On the advice of Lisa Marie, who said I should share my wisdom, here are 5 ways you can improve your blog!
These are steps I’ve personally done to not only improve the appearance of my blog, make it reader friendly, but also encourage interaction as well.
1. Use WordPress
I can not stress this enough! WordPress is an amazing FREE publishing platform that is so easy to use, customize, and ENJOY that there is no reason to use anything else! I recently made the switch from Expression Engine and I’ve not looked back once. I will touch on various plugins throughout this entry.
- WP-Typography: helps your text display properly
- WordPress Mobile Pack: I have a blackberry and it takes FOREVER to load “normal” sites. PLEASE get a mobile version! You could also use Mobify in which I was featured.
- Defensio: I’ve found this to be a lot better at eliminating spam than Akismet.
2. Create your OWN design
I know I’ve mentioned this before, however it’s worth talking about again. Stop using free themes! A website with your own created images or NO graphics (pure CSS) is a hell of a lot better than a free theme that is seen all over the web. Using a free theme (that countless others are using or have used) lump you in with strangers, it doesn’t stand out visually, and does not create a memorable experience.
When I say “create your own design”, I mean that literally. From scratch. Taking a theme and changing a color or a few images is still using a pre-made theme that you did not design, create, or have any control over.
For me, I really enjoy sites where they have a specific header/entry/sidebar/footer type of design. Especially the footer. Otherwise it just looks as if something is missing.
Also, as an aside, get your own domain name and webhosting! It really helps! I am not fond of blogspot blogs because generally to comment you need a google or blogspot account which I feel I shouldn’t have to do to comment on ONE specific entry in a sea of blogs and having your OWN domain and hosting gives you ultimate control.
Layout and Basic Design
- How to Blog: Design Style Guide
- Digging into WordPress
- Better Living Through XHTML
- Blog Design and Layout
Inspiration and Resources
3. Use Photographs
Of course I would suggest this, but it’s been proven time and time again, readers are visual and nothing screams visual like a photo! I highly suggest taking the shots yourself, contrary to false popular belief, you do not need a fancy expensive camera to take good photos.
I generally try to take a photo that pertains to the entry I am about to write OR fit the entry around photos I’ve already shot recently.
I use for most of my shots my Nikon D50, 50mm f/1.8 lens, my Sigma 105mm lens, and lots of natural light.
4. Write for Your Readers
When I say this, I mean it literally. If you want a personal diary, turn off the comments, make the blog private, or get rid of an online blog and go to paper.
Find a subject you’re strong in. Focus on a niche. Most people are not going to stay for long if your entry isn’t engaging to them. I tend to write about subjects that I am knowledgable in, for the most part anyway! My passions are attachment parenting, photography, and cooking, so I try to focus the majority of my entries around those three topics.
Post frequently! I aim to write an entry every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. A blog that goes weeks or even months without an entry is not one I will check up on or care about.
5. Improve Your Relations
At the end of the day, the majority of bloggers do so for the feedback, to be heard. You need to make it easy for people to comment on the entry you worked so hard on!
I try so hard to respond to each and every single comment, every email, every tweet… you get the point. Nothing drives me crazy than commenting frequently on someones blog only to be ignored time and time again. I feel unheard, a bit silly for thinking the person would even CARE that I put time and effort into reading and commenting on their entry, and generally I stop commenting after awhile.
How to Connect
- Get rid of CAPTCHA. If I have to take yet MORE time to just fill out a form, I usually will give up. I don’t want to answer asinine questions such as “what is four plus five” only to be rejected when I answer “9″ because it wasn’t in word format.
- Respond to comments! Like I mentioned before, this is HUGE to me. Take the time to respond to comments via your blog entry, or email. Show respect that someone took time out of their day to not only stop by your blog, but read your entry, think about it, and come up with a well written response.
- Go and comment on other blogs in your niche! If you want people to connect with you, you need to take that first shaky step. Read some entries, leave some well thought out comments, perhaps link to them on your link page or sidebar, follow a new person on twitter, make some connections yourself!
- Make sure you link to your RSS feed often so people can use their favorite reader to stay updated
- Add a subscribe to comments option so people can participate in the conversation
- Use a tool such as TwitterFeed to automatically send a tweet when you’ve updated your blog
- Offer to guest post on other blogs
- Participate in blog carnivals, weekly meme’s, etc
Useful WordPress Plugins
- TweetMeme: I love this plugin, it enables readers to quickly and easily retweet your post without having to go to Twitter directly.
- Crosspost to LiveJournal: a lot of my readers come from LiveJournal so I enabled crossposting which encourages them to come back to OSN and comment on my entry
- CommentLuv: when a person comments on your entry, it enables the them to select their most current entry to display and link to below their comment
If you would like me to expand on any subject or explain what I’ve done around OSN, feel free to ask in the comments. Also, please share what you’ve done to improve your blog!