Blogging 101 Ten Tips For New (and not so new) Bloggers


Welcome to Part Three of our Blogging 101 Series.  In Part One: 10 Reasons to Blog we discussed all of the many reasons to start blogging, especially for women in particular.  In Part Two: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Blogging I shared with you several of the many things I wish I’d known before I had begun blogging…hence the title. ;)

Today’s post offers 10 tips that are helpful when creating a new blog, so   grab a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine and settle in cause this one’s a long one…




Part Three-10 Tips for New Bloggers

1-First and foremost, decide on what type of blog you are writing.  This will effect all of the other decisions you make regarding your blog.  If you intend to use your blog as a personal journal, to pour out your feelings, reflect on life and to keep a record of your journey through life you might want to make it a private blog.  If you are creating a blog mainly to keep family and friends or a spouse say whose on deployment or travels a lot up to date on your life and you do not have the desire to blog often or to really connect your blog with other blogs you might want to create an invite only blog.  If the two options above are appropriate for your blog than by all means design it like you want, treat it like a scrapbook or journal, create titles or don’t it’s for your eyes only and has no impact on other bloggers BUT  If you do decide you want a public blog where you will be interacting a lot with the blogging community, linking up to lots of other blogs, you want a blog that receives feedback and comments and you would love for your wonderful projects, words, stories and crafts to be shared with the world than the following tips will be helpful for you.


2-Keep your blog as clean as possible.  No I don’t mean you can’t use a dirty word or heck even post a picture of yourself in your underwear…your blog, your right to do so. grin  What I mean is keep your blog design as streamline as is possible while accommodating your creative side.  It’s easy to go crazy when you first create a blog and put up every cool widget, graphic and font you’ve ever seen in blogland. But try and restrain yourself.  It’s like putting on jewelry for the evening.  Put on all of the pieces, look in the mirror and then remove one.  At the very least make sure the post body of your blog is white or a light color so that your text will be easy to read and stand out.  Never put text over a busy design. It might be the prettiest design of all the blogs in all the world, but if no one can read what you wrote there than they’ll just keep on moving on and never get to see how witty, talented and all around wonderful you are.  Remember you blog foremost because you have words, projects and pictures to share.  Limit the busy patterns and designs on your blog. Don’t make it so distracting looking at all of the peripheral things that someone might forget to even read what you’ve written.

3- Make the body column where your posts reside as large as possible. Remember when you are writing a blog you need lots of nice clean space around your post to make reading it easy.  There are ways to adjust this manually through your blog coding, but if you are not comfortable doing this you can also go into the Design function of your Dashboard and then into Template Designer to do this.  FIRST BACK UP your blog template! This way if you screw something up, you can upload your template back onto blogger from your computer. Select Adjust Widths and then depending on if you have one or two sidebars you can make them narrower to increase the size of your main column.  We have a one sidebar design.  Our sidebar is custom set at 350.  Our entire blog is at 1118. That gives you an idea about how big our main column is.  You should have at least one sidebar that is approximately 200 width.  This will allow it to nicely accommodate most buttons and graphics you want to place there. If you’ve ever posted images to your sidebar or in a post and they seem to “run over” the column, it is because your image is to large for the space you put it in.  If you like to post larger pictures (and you should) than you need to make sure you main column is large enough to accommodate them with some space on the side for aesthetics. Don’t make your sidebars as large or heaven forbid larger than your post column. And while we are on Sidebars, please try to limit sidebar images and graphics to a reasonable amount. Sidebar “bling” is not more important than your actual post.

4-Learn to link internally as well as to other blogs and blog parties.  It’s important when you first start blogging to know how to create links within your blog and it’s really one of the easiest things to do.  First, decide what words you want to link.  For example all of the references to my past Blogging 101 posts are linked including the words Blogging 101 that I just typed in this sentence.  In a future post we’ll discuss the importance of the words you link but for today, we’ll just show you how to link.  Okay so highlight entirely the words you want to be a hyper-link (that’s the technical name for a link)  Once you have them highlighted move your mouse up and click the word Link on your toolbar above the post you are writing. It will open a window.  At the top it will say text to display.  It should be displaying the words you have highlighted in your post.  Underneath it asks what url should your link go to.  Here is where you put the url you want linked to the highlighted words within your post.  It might be another website, it might be to one of our own posts…whatever you want to link to.  It helps to have another window open to whatever page or site you are linking up to and then just copy and past that url into the window. Then just hit ok, and your words should be all linked up.  You can left click on the linked words and you will see your linked url pop up underneath.  You can link pictures the same way, you will just need to highlight the picture first and then follow the same instructions.  

