Blogging Basics: 6 Steps to Personalize, Polish & Promote Your Blog

Description:
Join BlogHer's Liz Henry and a team of subject-matter experts for a quick and effective blog makeover. Let's look at your blog, whether you've got one post up or 100, and give it some love. Liz will explain 6 simple steps you can take to give your blog a tune-up, and then we'll break into small groups to try out some of what you've learned. These 6 steps can help clarify to your readers who you are and what you write. Whether you use WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, or any other platform - you and your platform are welcome.

Speakers:
Liz Henry
Andrea Meyers
Veronica "Roni" Noone
Kristen King

LIZ: Would like everyone to leave here with a workshop takeaway. She’d like participants in this panel to go to their blog template and be able to tweak something, or have the knowledge to do it later. She works for BlogHer doing tech support and has both personal and professional blogs.

KRISTEN: Enjoys helping people figure out what they’re passionate about.

RONI: Started blogging when she got pregnant in 2005, then developed into weight loss blog. She’s now a full-time blogger.

ANDREA: Her profession is instructional designer. When her blog started becoming more popular, she got more serious about the design of her site.

LIZ: Have the confidence to go into your blog code and change things.

All of the major blogging platforms (Blogspot, Wordpress, etc.) have a few default templates, but they shout “newbie” to the world. It’s important to have an identity, but you might or might not want a template that’s cluttered.

When you go in to customize your blog code, it looks like a big jumble (a “barf” of punctuation marks). An option is to print it out and compare which bits create what elements. You can use TextWrangler, BBEdit, and Pastebin to edit your code, instead of doing it in your browser window. They allow you to see your html and css and php code with color highlighting to help you find and fix problems.

If you figure out a few basics, you can change all kinds of things. You’d be amazed at all the people who fake it that way. Often this is how people learn computer programming.

Who are you?
• Describe yourself, put links to other websites and web presences that you have; establish your identity and personality; be short and sweet when needed, but also long and thorough
• Contact info – you can set up a placeholder email address if you don’t want to use your real name
• About page
• Photos or graphic element

Who are your readers?
• We should care about this because blogs are a part of intellectual history.
• Recent comments – nice to have links to recent comments displayed on the main sidebar
• Links back to readers, allow avatars & icons

What are you writing about?
• Tags, categories
• Tag clouds
• Feeds or pages by category

Where are you?
• Have some presence on bookmarking, ranking sites
• Buttons for Digg, Kirtsy, StumbleUpon, Reddit

How do to all this?
• Look through all your blog’s settings and options. There may be built-in “About Me” or Recent Comments options.
• Javascript widgets!
• Copy or download scripts from other people.

Blogger: Widgets, Gadgets
• Search for interesting widgets or code snippets
• Copy/paste into the “javascript/HTML” box.

Wordpress: Plugins
• Download/upload to your server
• Unzip the files
• Activate them in the wp-admin panel

Typepad: Typelists (basic templates)
• Create a “Notes” Typlist; paste in code
• Select content – check off a box to include
• Order content – drag and drop sidebar widgets

ANDREA:
Primary goal is for you to MAKE IT EASY. Make it easy…
…for our readers to find what they’re looking for.
…for search engines to find your blog and your posts.
…for your readers to subscribe to your blog.

Feed/syndication:
Make sure you have a prominent link to your site’s feed.
• Easy: Widgets in WP and Blogger
• Google Feedburner
• Newsgator
• Feedblitz

Categories, tags, keywords, labels (they’re called different things in different places)
• Similar to a table of contents/index
• WordPress: categories and tags
• Blogger: labels
• Typepad/Movable Type: categories and keywords

Searches
• Add a search box to your site
• WordPress widget
• Blogger does it automatically in the Navbar
• $ - AdSense has a search box

Archives/Index
• Add an archives list or have a page with the archives/index listed
• Widgets in WP and Blogger

Headlines
• Informational blogs need basic descriptive headlines so they’ll be more search-engine friendly.
• Otherwise, catchy can be good if you’re trying to stand out from the crowd.
• Try to have at least one relevant word in the headline.

Hyperlinks
• Spread the link love, but don’t overdo it.
• Choose important things to link to that are relevant to what you’re writing about.
• If you reference someone else’s post, link to it meaningfully and in context. Name the blog and post title in the link whenever possible.
• Link to relevant posts within your own blog. “Similar posts” plugins for WP makes it easy, or you can do it manually.
• Link to similar relevant posts from your favorite bloggers. This is becoming standard practice among cooking bloggers.

The Big Ideas
• Make it easy.
• Help your readers.
• Help the search engines.
• Help your fellow bloggers.

RONI:

Personalization
• Important to have a customized blog header.
• Give your reader good information on your “about” page.
• Use pictures.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is your blog portable if you switch from one blogging platform to another?

ANDREA: It’s easier now than it used to be. You can do simple imports from one platform to another.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Personal site on Typepad, but not sure what to use for business blog. Should you stay with what you’re comfortable with?

RONI: If you’re not ready to change, start with a simple platform like Blogger that you can easily move to another platform later.

KRISTEN: Don’t judge the success of your blog or its self worth on other people’s numbers. It depends on your community and content.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: If you’re creating a new blog for the first time, are there definite do’s and don’ts?

KRISTEN: There are basic usability guidelines. Don’t use a super-small font. Consider the reader. Light text on a dark background is hard to read. Best resource is alertbox.com. His website is very ugly, but very usable.

[Participants broke up into small groups to ask questions.]

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