WordPress.com Followers Widget: No Thanks

followers widget imageFollowers Widgets have become ubiquitous sidebar decorations in blogs as more blogging platforms and social networks are providing them. Followers Widgets dynamically display the visits to the blog by the people behind icons (avatars, gravatars).  Bloggers display them to demonstrate connections other bloggers  that range from mere acquaintanceship to friendship with subscribers who regularly read the blog and comment. Let’s investigate the claims and  uncover what Followers Widgets  do and don’t do for your blog.

Blogger says:

The Followers widget is a great tool to help you grow your blog’s audience. Readers often visit a blog and enjoy it but fail to return. With the followers widget you can get all readers to return and become a fan. We highly recommend that you write a post about your followers widget and encourage all readers to become a follower. Additionally you should put your followers widget at the top of your sidebar so more readers will notice it. Many readers ignore sidebar items so by writing a post about your followers widget and moving the widget to the top of your sidebar, you will inevitably grow your audience. — How to grow your audience with Following

The implication that using a Follower’s Widget will  drive traffic to your blog and  grow your audience is far fetched.  But then most advertising is based upon marketing gar fetched notions to the masses, isn’t it?

Appearance

Followers widgets can spoil the blog design and give the blog an amateurish appearance. Take note that top bloggers in every niche who tend to have customized themes do not to use them, so why should you?

follower widget imageDistraction

Followers Widgets can distract readers’ minds and eyes from reading the content in your blog posts on your front page of your blog and direct them to your sidebar. In sidebars Followers Widgets distract readers’ minds and eyes away from navigational widgets containing links to the deeper content in your blog. If your emphasis is on presenting your content to visitors then why add a distraction to your blog?

followers widget imagePage Loading Time

Followers widgets increase blog speed (page loading time);  and viewers have to wait for widgets to load before they can interact with the blog. Most people surfing the web today are on dial-up service. Also as page loading time has become a Google page ranking factor most bloggers are reducing page loading time, not increasing it.

References:
Why having a well designed blog is important
Widgets: Less is More

follower widget imageGoogle juice

There is no reason to create and display hundreds of links,  as any page with many links looses “weight” or value on a per link basis.  Moreover, too many outbound links can reduce your blog’s PageRank. It is all about balancing the number and quality of outbound links with inbound links.

“1.   Inbound links are links from pages on external sites linking back to your site. Inbound links can bring new users to your site, and when the links are merit-based and freely-volunteered as an editorial choice, they’re also one of the positive signals to Google about your site’s importance.

2.   Outbound links are external sites that you’re linking to.  Outbound links allow us to surf the web — they’re a big reason why the web is so exciting and collaborative. Without outbound links, your site can seem isolated from the community because each page becomes “brochure-ware.”

Relevant outbound links can help your visitors.

  • Provide your readers in-depth information about similar topics;
  • Offer readers your unique commentary on existing resources.

Thoughtful outbound links can help your credibility.

  • Show that you’ve done your research and have expertise in the subject manner;
  • Make visitors want to come back for more analysis on future topics.”
  • Analysis

Analysis: The way I understand this is that every little icon in a Followers Widget is an outbound link (Google juice) flowing out of the blog. Also every Followers Widget has a link to the site that offers the followers widget.

Suppose some search engine spiders stop indexing when they reach 100 – 115 links on any given page. Consider that most blogs have a sidebar appearing on every page and not just the front page.

Aside from links in Followers Widgets  in most themes Blogroll Links are also displayed in sidebars on every page in the blog,  and every one is an outbound link (Google juice) flowing out of the blog.

Also every button, chiclet and badge for social media sites, social networks, bookmarking sites,  blog directories, etc. is linked, and  every one is an outbound link (Google juice) flowing out of the blog.

Matt says, build your site for the user experience, and make sure your inbound and outbound links are valid, not spammy, and relevant. Therefore the approach I use is  simply focusing on user experience.

SEO experts advise that a better blogger ensures that the number of inbound and outbound links are kept in balance. Therefore the approach I use is  simply focusing on maintaining a balance between outbound links and inbound links.

