Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blog Improvement Project Week 4-- Blog Basics

This week we’re going to focus on blog basics — when a new reader gets to your site, how easy is it for them to find out basic information about you and what your blog is about?
Over the next two weeks, take on as many of these tasks as you like. I know they are pretty general, but every blog is different and so what you might want to do with these particular pieces is up to you.
  • Write (or update) your “About Me” Page— Make sure you can see your About Me from the main page of your blog because someone just arriving at the site should be able to easily see a little information about you
  • Update your contact information
  • Add some sort of picture of yourself (if you’re comfortable with that)
  • Update your Blogroll
  • Create a link to your Archives on your front page
  • Add a link (or make sure a link is there) so readers can subscribe to your blog via RSS
  • Get to work on other basic blog maintenance you’ve been meaning to do
This is one assignment that I did ahead of time without knowing it. When I signed up for the Blog Improvement Project, there were already several things that I knew I had to get done. Everything that's in Kim's list above was in mine.
  • I updated my About Me page and made sure there was a photo. It's not slap dab on my front page, but it's an easily seen link in my header. I might be a tad strange in the blogosphere, but when I visit other blogs I don't particularly care what the blogger looks like, and the only time I really care to read more about the person is when I feel a connection because of what they've written in their posts. I realize that not everyone feels this way, so at least I updated my info, and I can tell that a few folks have checked it out.
  • My contact info is current, and I added a Contact Me link in my header.
  • My blogroll is current. I have an alert set up in my Google calendar to remind me to update it monthly.
  • There are links to both my Archives and my Labels on my front page sidebar. They're both "drop downs" so my page won't look so cluttered.
  • There are links to subscribe via RSS and email "above the fold" on my front page. I've also made sure that the Blogger feature "Follow this Blog" is there as well. It's not used as a form of bragging because the numbers won't support that. I put it there because I read in a blog with a lot more hits than mine that the blogger preferred the convenience of that one click in order to keep track of an interesting blog. As far as I'm concerned, the easier I make it for people to subscribe, it's more likely that they will!
  • The other blog maintenance that I meant to do was work on my template. I've customized a simple free Blogger template, and I'm pretty happy with it. I've added a slideshow of some of my photos in the footer, which will be changed out regularly--more personal interest if a reader wants to know more about me.
The week I spent out of town also helped me with my blog. I was tired of constantly playing "catch up" and wanted to be able to write posts and schedule them for future days. When I returned to Phoenix, I had a backlog of about six books that needed to be reviewed, and those six books helped me set up a blog post schedule.

How I track and plan my blog posts

I have a three-pack of Levenger's Oasis Scheduler pads that I never used. Once I cleared off my L-shaped desk, I had a perfect spot to put one of the pads. I write in each day's date, and this has been such a help! I now have a clear picture of my posts days in advance. I also use the page to keep track of my feed subscriptions, and make notations whenever I'm contacted by an author or publicist--or whenever I request an ARC. The bright orange Post-It reminds me of where I post my reviews because, let's face it, how many times is a person allowed to blog uninterrupted?

All in all, Kim's Blog Improvement Project has been a wonderful thing for me, and I'm so glad she had this idea! If you'd like to see how other participants are faring, click on the graphic at the top of this post.


  1. I did most of these things on my own at the beginning of the year too. I also put quick site links in my sidebar so that people can find the best content.

    I would really like to know how to program those dropdowns. Is there a page you know with easy instructions?

  2. I cannot look at Levinger's catalog or website. I want EVERYTHING! Cool use for those pads.

    I have really loved BIP so far and I love to see what everyone's doing.

  3. I signed up for the BIP this week. I did most of the things on the list, and have just added an "About Me" post. I'm going to put a permanent link on my blog once I get my button ready.

  4. Oh my gosh! I am so impressed with your calendar and your organization!

  5. I am going to have a look at my blogroll one of these days. I am behind in everything from getting any books read over writing any posts to actually go visiting blog-land and comment on all those fab things that is going on out there. But I have been caught up in a busy and hectic daily routine outside cyberspace......I can't wait until I get more time and then I plan to spend the rest of my life online ;o)

  6. Lenore--I used the Blogger Archive feature that allows you to choose a drop-drown menu. I found the code for the drop-down Label widget somewhere online. I'll look it up and email you the URL.

    Beth--I've had these Oasis scheduler pads for about three years...which (I think) is the last time I allowed myself to buy anything from them. I love Levengers!

    Kitten--I'm glad you joined us in the BIP!

    Kathy--I'm very careful not to show anyone the parts of my life that are total chaos! LOL

    Louise--somehow I think you're never going to spend the rest of your life online. There's too much in the real world to enjoy! :-)

  7. Your blog looks clean and clear and uncluttered. It's easy to navigate and now you've explained your thoughts, i can see why it works so well.

    I LOVE being able to subscribe by email. I can never understand why bloggers don't give that choice. There are so many wonderful blogs. I have a ton in Google reader, and I mean to get to them but... However, if I subscribe via email, they pop into my inbox and lure me with their headings, so I just have to go visit and, being me, join the conversation!

  8. I love this type of stuff, and I think it is important not to forget the "basics." I'm always trying to tweak my blogs and make them better and easier to use. I'm also trying to improve my efficiency in reading blogs and just spent about 2 hours tonight transferring my blogrolls into Google Reader and sorting them by "type" so I can tell what I've read and where I'm going. Seems to be much better than my old system of clicking all around all the time. And I should try and do a little calendar like you ... I have 3 blogs and sometimes I get a little harried with keeping them all going. Like today, I realized I forgot to pick the winner of my book giveway yesterday like I was supposed to. Oops!

  9. Susan--I'm so glad that the email option works for you! It doesn't for me because I get so many emails already. If I added all the ones from the blogs I follow, I'd feel overwhelmed and give up!

    Jenners--When I first started out, I tried to do the Click Around, too. It just doesn't work. Google Reader is one of my best friends!


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