Sunday, January 5, 2014

Housekeeping On Your Blog

Why do you need to set aside some time for housekeeping on your blog? Because, over time, it begins to look cluttered. Thus, it will make it harder for readers to find what they need. And you want your blog to look great so you'll get more readers.

So first, let's look at the content/post area. Do you have photos overlapping your sidebar? This says immediately to whoever is reading: I don't take time to fix things like this. Which then makes your reader think: Then why should I take time to read this?

If you are on Blogger, and most everyone who reads this blog is, go to the Template Designer. Go to Customize. Then scroll down to Adjust Widths.

How you can see if every thing on there (at least what comes up on the first 5-6 posts, etc.) is not overlapping your sidebar is to do this: Scroll down and look at every single post. If a photo is over in the sidebar, adjust the width. Go all the way down. Then come all the way up and look again. Find the width that looks best and then hit Save.

Now let's look at the things that might be overlapping your sidebar over that margin. You're may need to either resize what you have on there, or widen your sidebar. You will have to watch and make sure you aren't messing up the content area as you do this. My sidebar is about 310-320 px.

I like to make my main content area pretty wide so that things don't look smushed up. I like white space. However, they say doing this may make your blog not show up in its entirety on mobile devices. So you might want to check that.

Okay, while we're on the sidebar, let's do a little tidying up. Scroll down your sidebar and take a good look at what you have on there. This is prime real estate, folks, so if you have awards and things that are of no use to readers, bite the proverbial bullet and consider taking those things off.

This does not mean photos of yourself or your pets or your home tour, etc. This means extraneous things that have served their purpose and need to go. You want to keep your blog fresh, not using up space for things that were old six months ago.

Now your ads: Everyone needs to make money. Some choose to do it on their blog. Take a good look at those ads. Ask yourself if they would be unappealing if you were looking at them on someone elses blog.

My strategy is to typically have a 300x600 Adsense ad on my sidebar. One square one in between posts. And a leader board size down at the very bottom. This spreads them out fairly well.

If you are on the BlogHer network as I am, you don't have a choice. It must be above the fold. And by that I don't mean just under the fold. The fold means what you can see without scrolling down at all. These ads tend to take longer to load, but I need the money. So you have to make decisions.

All right. Got that tidied up. Now let's look at your labels. Sometimes I see blogs with labels that obviously are never edited. It doesn't look so great. It's eating up valuable space. It's a foot long. And I don't mean a hot dog.

On my main blog, I have my labels and archives all the way at the bottom of the blog. You can move gadgets down there.

One way to keep the archives tidy is to have a scroll-type archive list, which you can easily do by clicking on the wrench next to it and choosing that option.

While I'm talking about Archives, please add this Gadget to your blog. I can't tell you how many bloggers I would love to have featured on Welcome Wagon but they didn't have Archives on their blog, so I didn't know how old the blog was. Bummer.

As for the labels, you can go in and edit out a lot of labels. If you have endless labels that only have (1) next to them, it's time to start putting more things under one label. When you click on the wrench, it will say Configure Labels, and edit.

Do some editing. Do away with labels that really do not add worth to your blog. If it isn't a label you think readers will need to click on to find something on your blog, do away with it. You don't want them having to sift through an endless list of extraneous labels.

I like to put my labels in a cloud format, which doesn't eat up as much space.

While we're at it, make sure there is a way to contact you somewhere on your blog. Someone might want to send you something, or have important information for you. It might even be a magazine that wants to feature you. Get that email address in a prominent place so they won't move on. You don't want to miss out on a great opportunity.

Readers want to know who you are. Put a photo of yourself somewhere on your sidebar, and also write a few things about yourself. It's one of the first things people look for.

I know you can go to Google+ that is on many blogs and somehow, some way, find someone's email. But I can't for the life of me figure out how to do it. I become so aggravated that I just quit. Why does Google+ have to be so hard to navigate? Maybe it's just me. But the thing drives me crazy. 

Also make absolutely certain (if you want many readers) to check your Settings and make sure Word Verification is off. If a reader reads a post, only to get to the end and find out to comment, they must do that, it might be the last time they visit you. You've just lost a potential long term reader.

What you mainly want when a reader visits your blog is to be able to locate things, and be able to read your blog easily (no ridiculous fonts that are hard to read; and no font colors that are so light you have to squint to make out the words). And please, don't have the font so small I have to get a magnifier glass to make out the words. That is a definite turn off.

You also should shy away from adding snow or whatever to your blog. It slows the blog down. Just like adding too many fonts slows it down.

So let's see how fast your blog loads. Go here and put in your blog URL. I ran Cozy Little House and the results did not make me happy. Which means I'm going to go down the list and see what's taking so much time, and get rid of it. Then I'll do the same with the other two blogs.

You want your blog to be easy to navigate so they can find what they want before clicking off. Put yourself in their place. When you go to a blog, what are some of the things you look for? A home tour, a project page?

Go check out other popular blogs and see what they have. Then you'll know one reason they are popular.

Check off each of these things as you complete them. Take a look at your blog. Is it now all spiffy and uncluttered. Lots of white space? Then you're done.

That's it!

I've got some blog housework to do to make mine load faster. 
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  1. Wow... quite a post and I have alot to do! I have a few questions:
    1. What exactly is BlogHer??? I see it alot but not sure what it is.
    2. How do I "edit" my labels? My labels are what I put on each blog post. Do I have to go back into each post and take off certain labels? I have ALOT of posts.
    3. On your paragraph on "Word Verification", I don't quite understand what that means. Could you clarify that paragraph?
    4. I have an Etsy box in my sidebar that does extend over to the right... but it was generated by Etsy. So how can I make it smaller or longer or something?
    5. And one more questions that might make another great post - there are so many ways to follow someone's blog! I usually subscribe to follow by email. What do all the other things mean? for example, RSS feeds, Bloglovin' (I don't like it because then I get a Bloglovin' email and another email from the same post - so I get two emails for each one post that someone does! Then there's the "follow with Google" and when I sign up to do that, I never get that person's blog posts, or any notification of them. What is the advantage of signing up to follow with Google. And Google+!! yikes, that's another whole big question mark!

    Thanks for your help Brenda.

  2. I've definitely got some updating and housecleaning to do on my blog! Thanks for the tips, Brenda!