Who benefits?

followers widget imageWhen it comes to use of a Followers Widget if a blog reader clicks an icon in a Followers Widget – zoom – they are gone from the blog.

When a blog reader clicks an icon in a Followers Widget the site the widget comes from gets a hit.  If the page is  monetized and/or if the site has PPC (pay per click) the social network site owners get income from every click every visitor makes on the site.

followers widget imageThe follower whose icon was clicked by a blog reader gets a hit on a profile page on a social network site (and maybe an indirect click through that site into their blog).

My criteria for adding widgets is:

I love followers (who doesn’t?) but I do not add a widget to my blog unless it:

1.   improves the functionality of my site by providing reader access to content that is not located on the front page;

2.   redirects readers to high quality sources of relevant information found in authoritative blogs in the same niche.

Discussion questions:

  1. What criteria  have you set for adding widgets to your blog?
  2. Do you have a blog on which you are currently using follower widgets?
  3. If you are a WordPress.COM blogger and a followers widget is introduced at WordPress.COM will you use it?
  4. Why or why not?

 

45 thoughts on “WordPress.com Followers Widget: No Thanks

  1. I’ve just started using WP as my blog’s platform and using blogger previously. It keeps me searching on the net of how to install the followers widget to WP. But, reading your post has completely changed my mind. ^_^

    If you can share how do you visit other blogs by not putting the Blogroll widget? I would love to know that.

    Many thanks :)
    Ken

  2. Thank you for this very informative article. And thank you everyone else who have contributed in their comments to this article. Having said that, I have been blogging with wordpress for the last two years and my intelligence in navigating are rather limited coz I get confused and lost when too many instructions are given. I registered for the follower widget, nearly a year back and till now, although I follow all the instructions to the T, somehow in the blog, the url shows up and not the box of the followers, its the same for network too. Where do you think, am I going wrong. I would really appreciate some help. Becoz I am interested in introducing a blog candy and would love to know, who are my most frequent visitors too. Appreciate your responce.
    Naush

  3. Super article, TT.. thanks!

    Never knew the follower links are outbound links.. Reworked on site and have removed the widgets.

    BTW, have you considered if you were to put a follower widget on this blog… how long would it be :-)

  4. Dear TiTi, thank you so much for such a kind post – of course I’d be delighted to be friends :). I’m loving my site but it’s very new to me – so I’m fumbling about trying to catch up with IT knowledge. The links you posted were very helpful – thanks,
    Martha

    • @martha,
      Thanks for being gracious. I’m happy to hear the links I posted were helpful and that we are going to be friends.
      Happy blogging. :)

  5. Dear Timethief, I am ignorant. Because I’m new.

    As I said, I’m a big fan of WordPress, and my post included my thanks and a balanced view.

    Obviously I did not know about the risks of javascript and no, I do not wish to compromise anyone’s safety for a vanity widget.

    A gentle pointer – perhaps a link to one of your previous posts in the last four years – would have informed me just as effectively as your disparaging ultimatum – but each to their own.

    Thank you for passing on the information.

    • @Martha
      I have read my comment again and I agree that I could have been much softer when answering you. I’m sorry I didn’t meet the muster of speaking very softly to a beginner. :( And, I hope this won’t have a negative effect on our being friends.
      Very best wishes with your blog.
      TiTi

  6. There are many points well made in this thread – I like a minimalist blog, or in fact any clean page. I use the STRUCTURE theme on my writing blog because it allows pages to exclude the sidebar – so some of my pages can be very white e.g. [http://marthawilliams.org/book/book-ii/]
    and when I include the right sidebar, I have only an image – my own handwriting – which is in line with my writing, and a retweet function. There is little clutter on my site.
    BUT
    on the blog page [http://marthawilliams.org/blog/], I have a left sidebar – the only page to have this. And in this, I include my community. Tweets, Networked blogs link (Facebook link, but WordPress only supports a minimised non-Java button) and so on. I would like to include my Google Friends or, of course, my WordPress friends. Just in this one area. Because while my other pages are my professional presentation, my blog is an interactive page.

