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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