Blogger may be one of the easiest ways to start a blog, but to the bloggy elite, the blogspot.comaddress has become a kind of badge of shame. Good news: Blogger hasintroduced a slew of new ways to make your blog look – and work – cool.
I put together these resources for my presentation at the Throw Your Voice event in Oklahoma City. We’ll take a tour of Blogger-based sites to see what’s possible. We’lllook at some sharp new themes, a custom .com address, fun tricks withfeeds, and special “pages.” You can even make the WordPress snobs say,”I didn’t realize you were on Blogger!”
What?! Heresy! You can’t use Blogger!
Well, sure you can. Despite all the peer pressure to use WordPress like everyone else, the secret is that what you do is more important than where you do it.
I’veused WordPress, and TypePad come to think of it. And I’m still here.It’s up to you to decide. Use the tools that suit you best.
So, if you’re with me on this, here are tips to make yourBlogger blog so good, no one will ever really think about the fact thatyou aren’t on WordPress with all the cool kids.
- Start with the Stretch Denim theme. Customizethe colors to your liking. It’s the most professional of the choicesavailable and the least stereotypical of Blogger. It’s not hard tocustomize with colors and fonts of your choice. Minima is too over-used.
- Explore other themes. I’m still stuck on the cool Newspaper templates from Our Blog Templates Mashable has a list of Blogger Toolbox: 100+ tools and templates.Or do a search on Blogger Templates. Blogger is making it easier toupload a new template, and then customize it with easy layout tools.
- Replace your header with a custom image. You can create abanner to suit your site and theme, and post it from the Edit Layoutsection.
- Get your own custom domain. Register your own.com URL, and set it up to work with Blogger. Go to Blogger Help andsearch for Custom Domain to get detailed help. Your old blogspot.comaddress will automatically redirect, and your search results in Googlewill still find you.
- Set all your Site Feeds to Full. That gives you a separatefeed for comments, for individual labels, as well as for comments onindividual posts. Give your readers options!
- Burn your feed at FeedBurner, and tell Blogger about it.Blogger will point readers to your FeedBurner feed so you have fullstatistics on subscribers. Blogger calls this Feed Redirection. Searchthe Help for the instructions.
- Enable Post Pages, from the Archiving Settings. That gives each post its own page and URL, so other folks can link back to you.
- Use the MORE feature to split up posts. Put just the teaser on your home page. Let readers click through for the rest. Especially good for image or photo-heavy posts. This is a new feature, and has great potential.
- Add the Google Search Box, and keep it near the top. It’s incredibly common for readers to want to search for something specific in your blog. Make it easy.
- Add your Labels list. If you Label each post with logical categories, then your Label list in the sidebar is a terrific index for readers.
- Add a news feed. You pick the keywords most relevant to your topic. Google provides the news stories that match.
- Consider adding a Followers list. I don’t want to have both this andMyBlogLog’s visitors gadget. Too duplicative. But some folks make great use of it.
- Include your blog Archive. I’m partial to the hierarchy style, myself.
- Drag gadgets to alternate page positions. You have more thanjust a sidebar. Put items above and below the posts, and all the waydown in the page footer. As a matter of fact, Google Analytics wants tobe the last thing on the page, so put its gadget at the very bottom.Just don’t get carried away with too much clutter, OK?
- Use LinkWithin to show related posts under each story. The LinkWithin tool brings up a photo and title of three related posts. Highly recommended!
- Make the most of the Blogger banner. The new Share feature makes it easy for readers to Tweet your stories. Change its color in the Layout Editor, or turn it off, if you want.
- Look for more widgets. Mashable has a list of 25 Great Blogger Widgets, and Gadgets for Blogger has even more.
- Use the inline comment form. Under Settings, onthe Comments tab, set the comment form placement to be “embedded belowpost.” That keeps it on the same page as your posts. This is a bigimprovement over the old separate comment page or the even-worse pop-upwindow. (Both of those are still options!)
- Open up commenting. Turn off the word verification andcomment moderation. Allow anonymous comments. You’ll still get lessspam than WordPress users, and you can selectively turn these back onas needed, if you ever have a problem. Even with 21 blogs on my BloggerDashboard, only occasionally do I have to delete a comment.
- Exception: Moderate comments on older posts. Almost every single spam comment I get is on a post older than 14 days.
- Post your comment policy. Decide what you allow and don’t allow, and let folks know. My comment policy definitely makes it clear.
- Use posts as pages. Blogger doesn’t give you away to create separate pages. So just create a post with the title youwant. You can set any date you want. Then you can create a link to it inyour sidebar or above the main posts area.
- Schedule posts ahead of time. Build your editorialcalendar, work ahead, and set Blogger to do the work of posting.
- Post via email. It’s under Email on the Settings tab. Youcan set it to post automatically, or to save emailed posts as drafts.This is the easiest way to introduce absolute newbies to blogging.
- Host images at Picasa Web Albums. Images from your posts areautomatically uploaded to a Picasa Web Album. You can also use it tohost badges, RSS buttons, or other images you want to upload separatelyand place in a gadget. Yes, you can still use Flickr. I do.
- Let Blogger worry about traffic spikes. Even when mytraffic spikes due to sudden popularity of a post, my Blogger sitestays up. That’s pretty darn cool, and exceptionally tough for otherhosts to manage.
- Backup your blog with one click. OK, two clicks. On theBasic Settings tab, there’s an option to export. You get an XML filewith your whole blog you can save to disk. It works lightning quick.
- Learn more at Blogger Buster. BloggerBuster is the best source I’ve found for up to date news on Blogger.
Get a better template:
Get your own identity:
Add the best Gadgets:
Make it easy for readers to comment:
Manage your blog:
And if all that is not enough, get some more inspiration of what is possible at We Love Blogger.
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This was such a great presentation, Becky. I learned several things I didn’t know!
Becky McCray says
Jen, I’m glad you found value in it. We had a great discussion, and the whole event was outstanding!
Stefan / intuitiv says
Thanks a lot for this great collection!
Becky McCray says
Stefan, thanks! Glad you liked it.
Thanks so much for the suggestions. I am a Minima user afraid to branch out into something different, but you inspired me to go check out Stretch Denim.
I didn’t know how to do Linkwithin until today, that is so appreciated! Thank you!
Becky McCray says
Carrie, that’s great! Get brave and try out one of the many other themes now available. It’s astonishing what you can do.
Thistle Cove Farm says
This is, probably, the best article I’ve read on Small Biz Survival! It’s great advice. I started on Blogger and am still there; recently finished a blog update and am loving the new look. It took me a while to figure out things but maybe that helps what I’ve learned to stick in my memory longer…sure hope so.
Again, great article; you’ve taught me a thing or three and it’s greatly appreciated!
John Burnside says
Thanks for all the information it really helped me make my blog look far more proffesional
Kenneth Purdom says
Thank you. Good info
Broderick Reyes says
Really good information, I’m glad you out it out there.
Just starting out with blogger after dumping too much money on other services. Was about to give up hope but your article has gotten me back on track with blogger. Thanks