Hey friends! Today we’re talking shop with some tips on creating a successful blog link-up. I started my first weekly blog link up, Weekly Wishes, last June. It’s become something of a defining characteristic for my blog and consistently draws 50-70 other bloggers who link up their own “weekly wishes” posts. I LOVE doing this link-up each week and have met so many amazing women from it. I also host The Creative Collective, a new program on my blog based around the idea of trying new things. We’ve only had one link-up so far, but over 50 bloggers shared their posts. I love doing link-ups because they create such neat, niche communities in the blogging world. Many of the readers I know best, started interacting with my blog by doing Weekly Wishes. Now, they are some of my closest blogging friends. I sometimes get e-mails asking for advice on how to build a successful link-up of your own, so today, I want to share the things I’ve learned about running my link-ups — I hope they help you, too! 🙂
Don’t give up!
My first Weekly Wishes post had five people who linked up. One of them was me. It was not a success right off the bat and it took time to get the word out and get people interested in participating. If you start a link-up and feel like a failure, just give it some time and consider following the other tips I’m about to share. 🙂
Include an intro for each link-up post.
If you visit my Weekly Wishes link-ups, you’ll see a short introduction at the beginning of each post. This introduction briefly explains what Weekly Wishes is and shares the fact that readers can link up their own posts at the bottom. An intro is important, because eventually new people will be visiting your blog and if they can’t immediately decipher what the point of your link-up is, they’re likely to leave, or at least be a bit confused. Keep it simple — just share the purpose of this activity and that visitors can write and link-up their own posts, too.
Create a “button.”
A button is blogland’s way of saying, “an advertisement.” Those little images in my blog’s sidebar — which lead to my sponsors’ sites — are all buttons. You should definitely make one for your link-up. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just something (I recommend 250×250 pixels) that says the name of the linkup, your blog name, and maybe an extremely brief (like, 5 words max) description of the link-up, if the point of it is not obvious by its name. Buttons are great, because participants can easily copy and paste the button you made into their own post, thereby giving their own readers an easy way to find your blog and participate. In my Weekly Wishes posts, you’ll notice that I have HTML code underneath my button. Here’s an easy-to-use button code generator, in case HTML makes your skin crawl.
Include community-building “rules.”
For all of my link-ups, I include a rule that instructs participants to leave a comment on the blog that linked up directly before them. I really think that this rule has led to much of the success and value of my link-ups. It gets people to interact with each other, makes them feel good for participating, and gets them to want to come back the next week and do it all again! Many readers have also told me that their Weekly Wishes posts get more comments than any of their other posts during the week. This is because so many participants like to share the comment love and encourage each other — it’s amazing! You can view my Weekly Wishes rules here (I encourage you to use them, by the way!) or you can think of your own community-building rules, if something creative comes to mind! 🙂
Share it with other bloggers.
When you first start your link-up, send an email to your blog friends, explaining what it is and that you’d love for them to participate. When I first started my blog, I didn’t have blog friends. If you don’t know many bloggers yet, then try sending an email to bloggers you want to know. That’s how relationships start, isn’t it? Don’t just spam them, of course, but share your link-up and the fact that you’d love to connect more with them. Personalized emails will get you far, too. 😉
Use photos for your linked up posts, not text links.
When you start a link-up, you have the choice of allowing participants to link up a photo (which links back to their post) or a piece of text that links to their post. Hopefully that makes sense! On my Weekly Wishes posts, you’ll see that I take the photo route. Every person who links up shares a photo for their blog post, so all of the posts are collected into one big, easy-to-navigate collage. To be honest, when I see link-ups that just have text links, I usually don’t participate. There is less incentive to click around and visit other blogs when you’re just staring at a pile of text rather than individualized photos. Allowing participants to share a photo is a great way for everyone to easily scan through the posts and see what they’re all about. Unfortunately, using photos instead of text links costs money. I don’t know of any “link maker service” that doesn’t charge you to do this (text links are free). Luckily, it’s very cheap. I just paid for another year of service with InLinkz and it was only $20. Remember that talk about investing in your blog if you want to grow it? Another perk is that you can share your account with other trusted bloggers and split the costs!
Get creative + include social media!
