Add more than a Blog list to your Sidebar! BlogTutorial

Gadgets, widgest, badges, pages, slideshows, blogrolls, links and of course what should I write about! Click  for more help in this series of easy to follow craft blogging tutorials.

Discover how and why blog rolls can be used for so much more than just a list of blogs!

The Blog List or Blog Roll is a very straighforward little gadget that can add lots of interest to your blog.  It uses an RSS feed and automatically updates when the blogs you have included have new posts added, but there is a lot more to this basic gadget than you think...

Why do I need a Blog list?

Here's is some advice on why having a bloglist in your sidebar is a good idea and how you should use your blog roll as a way of networking with other bloggers and readers of your site -

Who are you?

People often read craft blogs because they enjoy finding out a little bit more about the artist behind the craft and they also want to feel part of a craft community.  Sharing not just your own thoughts and experiences but a those of a list of bloggers that you love to read is a great way of letting people know a bit more about you and your interests in a creative and interactive way.

Think of your blog roll in the same way as the books that you display in your home. Be selective, you wouldn't want the phone directory to take pride of place on your book shelf, but the copy of Black beauty you have had 30 years and read 6 times might even get it's own shelf! Your blog roll needen't be every blog you are following - it is a tribute to those you love to read best and that reflect your own peronality and taste.

Blog Rolls encourage reciprical blog traffic

Not every blogger will look up their followers blogs, especially if they have alot of followers, so if you add someone to your sidebar blogroll, why not leave them a comment and let them know.  They are very likely to say, wow thank you and become a blog follower and maybe even let their own network of friends and followers know about your blog.  You already know you have the same interests so these sort of connections can really help to build your network and encourage traffic.

Blog Rolls don't have to be just for blogs!

A blog roll is a list of  web feeds (RSS, Atom etc) - the gadget on Blogger is called a Blog List but it can be used for any website feed and as such you can create fabulous flickr updates from all the groups you belong to - take a look at the CBuk right sidebar to see this in action.  Here are a few other ideas for feeds that work with a blog roll -
  • Flickr, Picassa, photobucket all have RSS feeds - display the most recent image from your own sets or photostream or a groups pool - label it with 'Brand New From ..." or "My latest Make", let it be a feature that people enjoy and can quickly link them to your groups or to your other photos
  • Facebook, My Space etc - groups, pages, personal pages they all have feeds
  • Nings and Forums - I'm a member of UK Handmade, British Mummy bloggers etc - all of these sites contain various feeds with all of your social networking activity
  • See this post for a list of links - all of which will have feeds you can add.
    Why not make your very own Social Networking gadget as well as a basic blog roll list - it's very easy just follow the tutorial below to see how to add and customise a blog roll.

    Here is a screen shot from my personal blog where I think this gadget works really nicely, (click here to see it) I've chosen just 3 of the social networks I am active in to display on mine but there is no limit to how many you could have.  Some applications have better feeds than others in terms of what gets displayed but it is worth experimenting as some providers already have superior gadgets available which may suit you better.

    Tutorial - How to Add and Customise your Blog Roll in Blogger

    There are a few options to choose from but in essence this is a very straighforward gadget.
    • In your Blogger dashboard click on layout.
    • Choose the location of your Blog roll and click on 'add gadget' for that area.
    • Choose this widget - Blog List "Show off what you read with a blogroll of your favourite blogs. " It's on the first page of gadgets, called basics
    • Customise your Blog Roll

      • Title - Many people have something along the lines of "Great Online Reading" or "Recommended reading" something a little more inventive than the default, "My Blog List".
      • Sort -  Unless you have a very long list of blogs that benefit from alphatisation because you are using them as a directory, I would always advise choosing most recent.
      • Show - You have the choice of showing all of the blogs you have listed, 5, 10 or 25.It will show the most recently updated.
      • Icon - I would usually untick this, just shows a blogger 'b' or other blog platform icon, which is not very interesting unless you are following other feeds when it is more relevant.
      • Title of most recent item - shows the title of the most recent post
      • Snippet of most recent item - shows a little text from the first lines of the blog post.
      • Thumbnail - shows an image if available - it's always the first image used in the post.
      • Date of last Update - tells you how many hours or days ago it was posted
    • Click on "Add a Blog to your list
    • Add by URL - copy and paste in a url or web address e.g. or the address of a feed, such as and then click 'Add'
    • Blogs I'm following - this brings up a list of all of the blogs you are following you can then check a box against each to choose whether or not to have it on your list.
    • Import from Google Reader - as above you can edit which blogs appear via checkboxes if you use google reader. This is also good for having a blog list of 'feeds' you are already following and is quicker than copying and pasting.  Also you can manage groups of feeds into files in google reader and then easily select an entire file.
    • Now Save - and drag to the desired location within your dashboard. The choices you make above should be guided by the space you have and also how many blogs /feeds you intend to have showing. 
    Personally I think that having an enormous list of names with no detail is a waste of space in your blog sidebar - you could add a static page if you just want a list - why not let people see an image and read a little of the blog posts you have recommended - if they click to view the post it will open in a new page so they can still easily come back to your blog.

    There are no limits to the number of times you can use the blog roll gadget.  You could have a seperate blog roll for different areas of your interest, for example one with just cupcake blogs or parental advice blogs - as well as having a network of your favourite craft blogs listed and a 'blog roll' of all of your social networking feeds and favourite flickr images.

    I would love to hear your feedback via the comments box below - I have recently installed the comment system 'Disqus' and after I have trialed it  for a few days to check for any major hiccups I will be posting about how and why you might want to install this yourself - it looks like an awesome system for encouraging discussion within your blog posts, what do you think?