This has been a popular question with us lately: How do I add a party button to a post?   It’s fairly simple once you know how.  Here are the instructions for inserting a button onto your blog. Locate the button you want to transfer to your blog.  Usually underneath it is the html code for the button that will not only post it on your blog but link it back to the original if someone clicks on it.  Highlight and then right click and copy it.  Then, open up a new window and go to your dashboard and open up the post you linked up to our party.   Go back into the post like you are editing it.  Then at the top is the option to view your post in compose or in edit html, select edit html and you’ll see all the coding for your post.  Go all the way to the bottom of your coding and after the very last coding that is already there, paste the coding from the link button.  Select compose mode and make sure you see the button at the end of your post.  If you see it there, go ahead and publish your post again and it should be all linked up.  If the button is not centered, you can go back into edit and compose mode and click on the button and then center it using the alignment tool at the top of your editing bar.       


And, here’s how to add a blog button to your sidebar: copy the code from the blog button that you want to place in your sidebar.  Then go to the design option on your Blogger dashboard. This will open up the add and arrange page elements layout.  Click on the link that says add a gadget, should be located in the sidebar a the top.  It will open up a window called Basics.  Scroll down and find the one that says html/java script.  Select the plus sign.  When the window opens up paste the coding from the blog button you want to add. You can put a title with the blog name or whatever text you want above the button or you can just leave it blank.  Save this and then go back to the add and arrange page. This button will automatically go at the top of your sidebar, you can then drag it down your sidebar anywhere you want to place it.  You can select “preview” as often as you like until you get your sidebar like you want it and then you can save this and it will now be on your sidebar.  You need to follow these steps for each button code you want to add.  If you follow these steps then the buttons will be coded right to link back to the blogs whose buttons your are displaying.


5-Be Mindful When Including Music-So the other day I was visiting blogs to leave comments and opened up several tabs at once. Now I love Kenny G. as much as the next person and Amazing Grace is one of my favorite hymns, and I confess to liking me some Black Eyed Peas…and I don’t mean the kind you eat (I do like those too by the way)…but yikes! all of these songs at once on my laptop was a bit much.  Honestly I have taken to muting my volume because I never know what is going to start playing out of my speakers and at what volume level, this can also be really awkward for someone reading your blog with others around.  May I offer this suggestion.  Consider why you have music on your blog, you as the author most often view your blog in “edit mode” so you are not actually hearing your own playlist. If it is something you really enjoy than by all means leave it on there (it is your blog!) but consider having the option for your readers to “choose” whether to listen or not by not having it auto play, this is the best of both worlds.   If you currently do not have a playlist on your blog ask yourself a few questions before adding it.  Will it drive away a potential reader who doesn’t like my type of music and do I care about this or not? Will I lose the reader who is like Heather and slightly ADD and can’t read and listen to Kenny G. at the same time and do I care about this or not? How often do I get on my own blog and read my posts over and over again just to listen to my playlist?  If the answers are YES, YES and NOT VERY OFTEN than consider not putting a playlist on your blog.  If you already have one evaluate why it’s on there. If you really like having this option make listening a choice for your reader so they don’t miss your wonderful post because even though you adore the Red Hot Chili Peppers they’re just not your readers cup of tea…food for thought! A P.S. to  this…I was also reminded of something by another wise blogger, playlists will greatly slowdown load time for your blog.  If a blog takes too long to load people will probably click away. Another thing to think about. 