    This is important for writers – I write on Fictionaut, 6s, etc etc (community writing sites where we comment on each other’s work). Because the focus of my blog/post page is community, I’d consider linking into community widgets there.

    I love WordPress. I think the pages look professional and I like the support – it’s been great. But if I could adjust two things it would be

    (i) java… please… PLEASE?
    (ii) network widget… probably (you’re half way to changing my mind, actually! But I’d like to have a choice… I do use the WordPress page-follow function but don’t find it all that easy to read – could do with a header/first few lines and [more] link – instead it includes the full articles).

    But that sounds moany – I mean, WordPress.com – do I like it? YES. It’s excellent, I’d recommend it to bloggers. Loads of support, fabulous sites, *excellent* stats, great themes, crispy-clean pages, good loading times, and it hasn’t crashed or lost anything since I started here 2 months ago. I’m a fan. I thank you.

    Martha

    • @Martha Williams
      I have spent 4 years on the wordpress.com support forum explaining to new bloggers why wordpress.COM software strips all javascript out of our blogs on this multiuser blogging platform. Embed tags, iframes, forms, flash and Javascripts are banned for security concerns. It would be child’s play for a hacker pull your login cookies if they were allowed. This is how javascript works. > http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2007/10/08/why-javascript-is-a-security-risk/

      From my POV anyone who would be willing to campaign to compromise security on the wordpress.COM multiuser blogging platform so they could have vanity widgets is entirely off-base and ignorant of the risk. Free standing wordpress.ORG installs are available free of charge to those who hire a web host and host their own install. Then they can run javascript.

      As those wordpress.ORG installs are independent, then the only security risk is to the individual install with the javascript widgets. This is in contrast allowing JavaScript to be used by multi-millions of bloggers on the wordpress.COM multiuser blogging platform and putting all their blogs, and the entire blogging platform at risk. Please read > http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2007/10/08/why-javascript-is-a-security-risk/ Read also > http://en.support.wordpress.com/code/

      The bottom line for those accepting free blogs and free hosting form wordpress.COM is you either accept the limitations or you get a wordpress.ORG install. I urge you not to remain an unhappy camper at wordpress.COM but to simply hire a web host, download a free wordpress.ORG install and then install all the javascript widgets you like on your free standing install. Read > the differences between wordpress.COM free hosted blogs and wordpress.ORG free standing installs > http://support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/

  7. TiTi

    Such an insightful article from you, but that’s nothing new ..that’s the norm at OCSBT :) Followers smwollers …of course we all want them, but we don’t need to be boastful and display their faces and the number of them many or few. A widget like that serves no real purpose. I’ll admit I’ve been to Widget Rehab ….and now use what is only necessary for the benefit of my few readers. I also think too many widgets is a turn off to the readers who have to scroll down a mile, and who may be tempted to just click themselves away from blog leaving my content dead in the water. Thanks so much for this article.

    1. What criteria have you set for adding widgets to your blog?

    I’m trying to discipline myself to use what is useful, and is not too distracting.

    2. Do you have a blog on which you are currently using follower widgets?

    No, and after reading this article I’m absolutely sure I won’t be using one. I can’t even conceive of it!

    3. If you are a WordPress.COM blogger and a followers widget is introduced at WordPress.COM will you use it?

    To reiterate… I can’t even conceive of it!

    4. Why or why not?

    No real purpose is served by doing so, there is not benefit in it for the readers, or my blog.

    • @jaco
      It’s always good to hear from you. I have onoing computer problems and medical appointments – UGH! that have been taking up my blogging time for 2 weeks now. :(

      Actually, I expected more commenters would be fiercely defending their use of Follower Widgets as I discovered that some bloggers felt their blogs can’t do without them, and derive benefit from them. My research didn’t substantiate that so I have been waiting for Follower Widget defender to give me something substantive to go on. Maybe I’m an oddball but I never click on avatars in Followers Widgets I see on other blogs.