While doing Weekly Wishes, I noticed that over time, participants would create their own “weekly wishes graphics” to go with their posts. I thought this was so cool, so I introduced a weekly photo theme for my link-up. I announced next week’s theme on my blog and at the end of the week, I chose my favorite photos to feature from the previous week’s linked up posts. Make sense? Basically, I got Weekly Wishes participants to get even more active in my link-up and I rewarded them by sharing their photo (and a link to their blog) on my site! Not only did people tell me that getting their photo featured “made their day,” but it also created a stronger community of committed wishers. Now, I do something similar, but with Instagram. Weekly Wishes participants can Instagram a photo of their goals in action, with the hashtag #WeeklyWishes, and I’ll choose my favorites at the end of the week. See what I did there? I got them involved on Instagram and now we have a hashtag, which people also use on Twitter. These are all small ways that get the word out about your link-up, keep people interested throughout the week, and make people happy. Win-win-win! Be creative! 🙂
Consider rotating co-hosts
I can’t speak a whole lot to this idea, as I’ve never done it, but many blogs have “co-hosts” for their link-ups. This means that each week or month, you will share your link-up on your blog and someone else will share it on their blog too. Having your link-up on a different blog each week is an amazing way to get it out there to tons of different audiences.
Read the linked up posts and leave comments yourself
I used to have a lot of fun with this when I first started doing Weekly Wishes. It helped me meet lots of other bloggers and it kept people coming back because they knew I was grateful and excited for their participation. Now, it’s not possible for me to read and comment on every linked up post, but I do still try to read as many as I can. Especially when you’re first starting out, I think this is such a special addition to any link-up…people want to feel wanted, don’t they?
Define the purpose of your link-up
I think this one is really important for a few reasons. First, if you’re not totally excited about your link-up, then it will become a chore. It is easier to start a link-up than it is to throw one away, especially after people have grown used to participating in it each week. Second, know that some link-ups seem to directly benefit the host. For example, some people force you to follow their blog (and other co-host blogs) if you want to link-up your post. I don’t run my link-ups this way because the purpose of my link-ups is not to get more followers. But you’re allowed to make your own rules — just don’t forget the purpose of why you created your link-up in the first place. If it was to build community on your blog, then forcing participants to follow you may not accomplish that goal. But if it was to get more followers, then perhaps it would make sense to include something like that. It’s your blog, you can do what you want. But I encourage you to think of the purpose of your link-up, and then do whatever accomplishes your purpose.
Lastly, define your own version of “success”
I just gave you a bunch of tips on creating a successful blog link-up, but success is subjective. If you consistently have five people who link up on your blog each week, then I’d say that’s a pretty kick-ass achievement. Creating a successful link-up doesn’t have to mean you have 200 people drop by every week. It just means that you have a consistent group of people who come and share their posts. Don’t get too blinded by the numbers — focus on the value you are giving your readers.
Phew! Now that I’ve successfully written you a novel, I think it’s time for me to scoot! If you have ANY questions, please feel free to leave a comment. You’re also welcome to share any link-ups you host so that we can jump around and visit them all. 🙂 Have a beautiful day, rockstars!
Jackie of Jade and Oak
Jackie is one sweet pup, er, I mean blogger. Sorry, I get entranced by her two adorable pugs at all hours of the day. Speaking of link-ups AND pugs, Jackie hosts an awesome link-up called Pets Are People, Too. If you like pugs in clothes, you might need to sit down. She’s also got a neat interior design link up, Design In Your Home! But back to Jackie’s dogs (dogs always run the show, don’t they?) — you must read this open letter from her dog. I promise, Jackie blogs about other things…I’m just a little obsessed. On the subject of “other things,” Jackie has got it all! She has deep, introspective posts like this one and even easy recipes like this one. She even has a neat post about pointe shoes (for ballet). Jackie is a total sweetheart with a variety of interesting, unique posts. Something for everyone. 🙂 Go give her some love!
Erica of Tiny Toes and Tuk Tuk’s
Erica is the kind of woman you’d bring home to ma and pa. She’s currently living abroad with her husband and little girl, building ceramic water filters so that people in Southeast Asia can have access to clean drinking water. How much does she rock, y’all? You can read all about her story right here. For any expats out there, you should definitely check out this one about keeping a positive attitude abroad (it gets rough out there, I know!). And as a Southeast Asia dweller, she’s got plenty of tips for travel, especially in Asia. This post is a great one, with plenty of suggestions on what to see in Bangkok, Thailand. And if you’re just planning to go to Thailand in general, she’s got some great ideas on places to go while you’re there. I’ve been to Thailand twice and her suggestions couldn’t be more spot on! And in case you like adorable children, she’s got one. 🙂 Erica is an all-around awesome woman, go give her a virtual hug for me. 🙂