Link Love?

I have a site admin question for you. Since the inception of this site, I’ve maintained a long list of outbound links in the left-hand sidebar pointing to manufacturers, blogs, advocacy groups and the like. For some time now I’ve been contemplating ditching the links, and I recently removed the list. The reasons are many, and I won’t bore you with the details, but among other things, they’re related to the not-insignificant effort to keep the list fresh and up-to-date, and the desire to keep the search engines happy.

So, my question for all of you is whether or not you miss the links? Depending upon your feedback, possible outcomes include ditching the list permanently, creating a “Links” page that links from the header menu, or putting the list back in the sidebar but in a more concise form (perhaps 100 links, as opposed to the over 200 we had before).

Do you miss the sidebar link list?

  • A "Links" page sounds good. (66%, 102 Votes)
  • I want my sidebar links back! (19%, 30 Votes)
  • Ditch it! (15%, 24 Votes)

Total Voters: 155

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**UPDATE**: It appears we have a clear consensus, so I posted a new “Links” page and added a link to that page from the header menu at top right (it’s there now if you look). I went through and cleared out about half of the links. I looked at how often links were being clicked, as well as how frequently (or infrequently) sites were being updated, to determine whether to keep or cut a link. If there’s a site missing from the list that you feel would make the collection more useful, just drop me a note here in the comments or through our “Contact Us” form and I’ll consider adding it back. I’ll need some justification because I’m going to try and hold the list to around 150 or less.

Thanks for your input!

32 Responses to “Link Love?”

  • Janice in GA says:

    I don’t think I ever noticed the links in the left-hand sidebar. ::observational FAIL::

  • Andy says:

    Funny, i was just looking for the links yesterday and wondering where they went!

  • John says:

    whatever you do, keep them out of the sidebar. It’s bad enough you’ve got a sidebar that looks like stickers on a NASCAR entry. No need for even more cruft.

    Regarding that snarky NASCAR comment, perhaps you, bikeportland.org, treehugger and similar successful bike bloggers could get together to create something like The Deck and maximize your advertising dollars while minimizing your readers’ annoyance. The Deck is a design/marketing focused advertising network, but there’s no reason you couldn’t form a bike-focused network (call it “The Crank” ;) ). Just a suggestion.

  • jonathan says:

    I thought the list was too big as it was, but I do look to ecovelo to find about about companies and sites that have a similar philosophy. Perhaps the ideal would be a shorter, annotated list (meaning more work for you of course!). it could be built up as you link to different sites in your posts.

  • Brad says:

    You could do the links page and set all the links to NoFollow so you don’t get dinged by the Search Engines. It could still be a valuable resource.

  • Eric says:

    You have one of the more complete lists of transportation cycling links (particularly of bike manufacturers), that I often turn to when I feel like I’m forgetting a couple of brands of bikes when trying to provide a friend with advice about a new bike. I think a nicely formatted Links page would be even better than the sidebar.

  • Pete says:

    I voted for a links page, but I want to qualify that by saying: ONLY if it doesn’t require so much maintenance that it detracts from your editorial content, which is the reason we all visit here to begin with!
    While I’m thinking about it, the “Archives” section isn’t much help, either, because I can’t remember what month some old post was (but I assume that is pretty automatic, and doesn’t require a lot of you attention). And, if the search function could also search comments, that would be awesome!

  • Alan says:

    @John

    I love the concept of “The Deck”. I don’t currently have the know-how to set-up such a system, but it’s certainly worth looking into. Thanks.

    @jonathan

    I like the idea of an annotated link list. Perhaps I’ll start with a more concise link page and add descriptions later in my “spare” time. :-) Thanks for the suggestion.

    @Brad

    After seeing the decisive response in the poll, that’s the most likely plan.

  • Alan says:

    @Pete

    “While I’m thinking about it, the “Archives” section isn’t much help, either, because I can’t remember what month some old post was (but I assume that is pretty automatic, and doesn’t require a lot of you attention)”

    There’s a more complete Archive sorted by category that links from the menu at the top of every page. Here’s the direct link:

    http://www.ecovelo.info/archives/

    It’s a monster, but it’s all there for perusing.

    Alan

  • Joseph E says:

    Just want to say that I don’t mind the ads in the right sidebar. Most are very nicely done, and represent companies that seel the sort of stuff your reader might be interested in. Compared to old banner adds or Google’s keywords, these are much nicer and more relevant.

