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Choosing the Best Link Generator for Your Carnival

Silver LinksBlog carnivals can be a great way to promote community and increase traffic not only to your site, but to your participants’ sites. But how do you do that? With a linky tool. A linky tool allows carnival participants to submit a title for their link and a link to their site. The linky tool then takes that info and creates a list. You can see linky tools in action at some popular carnivals like Works-for-Me Wednesday or Mantel Party Time. Works-for-Me Wednesday is using Linky Tools, while Nester’s Mantel Party Time is using inlinkz. I’m going to tell you a little about both of those tools today so you can decide which one is right for you. I’ll also give you some advice on how to be a good linky list participant.

Linky Tools (formerly Mcklinky) developed out of a need for a reliable link list generator. There was a time when there was only one game in town and, as that tool became more and more used, the owner couldn’t quite keep up with the demand and the service suffered. Linky Tools was quickly embraced and is used throughout the blogosphere.

inlinkz is a newer linky system that allows your participants to include a photo in their link. It makes the list more interesting and eye-catching. I can see how inlinkz would be a great tool for giveaway carnivals. Participants could include a picture of their giveaway and make it so much easier for others to find what they’re looking for without wading through irrelevant links.

Finding the Features Your Carnival Linky Needs

Linky Tools and inlinkz both have excellent features; some they share, some that set them apart from each other.

Shared features

You’ll find the following features in both inlinkz and Linky Tools:

  • Optional images. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to have images in your carnival or maybe you just don’t like to have the images take up so much page real estate. That’s OK. You can choose to have a text list only. Just pick that option when you’re creating your new collection.
  • Save your carnival. If you have a weekly carnival or meme that you share, you can save it so you don’t have to re-make it each week. You know how love efficiency.
  • Title constraints. Any titles participants add to their entry are limited so you don’t get really long titles that mess up the display of the list. Everything will be in nice, neat rows. My OCD thanks you greatly.
  • Cropping. When a participant chooses her image for the list, she has the option to crop it! This could be handy for showing specific detail of an item within the list.

inlinkz features

inlinkz offers some significant features that will help you administer your carnival and make it stand out from others.

  • Users can delete links. Sometimes mistakes are made and when that happened with some other linkies, the administrator had to go in and delete the link for the participant. Not with inlinkz! Nope. You can delete your own links if you make a mistake or change your mind. One less thing for the carnival administrator to worry about? Yes, please.
  • Real-time stats. Want to see how your carnival is progressing and how it’s being used? inlinkz has you covered. Figure out where you’re rockin’ and where you need to improve by tracking your collections with real-time stats.
  • Voting. You can see the voting in action at the Clips-n-Cuts Around the World Challenge where you can vote on your favorite submission. That’s pretty cool. This feature is currently in beta, from what I can gather, but will be available soon.

One thing to note about if you’re using the image list option: participants have to either have the image already in their post or know the URL of the image they want to use. Participants do not have the option of uploading an image from their computer. This isn’t a big deal, but it’s worth noting.

Linky Tools features

Linky Tools has a few features not offered with other tools:

  • Different list options. You can create different lists depending on what your carnival is about including a basic text list (with text links only), thumbnail list (with images), and even a way to invite your readers to help create a story by leaving their contribution within the list (use the “create a story” list option when creating your new list).
  • Blog hops. This is an easy way to allow many blogs to host the same carnival link-up list on their blogs. Everyone uses the same code, places it in their own blog post, and they all host the same list.
  • Choose images from your computer or a post. Linky Tools doesn’t care where your image comes from as long as you hold the rights to it. You can choose a file from your computer or choose from the images in your post or on your site. You cannot provide a specific URL for your image.

Installing the Linky Code for Your Carnival

Both inlinkz and Linky Tools allow you to copy and paste the necessary code directly into your post (make sure you’re in the HTML view of your post) regardless of whether you’re using WordPress, TypePad, or Blogger. This makes it very easy to include a linky in your next carnival! I was impressed with the instructions on both inlinkz and Linky Tools; you’ll be able to be up and running in just a few minutes. The inlinkz instructions for setting up an inlinkz account and creating a new linky list have many screen shots and explanations to eliminate confusion. Linky Tools offers video tutorials on setting up your account creating new Linky Tools lists.

Being the Best Carnival Guest You Can Be

A great carnival will not only be useful to the host, but to the participants. The host is shining a light on other blogs to help showcase them. Remember that, although carnivals are generally open to the public, you’re still a guest at the host’s site. Good manners go a long way to helping the carnival’s overall success. If you follow the carnival’s posted guidelines and these few tips, you’ll find your experience may go more smoothly.

  • Be brief. It’s tempting to promote yourself with your name, your blogs, name and your URL in your link title. Please don’t, though. The longer your title, the more it affects the columns of the list. In fact, this became such a problem, most linky generators now have character constraints the carnival owner can implement.
  • Be useful. Consider what the carnival is about and whether there are guidelines about what to include in your title. Use keywords that tell others what they’ll find if they click over to your site. For instance, when I was doing the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival, I asked participants to include what they were giving away and where they’d ship. For exmple, Jane Eyre DVD (US/Canada). The title is short and it tells you what to expect. It’s not promoting my actual blog name, but once you click over, you’ll know where you are. And your blog is still getting the link love from the carnival via the permalink you use.
  • Use permalinks. A peramlink is the link to a specific blog post, not the main page of your blog. Most carnivals require you to use a permalink instead of your blog’s main URL and your entry may be deleted if you don’t.
  • Don’t double post. You only need one entry for each carnival (unless the guidelines state otherwise). If you make a mistake on your link, contact the carnival owner and ask her to delete your entry (unless she’s using inlinkz, which allows you to delete your own entries).

What do you think? Have you used either Linky Tools or inlinkz before? What was your experience? Do you have any tips or advice to add to the etiquette list?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jimby K

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