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30 days to a better blog

30 Days to a Better Blog: Establish a Review Policy

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Establish a Review Policy

Some bloggers are anti-reviews. Some bloggers love them. If you fall into the latter category, or looking into writing product/service reviews – you’re best bet is to establish a review policy up-front and document the details on a static page of your blog.

Things to include in your review policy:

  • Overview: State the objective for your reviews. Are you looking for the best products for your audience? Are you looking to provide well-rounded reviews for your readers?
  • What You Look at in a Review: Tell your audience what you look for in the items you’re reviewing, and how you will write the review. Are you looking at content? quality? price? value? other specific factors?
  • Items You’re Looking to Review: Make a list of the items you are interested in reviewing – and an example of the items you’re not willing to review.
  • Whether You’re Willing to Accept Samples: A variety of companies look to provide bloggers with a sample that they need to return. Some bloggers are fine with that (this way they can review expensive items), while some find it a pain.
  • How to Request a Review: Provide contact information for companies looking to send you a review product.
  • How You Handle a Review: Tell potential companies how you handle the review. If it is a product that you don’t want to pitch to your audience or would review badly – do you still want to include the review? Will you let the company know? Will you send the product back or pass it on to another reviewer?
  • Disclosure: Bloggers are now legally required to disclose if they received an item as a sample and/or were paid for their review as a way to provide transparency to the reader. You can find several sample disclosure on the web, or I found this interesting website that gives you a way to visually display your level of disclosure.

Share your Review Policy with us.

Image Source: SXC

30 Days to a Better Blog: Add/Edit Your About Me Page

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Add/Edit Your About Me Page

Take a look at your blog’s static pages. Do you have an About Me page? If no, it’s time to make one! Your About Me page is the first place someone will head to learn a little bit more about the person behind the blog they’re reading. Yes. That’s right. The About Me page is about YOU. Not your blog. Okay … okay … it can talk about the blog a little. But, really, a reader should be able to garner everything they need to know about your blog by reading your posts.

As Alli says in her What I Learned From the 12 Days of Blogging post: “Part of the reason I read any blog is its writer. So tell me about yourself! As someone hunting for information, this was also important to me. I want to know why I should care what you say. Do you have education? Experience? Life circumstances that qualify you to write in your niche? I want to know that I’m getting good tips, not just “well, maybe this will work because other people say so” advice.

What should you include on your About Me page? Any or all of the following:

  • Your name
  • A recent photo
  • Your education and/or work history (if relevant to the blog)
  • Why you started the blog
  • Your goal(s) for the blog
  • A link to your contact page (and an invitation for people to contact you)
  • Links to other blogs/websites you may write for or run

And most importantly (in my opinion) – try to use your voice! Your About Me page should be a quick and easy way for a reader to learn about you … it shouldn’t be a bullet-point list from your resume.

Let us know what you edited on your About Me page.

30 Days to a Better Blog: Interlink

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Interlink

Today’s tip is a short one, but an important one. Get in the habit of interlinking (linking back to your own content) within the content of your post. Your blog isn’t a place to be shy and self-effacing. If you have good, relevant content – link back to it!

Here are some effective ways to interlink to your own content:

  • Hotlink a keyword to its respective category page or tag page
  • Link back to a previous article when that topic is referenced
  • Add a list of “relevant posts” at the bottom of your page
  • Create a Top 10 list and link out to posts you’ve written on a specific topic

By linking to your own content, using the correct keywords and phrases, you help increase your SEO and you also help your readers easily find other content on your blog. This results in higher pageviews and repeat visits. And you may even see where your content gaps if you find you have no applicable posts or categories to link to!

For today, add a few links in your post.

30 Days to a Better Blog: Tweet This!

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Tweet This

You’re on Twitter, right? Is your blog? Do you tweet your blog posts and allow others to easily tweet a link as well?

If so, well you’re well on your way to a better blog! If not, today’s the day you’re going to add a “Tweet This” button to your posts.