    I have relied on your links to research transportation bikes and accessories. Please keep them in some form; a links page would be fine, if it is easy to find.

  • Pete says:

    @Alan –
    Thanks. That IS a monster! I’ve been pretty successful using either search or the left side “Categories” links to find what i need.
    I’ll second Joseph E – the ads on the right are well “curated” and are a feature, IMHO.

  • Alan says:

    @Joseph E

    “Just want to say that I don’t mind the ads in the right sidebar. Most are very nicely done, and represent companies that seel the sort of stuff your reader might be interested in. Compared to old banner adds or Google’s keywords, these are much nicer and more relevant.”

    Thanks, Joseph – I appreciate that. From the start we’ve endeavored to limit our sponsors to companies we personally trust and have no problem recommending. That means a few less sponsors, but it makes the sponsorships more meaningful.

    Alan

  • SIdhe says:

    I just want to chime in with the links page sounds okay, though i voted for the list to return; i’m a new bicyclist (this year) and i’m new to your blog and lots of others. Usually i find a blog via an entry elsewhere, or a google search on topics i’m desperately chasing because i’m new and need the info badly (recently “bike baskets rain commute”). When i find an entry in a blog like yours, seeing the links to the left is like christmas and candyland rolled into one. Now that i’ve been reading bike blogs, cycle chic blogs, and girly commuter blogs more i’m starting to see a pattern of reference to similar blogs- but in the early days each one seemed to be a miracle.
    I just can’t tell you how valuable a collected list of advocacy, opinion, off-mainstream or handmade maker websites can be to a new or curious person who might decide, if they collect enough information and support, to get out of their car and onto a bike.

  • RDW says:

    Alan, I believe your links section is how I found what are now some of my favorite bike websites. I voted for a ‘Links Page” and think that would be a great option. Like a few others who have commented already I have no problem with the sponsor links in the right sidebar, like them actually.

  • Nick says:

    I really enjoyed the link list! I found out a good few other companies and bloggers I had never known about!

  • DerrickP says:

    I like having the links. There’s been many a Saturday morning that I’ve been bored and clicked through the links on sites like Eco Velo. One consideration is that of new readers and cyclists. Most of them (being one myself, a few years back) want to read as much as they can. Once they secure a good resource that they trust, they want to go beyond their site. A link page would be an opportunity to do that.

    And with the ads to the side, I completely disagree with that other guy. It doesn’t look NASCAR. Nothing on this site does. It looks like a list of sponsors… which is what it is. By definition, a sponsor wants to be noticed. You’ve done this in a tasteful way with sponsors you strongly stand behind. It’s also a helpful place to see trusted products and companies. There’s something to be learned from the ads. They summarize in an incredibly efficient way. EV obviously goes through painstaking efforts to add visual appeal. I really appreciate that. The ads work great.

  • Sahrper says:

    Personally, I much prefer site layouts where the comments determine the page length, rather than site metadata and such. If nothing else, it’s nice to be able to hit the end of the page to find the latest comments, rather than dropping to the bottom of a long link list and then scrolling back up to find the comments.

  • Tamia Nelson says:

    I don’t mind the adverts in the right sidebar at all and sometimes come to EV because I know you have links here which I forgot to bookmark. They’re tasteful little works of art, in a way, and I very much appreciate that they’re not animated ones!

    I don’t use the archives in the sidebar at left. I use the search engine instead. It’s faster.

    I like the idea of a links page. To minimize the trouble for you to update it, you could consider instituting a comment section on the link page where people who have websites give the link, a very short blurb about what it’s about, and the reason why they think it should be included on EV. Then after you review it, you can either approve or disapprove the link. That would still require work on your part, but perhaps it would also bring in links you might otherwise have overlooked, and which could be a service to your readers.

  • Ahmad says:

    I love a good clean layout, but, as noted by others, you may have had one of the best resources of transpo and utility bike out there. Perhaps a solution would be to post the table of contents of the links page in the sidebar, leading to the complete list.

    I don’t mind the ads – its all the stuff I like.

  • Robert says:

    The links are only interesting as a “if you liked this you might also like…” sort of thing. Keep the list, but keep it dynamic by clearing it out every month or three. Then fill it again with sites as you actually visit them. A separate page would be too static – not worth the trouble. Or maybe this whole procedure is too much trouble, in which case skip it.

