Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sticking with Blogger and 5 Easy Tips to Improve Your Blog

I took a brief break from blogging over the last few days to review the various blogging programs out there, having in the past dabbled in Wordpress and some others in order to optimize the blog more.  I looked into the three top blogging programs, this one- Blogger--Wordpress, and Typepad, and after much hands on experimentation...surprise! I decided to stay with Blogger for the time being, and here's why. Wordpress was the easiest to import my blog, meaning that I easily uploaded all my past posts with no problem. I also found it easy to add pages to the blog. Aside from that, what I really needed to do, upload multiple PDFs and link them to images, did not go well. There was much awkward spacing in the posting menu page, so it was not easy to manipulate text and images. Many of  the commands were not user friendly, even after reading the help menu. To make matters worse, what showed up in the Preview menu was not the same as the final product. Youch! 

Typepad was slightly better. After having to research the import function for a while, I finally got my Blogger posts uploaded and picked a template that looked clean and functional. However, I had the same problem with the posting template when it came to uploading files and attaching images to them. I also found it confusing to get back to the main dashboard page, and there were many other commands that were completely non-intuitive.

So, I have decided to stick with Blogger for now, and after research best practices, I made 5 improvements that I am happy with:

1. Set up my own domain name: 
I switched from musingsbyapple.blogspot.com, (which still works, by the way) to carriewriterblog.com. Blogger charges $10 for this, or if you have an account with a web host, like I did, you can set up the domain name you want for their fee, (matching e-mail address is usually included, but check on this). I did this because I saw the value in what I had read and heard in terms of owning your own domain name. For one thing, it's usually a lot easier for people to remember, since the name is hopefully associated with you or your business in some way. Second, search engines find you better when your domain name is your own, and not lost in the name of the company you are using, such as "blogspot," "freewebs," and the like. Third, is helps to establish professionalism and branding when you have your own name - it lets people know you are serious about your business.

2. Bells and Widgets: I did a thorough review of the widgets I had set up previously on the sidebar, and cleaned house a bit. I felt strongly that the subscriber links, links to my web site, and e-news, were of course very important, so I left them intact and moved them all up to "above the fold," the top half of the screen. I changed the "follow me on Twitter" widget I had to a slight variation on the theme, a new widget that actually showed my most recent posting and therefore that little bit of content which can spark reader interest. I deleted a few Blog catalogue items I didn't think were that crucial, and added a Yahoo Buzz widget. Yahoo Buzz is a new social bookmark that highlights the latest news and headlines, on any topic. I also updated a You Tube "badge" I had set up previously, by setting up a new badge to include flash images for my photo gallery. This creates a clean, updated look, and helps draw attention to your image gallery, if you have a Flickr account. 

3. Rethink Ad Sense: I refined the ad sense block I had set up previously, realizing that it was probably getting lost on the bottom. I set up a vertical unit, with a color scheme that matched my template (blend function), and it created a more organized look.

4. Review Blog Description: Every blog program has a place where you can update your "About Me" or "Blog Description" link. I read mine over and realized I had not updated it to reflect the direction my blog was going, which was really to focus on communication issues, web 2.0, and communication challenges, particularly for today's small businesses. When I first started theblog, it was much broader in scope, but the advice about narrowing your niche and really choosing a specialty area, has really helped me refine my focus and get my message out. 

5. Don't forget about Social Bookmarks: I have observed that many blogs have widget up the wazoo when it comes to subscribing icons, such as subscribing through Feedburner and Feedblitz. But don't forget that many users subscribe through a site they are already using, such as Yahoo, Technorati, Digg, Facebook, etc. So to make it easy for them, grab a widget that includes all those fun icons, and make sure it is highly visible. I found that Widgetbox had the best selection of widgets from the many links I reviewed. 

I hope you find these tips useful if you are looking to improve your blog's looks and function. Of course, as always, great content is super important as well, so always keep in mind having fresh ideas on a topic, plus whatever angle unique to your vision or business.

What blogging platform do you enjoy the most and why? Did you have a better experience with Typepad or Wordpress than I did? I'd like to hear your comments....in the meantime...blog on!

1 comment:

The Job Search Coach said...

Thanks for sharing the results of your experiment with the different blog types. I have a self-hosted Wordpress for my business blog and a Blogger hosted personal blog.

I've been debating whether I should switch my personal blog to WP or just do a self-hosted Blogger account instead. I think I'll go with the self-hosted Blogger account.

Roxanne