For WordPress, it’s as easy as installing a plugin. Once installed, you can edit various aspects, including where you want the button to appear on your site (top right of a post, bottom right, etc), what image or text to use, and you can even include your own Twitter handle as part of the tweet. Here are the top five Twitter plugins for WordPress:

I’m not a Blogger user, so I researched ways to add a “Tweet This” button. Hopefully one of these will work (and please let me know if you know of a better set of instructions):

30 Days to a Better Blog: Keep Up With Your Comments

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Keep Up With Your Comments

Conversations are a HUGE and integral part of blogging. And the first place a discussion usually takes place is in your comments section. Keeping on top of your comments should be just as important as writing your next post, and there are several steps involved:

  • Field Spam. Everyone hates spam. Bloggers hate weeding through it, but honestly … readers hate seeing it too. It is the first way to signify to a reader that you don’t really care about your blog. The first step is to activate Akismet (or another anti-spam plugin) but many comments and trackbacks will slip through the crack. Flag them as spam and keep them off your blog.
  • Approve Comments. If you have your blog set up so that you must manually approve comments, you must keep on top of them and commit to approving them immediately. If a reader took the time to offer feedback or continue a discussion, they’re not going to come back a day later to see if their comment made it through.
  • Reply to Comments. If someone responds to a post (even to say “great idea”), take the time to respond back. They took time out of their day to read your blog and give you feedback. They are opening the door to becoming a repeat visitor and starting a dialogue with you. Respect your readers, talk to them, and they’re bound to recommend you to others.
  • Start a Debate. Face reality. Not everybody is going to love you or your ideas. But controversy and debate can fuel very interesting conversations and bring in pageviews. If someone disagrees with you, don’t ignore their comment – start a debate. Acknowledge their viewpoint and counter it. Be respectful, but this is your opportunity to show that you care about your topic and are knowledgeable enough to debate it.
  • Bring Comments Into Your Posts. Browse your comments for ideas for future posts, or pull together several into a follow-up article. Your readers will love seeing themselves brought into your content and will continue to comment on the blog. You may even ask a commenter to contribute with a guest post of his/her own.

Are there other ways you keep up with your comments? Share them in OUR comment section below.

30 Days to a Better Blog: Use Your ‘Preview’ Button

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Use Your ‘Preview’ Button

I’ll admit it. I used to rarely use my Preview button. I’d only catch issues after the post was live on my blog – and even then, it might be an hour or two after I posted. Sure, you can make the changes for future readers … or can you?

If someone is using an RSS reader, they are going to see the first published version of your post. Period. So while they may click through and seen an edited version of your post after you fixed your errors, their first glimpse is going to be the unedited post. And that’s not good. Imagine publishing a magazine, or sending out a newsletter, or writing an email without editing?

So today’s tip is to get in the practice of previewing your post before you hit publish. Previewing the post in your blog template will show you much more than viewing it in the “Visual” editor.

When you preview, look for the following items:

  • Correct spelling
  • Correct grammar
  • Images are aligned properly
  • Images are spaced and sized properly
  • Any embedded players are working correctly
  • Font tags close appropriately
  • All URLs work
  • All <table> and <div> tags are properly closed so that you’re entire template isn’t skewed

What else do you look for before hitting Publish?
Image Source: SXC

30 Days to a Better Blog: Add/Edit Your Contact Me Page!

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Add/Edit Your Contact Me Page

Take a look at your blog’s static pages. Do you have a Contact Me or Contact Us page? If no, why not? How is anybody ever going to contact you to start a dialogue, ask about advertising, or provide great content? If yes, how long has it been since you edited it? Is any of your information outdated and do you have links to your social networking sites?

The contact page is one of the most important pages on your site. It doesn’t matter whether your blog is for business or personal – it exists to connect with visitors and reader and you have to facilitate that connection outside of your comments and social networking widgets. Visitors know to look for a Contact page, so make it visible and consider adding a link on your footer!

