Blogging is a learning curve and, no matter how long you have been doing it, there is always something new to learn… not least because WordPress like to alter things from time to time and just when you think you have it sorted, they alter the parameters.
All the tips below have been shared in previous posts… but not for a year or so. They cover tips to make your blog more reader-friendly and some of the pet peeves bloggers have highlighted…
1. Add contact details:
Whether you put an email address in the sidebar, use the forwarding email that is available with a WordPress blog or use a contact form that can be put in with one click (in the ‘old’ editor at least) by pressing the Add Contact Form... Please make sure you can be contacted by other bloggers who might want to invite you for a guest post, literary agents, Hollywood or the committee of the Booker Prize.
2. Link your blog to your Twitter account:
Few things are more frustrating than tweeting a post only to find that it comes up with an @wordpress.com Twitter handle, rather than doing what you want it to and complimenting/supporting the individual blogger. Unless you link your Twitter account to your blog, YOU will not know who is tweeting your stuff…and we may just give up trying.
Classic Dashboard>Settings>Sharing then scroll down and add your Twitter name.
‘New’ Dashboard: Enable Publicize, on the My Sites >Sharing page, click Connect button by Twitter option. You’ll be taken to Twitter. Approve the connection by clicking Allow.
3. Show sharing buttons:
You don’t have to have accounts with every social media platform in order to use the sharing buttons. Your readers have them and will spread the word if you let them. Unless you have a personal reason for staying clear of a particular social media site, let your readers help publicise your posts by adding a range of sharing buttons. Including a ‘like’ and ‘reblog’ button is good too. Not everyone has time to comment, but a ‘like’ lets you know they have been and, hopefully, read.
Settings>sharing then follow instructions on the page…it isn’t scary. You can link your other social media accounts this way too.
4. Add a service:
While you are thinking about sharing, some services, like StumbleUpon, are no longer automatically supported and must be added manually. You can find out how to add a button for StumbleUpon here.
5. Follow by email:
Posts can get lost in the Reader or not appear there at all. Even if you have pressed the ‘follow’ button, you may never see a post by that blog again if you rely solely on the Reader and follow a number of blogs. Many people love the Reader and use it exclusively… others do not. Offer the option to ‘follow by email’ so that those who genuinely want to read what you have to write can do so.
Old Dashboard>Appearance>Widgets – Drag and drop ‘Follow Blog’ button
New Dashboard WordPress Tutorial here
6. Update your Gravatar:
This is the profile you create to go with your online presence at WordPress. Make sure you keep this updated. You can include blogs, links and contact details so we can find you and your blog when you like or leave a comment. Without it, we can’t find you. N.B. Never just post a comment with a link back to your blog unless it is a relevant article…especially just a comment that says ‘please follow me’.
7. Add a search bar:
It is useful for everyone, including you. Most blog themes have them built in. If yours doesn’t…
8. Name, rank and number:
Please give us a name by which we can call you…real or not. Your ‘About’ page is the ideal place (and if you haven’t got one, why not?). It also helps sometimes to know what part of the world you live in and whether we are talking to a man or woman. It is quite disconcerting to answer a comment with, “Dear badhairday101…” or “Thank you, patagoniancarpetbagger…”
Don’t make life difficult for your readers with a font that is hard to read…too big, too small, light on light or dark on dark… or a fussy background. Also check that your blog is optimised for mobile devices.
10. Add pictures
Posts with images attract more attention than plain text. Use your own work wherever possible, or choose images from sites that offer free stock images…but do check the terms of the license before use!
Unless you are a photographer concerned with image quality and want to make a full sized image available, consider resizing your pictures before you upload them to save storage space. You can do it quite simply in Paint or any basic photo editor. They upload far quicker and take up far less space in your media library. For most blogs, to 1000 pixels on the longest side is more than big enough and few display at more than 650 pixels wide.
You can also do some basic edits within the media library itself by clicking into an image and clicking ‘edit’ near the top right.
11. Go Mobile:
Most WP themes have been optimised for use on mobile devices. Not everyone has selected this option for their site and viewing them on, say, a phone, means you see the whole web-version of the site rather than the sleeker mobile version. While this does have the advantage of displaying all of your sidebars, widgets and pages it also means the site is displayed in a very small format and is difficult to read and navigate.
To make sure your site is optimised for mobile, go to Admin>Appearance> Mobile and check the first box.
Dashboard>Appearance>Mobile – click enable mobile theme. If your theme is supported, this will allow you blog to be easily read on mobile devices.
12. Schedule posts to reblog
WordPress.com sites have a reblog button and a Press This button. Reblogs are immediate… Press This allows you to schedule or save as a draft a post you would like to reblog. Simply click Press This in the sharing buttons, create the post extract that you want (it will open in a new window and have a pre-selected extract) and use the drop down menu under ‘Publish’ to save a draft or schedule via the ‘standard editor’.
Self-hosted blogs do not have the same ease of sharing, but you can get the Press This applet for yourself and this allows you to reblog pretty much anything from anywhere. D.G. Kaye published a ‘how to’ on this here.
Alternatively, create a post as you normally would, add your title and tags. Copy and paste a short extract of the post you would like to reblog and direct readers to the original post with a link and pingback. Schedule for whenever suits you.
A pingback links the article to the original post and also notifies its writer that you have linked to them. You can also link back to your own previous posts where they are relevant (and search engines seem to like internal links…).
Hugh Roberts has an excellent tuorial on creating pingbacks here.
Make sure all links are up to date and working whenever possible… and give links to your readers for any books, services or artwork you might offer. For authors especially, Amazon and other buy links are a must.
13. Be accessible
Bear in mind that there are many blind and partially sighted readers who use text-to-voice software to read your blog. Victoria Zigler wrote about some of the problems of infographics and images here, but there is a lot you can do to make your blog more accessible. I am guilty of often forgetting to label images correctly.
Images can be captioned or use the ‘alt text’ box in the image file to write a description. The ‘title’ of the image can be descriptive and can even include text from within images, such as a haiku, that can then be picked up by text-reading software. Use a clear background with good contrast for text to improve visibility for partially sighted and ageing eyes and a standard, reasonably-sized font. Make sure that links are labelled clearly to indicate where they lead. Take care when using coloured fonts that they remain readable with good contrast.
And when you have finished all the tweaking…
14. Back up your Blog!
WordPress includes a function for backing up the content of your blog in case of disaster. Hugh from Hugh’s Views and News tells you how.