Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Five More Things Every Blogger Should Know

Five Things Every Blogger Should KnowThis is a continuation of my previous month's post on blogging tips: "Five Things Every Blogger Should Know" and if there is something I haven't covered that you're dying to know how to do, leave me a comment and if I don't know how to do it I won't eat or sleep until I've discovered the answer. You have my promise.

1. How do I include a poll in my post? Polls can be fun little things to involve your readers--doesn't everyone love having their opinion requested? You can do two different things: you can put a poll as a permanent fixture on your sidebar which requires you going into your template and adding the HTML there or you can add the HTML to the post itself, as a treat at the end. Either way, one technique that worked for me in Blogger is to go to Twiigs.com and register for a free account. Fill out the information about your poll and it will generate the code for you to paste into your post. The only downside to this is that I've not been able to find a poll site that allows more than one question per poll. If anyone else out there has seen differently I'd be interested to know about it.

2. How do I know when someone has linked to my blog? This one is important because if you can't check your links you won't know when someone has been kind to you and you won't be able to say thanks. Once again, there are several ways to do this, if you are on Typepad or Wordpress they have a system called Trackbacks that automatically notifies the blogger when someone has linked to them. However, Blogger doesn't have this system. If you want this feature in Blogger you have to install a plug-in called Haloscan into your template that will track this information. I don't use Haloscan myself for a couple reasons: first, I didn't like the ads that Haloscan includes with the pop-up commenting box, second, I just didn't want to include it in my template. Call it orneriness or something but I just didn't like it. Third, I found an easier way to keep track.

In Blogger you can enable a link at the bottom of each post that says "Posts that Link Here" and it will show you specific posts that link back to your specific posts. It doesn't show links to your main URL however, but Technorati does. If you go to Technorati and do a search on your main URL it will pull up other blogs that have linked to you in chronological order of posting. Just like that. You may have to do a search on your blog title too, because occasionally I catch links that come through that way, I'm not sure why there is a difference but there it is.

On occasion I miss links, Technorati isn't perfect, but you catch most of them and once you see a link it's only polite to leave a comment saying thanks. It's the nice thing to do.

3. How do I post an audio stream? Theresa at My Fairbanks Life was my source of information on this one, so give her a visit and tell her she's a genius. To include an audio stream with a post here's what to do:

First, sign up with an audio host such as ClickCaster. To upload audio, go to the media link on the left hand side then click the upload option at the top of the page followed by the browse button. Select an audio file and upload (it which may take some time). Hit the publish button to see what you've created.

Now, to embed the link in your blog, go to the top of the page and click on the embed bar which will give you a preview of your audio stream with a black video screen. If you want just the little audio bar instead of the full video screen click on the link at the top that says "Looking for old players? Check out our classic embed page." Then choose the player you'd like to use from the options on the left and copy the code at the bottom of the page to insert into your blog.

4. How do I make a contact form for my blog? If you'd like visitors to have a quick and simple way of contacting you you can provide a contact form like I have here. This also works well for contests such as my Saturday Giveaways where I want both bloggers and non-bloggers to easily enter their information without publishing it in the comments section for spammers to read.

This can be tricky and is probably different for those using Typepad or Wordpress but in Blogger you can following the directions here by first signing up for a free account at WebForm Designer. Next you must decide where you want your messages sent and what your form should look like. For each form there will be a separate code generated but once you have it you can paste it the HTML into your post and publish.

5. How do I make a picture into a graphic or banner? This explanation is long but stick with me, it's worth it I promise. You can use fancy programs like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop but if you don't want to shell out some money and are already using Microsoft Office there are programs that come with your package that will do a simple job for you.

First, start with a normal sized photograph in your files. One ending in .jpg or .gif. Then, right click on it to open it with Microsoft Digital Image Starter Edition. Once in the program, you can easily add text on top of the photograph by selecting "Insert Text" from the "Text" drop down menu. Then by selecting "Font" from the same menu you can mess around with the color, font and point-size of the text. It's rather intuitive once you know which program is easiest to use.

Once you have the words the way you want them, do a "Save As" to make sure you won't lose your work then again, right click on the saved image to open it with Microsoft Office Picture Manager and click "Edit Picture" at the top. It will give you a tool bar on the right side that allows you to resize your image according to your specifications. The pictures on my sidebar are approximately 159 by 115 pixels, to give you an idea. If you want to make the picture into an avatar and don't want to tweak pixels, you can upload it and resize it in Photobucket to avatar or thumbnail size with two clicks.

***

For other basic how-to's in blogging here are some other posts:

* JH Seiss at Colloquium with bloggers (and information) you should know part one
* and part two
* Lorelle with Blog Ideas for Brainstorming
* Tips for being a better writer by Liz at Successful Blog
* Leo Babauta has weekly articles for improving your blog
* Here's a Wordpress plugin that shows each of your commentator's most recent posts on their own blogs. Sure wish Blogger had this. Kailani at An Island Life does if you want to see it in action.

