Recommendation
With such power and influence, Google believes that you would choose wisely when linking. Since scammers and spammers saw through that trusting assumption, they abused it. For years they have battled against the evil doers on the web to beat them down. Now they want to punish all link abuse to force everyone back to square one, a trusting place, giving links back their original value and intention as letters of recommendation.
In other words, don’t link unless you trust that link and would recommend your grandmother visit the site.
Here is a list of what to do and not do with links and blogrolls based upon the latest information on Google’s algorithm update and for the best SEO and user experience.
- Link to sites you trust.
- Link to sites you recommend highly.
- Link to sites relevant to your content.
- Do not engage in link exchanges (reciprocal links) and remove them if you have them.
- If you currently have a blogroll in your sidebar, move it to a single post or page and call it Recommendations, Resources, or Referrals.
- Keep your link list short, organized, and specific. Use headings to separate related links to help visitors find relevant information.
- Add “Related Articles” or resources at the bottom of posts to direct readers to sites normally in your blogroll, but specifically related to the article content.
- Remove all unnecessary and unrelated links, and reduce advertising links.
You can find more tips on how to “recover” from Google Penguin in “How to Recover from Google’s Penguin Update” by Michael Martinez, which spells out the whole Penguin system with commentary on whether or not these are good things, and “Tips On How To Recover From Google’s Penguin Update” from SERoundTable based upon SEO experts in discussions at Webmaster World recently.
Saving and Exporting Your Blogroll Links in WordPress
The current versions of WordPress currently do not offer a way of backing up, exporting, or moving links currently in the Links panel. WordPress used to offer export and import of blogroll links but the WordPress support documents needs updating as it does not match the current interface. So what can you do?
- Copy and paste the links from the Links feature to a text editor to add them to your site (techniques listed below).
- If you are familiar with handling XML Files, you can manually create your links XML file by typing the domain name of your site plus
http://example.com/wp-links-opml.phpin the browser address bar. Copy the results to a text editor or use the browser File > Save As and store it on your hard drive.
If you are using the self-hosted version of WordPress, you have more choices, beginning with installing the Links Manager replacement.
- Link Manager WordPress Plugin is the official replacement for the original Links Manager in WordPress.
- WP Render Blogroll Links WordPress Plugin exports links to a post or Page.
- Link Library WordPress Plugin allows displaying links in a post or Page and exporting.
What are your other options in WordPress?
Moving Links to the WordPress Custom Menus
Go through your Links list and copy each of them to a text editor or use the
wp-links-opml.php option above so you have a record of each link title and URL. This is a great time clean through these and make sure they are the links you need on your site for your visitors.
- Go to Appearance > Menus.
- Enter a name in the right area in Menu Name. If you wish it to be Blogroll, use that name.
- Click Create Menu.
- On the left side of the panel, look for Custom Links.
- Enter the URL (address) and Label (name of the site) you wish to add to your new menu.
- Click Add to Menu. It should appear in the right side menu listing.
- Continuing adding links to the menu. You may move the links around to create sub-links in the menu.
- When ready, click Save Menu.
- Go to Appearance > Widgets.
- Go through your Widgets and find the Custom Menu you created. Move it to the appropriate spot on your Widget areas for your WordPress Theme.
When you change the Custom Menu, it will automatically update the menu area on your WordPress Theme. For more information on Custom Menus in WordPress, see Custom Menus — Support and Appearance Menus Screen in the WordPress Codex.
Create a Text Widget Links List
Want to control your links list completely, free of WordPress changes? Put your link list or blogroll in a text widget.
I explain how to do this extensively in “WordPress Tips: Exploring the WordPress Text Widget.” Here is the short version.
To add a Text Widget:
- Go to Themes > Widgets in the WordPress Administration Panels.
- Open the sidebar you wish to add the Text Widget to.
- Find the Text Widget in the list of Widgets.
- Click and drag it to the spot you wish it to appear within the sidebar or other container on your Theme.
To Open and Edit the Text Widget, click the down arrow to the right of the Text Widget title.
- Set the Text Widget Title.
- Add the text or HTML to the box or edit it.
- Optionally, choose to Automatically add paragraphs to wrap each block of text in an HTML paragraph code (recommended unless manually coding everything).
- Click Save to save the Text Widget.
- Click the “close” link to close the Text Widget.
To add blogroll links:
- Open and Edit the Text Widget.
- Type in HTML format an unordered list.
- Click Save to save the Text Widget.
- Switch to the browser tab with the front view of your site and refresh the page to see the changes.
An example HTML unordered list would be:
<ul> <li><a href="https://lorelle.wordpress.com/" title="Lorelle on WordPress site.">Lorelle on WordPress</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wordpress.org/" title="WordPress, the self-hosted version.">WordPress</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wordpress.com/" title="WordPress.com free blog hosting service.">WordPress.com</a></li> <li><a href="http://codex.wordpress.org/" title="WordPress Codex - the online manual for WordPress Users.">WordPress Codex</a></li> </ul>
Create a Recommendation/Resource/Links Page
If you have a great reference and resource list of links, get them out of the sidebar and get them onto a Recommendation or Resource Page.
- Create a New Page and call it Recommendation, Resources, or Links.
- Write an introduction paragraph that explains the purpose of these links and your recommendation of them.
- Add the links in a list with the Visual Editor unordered list feature or with on the Text/HTML editor in HTML.
- Publish the Page.
- If not done automatically, add the Page to your main navigation menu.
Blog Your Favorite Sites
The old-fashioned and better SEO method of making a recommendation of a website or blogger is to actually blog about them. Why not? Don’t they deserve your recommendation?
Publish a blog post about the site and why you find value in it. Maybe interview the site owner/author to offer a richer experience for your readers.
This is an ideal way of adding real value to your links, and some perspective for your readers on the true value of those linking letters of recommendation.