The Biggest Blog Mistake

There are plenty of articles out there to tell you how to blog. They offer advice on how to decorate your blog, what links you should include in the sidebars, how to make your blog easily navigable and searchable. There are articles that give you ideas about how often to write, how long the posts should be, what the ideal time is to post, and even what your posts should be about. However, all of this is meaningless if your readers can not subscribe to you.

The point of posting a blog is to get people to read it, and if no one can read it then you’re wasting your time.  You want to make your blog as easy to get access to from as many devices/subscriptions types as you can. It takes a couple of seconds, and there’s no excuse not to.

Most blog hosts offer a default RSS subscription service. All you have to do is make sure that the link to it is visible in your toolbars/widgets.  RSS isn’t the only subscription route. For example, I don’t use RSS and the sad fact is that if I can’t subscribe to a blog via email, I don’t bother, no matter how interesting or entertaining it is. I simply don’t have time to book mark it and randomly check back. I’m not the only one.

If your blog host doesn’t offer an email subscription option (wordpress does – just go to your widgets and drag it over to your widget area), you can use feedburner.com to create one. They will generate code that you can paste into your blog’s sidebar (if you want to see it in action you can check here – look to the right). Feedburner is pretty easy to use, so I won’t go into details unless someone wants me to.

Remember, the point of blogging is to be read – so make it easy for your readers to read – and subscribe – to you, or they might not bother.

Blog Embelishments: Sidebar Images

If you blog on wordpress.com, you may have noticed the handy dandy things called widgets that you use to spice up your blog – usually off to one side or underneath the posts.  WordPress offers a lot of really cool widgets that, with a little tweaking, can be used to make what look like custom layouts.

To access your widgets you go to your blog dashboard and on the left side you’ll find the widget menu under Appearance.  From there it’s a simple job to drag and drop the widgets of choice from the main “pool” in the middle to the neatly labeled areas on the right (sidebar, footer, etc.).

An easy way to make your blog look customized is with headers. Here’s what I’m talking about:


You might notice at the top where it says “Get your work featured” in sort of gray letters? That’s using the default heading in the widget menu box like so:

It looks good enough (though with my wallpaper it can be a bit hard to read), but isn’t the banner above “My books” cooler?

**NOTE: If you want to add just a single image,  even one that is clickable, or one with a caption, then the image widget is the better choice because it has the option to center – which the text widget won’t allow. **

The first thing you’ll need to do is make your images. They are banner makers all over, plenty of free programs, lots of clip art and other resources out there (some of which I’ve listed in the free & cheap resources post), so I’m not going to get into that.  Once you have your images, the next thing you need to do is upload them. You can upload them straight to your wordpress blog by looking to the left of your dashboard for Media and then Add New.

Once your images are uploaded you will need their urls – you can get them by going to the library and clicking the individual images. This opens a new page and the url is towards the bottom in a gray box:

The best thing to do is copy them all and paste the links into a word or notepad file.

When you’re done, go to your widgets. Now, you can actually use the image widget over the top of a custom menu widget, but wordpress puts a bigger gap between those items, so it looks more like this:

than the above example.

Drag a text widget onto your work area . It should make it “big” – aka so you can see a blank text box, but if not then click the little arrow to make it do so. In the text box put:

 <img src="URL">

Paste the url you copied in where it says URL and do not put a title in!

If you want to use it as a heading over a list of custom links you can, as I said, throw a custom menu widget under it, or you can add

<br><br>

and then:

 <a herf="LINK">This is the text that shows up!</a><br>

that will show one link. You will need to use that line for each link, like so:

The red is my image header. The blue is my image code that creates the little round bullets next to each menu item , and the black is the html code that gives you the actual link.  In other words that little widget looks like this when you see it on my blog:

of note – the blue links are a part of my theme, nothing that I did!

(another site I’ve used this trick on is at http://terribleturtles.com/ – just to give you an idea of how it can work)

Of course, if you do a lot of this, you will end up with a stack of widgets all named “text”.

Remember, the most important part of customizing your blog is having fun!  So, go get creative!

P.S. To get html code to show up in your blog like I’ve done here use:

[  code  ]  and [  /code  ]  without the spaces

Blogging How-To’s : Automated

Stephannie has posted some excellent articles chock full of blogging tips from a writing point of view, so I thought I’d take a little time to discuss the more technical aspects of blogging with some handy tips I’ve discovered.

