building sluiter nation part 1: my life on blogger

Last weekend I decided to share with you all what my bloggy turn-on’s and turn-off’s are, and we all had a lovely conversation in the comment section about what we all think works on blogs and what doesn’t.

And I promised to come back this weekend with some tips and How To’s.

Keep in mind, I am NOT an expert.  I just play one on the blog.

Anyway…

This was supposed to just be a follow up post to last weekend, but after talking to LOTS of you (Yay, new friends!), and taking notes on your questions and quandaries, it has become clear that this is going to be a three-part weekend series.

So get excited because I have posts outlined about Blogger (this one), my move to WordPress.org, and my journey through using blogging network sites, advertising, and other social networking tips.

I decided to start with Blogger since I spent my first 3+ years of blogging there.

Even after using wordpress.com for Exploded Moments and my class site, Conexciones, I still believe that Blogger is the better FREE site.  Blogger is not as user-friendly as WordPress.com, but for a free blogging platform, it allows javascript and other “gadgets” that you cannot include if you use wp.com.

So what can you do on blogger?

Design/Layout

Blogger offers lots of free templates, but I am not a fan of templates, personally.  I feel like they LOOK like templates.   Plus sometimes they can look WAY too busy in their efforts to be cute.

The best bet is to choose based on colors you like and if you are feeling smart, learn some code so that you can design some personal aspects to it (your header, the font, your button, etc.)

Or you can be like me, a giant coding skerdy cat and save a little money and hire a designer to work with personalizing it for you.

My biggest tip for choosing your layout though is to avoid a dark background with light print (unless you are a photography blog.  Then you get a pass, but choose a thick, easy-to-read font, and be sparse with your words).  For many people light or very thin, scrawly font is hard on the eyes, especially placed on a dark background.

I see this done mostly on blogger blogs, so that is why I am mentioning it here.

Comments

Blogger doesn’t offer threaded comments, but you can install an embedded comment system like Intense Debate that will allow for threaded comments.

Threaded comments mean that there is a little “reply” button or link under each comment to help you and your readers have more of a conversation.

For me, being able to reply to my readers is the best way to get to know them.

Which leads me to…READ YOUR COMMENTS!  If you are not good about checking back to see if you got comments (which, by the way, is rude.  Why do we want to comment if we know you don’t even check?),  you can get email  notifications when people post comments to your blog in Blogger.

To do this in your dashboard, go to the Settings tab, choose “comments”.  All the way at the bottom it will give you the option to enter an email address for comment notification.

Speaking of comments, let’s talk about what your comment form should look like.

I find that most people prefer the comment form to be under the post (rather than being a separate page or a pop up that takes the reader away from the post).

To check out your options or to change to the form under the post, go to the Settings tab, then choose “comments”, then scroll to Comment Form Placement and choose the “embedded” option.  This way people can still see your post when they comment, and can refer to things you said.

You also want to make sure your blog is EASY to comment on.  The best way to do this in Blogger is to, again under Settings and then Comments, choose “Anyone” under “Who Can Comment”.  Yes, you may get anonymous comments, but it also allows people who do NOT want to use their blogging account to just leave their name and URL.

Lastly, please turn off word verification.  It’s under Settings and then Comments.  I said it last time, but word verification is stupid.

Gadgets and the Extras

Don’t be afraid to explore the “gadgets” that Blogger offers.  They actually offer a really nice variety of free things you can put on your blog from email subscriptions for your readers (which is LOVELY, by the way) to box that shows your most recent commenters.

I recommend having:

  • an RSS button so people can subscribe to you using a reader
  • an email subscription box so people can get your posts in their inbox
  • an About box with your picture and a blurb about you.  People are looking to connect with the blogger, and the about box is a quick way to do it (you can also put a link in there to your About page–see mine over there on the left)
  • a Search box because if you are like me?  You remember a post about pot roast by a blogger, but you can’t remember when it was posted or what the name of the post is.  If you can search for it?  Awesome.
  • Blog Archive list or calendar (especially if you don’t have an archive page)
  • Share buttons:  when I was on Blogger, I used Add This to get my twitter, facebook, email, etc. share buttons for each post.  I use these ALL THE TIME on people’s posts that I love.  They are a great way to have others share your awesome writing for you.
  • I also think you should include ways for people to follow you on other social media…but I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post.

Ok so that is what I know about Blogger.

Why did I leave?  Because Blogger was also frustrating to me.  But that is a story for next week when I talk about WordPress.

Do you use Blogger?  Do you have any tips I left out?

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. I currently use blogger, and have found it very user friendly, but I’m about to move to WP, where I am overwhelmed by everything I can do there! Blogger is quickly adding more gadgets and options to customize, but I think that can make your blogger blog get really messy really quickly — unless you hire a designer to design you page, which I have not. These are excellent tips!

    • I really liked Blogger when I was on it too and did NOT understand the hype of moving. But OMG. The hype is REAL. Going back to using Blogger after being on WP is so frustrating!

      And yes, they have lots of “stuff” you can do, but if you get carried away, it because very messy, very fast.

  2. LOVE your post! Especially the part about the comments section. I really hope people pay attention to this and get rid of word verification and allow name/url option. 😀 Thanks again for a great post!

  3. Loved this! I’m on Blogger now, which was fine to start with. It was free and it was an easy way for me to get my feet wet in the blogosphere. But now? I’m moving to WP! I’ve had enough of the frustrations on Blogger. I won’t get started though or I could turn your comment section into a whole post! 😉

    • ha ha! Don’t worry, next week I do a post on my move from Blogger. Why I left, how I left and kept EVERYTHING in tact, and what my fave parts of wp.org are. With a little section on why i choose wp.com for my two free blogs.

