How important is your gravatar to your blogging persona?

This question was posed by Dr. Tanya over at the SaltedCaramel blog. Its a great question but I don’t think its as straightforward as it at first seems. There are different elements to a gravatar, the persona being just one aspect. Yes, the persona is important, but so are the other bits

What is a Gravatar

Each of us with a presence online has a gravatar. It’s probably what you think of as your avatar or profile pic, but it is so much more. Just as a credit card or ID card can carry a lot of personal information about us on a microchip, your gravatar is the online electronic equivalent.

What is the purpose of the Gravatar

The gravatar, when properly set up, is the electronic representation of who you are, like the photograph on an ID badge. However, it is also like a business card containing your contact details. It provides others with a link back to you.

My online persona

The persona is a representation of who you are, but the key point is that its an online persona – it respresents who you are online; the personality you wish to portray. It may be part of who you are, or you may wish to have a very narrowly focused niche and therefore may not wish your photograph to be identified with your online identity or blog. There are differing opinions here, but its really down to personal preference.

As writers, we want to be genuine in our voice, so we need to think about whether we want to use a photograph or an avatar/image that we feel reflects who we are online. I would also point out that this stage that the gravatar does not necessarily just link with your WP identity – mine is also linked to my YouTube channel, so your Gravatar can and should link with your entire online presence.

For my part, it took me ages to decide on an image for both the blog site and my own avatar. I didn’t want to have a photograph of myself; I wanted something which expressed the idea of being at a starting point, with freedom to choose the direction I head. I plan to review and update the about me part of my site and my pages generally in the next few months. I may change my avatar but I still think its unlikely that I will use an image of myself as I want to portray the spirit of the blog and not just me as a person.

In addition to the online persona aspect of the gravatar it also acts as a digital identifier.

Digital identity

As indicated above, the digital identifier can also be linked to other accounts and as I said, mine is also linked to my YouTube channel. It can be useful to use someone’s Gravatar to pop to their blog/website and to communicate with them.

Gravatars need to be maintained and the links associated with it need to be kept up-to-date and functioning. If the links don’t work, it will show up as a broken link on any other sites you visit and leave comments.

Good blog housekeeping means we should run a broken link checker regularly as its bad for your site to contain broken links. It affects the reliability ratings of your site so you should remove broken links, including broken gravatars. I run my checks monthly and regretably as well as broken links to websites, it does also identify gravatars attached to comments and as such, to ensure the health of my own site, I have to remove some comments; at least a couple of comments every month.

I’ve just run a check and it identified 3 people leaving comments with “broken” gravatars. Some of those people had left multiple comments. Apparently having lots of broken links might also increase the amount of spam your site attracts.

Picking a gravatar to reflect your online identity is important as its our image online, but its equally important, if not more important to have a properly functioning gravatar. It is better to have a properly functioning gravatar with a persona you are comfortable with – whether that’s a photograph of yourself or an avatar or other image.

For more detailed technical guidance on gravatars, including how to set yours up properly, I recommend Hugh’s post on gravatars.

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  1. I’ve gone back and forth on my avatar over the years. I’m not a fan of it currently, but it is what it is, until I come up with a better idea. Now for a silly question that will show my WordPress ignorance. How are you checking your site for broken links? I’m familiar with this in the corporate world, but not sure how to do it within WordPress. Thank you!

  2. You are right.
    Putting our thoughts as a symbol (for which we started the blog) In the first place, as gravatar than our self photos is interesting.
    As I understand from the internet community and social media platforms, one should put their image which makes readers feel closer and helps better bonding (as per psychologists).
    What is your personal opinion?
    What are your thoughts?

    • My personal opinion is people need to do what they are comfortable with. Initially when I started I didn’t use my name either but changed that for the reason you gave – so people could identify with me. Once you start reading … or at least when I start reading, I’m focused on the words not the gravatar. I do feel that when we communicate with others regularly we associate their avatar with that person … I dont need to see your face to know that I have a comment from you or when I get notifications of your posts. I think an avatar/gravatar image is our logo … if I wanted to get into organisational culture … that is how people identify us. So a strong avatar/image is important, I don’t think it needs to be my photograph.
      That said I may share a photo on my blog soon that I’m in. I know people can be curious about what people look like … but im happy with my image/avatar as it is

  3. I checked the link which you provided in response to a comment by Brian.
    The problem is it also picks up the commentators who are no more active at present but at one time participated in the discussion.
    To delete thee commentators appears a herculean task, since you have to visit your dashboard and delete their comments individually.
    A tough task for me when my posts are more than 3000. I just gave up.
    Thank you Brenda.