6-Make commenting easy for your readers.  Okay I know I made it pretty clear how I feel about this in Things I Wish I’d Known About Blogging and I’m going to do so again here.  There is a backlash forming in the blogging community against word verification and moderated comments.  People are choosing NOT to leave comments on otherwise wonderful blogs because it’s like jumping through hoops to just say, “great post.”  Time is precious to a blogger, we as bloggers need to realize that it takes time for someone to leave a comment.  Make it easy on them.  Blogger DOES catch spam automatically, and has become very good at it.  Recently we’ve even had blogger place perfectly wonderful comments from you all in our moderate comment folder because the bot just wasn’t sure.  Someone left FIVE spam comments to Vanessa’s last post, Blogger caught all of them and you all never had to be subjected to them, I on the other hand got the privilege of read them all…;)  (In fact Blogger caught another one while I was writing this…spammers must like beadboard.)  Many bloggers don’t realize that their blogs are on these settings.   So if you want to change this, go to the Settings part of your Dashboard, choose Comments and see what your comments are set to.  Do not make it where someone has to have a google account to comment.  People who don’t have one are not going to create a google account just to comment on your blog.  I challenge you to consider removing all limitations to commenting on your blog (if you keep someone from responding anonymously that is understandable even though some of the best comments we’ve received have been anonymous) and watch and see if your comments increase.  But one thing I must insist on for the love of all that is good in the world, do not set your blog to word verification and comment moderation.  You are not the President of the United States or under Witness Protection.  Okay so maybe you are under witness protection…in that case I’d reconsider writing a public blog….just sayin’.  If you feel all of these protections are in order to prevent someone from commenting inappropriately on your post on adding beadboard to your bathroom than you might consider making your blog private or by invite only.  Blogs by their design are meant to be public.  Don’t run off future readers and regular commenter’s…take a chance and live on the edge a little.  ;) Sigh, no matter what I do this tip always ends up the longest. I feel passionate about this..can you tell? ;)

7-Make your email address accessible somewhere.  Hopefully you will have it in multiple places.  Here is where I suggest. One- Place your email address somewhere on your main page in the sidebar near the top.  If you want to avoid spam you can put (dot) instead of the . before com. I read about an advertiser who posted that they surf blogs to offer items to giveaway or to work with on sponsoring and will surf right on by if they can’t readily find an email address.  Wonder how all of those other bloggers get offers from CSN and you don’t check if you have a accessible email address. Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting CSN will offer to host a giveaway if you put your email clearly on your blog, but I can guarantee you they won’t if you don’t. Two-Connect your email to your Google Blogger profile. That is the only way Blogger currently allows us to reply to someones comment if we are using the standard Blogger comment widget.  Here’s how to do that:  Go to Dashboard.  Go to Edit User Profile next to your profile picture.  Make sure “show my email address” is checked.  Make sure you have an email address listed under Identity.  If you don’t want to use a personal email address create one in gmail.  It’s free and available to you if you already have a google account.  Then select Save Profile.  Now when you leave a comment the blog author can reply personally to your comment and answer a question, or tell you how wonderful you are, or tell you to jump in a lake if she hates your comment but either way they can reply which is what we blog writers love most, connecting with our readers.  Hopefully you will choose to do both options and you will be inundated with wonderful offers of sponsorship and giveaway prizes, or at the very least your inbox will be full of sweet replies from all of those wonderful bloggers you left comments for because they made it so easy to comment on their blog. 


8-Make sure to give your blog a title and place it in the title spot when you are creating a new post.  This is how goggle, safari, firefox etc. know how to find your blog post.  You have to have a title separate from what you put in the body to create a url, if not blogger will make a url out of the first sentence of your post and there is nothing to link back to.  You might be asking what is a url? A url is the “official name” given to a specific blog or post.  For example our blog url is wwww.atthepicketfence.com but this post’s url is:  /blogging-101-ten-tips-new-bloggers.html and if you look closely you will see my post url is completely different from my blog title: Blogging 101 Ten Tips For New (and not so new) Bloggers. Blogger does not allow you to do this on your own, so you have to bypass the system so to speak.  I will be sharing how to do this in a separate post coming up since it is a little too detailed to put in here.  For now though, be sure to create a catchy title that includes at least one “keyword” related to your post.  For example: both the url and the title for this post contain the word Blogging, 101, tips.  Watch for an upcoming post on why keywords are so important for blog growth and how they create “google love” for your blog.