***

Congratulations to Sarah for winning her choice of baby bracelet's from Sher's Wares in this week's Saturday Giveaway. Thanks to all who visited and entered, I love reading your kind comments. The one that wrenched my heart was the mother-to-be who said she was eight days overdue. If I could have handed the prize out right there to her I would have done it. One should get some kind of a prize for carrying a baby that long!

Technorati tags:

32 comments:

Erica Douglas said...

These back to basics posts are excellent, the rest of the blogosphere seems to have forgotten that not every blogger is a technical or entrepreneurial genius. Thanks for the info, I'll refer back to this post in the future.

Lis Garrett said...

I love these posts, Michelle!! I used your tutorial on how to link a graphic to a website. VERY HELPFUL!!
(http://www.LisGarrett.com)

Allison said...

Here's one I just CAN'T figure out. I use Blogger, and want to be able to put a link into my post, itself, but can't figure out how. Everyone ELSE and their dogs seem to know how to do it, but alas, I'm a complete blogging moron, apparently. I don't want the address to the link....I want the link itself. HOW?

chelle said...

Awesome tips!
I am a wordpress'er but often help people (or try!) with blogger. I have been so busy moving I have not been able to keep up with the new changes.

Veronica Mitchell said...

This was so helpful. Thank you.

Meredith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meredith said...

A third, no-work way to catch when other blogs are linking to or writing about you: set up a free Google Alert.

Go to Google Alert's home page and enter your choice of search terms.

(I use both "Like Merchant Ships" or "Meredith from Merchant Ships")

Google will send you a free email whenever those terms are used on the web. I have found that this method often picks up mentions missed by Technorati.

Corrie said...

Great post! I had been wondering about your giveaway forms - so handy. Thanks for sharing your wealth of blog knowledge.

jennwa said...

Thank you so much for the tips. I will be using the one on the banner, for sure. Thanks.

Laura said...

These tips are fabulous! Thanks for sharing. I have always needed to know how to cross out text in html... no one has taught me.

Yellow Hula said...

Oh sorry about spilling the beans.But I have to admit I just love it....cute cute cute!

DermDoc said...

Thanks Michelle; these are nice tips. Blogger is easy to use, but limiting. Simple advice on how customize Blogger is invaluable.

Magpie said...

Great tips - thank you.

angie said...

I SO love these posts.....thank you so much for taking the time to share the tips with us. I have a question. On technorati, there is something called authority (for example, yours is 543 or something like that). What does that mean?

momof3gr8kids said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! When it comes to blogging, I'm a total kindergartener, so these kinds of posts are wonderful. I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

ME Strauss said...

This is a great way to pass on information, Michelle! I like that "How do I know" format a lot! It's a fresh take and personal. :)

feefifoto said...

I don't understand how to use trackbacks on Typepad. If someone links to you will a trackback show automatically, or does the person making the link have to do it via a trackback?

An Ordinary Mom said...

You are always a fountain of knowledge :) !!

I'm AZ said...

This is a great post. Keep the "must knows" coming. I love them!

dawn224 said...

Yes, this is great - good basic stuff :)

Oh, The Joys said...

Thank you!

sarah said...

Thanks so much for all the information! It might take me a day or two to process it all but it really helps for me, a beginner!

Robin said...

Great series that will help newer--an "older"--bloggers. Sometimes I can figure this stuff out, but often times the way I do "it" isn't efficient. Posts like this point me in the right direction and let me know what's available...thanks!

:)

pussreboots said...

These are five very useful points. Technorati and Google alerts are useful tools to see who is linking to my blog.

trish said...

I didn't see this anywhere so I hope you haven't already answered this question. I am confused about something on technorati and how to tell who is linked to you. Are your "fans" those who are linked to you? Or is it your authority number? Or is it something all together different?
Secondly, please clarify for me, must you use technorati tags in each of your posts in order for it to change your ratings?
Thanks for your time and reply! I appreciate it!
http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/MamaBugs

Scribbit said...

No, fans are people who have favorited you, which goes toward popularity and is totally different from ranking which measures number of links in the last six months.

Authority number is the number of unique blog links in the last six months and your ranking is derived from that.

Favoriting is just where you add a blog to your list of favorites and technorati's most popular list has the 100 most favorited blogs, which are at about 300 fans.

Moanna said...

Found your site from Maddy's, I think it was. Love your blog. Will have to stay and check it out.

Thanks for the info on trackbacks. I've wanted to know how to do that and, well, now I know! :)

SabineM said...

Fabulous post! I am going to come back and follow some of these directions! ;-)

Theresa said...

Here I am, catching up on my blogs. I see you've rounded up another fantastic list of tips. My mentor! Thanks for including the audio stuff. I am very much a technophobe, so I hope that helps. There are probably other ways to do it. I would love to hear other suggestions. Stay warm!

chickadee said...

this is great information. even if you've been blogging for a long time there are things you just don't know how to do until someone tells you. i learn so much from reading other blogs.

Samrat said...

Thank you for the info Top Seo Blog

RantinRaven said...

Thank you so much for an information post written for newbies! I have absolutely no idea what I am doing and your post was extremely helpful!