      Your criteria succinctly sums up where I’m at on the subject. However, I do have an exception. The only widget I have that doesn’t meet the criteria I shared in my post is the feedjit widget in my sidebar. I use it to determine countries of origin so I know which languages I need to place on my Translation page, and which posts are the most and least interesting to visitors.

  8. Hey TT,

    In my experience, follower widgets have been beneficial in getting me to visit a site. I’m referring to the widget that blogger uses. You do have very good points concerning the amateur look and too many outbound links (which might make your blog an agency for other blogs). You almost convinced me of doing away with it all together lol.

    I do hope that WordPress will get a follower widget.

    • Hi there Jerry,
      I assume that you mean clicking an avatar in a Follower Widget on a blog is a convenient way of connecting with another blogger’s “followers”. When you click the avatar link where do you arrive? Do you arrive on the blog? If not, then how many clicks does it take to get to the blog?

  9. Hi TT thanks for the information =)

    1. What criteria have you set for adding widgets to your blog?

    I only considered how it looked and if it worked. But now I’ll be considering the points you brought up in this post as well.

    2. Do you have a blog on which you are currently using follower widgets?

    No, but I tried. I guess it is a good thing it didn’t work. I don’t know if displaying an empty box would help my blogs image much.

    3. If you are a WordPress.COM blogger and a followers widget is introduced at WordPress.COM will you use it?

    I dont know if I would use it or not…but I think having options are good.

    • Hello jay.me
      I think most bloggers consider the same two things you mention and nothing beyond that so I’m happy to hear I provoked further consideration on your part. As yours is a visual blog I think you will be more aware of the distraction effect than most bloggers are. And I do agree that options are desirable.

      P.S. If you tried the Google Follower widget or any follower widget in a text widget and it didn’t work that’s probably due to the software stripping the code out – javascript is stripped out to preserve security.

      Have a great weekend. :)

  10. That’s something I was considering today. Since I use WordPress it doesn’t have the Widget for followers but you make good arguments against having it.

    • @Suzanne,
      I’m glad you think my arguments are goods ones. If my investigation had produced arguments in favor I would have and done a pros and cons type of article but that wasn’t the case.

      I hope you enjoy blogging here at wordpress.com as much as I do. Thanks for reading and commenting too.

  11. 1. What criteria have you set for adding widgets to your blog?
    I don’t have a criteria, really. I’ve joined a lot of different blogging groups and have lots of widgets I could add, but have started being more discerning about the groups I want to be associated with.

    2. Do you have a blog on which you are currently using follower widgets?
    No. I did at one time.

    3. If you are a WordPress.COM blogger and a followers widget is introduced at WordPress.COM will you use it?
    No

    4. Why or why not?
    I don’t want to clutter up my blog sidebars with pictures of other people. Plus, I never do anything with the follower widgets I see on other blogs.

    • Hi Susie,
      Thanks for sharing your experience and where you are at. Your answer to 1 is the same as mine. When I first began blogging I joined all kinds of sites and filled my sidebars with all kinds widgets. Then over time I became more and more selective. I think the trendiness of these Follower Widgets may fade away but you never know.

  12. As with so many above, I prefer clean visuals and using only those widgets that keep focus on my blog (oooh I’m selfish!!) and user experience (ok, maybe a little generous and thoughtful!). I decided against a blogroll sidebar widget, and will be setting up a page which will be more like the good old-fashioned annotated bibliography – not just a list of links, but a little explanation of why darling reader might like to visit them. Whilst I’ve made a decision to be not anonymous, I utterly respect others’ privacy and wouldn’t dream of using something like this to drag in and show off people who have kindly and probably unsuspectingly visited my blog. I admit I cringe when I’ve seen myself show up on this type of widget on other folks’ blogs. Wouldn’t touch the function with a barge-pole myself if it were available in WP.

    Come to think of it, do you know of a way to avoid being captured in this type of widget on someone else’s site?