9-Check, double check, spell check, grammar check and then preview your post before you publish it.  We all occasionally make formatting mistakes, spelling errors etc. We also realize that blogging is a more conversational tone, so often grammar flies out the window BUT, there is no excuse for not taking a moment to spell check your post and to preview it before you hit publish. (and by the way I caught an error of my own while previewing this very tip, just goes to prove…always preview)


10-If in doubt ask for help.  Most of what I learned about blogging, I learned from googling for the answers and visiting blog design blogs.  There is a wealth of knowledge out there that people are more than willing to share.  Email other bloggers and ask for help.  We all have been there, we all created our very first blog with little to no knowledge of what we were doing.  The blogging world can be a very helpful community when you put yourself out there and ask for help. Which leads me to say, if you have any questions that we haven’t answered here we At The Picket Fence, are always an email away and will do our best to answer your questions! 

A disclaimer before I end today’s Blogging 101 post.  I could write a book on tips, hints, and instructions on ways to help someone create, manage and write a blog…maybe I will one day. grin.  But in an effort to clearly define what I think is important I limited myself to 10 overall tips.  These in no way represent all of the things one could and should know about blogging, they are also my own opinion.  You may or may not agree with me on any or possibly even all of these.  They are also not meant to single out any particular blog or to be critical of someone else’s work of art…because blogs can become just that…a medium in which we dabble in creativity and pour our passions into.  
We recognize blogging is a very personal thing, if you are a long term blogger and you have a style and design that works for you than keep it up, you’re doing a great job!  If you are happy with your blog just like it is, if you consider it a virtual scrapbook where you like to create unusual blog design and interesting layouts and graphics than by all means do so!  Own it, it’s yours!  My hints are merely for those interested in helpful ways to create more traffic and comments,  those wanting to showcase their projects and words and to be aware of some of the trends in blogging, and most importantly for those newly treading in the blogging waters.  We appreciate everyone of our readers and your dedication to blogging!

 If you have any question or comment about these tips than have at it! Do you have any other questions you would like to see covered in another post? I am open for discussion, comments, emails, etc.  You can even tell me I’m crazy and to jump off a virtual blog cliff and you can do so anonymously because we make are comments as open as possible. ;)  Just don’t say anything about private body parts, enhancement drugs or post a picture of yourself in your undies… 
THOSE comments we might have to delete…or we could just leave them up for the world to see…;)
Next Week: 10 Photography Tips for New Bloggers!

Looking forward to hearing from you and thanks for meeting me at the fence!

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Comments

  1. This post was very helpful! Thanks!

    Pam

  2. excellent post…when i first started blogging i added every cute i found to my sidebar and switched my background template every week or so…yikes…now about the word verification thing…i used to not use it but then a bout 2 months ago i got spam in my comments section that was pretty offensive so i added it back…maybe blogger is better at filtering now? i’ll have to give it a go…thanks again!

    blessings,

    alison

  3. I had been wondering about the word verification thing! I was slightly annoyed by it on other blogs and didn’t think my blog was set up with it. Little did I realize that’s the default!

    Thanks so much Heather for these great tips! You’ve saved precious time for my readers :).

    Emily

  4. Very good post!

  5. Wonderful girls, can’t get better tips than this!!~ Thanks
    XO

  6. Those really are the top ten tips. Any new bloggers who come across this series are so lucky. You are saving people tons of time by answering all of these questions. You did such a great job on this. I especially love the one where you suggest (oh so nicely) to lose the music. I keep my computer on mute now because you never know. Even if I’m not somewhere where I can’t have it playing, it’s hard to read with music in the background (at least for me). Thanks again for this great series.

  7. Thank you!!! Always enjoy the tips!

  8. Thanks so much for the info! I am a new blogger and I am going through each tip one by one and making sure my blog fits with them. Thanks again from a newbie to the blogging world :)

    Lisa

  9. Very thorough post! Posts like these have helped me along the way…. and continue to! I’m excited to see your photo tips. We all love photos!

  10. what an great post! (tweeted it!) Can’t wait to read the Photography tips next week :)

  11. Hi Heather…I continue to be amazed at your insight and advice where blogging is concerned. Another great post. I do have a question. I was seeing reply boxes on some comment pages. I googled how to do it and managed to get the reply boxes on but they are not linked to anything. Would you by any chance know how to fix this? I know I have to insert my blog ID somewhere and I tried that but it didn’t work. Thanks for visiting my blog. Vanessa was there today and I really appreciate your support. What a great idea sharing a blog. I wish I had a sister to share with! ~Ann

  12. Another great blogging 101 post, Heather. I do try to check and double check and triple check my posts. I hate it when I log in and read it after it has been up there a gazillion hours only to find a completely obvious error staring me in the face.