  4. I love this series already! 😀

    Guess I’m an odd man out, but I feel like blogger is so much easier to use. I have my family blog there and haven’t felt ready to “come out” with my PPD blog yet, so I safely stow it away on wp. It would be nice to learn more of how to do what I want with wp, but as of now, blogger is much easier.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and expertise!!

    • wp.com is annoying.

      wp.org is blogging heaven.

      i’ll talk about that more next week. This is why I spent 3+ years on blogger. I totally thought wp.org would be like wp.com. So not true.

  5. I am so looking forward to this series! I am happy to read that you are scared of code, because I am so scared of it. The only time I go to the HTML tab (I’m on blogger) is when I am inserting a badge into my post.

    I think blogger is pretty user friendly, and I am glad I started with that. I don’t know too much about wordpress (.org) although so many people say to switch. I just don’t know if I am delusional about taking my blog to that level (you know, where I pay for it LOL).

    • I can do small amounts of html like create buttons (although I can’t design them. I haz the dumb when it comes to photoshop or whatever), but as far as something like adjusting the column width on my blog? Lord no. I have a designer paid to do that!

      I thought Blogger was totally great and didn’t get the hype about moving. But the hype? Is so real. I will come clean about my move next week 🙂

  6. I am a relatively new blogger, having started on Wordpres some 8 months ago. I never used Blogger to blog, but I would like to express my extreme discontent when trying to leave comments on a Blogger blog. Oh gosh! (my version of expressing extremes) I have had so much trouble with Blogger commenting, with everything from having to hit Submit a couple dozen times before it takes (gives me authentication errors for days first) to having to type in those pesky word verifications…..and then still getting authentication errors.
    OK I’m done whining. I vote for WordPress. 🙂

    • preach on, friend! commenting on blogger blogs is one of the banes of my blogging existence. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s a BIG reason I switched.

  7. I’m new and I’m using Blogger because it’s sort of idiot proof. I tried fiddling around with WP which got me nowhere but a fast train to frustration. Thanks to you, I’m now using IntenseDebate for comments. But the last couple of days, my comments seem to be disappearing and reappearing on the post itself. Half of them are there, the other half are not. I have no idea why.

    I am looking forward to your tips on how to get my social networking icons all lined up nicely in a row, rather than as a series of badges on my sidebar.

    Love this series!

    • We use Intense Debate on The Red Dress Club and we post, we have to go “post options” and then click “don’t allow, show existing” for it to work properly on blogger. But this option only becomes available AFTER I either save or publish the post. Then I have to go back and edit this.

      This is one of the reason Blogger frustrates me so much. But you CAN get it to work.

  8. Blogger got really savvy with their design/layout options toward the end of my stay with them. They made it easier to clean-line customize the look of the blog without paying someone or uploading a design kit.

    I thought that was a nice touch.

    But that didn’t make me stay.

    • that is a nice touch. they must have added that after I left.

      because leave I did.

  9. Great post, my friend. Just Stumbled you. 😉

    • thanks, my lovely friend.

      you should teach me what the heck stumble is all about 🙂

  10. Oh, how I hope the world of blogger users listens to your words about captcha and ease of commenting. That’s one thing about blogger blogs that drives me crazy, especially since I comment on my phone a lot.

    I’ve used Blogger, WP.com and WP.org. Personally, I’m not finding WP.com is all that different from .org, but my main blog is on Squarespace, which is where I moved after leaving blogger. Compared to Squarespace, WP.com/.org are extremely un-user-friendly (but that’s just my personal opinion). I don’t have the joy of threaded comments on Squarespace, which bugs me to no end.

    It would take a lot of money to convince me to move back to blogger, but I have thought of going to WP.org. In terms of features and customization, WP(.org) and Squarespace are tops in my opinion. They each have their pros and cons, of course. Like anything. 🙂 I really wish I’d read up on blogging platforms more way back when I got started. Hopefully new bloggers find your posts so they are better informed before choosing.

    • Hey Karen,
      I have never used squarespace. I’ve heard some good things, and not so great things. Much like any platform, I suppose.

      I had NO idea what I was doing when I started this blogging thing years ago. A friend posted pictures on her “website” which was a blogger blog, and I liked the idea of having a free website for my family.

      Who knew it was an entire world and community? 🙂

  11. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

    I debated on switching to WP. For a while it seemed everyone was doing it so they must have known something I didn’t. Blogger is frustrating at times, but I really didn’t want to relearn everything with a different platform. So I stayed with Blogger.

    In regard to anonymous commenters, I’ve noticed that much of it is spam and is usually done on older posts. I have things set so anyone can comment on my posts, but I moderate comments on posts older than 14 days.

    • there is not so much re-learning as there is realizing everything is easier. but I will talk more about that in the next post 🙂

      I agree, I had always shut down comments on anything more than 14 days old 🙂

  12. I had no idea you have been doing this for that long!!

    I agree with you on WP.com. I think Blogger is better than it, too.

  13. Katie – thanks for doing this. It’s so very helpful. I’m loving Intense Debate! So now I’ve dont this “Add This” thing…but I’m going to sound like a total idiot here…what does it do exactly? I’m not sure I get it.

    • add this helps you get the sharing buttons for twitter, facebook, etc. I’ll talk about those more in part 3 of this series 🙂

  14. I have been reluctant to move from Blogger to WordPress….mostly because I am scared and not very technical at all. I loved this post and it nothing else it made me think that maybe it’s time to go. It will be hard for me, but I feel myself getting more comfortable with trying. I can’t wait to hear about WordPress, the pros and cons.

    • i have no technical skills, my dear. I trust my designer and my blog mover…who I will introduce you all to on Saturday. Once you are here on wp? it’s like coming home 🙂

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