    • @Cynthia,
      I like the clean appearance of your blog but not all bloggers are minimalists like us. Many blogs I see look like children’s scrapbooks and that’s fine because it takes all kinds and different kinds attract well different kinds, if you know what I mean

      As far as the “selfishness” goes I blog for myself and my readers. My mission is to make my content available to as many bloggers as possible and Follower Widgets don’t do that so placing my content and or links to it front and foremost is what I do.

      I don’t use a Links (Blogroll) widget either I have a static page that’s subject to change. See this post to understand what I mean by that. http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2010/02/22/share-your-blogroll-linking-strategy/

      Come to think of it, do you know of a way to avoid being captured in this type of widget on someone else’s site?

      If you belong to whichever social network, etc. the Followers Widget comes from and you post an avatar on that site, and you are signed into that site when you visit the blog displaying the widget then the answer is “no”.

      Thanks for visiting and for commenting too. I appreciate it. :)

  13. Great article! Very insightful. I had a friend from blogger tell me I need to have a follower widget…I looked into it and actually installed it on my page, well my theme didn’t support it and crashed my site, so off it went! Looks much better without it now. And it is distracting! Whenever I visit blogs that have so many widgets I start to get a headache. lol

    • @Lei
      I have seen so many “busy” blogs cluttered with so much useless distracting “tat” that I have had to struggle to find the content. Content of the front page the most easy to locate of course but locating deeper content can be an extreme challenge in some blogs. That’s really the antithesis of how blogs ought to be. Readers ought to be able to navigate to our deeper content with ease and the navigational aids should be easy to locate and intuitive to use. Thanks so much for your visit and for commenting too.

  14. Hi TiTi,
    I have got to admit..I have this little fascination for widgets. They always make me feel like a little kid in a candy store :)

    But that said, I dont like the numbers game this follower widget portrays. I simply dont want to blog to show off how many people read or follow my blog..I dont like that number supremecy..I blog cause each and every reader is important and is a person…not just a mere number or follower gravatar.

    And from the technical loading standpoint, I find them highly tacky. ….I think its clutter…and seriously i dont ever remember clicking even one link on any of the follower widgets I have come across on other sites.
    But, hey…I wouldnt use it for my blog…..But I guess a technical blog or maybe another blog owner would think differently.

    You know I even heard of people faking or photoshoping the feedburner widget to show more readers …just to show people how popular they were. Other than the initial rush(maybe) I think it just gets stale. Cause then you are so bothered about how to get more people to read your stuff…that you forget to focus on the content….and content is king…..
    You always come up with the best topics….:)
    Lots of love,
    Z~

    • It’s so obvious to me that every reader is important to you as a person and using a Followers Widget on your blog would IMO detract from that.

      What’s also obvious is that you aren’t into competition and I admire that. Blogging is competitive and “the numbers” mean a lot to some but they really don’t mean much to you or me because we do not make any income from blogging. No matter how few my readers may be in number I value their contributions to my blog very highly and you are the same.

      In the final analysis most of us are visual and strongly attracted to colorful graphics. Therein lies the rub. If we want readers to focus on content then we don’t depict our blogs as if they are candy stores for kids. If we want to have professional looking sites we choose professional looking themes and don’t destroy the blog design with lots of colorful eye catching and distracting “tat”.

      I recognize that raising these issues will create a defensive posture in those who already use them. As yet I have yet to hear a strong argument that’s backed by evidence of their benefit to blogs but maybe someone will present such evidence. If so I’m open to hearing it.

      Love and peace,
      TiTi

  15. These are all really good points, including the one about privacy. I’m not interested in a follows widget, I too try to keep my widgets to a minimum and choose one’s that will link my readers with content or resources. I never stopped to think that each one of those follower faces is an outbound link! Good point!

    • I’m a minimalist who is focused on presenting my content to readers. I dislike “busy” looking blogs so I don’t have one.

      As we already tend to link directly to blogs we follow in our Links (Blogroll) widgets and as we already backlink to the articles by the bloggers we follow in our posts, Followers Widgets create an outbound link redundancy.