  • Adam says:

    I’d like to see an annotated links pages. I use your links sidebar every once in a while, but without a short description of what each site is, or what it’s cool, it is of limited useability to me.

    Someone commented previously on the “NASCAR” banners. I like them. They remind me of products I’m not as familiar with and give me something to sidetrack myself during a boring day at the office. Of course, I’m a gear neard, so there’s that…

  • Alan says:

    It appears we have a clear consensus, so I posted a new “Links” page and added a link to that page from the header menu at top right (it’s there now if you look). I went through and cleared out about half of the links. I looked at how often links were being clicked, as well as how frequently (or infrequently) sites were being updated, to determine whether to keep or cut a link. If there’s a site missing from the list that you feel would make the collection more useful, just drop me a note here in the comments or through our “Contact Us” form and I’ll consider adding it back. I’ll need some justification because I’m going to try and hold the list to around 150 or less.

    Thanks for your input!

  • Alistair says:

    Robert suggested >> Keep the list, but keep it dynamic by clearing it out every month or three. […] Or maybe this whole procedure is too much trouble, in which case skip it.

    Alan,
    To save you the significant work of rating and renewing the links, does you blog software have a way we can rate them like the post or review ratings on some blogs ? That way the community can do the work of elevating the interesting and culling the less useful?

    Cheers, Alistair

  • Alan says:

    @Alistair

    That’s an interesting idea. I’ll have to poke around and see if there’s a plugin.

    Thanks for the suggestion…
    Alan

  • Richard Masoner says:

    Regarding a bike-only ad network a la “The Deck” — there have been a few attempts and I’ve participated in a couple of those experiments. In one case it just fell off the earth and disappeared; the other one was swallowed up by a larger sport network and lost all relevancy for me. Before the ad networks disappeared, they were difficult from an administrative viewpoint and the ad copy they served up was generally poor and uninteresting. Besides that, I never saw a dime for either network.

  • Alan says:

    @Richard

    Thanks for the info. Doesn’t sound too promising…

    Regards,
    Alan

  • Ari Hornick says:

    ack! no more recumbent section.

  • Alan says:

    @Ari

    The recumbent sites had the lowest clickthroughs of any group. Among that group, The Recumbent Blog had the most clicks, probably because it’s so closely related to this site. My guess is that folks looking for a comprehensive ‘bent blogroll probably navigate over to RB or Bentrider anyway. Perhaps I’ll add back the most popular ‘bent links but place them in amongst the other existing categories.

    Alan

  • bongobike says:

    Oh no! I’m with Ari–I miss the ‘bent links! :(

    You have a beautiful blog, Alan, no doubt about that. You obviously are a graphics wiz. But I’ve always found scrolling down your pages is SO slow. It doesn’t matter how fast my connection or computer, it is slower than almost any other page I visit. Could it be the advertising bar on the right? The scrolling is the only thing that bothers me about ecovelo.

  • Alan says:

    @bongobike

    ” But I’ve always found scrolling down your pages is SO slow.”

    Hmmm, something strange is going on with that. I access the site from at least three computers everyday and don’t notice any slowdown at all. As a matter of fact, when using a multi-touch interface I can scroll from the top to the bottom in less than a second with one flick, even on my mobile computer accessing on a 3G cell connection.

    I’ve had three people mention a similar slowdown over the past two years. In one case I believe it was an issue with javascript being turned off which was causing an problem with the slideshow in the header. I can’t recall the exact details, but it sounds as if you’re experiencing a similar issue. That header is the only really unique thing on the page, otherwise it’s a garden-variety WordPress install.

    Regards,
    Alan

  • bongobike says:

    Alan,

    I should have been more specific. I’m referring to scrolling with the up/down arrows, not with the sliding bar on the right side of the screen. I know the arrows are always slower than the bar, but on your page arrowing up and down is particularly slow, it always has been. I’ve always thought it had to do with the picture-heavy format, the slide show at the top and the ads on the right. But I’m as computer-illiterate as they come, so don’t pay too much attention to my comments in that regard.

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Your Wish…. says:

    […] I asked if you liked our old outbound links list in the sidebar, and you responded by saying you’d like a new, freestanding “Links” page, preferably annotated. Well, your wish is my command; I recently created that new “Links” page, added some descriptions, and placed it in the header menu at the top of the page. If you haven’t already stumbled upon the new page, have a look and let me know what you think. […]

 
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