Project: Blog Fix

Most bloggers crave readers.   They pounce on reader comments faster than a hot, homemade Toll House cookie just pulled from the oven.  Well, some of us do anyway.  😉

Two weeks ago in Successful Blogging I spoke of social media and ways to draw more readers.  But how does someone start?  How do we add flavor and substance to a bland blog?

Here’s a mini-primer in Blogging 101.  Yes, it is basic, but read through and see what you may have missed.

1. Custom Header – A header is the stationary picture at the top of a blog. A custom header helps identify a blog. Does your current template allow for one? If not, change the template to one that does. Then use it. In Dashboard, click Custom Header. Insert a photo you’ve taken, or one that works for your blog. Some bloggers change headers seasonally; others keep it consistent.

2. Custom background  – A whole new look is born by changing background margins.  Insert a soft picture or a new solid color every few months.  I love greens and blues. They go with my header so I vary those colors. Try seasonal colors. Or a photo of ocean waves, clouds, or something else appropriate to your blog’s theme. Experiment until you find what you like.  In WordPress go to Appearance; Background.

3. Tagline  – “Just another WordPress blog” is on a lot of new WordPress blogs, just below the title.  WordPress puts it in the template as a placeholder.  It is not meant to be permanent. You are promoting your blog. So, what is your tagline?  In a few simple words, what is the focus of your blog?  Go to Settings.

4. Categories – A category keeps related posts together. It quickly tells your reader what to expect. Is your post about blogging? Death? Baseball?  Halloween?  Never let your category read “Uncategorized” or it’ll look like you don’t know what you are writing about.  Add the category on the same page where you are typing your blog.

5. Tags  – Tags are more specific than categories. They are a string of words that hones in on your main topic.  In a search, especially in WP, they help readers find your blog. In my prior post on  Successful Blogging, my category was Blogging.  My tags were: Blog, Facebook, gaining readers, marketing for writers, social media, Twitter, success, and writer’s resources.

6. Share – I’m repeating this one from an earlier post, and I may repeat it at a later date; it’s that important!  Make it easy to pass your blog on to others. Post Share links to Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and others. Include an e-mail link so the reader can send it to a friend.  In WordPress, go to Dashboard, Settings, Sharing and follow directions. Be sure to check mark the boxes at the bottom so they show up on all pages. For an example, see my Share buttons below.  (Hint: If you liked this article, please pass it on!  🙂)

7.  Paragraphs – I’m still surprised how many bloggers write long, unbroken paragraphs. Blogging is like newspaper writing. Paragraphs should be short and easy to read.  Find a natural break and use it, even if your old English teacher might wince. Blogs are about readability, not perfect format.  After you write your post, review it and look for a way to condense or break up the paragraphs. White space makes easier reading.

8.  Links – Links are a bonus for your reader and can be on your sidebar or in the body of your post.  For more permanent sidebar links, search for other blogs/sites that complement yours then create a link.  Under Widgets, move Links to the sidebar.  Then on Dashboard go to Links.  Create new links and link categories. By default, link categories are in alpha order so play with your titles. Occasionally test your links to make sure they are still active.

You can also create links to sites within the body of your article, like this one to Lifehacker (no special significance here, just an interesting link I found).  In this case, highlight the word, then click the link icon above where you are first typing your post. Insert the URL and click add link.

9.  About – If you want readers to connect with your writing, tell them who you are.  Use a two-liner and a photo in the sidebar, or a few paragraphs on the “About” or “Bio” page.  Preferably both.

10.  Contact – Readers should also be able to contact you. Many bloggers shy away from putting an email address on their blog where anyone, including spammers, can see it.  Instead, add a contact form box on your blog.  A good place to do this is on the About page, where you’ve written your short bio.

Creating a blog is a methodical process.  Take it step by step.  Readership develops over time. You’re competing with a lot of other blogs. Make yours tasty, sweet and easy to digest and the readers will find you.

 How do you add life and professionalism to your blog? What advice would you give to someone new to blogging?  ♥

33 thoughts on “Project: Blog Fix

    • Donna, good question! What ARE we doing up? 🙂 Seems like I can focus better late at night or in the early morning hours. Actually,would be nice not to have to sleep at all. Thanks so much for stopping in though. And now, to sleep.

  1. Great post! I’m taking Kristen Lamb’s class on Social Media and she talks about a lot of the same things. I hadn’t thought about the contact form on the about me page. Thanks for that.

    • Kristen Lamb’s class sounds great. Where did you learn of it? I’d love to take it if she’s offering it again. The contact form is very helpful. It sends the comments directly to your email. You’ll like it. Thanks for stopping in, Rachel!