In the spirit of short blogs, I am breaking this up.

Automation:

Most WordPress bloggers know how to write engaging posts, embed photos, videos or even polls in their posts, but did you know that you don’t have to publish the post right away? I’m not talking about the save as draft option, I mean that you can set your blog up to post a blog on a specified day, at a specified time, while you’re not even near the computer.

Yeah, I’m doing it now. As this blog is posted, I have no idea where I’ll be, or what I’ll be doing, but WordPress will be auto-posting this for me. Pretty cool, huh?

To post your blog on a future date, simply edit the post date like so:

And then, you walk away, and it posts for you. This can be especially handy if you’re doing a series but want to sit down and write it all in one day, or you’re posting a long piece – like a book chapter – in pieces.

Want even more automation? How would you like some, automatic system to post an update to your Facebook and Twitter that lets the world know you’ve posted?  Sound like an impossible dream? Well it’s not, thanks to TwitterFeed.

How does it work? Go to http://twitterfeed.com/, make an account, and set up a new feed. Name it and then enter your feed address ( the RSS feed address for my WordPress blog is: http://joleenenaylor.wordpress.com/wp-rss2.php – copy this and change the joleenenaylor.wordpress.com to your url  ). Twitterfeed will authenticate it, and then continue to step 2 where you can choose to use this with Twitter, facebook, Stautsnet, Ping.fm, and Hellotxt.

The extra cool thing about this is that you can have more than one feed. Facebook only allows you to sync your account with one blog. For instance, I have it linked to my personal blog, which meant I had to manually post links to my author blog, but now I could actually let twitterfeed handle them all, if I wanted to, or even add another blog.

So, how well does it work?  As of my writing this, it’s posted two posts to my facebook wall, but I imagine there will be more by the time this is posted. (If you want to see for yourself, you can go check it out – http://www.facebook.com/joleene.naylor ) It does put a little yellow icon that says “posted via twitterfeed” after it, and it doesn’t have the thumbnail image that you get when you post the link manually:

a Twitterfeed posting of a link Vs. manually posting the blog link

And here’s the result on Twitter

Lookin' good!

So far, I highly recommend it!

Have you discovered any “automated” services? If so, what are they, and would you recommend them?

Blogging How-To’s : Appearance

Stephannie has posted some excellent articles chock full of blogging tips from a writing point of view, so I thought I’d take a little time to discuss the more technical aspects of blogging with some handy tips I’ve discovered.

In the spirit of short blogs, I will break this up a bit.

Appearance:

When blogging on WordPress, you’ll notice first that you can’t use CSS to customize your blog unless you buy an account. But don’t despair, you can do a lot without it, and it might even be easier.   I mean, who gets CSS, anyway? (This is rhetorical. Obviously someone does. Just not me.)

So how can we get all the fancy “borders” and the layered “box” look? Just make your wallpaper look layered. For instance, here is a snap shot of my blog (so you can see what I mean)


You can see how much of that is actually in the wallpaper


You can see that the wallpaper is a lot “taller” than what you see in the preview – that’s because a monitor with a different resolution may show more, or less, of your wallpaper and because of the WordPress toolbar that runs across the top of the screen and covers up the top of the wallpaper.

To get your elements lined up perfectly (like I did for the sidebar) open your blog and then use full page viewing  by pressing F11 on your keyboard. Then, press the “Print Screen” button (It may say Prt SC or Prnt Scr, the initials vary by keyboard). You’ve now copied your “screen”. Go to your graphics program and paste as a new image, and then, if you have a program that allows for layers, such as GIMP (a free download) make a new layer and draw your “boxes” on that layer. When you’re finished, upload the wallpaper through your  Appearance –  Background menu (the Appearance nodule is on your Dashboard, towards the bottom of the page. You may need to hit a drop down arrow to make the choices show up).

Most themes also allow for custom banners, or headers. When you choose that option in the appearance menu, it will give you the dimensions of your header :

Also be sure to check all of your theme options because some themes have different color schemes and other customizations.

You can also add a “Blog icon” under the Settings – General menu. If, like me, you have no idea what a blog icon is then allow me to show you:

You can see that two of the blog’s I’m involved with have “pictures”, or blog icons, while the middle one just has a Blue W – meaning that no icon has been set. These icons not only show up on the new subscription page, too

More on using Themes from WordPress.

More on WordPress Appearance

Does anyone have any other tips or tricks for customizing the way your WordPress blog looks?