Recently, I had the opportunity to connect with some amazing writers and thinkers (aka: bloggers). Since I’ve been at this thing for a while and have figured out much of it through trial and error (mostly error), I offered to answer any questions they could dredge up. Below you will find a list of questions and answers from some up-and-coming bloggers. I’ve removed the names to protect the innocent, but these items are probably universally applicable! Hopefully you’ll get something useful from these assorted queries. (And here’s a link to a few video tutorials to help with your blogging pursuits.) And if you’re serious about becoming a force to be reckoned with in the blogging world, then you need to check out the become a blogger program. It’s a full-blown training program to take you through all the steps to be a great blogger.
If you have a question about blogging that is not on the list, email me and I’ll be glad to answer it for you.
1. I have feed burner but can’t figure out how to manipulate it. I would like the orange link thing to be larger and in a different place. I don’t know why or how it ended up where it is.
Feedburner is an account you set up where you can track feeds that people sign up for through the feedburner link. Your link on the bottom bar is not routed through FB, so you can’t track your subscribers. The little button is built into the theme. We can add another one via a sidebar widget. You want an option to subscribe to be above the fold. It’s best to have an email subscription option set up in FB as well, because many subscribers still prefer that over RSS.
2. When I went to a hosted site from the wordpress.com site, I lost the video on one of my blogs. It will LINK to the YouTube URL but it won’t post the video directly on the blog. I have no idea why. Perhaps a problem with the custom theme????
WordPress.com has some weird formatting that messes with embedded videos. It’s actually easier to embed a video into a self-hosted site. In the post writing page, click the “HTML” tab right above the writing window. Snag the embed code from the Youtube page and paste it into the writing window. If you want to write more, just click back to the “Visual” tab and you should see an object where the Youtube video will be displayed.
3. What’s the difference between a PLUG-IN and a WIDGET? The plug in seems to be some type of program or executable that you use to create the widget (which seems to be the code?).
Plugins are code snippets and shortcuts for doing some very technical and complex actions. They can do everything from redirecting pages to helping you edit your meta information for SEO purposes. A widget is an object in your sidebar that has a defined purpose. There are calendar, archive, and category widgets, but the most flexible is the “Text” widget. It allows you to embed images, links, or text in your sidebar. This is how we will add another RSS button to your site. Widgets are built into your theme and are available inside your admin panel. Plugins are not built into WordPress, but you can use as many as necessary.
4. I’ve tried to get my twitter feed into my pages two different ways with no success.
There should be a widget that will do that. If you don’t have a widget to show that, there is most likely a plugin to show your Twitter feed in the sidebar.
5. What is your suggestion for a bio/about me page? Short and sweet, or longer and more in-depth? I vacillate on this constantly – right now I am going short.
I have an “About” page for the blog and an “About” page for myself. Some people want to know more about the site and don’t care to know about me, but others want to go the extra click or two to learn about the person behind the site. Chris Ferdinandi uses a good tactic that you might like to try. He offers a little bit of info about himself and offers a way to click through to learn more about him.
6. Are font colors in the sidebars/widgets totally a function of the theme or can they be manipulated? I know how to do it in the post editing.
99% of things can be manipulated, but there are many variables involved. Some themes offer different “skins” or color selections, but many do not.
7. What are your thoughts about how many “extras” to include? Fill up the pages with “stuff” or more white space?
I need a little more clarification on this one. :-)
8. How do you suggest getting people to network their blogs with yours on Facebook so that the “Networked Blogs” area is fuller?
If you find someone who has the option to network like you want to, be proactive. Add yourself to their list and send along a short message telling them what you like about their site. Most people will reciprocate as long as you are personable and can give an honest reason for wanting to be networked together.
9. How do you get statistics? I’m sure they are around somewhere if I could find them . . .
There are multiple options on this. First, sign up for a Google Analytics account. Depending on your theme, there may be a place on the back end to plug in your Analytics code. If not, you will have to manually plug in the code, but it takes about thirty seconds to do once you have your code. If you prefer something more quick/easy AFTER you have set up your Google Analytics, check out WP stats. You can get your stats in your home admin page and it gives you a quick glance at how you’re doing.
10. Content – what are YOUR ideas? I have seen big conflicts in this area – some bloggers suggest more edgy, “in your face” content to make it interesting and fresh, some people feel a more reasoned approach is better. How much should the blogger worry about offending someone, and for how long?