    • It will impact on your ratings if you’re interested in SEO for your website.
      But this is also why it’s something we need to do regularly. I found out about broken links when I’d only been blogging a few months so I never had many broken links.

      I think its also important to identify if any links in your posts are broken too.

  4. The symbol chosen was when Flickr was taken up. So it was a simple which one looks best in a small contained space. I only took black and white film negative photographs. A lot of nature. So they were busy and confusing. A guy took a photograph of myself on stage. Half in shadow. Very early Beatles like as in the album cover. So I stuck with it. I do include 5 or 6 different, but constant photographs, for overall subjects within my WordPress category sections to identify the theme or subject. You speak of housekeeping and removing each month. I never thought of that one. Great advice. All the best Brenda.

    • Thanks Gray. I’m thinking of identifiers for my different categories too. Hoping I might have time for that over the next two weeks

      • It took me a while. The featured image attachments and more than one category are sometimes relevant for just one blog. Themes crossed. But the work was worthwhile. I find tags to link up too are vital. Thanks for replying and good luck with it all.

  5. Thanks for linking to my post about linking your blog to your Gravatar, Brenda.

    You have explained everything so well in this post. Many online users tend to never check or look after their Gravatar once it’s been created. Such a shame given that when I click on some Gravatars it leads to nowhere, so I can’t find their blog.

    Thanks, again.

    • Youre welcome Hugh. I’m just fortunate that I learned from your posts while I was still fairly new to blogging, so I don’t have many problems with links.
      But I agree, it’s frustrating not being able to check out or connect with others

  6. My brain goes “haywire” with anything dealing with tech or links or, well, anything other than words. I did try that link you gave to check but didn’t understand the result. However, when I hit my own gravatar all seemed okay. ;—0 🙂

  7. This post was an amazing read. The gravatar is something I’ve given no attention to. And it seems like it’s a plant in the blog garden we need to water just like everything else. Also learned something new about broken links. Thx for sharing this! – Aaron

  8. Sometimes we need a pic of ourselves, sometimes we don’t.

    If you are not comfortable with sharing pics here, it’s okay.
    I respect decision.

    Best wishes

  9. I’ve changed my gravatar every so often over the years. I think it’s very important to have one that represents you, if not literally with a photo or cartoon drawing, then with a glimpse into your personality via your color choices. I’ve gone from abstract to my cute little circle now. It’s easy to identify me in a glance and that’s key to a good gravatar.

  10. I love your gravatar. Beautiful and inspiring. It definitely portrays what you want it to portray.

    I’ve recently run a link checker and, to my surprise, I found that it points out bloggers who left comments that no longer have active pages. Admittedly, that depressed me a little and I quickly closed that link checker page. I don’t want to delete comments made by people whom I had connections with at some point in time… Their comments are an important part of my blogging experience. I don’t want to now have early posts with no comments. So, I’m wondering how to proceed. Maybe add a comment quoting comments I will delete? Will see.

    • Thats an interesting idea about the comments as I’d just been deleting them but it does keep the important/significant ones

  11. Interesting blog post Brenda. A gravatar can be a digital identity or an online presence. Great to know that👏. I tend to use my own pictures and those of Pinterest for my fashion blogs because it is a niche market that needs visualizations, illustrations and pictures of dress codes

  12. Do I want to use a gravatar image?

    I have used and changed many gravatar images or profile pictures since the day I started blogging.

    A cartoon portrait picture of mine in the red tshirt had come to use as a standard.
    Means, I used the same profile across my all social media channels.

    Currently I’m not using a gravatar. And I’m okay with it.
    People can get a fair idea of “how I look” by the logo of my blog.
    I have designed it by myself.

    My online identity is same as how I live and act in the real life.

    Similarly, I like “Brenda being Brenda. The one who’s full confident, expressive, caring and solution oriented.”
    Also, a wise woman.

    • Thank you Lokesh, but if your gravatar doesn’t work properly people can’t connect with you, can’t use it to get to your website and your comments may show as a broken link on their site. It’s much more than just the image. It’s like giving someone your business card, but putting the wrong number on it.

  13. Hi Brenda, great post. I was wondering about Gravatars. They follow us. I was recently taking a writing class and when I logged in there was my Gravatars. I wasn’t crazy about that. Do you know how you turn that off? I guess I need to read up on it. For class, I might have wanted a real picture.

    • Without looking it up, I dont know. I assume if you go to the Gravatar website, you can access the settings, but why would you want to turn it off?

      • I don’t want to turn the Gravatar off, I would like to see if there is a button that keeps the Gravatar specific to my website but cannot follow me to other things I might sign up for. I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself well. I was surprised when I signed up for a class and there was the bird. I didn’t want to change it, because it would change universally. We should be able to pick/choose WHERE we want the Gravatar to show up.

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