    • Yours is already pretty professional looking, Patti. I love your website. The colors and header is so unique and you always have interesting posts. Thanks so much for reading SB.

        • I’m surprised. Thought you’d get lots of compliments. First time I saw it I was struck by the extraordinary colors and overall design. And your tag line is great! It’s unique and clearly tells me that I’m going to read an interesting author’s works. So keep going. Ya done good! 🙂

    • Wow Regina, glad it is a good reference for you. While the actual directions pertain mainly to WordPress.com blogs, the items mentioned (tags, categories, etc.) pertain to all. You’ll just need to look for their directions. Thanks for reading.

    • Oooh…can I have one, Cindy? I can almost smell the chocolate. Glad you like the tips. If you have a WordPress blog and run into a problem, the WP “help” and “forums” are pretty good at walking you through. Part of the problem is knowing the correct term to use (i.e. “contact form”).

    • I almost posted a picture of Cookie Monster but he’d eaten them all…only a few crumbs remained…so I posted this one instead. Glad you liked it, Angelyn!

  2. Hey, Deb. Nice post. It’s good to review once in a while. Makes you remember why you started a blog to begin with — and a measure to see if you’re still true to your original idea. And I’m always happy to have someone else do my research!!!
    Kathye

    • I agree on reviewing our sites every so often, Kathye. Someone emailed me once that a critical link I had was no longer there. Ever since I try to keep an eye out that my links are in order. But reviewing for theme and other things is also important.

      I’ve been struggling the last few months over the direction i want this blog to take. But then, I keep picking up the beads as they come to me, and stringing them into blog posts. I guess I’ll know when I need to make a change.

      Glad the research helps!

  3. Thanks Deb for the valuable information. I’m in the beginning stages of setting up my own blog and these tips will make the process so much easier.

    • Oh Theresa, I’m so glad you are setting up a blog. It’s critical for a writer, and just plain fun too. I hope you are using WordPress.com (not org) instead of one of the others. Nothing against the others. There are many fine blogs created through them. But IMO, WordPress is easier to use and also allows a lot more options.

      I believe it’s always best to try to work through problems yourself but if you come up against any insurmountable problems, email me, will you? Not sure I can help but glad to lend a few words of encouragement and possibly some advice. That goes to any of you reading this.

  4. Deb, thanks. These blogging tips are wonderful. I’m fairly new to the blogging world (several months) but I feel like it’s a whole new world for me and I’m flailing around like a drowning non-swimmer. You’ve provided some simple steps that I’m going to use starting now to make my blog more reader friendly.

    • Rebecca, please see my response to Theresa, all of it.

      It is a new world. I’ve been blogging since 2008, mostly self-taught, and I’m still learning. Not nearly as sophisticated with it as some, but it does what I want it to do, and I’m developing the look I want. What more can one ask?

  5. Deb,

    For all your followers, I was one of your first converts to blogging. Never thought I would do it much less keep it up. But you gently coerced me–love that contradiction there. Anyway, going on what, 3 years? Four?

    And you still keep teaching me. Thank you!

    • Seems a lifetime ago but last weekend it was just three years. The Kiss of Death Retreat in Portland, Maine. I’d started Stringing Beads early that summer and at the Portland Retreat you started Casey Comments. I’ve been humbled by your schedule since then.

      Wish you could teach me your perseverance! 🙂

    • Ariana, I’m glad it is useful. I loved the food photos from your holiday on your blog! Delicious looking, I could almost smell the aroma. Pictures of food on a blog always catches attention. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Hello there I am so thrilled I found your blog page, I relaly found you by accident, while I was looking on Yahoo for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a remarkable post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all at the minute but I have book-marked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the fantastic job.

    • I should have added:

      11. Link your blog to your website, and vice-versa. I’m sure you’ll soon do that, and may have already for your blog. Loved your website…absolutely beautiful. Where can I find your blog? I’d love to see it, Sandra. Thanks so much for stopping in.

  6. Good content is of course important, but above all… do not make your poor readers suffer through white text on a black background. 😉

    I don’t know what it is about book bloggers (youth?), but I see a lot of that stuff out there. Anyone over 30 is going to groan at the idea of reading something like that, heh.

    • Lindsay, absolutely! While I love the “look” of the dark background, reading beyond a few sentences is a nightmare!

      That brought to mind another one. You may have mentioned it on your site. Music on a blog or website is annoying. There will always be someone who doesn’t like the music you’ve chosen, and why take the risk of alienating a possible reader? Music on a book trailer or video is good since that’s part of that media and people expect it when they click. NOT so on a blog/website.

      Thanks! 🙂

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