There are a hundred directions you can go with your writing (short, long, bold, vanilla, researched, opinionated, etc.). The important thing is to be yourself. One of the things people tell me often is that I write the same way I speak in person. I always get a thrill from hearing that. If people don’t like you, there’s nothing you can fake to change that opinion. If people do like you, you’d prefer them to like you for being yourself, right?
11. Firstly, how can I manage the permanent nature of some of this world (i.e. my comments now are attributable to my career wherever that is in 10 years!) and how I balance my professional, senior Government job in line with that. I’m happy enough disconnecting my HR thoughts from my employers by way of disclaimer, but I still think that making me “googleable” needs to be managed thoughtfully when tackling those somewhat hairy issues that arise in HR!
That’s a great question. I haven’t given it a lot of thought. Things are “googleable,” but unless it’s posted somewhere that you can’t edit, you can change a post or page on your blog and Google will rewrite the old content eventually. If you’re looking for tips on how to balance a public sector job with a publicly discoverable blog, I suggest you contact Lisa Rosendahl. She is a good friend of mine who works in the public sector and has written a blog for a number of years. She would be an invaluable resource on that. My opinion is that some companies or employers will hold your blogging against you whether it’s a benign, informational post or a “hairy issue” one. I have a friend who was told by her employer that she should start doing work at night since she has so much time to blog!
12. I’m not 100% sure how to initially pitch my blog and that. I’m a public servant, but want to try and break down that mould and show that we are HR professionals first and public servants in name only – HR is HR! But in doing this, I want to take some of my more conservative contemporaries with me and not disconnect them too early. I’m pretty high up in a large Govt department and think I can really make a difference in HR across the public sector, particularly in Australia.
Finding your niche or blog focus is the most important part about getting started. You can write and ramble on a dozen topics, but most people come to you for a specialty. I talked my local SHRM chapter into starting a blog that I write for. I look at it much the same way as you. I want to capture the attention of the day-to-day HR professionals in the trenches, but I also want to provide some social media training wheels to help them expand their horizons. It sounds like you have a great platform to speak from. One of the most important parts of blogging is authority. The fantastic resource Authority Rules can elaborate on that. You have credibility with a lot of people because of your daily actions. Spreading that to a blog would be a great way to help you start strong.
13. And thirdly, I’m making sure I don’t launch into it and then have nothing else to blog about (or time probably more so), and leave it 6 months between blogs. Once I start I want to remain consistent… With the new year coming up, it’s great incentive to start the new year with a bang and make sure I’m blogging early 2010 (if not sooner).
Writing and promoting is the main ongoing pressure with blogging. If you’re worried about not having ideas, you would be surprised what can prod your brain into motion. I wrote about 20+ ideas for inspiring creativity recently. I think you will find that helpful. There’s no set “schedule” for writing, but once a week is the bare minimum if you want some traffic. The more often you post, the more traffic you’ll get, but you need to balance it with your preferences and time constraints. I post three times a week. It takes me about two hours to write those posts usually (depending on length). I spend those hours on Saturday or Sunday and write everything ahead of time. Then I schedule the posts to go live on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’ve tried writing during the week, and it is stressful to try to finish a post just before it goes live. Everyone has their preferences, but try to write during your golden hour(s). That really helps.
14. What are some basic rules about copyright infringements: what is illegal to post, what is just unacceptable?
I need a little more to go on with this one. Are you talking about borrowing material from others? If so, there is a neat little logo on a lot of blogs (not on mine yet, but I’m working on it!) for the Creative Commons License. Check out my friend April‘s blog for an example. Look down on the right sidebar until you see the CC license. It means you can use any of their work as long as you link back to the original source. If you’re talking about images in posts, you can do the same thing through the Flickr Creative Commons area. You use a photo from Flickr’s site and give a link in the post back to the photographer. If that doesn’t answer your question, let me know.
15. How do you create a website that looks like it was not created by Blogger? Through WordPress?
Creating a site that doesn’t look like Blogger is very tough. Creating one that doesn’t look like WordPress is much easier (as long as you’re using a self-hosted and not a wordpress.com blog). For some examples that don’t look like WordPress, check out the CAREEREALISM site. My previous theme looked much different, and you couldn’t really tell it was WordPress unless you checked the source code. There are literally thousands of WP themes out there for free, and you can definitely find a lot of them that aren’t clones of the default WP theme.