    I think it’s my age but I make many more mistakes these days than I used to. Silly ones, too.

    One time, I spelled it cotton “bowl” instead of a cotton boll. Goooood grief. And me from the Land ‘O Cotton, too. It was up an hour before I caught it.

  13. Hi, I’m a brand new blogger and thank you so much for the information you are providing. I need to change a few things after reading this post. There is so much to learn about blogland and blogging, but I am enjoying it. Also, I am your newest follower.
    Linda

  14. Thank you for the advice!! I just started a little design blog and my 2 followers are my mom and sister. Ha!! Your words were encouraging and I just need to remember why I am doing this.
    Thanks you!
    Telisa at sugartotdesigns.blogspot.com

  15. Such a great post! Thank you for getting the word out about comment and word verification!

  16. Great post! Thanks for stopping by my blog and the nice comments on the baby dresser. I am near Toledo, Ohio…so about 3 hours from Cinci!

  17. Wonderful post~ You are right on…except you won’t be seeing me post a picture of myself in my underwear anytime soon…How about a picture of MyHero’s underwear that was dried in the microwave when we were traveling? (true story);>) xxoo Diana

  18. Loving the tips…..my question….how do you adjust widths within the code section of your blog? I have done the standard width adjustment in design but knew there was another option somewhere….would love to know : ) Thank you for taking the time to help so many! Love, Me
    http://www.youaretalkingtoomuch.com

  19. I will come back and finish reading this one when I have more time. (I currently have a similar post in my drafts I’m working on.) We all need good input. Thanks for your advice.
    ~ Julie

  20. Thankzz? HThR

    Hee Hee
    Seriously, I really appreciate your ideas, tips, and suggestions. Since I am just starting out, it is so nice to have some experienced folks steering me in the right direction!

  21. This is great, thanks so much for all of this wonderful information. I’m turning off my music and going to decide on a blog design that I will stick too!
    Marianne :)

  22. THANKS! As a new blogger i really appreciate the time uve put in this post , and ive found it quite helpful in evaluating and improving my own blog. I cant waite for the next section on photography………..Bonnie

  23. very helpful, thank you!

  24. very interesting and helpful post. Can’t wait to see the post on photography tips! :)

  25. thank you so much for the tips. i am about to start a blog and these were the easiest tips to read. real words…not computer talk which i don’t understand. thanks again.

  26. Hello there Heather and many thanks for taking the time to write up the tip sheets.

    There is so much to learn and I am finding the world of blogging delightful.

    You are spot on: there are many helpful folk out there in the blogsphere.

    Thanks again and I hope to find out how to connect to your Friday links.

    Have a lovely day.

    Lella xx

  27. OH my, If anyone needed this it’s me, Since I am new to this world I really did not have a clue, A friend from another blog has helped me a lot. This was very helpful so much so I plan on using it anytime I have a question,Thanks again

  28. Holy cow and halleluiah!

    I just followed you, bookmarked you, and would throw you personally in a box and take you home with me if I could!

    This is a GREAT recourse. I have just spent the last week banging my head on my desk teaching myself everything I just read here in the past 20 minutes.

    Tonight I am pouring myself a small (okay, large) glass of wine, and cozying up on the sofa with your blog.

    Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom!

  29. Kristin@ A Vintage Fairy says:

    Hi ladies!

    I wish I had found this a few weeks ago! I launched my blog this week. I’ve figured out the hard way most of whats here, but still have lots and lots to learn!! Thanks thanks…I would love your opinion on what you see on my new site if you have 2 minutes!! Thanks! avintagefairy.com

  30. Echoing what so many have said here… I WISH I’d come across this a week ago before having to figure most of this out myself. I’m going to read the rest of your series & I’m sure I’ll learn a ton more. Thanks so much!!

    Came across you through a FB post from Uncommon Designs today & found this tutorial in the linky party post. Thanks again!

  31. Thank you so much for these wonderful hints & tips!! I just started blogging in January, haven’t had a lot of time for posting, but reading your articles has really inspired me to get working it more. And since I’m still a newbie, you’ve helped me avoid some mistakes.
    Thanks again!!
    Debbie

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