What should you include on your contact page? Any or all of the following:

  • Name of the blog/company
  • Name of the blogger(s)
  • Email addresses (you can set up several emails – including editorial, newsletter, advertising, etc – to manage different departments)
  • Social networking handles
  • Physical address
  • Phone number
  • Fax number

You may consider setting up a Contact Form that generates an automatic email to your inbox. By providing a drop-down box with “Reasons for Contact” you can easily sift through emails and distribute them appropriately.

Let us know what you edited on your Contact Me page.

30 Days to a Better Blog: Add a Link To Your RSS Feed

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Add a Link To Your RSS Feed

Getting people to subscribe to your RSS feed is extremely important for encouraging return visitors and keeping your readers informed. It’s on par with getting people to subscribe to your newsletter! So why not make it easy for them to subscribe, and keep track of your subscriber statistics at the same time?

What is RSS?
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated sites in a standardized format. It benefits subscribers by allowing them to syndicate their websites automatically. It benefits readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from their favorite websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place by reading them on a RSS reader/aggregator.

How do I Find My RSS Feed?
Most blogging platforms automatically generate an RSS feed, but it may take some investigation techniques to determine the URL. In WordPress the link to your RSS feed could be http://www.website.com/feed or http://www.website.com/?feed=rss or even http://www.website.com/?feed=rss2! In Blogger the link is typically http://website.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default. For other platforms you’ll probably have to do a bit of digging.

Using FeedBurner
Once you know your RSS Feed link, you can add it to your sidebar and be done OR you can run it through FeedBurner to start obtaining stats and watch your subscribers grow! It involves a few extra steps (including signing up for a FeedBurner account and installing some code) but it’s well worth the hassle. Here are some tips for setting up FeedBurner on a variety of platforms.

Once you’ve added in your blog feed URL and information, you can click on the “Publicize” tab to get a snippet of code (including the universal RSS icon) to add to your blog. You can also embed the link yourself and use a different icon (you can grab some free ones here).

Subscribe To Your Own Feed!

Be the first to subscribe to your feed – and then check it out in an RSS reader. You may be surprised at how your blog looks outside of your own template! I follow a blog that uses a white font on a dark background, but in the reader the text is rendered invisible, so I always have to click through to the blog. Perhaps a good idea … but to me it’s just annoying!

Let us know how your RSS Feed installation went.

30 Days to a Better Blog: Update WordPress

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Update WordPress

When’s the last time you updated WordPress (or your publishing platform of choice)? If you use a free blogging platform (Blogger, LiveJournal, etc) your updates are made behind the scenes. But, if you host your own blog you’ve probably seen that nagging alert at the top of your admin page telling you the latest version is available.

I admit that it took me a long time before I updated my first blog. I was terrified that I’d lose data or mess up my content along the way. But WordPress makes it easy to update and I have yet to encounter any problems.

Why Update?
Each release has a variety of fixes and new functionality. The layouts have changed, security has been tightened, bugs have been removed, and you may even find that the newest plugins and themes require a recent update.

How to Update?
There are several steps to follow in updating WordPress.

  1. Take a backup of your database.
  2. WordPress suggests disabling Plugins because there might be problems after the upgrade. I didn’t do this, but I didn’t have very many plugins in the first place!
  3. Update to the latest version. There are two ways to update:
    • Automatic Update (if you have version 2.7+) makes it incredibly easy to update. Just click the link and you’re on your way!
    • Manual Update (if you have a version prior to 2.7+ or are unable to use the Automatic Update) involves just a couple extra steps and FTP access. You can read details here. NOTE: Make sure to copy down your database name and user info before accidentally overwriting the file!
  4. Enable any disabled Plugins.

That’s it! Within an hour you should have access to the latest functionality and your blog will be more secure.

Do you have any tips or stories involving WordPress updates?

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