16. Can I use WordPress even though I have domain name I bought through Google?
You should be able to use WordPress on any site. If you have the domain and some sort of hosting, you are good to go. I bought one of my domains through Dreamhost, and I bought another through GoDaddy. All you have to do is transfer the domain to the hosting company you choose and you’re off to the races.
17. Tips on SEO would be great as well.
This is too big of a question to answer in a single paragraph. :-) I’ll get you more on this soon enough.
18. I loaded a wordpress plugin that is supposed to change the font size on my blog, but I have not been able to get it to work.
I’ll check and see if I can help you with this one privately. I’m not a plugin developer, but I may be able to wrangle up some help.
19. I am also interested in building my subscriber base. I am doing the regular stuff such as commenting on blogs, guest blogging, article marketing, participating in group writing projects.
We will look at your current subscription squeeze page (if you have one) or help you make one if you aren’t using one.
20. My blog is an educational one and a niche one http://theinvisiblementor.com so I am always looking for new things to write about in my niche. I focus on learning, reading, knowledge, ideas, creativity, mentoring, and professional development.
With that wide of a focus, topics should be fairly easy to come by. Just know that wide-ranging focus won’t net as many hardcore fans as a tight niche. Chris Guillebeau calls this your “small army.”
21. I’d like suggestions on Feedburner i started one but can’t figure out how to access and manage it and add it to my page. i went through the google.feedburner site and it is weird.
The first thing you should do if you’re thinking about setting up a feed is go to Feedburner and burn your site’s feed. The difference between Feedburner’s feed and your site’s built-in feed is that you can keep up with the number of subscribers in your Feedburner menu. If you choose not to use Feedburner, people can still subscribe with the other feeds, but you can’t track it on your end. (hint: although you may not think about tracking it now, you will want it in the future. Every single time I figured I wouldn’t need something, it came back to bite me on the butt. Get it now while you’re not too far along.) Many WordPress themes have a built-in menu to input your RSS feed link. If you can’t find it in your theme options, you may have to play with some code. I don’t know if it’s built into your theme or not. If you need me to see if I can fix the code, just let me know.
22. I’m planning on blogging, got a few things set up but doing some planning around it because I don’t want to start/stop/start etc, want to have a plan around it so that I’m not just an intermittent voice in the corner of the world.
Planning is good. Too much is not. Many people plan and plan and plan and never get around to actually starting their blog. Set some long-term goals, make a few choices about things, and get rolling. For more info, check out 279 days to overnight success.
23. Perhaps you can help me to tighten the purpose and motivation for my blog. I am always refining the concept. I spent seven months becoming comfortable with the idea of blogging and I have only recently started to let people know about what I am doing, so now I am interested in getting subscribers.
24. I heard that tags and categories can help me in search engines. How do I do that?
In WordPress, you can add tags and categories to each post. They serve different purposes and should be treated differently. Lorelle is much more knowledgeable about tags and categories than I am.
25. I’d like to get more comments.
The comments are tough at times. Don’t remember the stat offhand, but something like 1% of readers comment at all. It’s sometimes hard to remember that 99% of your audience is silent, and the 1% that comments is the only representation of the audience that you do have. I’m absolutely thrilled when I receive a comment from someone who has never spoken before, because until that very moment, I never realized they were a reader.
26. I’m wondering how often to post.
Frequency is something that depends on your time commitment, comfort level, and various other factors. It’s an interesting balance. If you post too often, some people can’t handle the frequency and just drop the feed. If you post sparingly, readers who visit your site will stop doing so when they don’t see new content. I’ve settled into a 2-3 per week routine that seems to work well. My subscriber count and page view count has been rising steadily since I went from 2 to 3 per week.
It’s sometimes tough for me to remember, but many people never subscribe to your feed and end up reading the blog just by going to your site and finding new content. If that’s the case, then a daily post would not be too often (assuming you can keep up the pace). The important thing is to set expectations and live up to them. If you say you’re going to post 2x per week, do it. When people fall into the comfortable rhythm, then you know you’re doing it right. This has been debated many times. Check this post comparing two big time bloggers‘ posting preferences for more information.
27. I’m thinking about writing an eBook. Help?
I love talking about eBooks and helping others get theirs off the ground. If you’d like some coaching on that, feel free to contact me. The best resource I’ve found on how to launch an eBook is in this video.
28. I’d like to build my blog into a successful venture, but I don’t know what I need to do.
I won’t lie. It takes time and effort to make your blog successful, but you can shave some time off the learning curve with great resources like this book on how to build a blog. It’s a resource I use on a monthly basis to keep my site in good working order.