      We click an icon in a Followers Widget and the juice goes to the site providing the widget. We arrive on a profile page and then we have to locate a blog link. Usually those blog links are embedded in iframes so the link juice leaks to the site providing the widget again.

      Some say this is ‘”convenient”. I disagree. I have a record of my followers on all social networks on my dashboards. I have a direct link to their blogs and I use them, so the flow of Google juice is direct to their blog and only and their blog benefits. No juice is leaked out to any other site along the way.

      And “yes” writerdood’s privacy point is an important one too. I’m so glad he shared it with us.

  16. To add to writerdood’s comment about privacy: It’s a good observation. I’ve contemplated removing my gravatar. Maybe replace it with something else. Or have nothing.

    I actually had a subscriber request that I erase a comment of hers on my blog because of her gravatar (a real photo of her). So I erased her comment –a pity since it was useful.

    Re: blog clutter due to too many gravatar followers, etc. Well, unfortunately there are a ton of people who really don’t care about thoughtful sleek blog design.

  17. I’m pretty conservative on the number of widgets for both of my blogs.

    My criteria for activating and placing a widget are:

    *will actually provide in-your-face functionality and a unique feature that is not duplicated elsewhere on the blog page for the user.

    *assists the reader/viewer to navigating and searching more efficiently in different ways within the blog

    *provides one-time, timeless critical info. in the user’s face

    *does not push / bias the viewer/reader on reading the most popular posts and hence overlook, other valuable blog articles not highlighted. Every reader/viewer is unique and has different information needs. What’s popular this year, may not be next year.

    *provides only a few critical links to other regularily updated and high quality info. sources

    I would not use a follower widget.
    Instead I prefer an advance search template widget that we can configure when our blog content grows and hence gets more complicated to find info. (But I digress. :))

    • @Jean
      Excellent criteria – you never fail to impress me. Please remain my blogging friend forever. :) And “no” I’m not touching subject of “an advance search template widget” with a ten foot pole … lol :D

  18. Dear TT,

    This is GREAT!! I have been thinking of removing mine because of load time, tacky look, and distraction…AND wondering WHY they are even there in the first place… AND what purpose they serve. You have just answered all that I did not know, so that’s THAT!! LOL!!

    Gosh you are good and know sooooooo much.
    Thank you my dear friend.
    Much love to you,
    Robin

    • Dear Robin,
      It’s so good to hear from you. I think it’s possible that most bloggers using Follower Widgets haven’t considered the effect of these widgets on their blogs. I think they may simply believe that nonsense spieled by widget providers saying they increase traffic and grow your audience, when they don’t.

      As hilarious as it may sound we have had several threads on the WordPress.com support forum wherein bloggers are requesting a WordPress.com Followers Widget be developed. In fact, there have been new bloggers from Blogger, who have migrated to WordPress.com and who have threatened to return to Blogger if they don’t get one. :D :D :D :D I was astonished that adults could think so highly of a widget that they would make such a statement so I investigated.

      I admit that I have found myself staring at the tiny faces and being distracted from reading blog content, so I assume the same may happen to at least some other readers. I love getting new followers (who doesn’t?) and I manage these additions in my dashboards at various social networking sites. I’m a minimalist, and such widgets do not meet my criteria for widget use, so I don’t use them.

      Love,
      TiTi

  19. Oh, cool, a questionarre.
    I seldom get those.
    Okay, here goes:

    1. What criteria have you set for adding widgets to your blog?
    Is it cool? Can I use it? Will it fit well in my sidebar? Does it benefit my blog?

    2. Do you have a blog on which you are currently using follower widgets?
    No.

    3. If you are a WordPress.COM blogger and a followers widget is introduced at WordPress.COM will you use it?
    No.

    4. Why or why not?
    Primarily loading time, and also privacy. I don’t want people who visit my blog to think I’m tracking them, and I don’t want them to necessarily have to feel like their picture is going to be posted. I’m anonymous, and I want them to have the same privilege.

    • Thanks for your feedback. I understand where you are coming from and why you don’t favor using Follower Widgets on your blog.

Comments are closed.