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7 Reader Friendly Methods of Improving your Blogger Blog

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Make Blogger Reader FriendlyBlogger is probably the easiest blogging platform for authors to use. Yet by default, Blogger powered blogs are not quite so friendly for blog readers.

Default templates, an awkward commenting system and Atom (rather than RSS) feeds can often make new readers feel a little uncomfortable.

In this post, I’ll offer you seven different methods you could use to make your own Blogger blogs more friendly for your readers, which in turn can help establish a more faithful readership.

1. Ensure your blog is easily recognizable

There are only a handful of default Blogger templates available to use. Since Blogger has millions of active users around the world, you can be sure that hundreds (at least) will be using these same templates as the visual basis of their blogs.

To make sure your blog stands out from the crowd, you need to ensure your design is in some way unique.

Even the simplest of blog template tweaks: a custom header image, can go a long way to establishing a unique identity. You can easily change the default header image to one which you have designed yourself in the Page Elements section of your Blogger dashboard. Simply click on the “Edit” link for your header widget, and choose to upload your custom-made header image from your computer.

You may also like to consider changing your template to a non-standard one. These days there are hundreds of free Blogger templates you could choose to use instead of the boring default templates provided by Blogger (here is a list of 101 excellent designs to get you started). But again, it is advisable to tweak some element of your template to suit your own needs and ensure the visual appearance is unique to your blog.

2. Redirect your Blogger Feeds through Feedburner

By default, Blogger’s feeds are in Atom.xml format. While modern web browsers may be able to detect these feeds automatically, the feed link leads to the basic Atom file which appears like a page full of unformatted code and offers no indication to uninitiated readers of the subscription methods available.

A much better alternative is to redirect your Blogger feeds through Feedburner. This will allow you to optimize your feed, making it far easier for readers to subscribe. You can also use Feedburner to offer email subscriptions: great for readers who are unfamiliar with RSS or who prefer to read posts in a daily digest along with their regular email.

All you really need to do is set up your free Feedburner account and note down your new feed URL which appears something like this:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/YOUR-FEED-NAME

Then go to Settings>Site Feed in your Blogger dashboard, and paste this URL into the “Post Feed Redirect URL” box, then save your new settings.

Once you’ve done this, Blogger will automatically redirect your feeds through Feedburner, ensuring your blog readers have a much easier time subscribing to your blog!

3. Ensure Readers can Easily Subscribe

In addition to burning your Blogger feeds through Feedburner, it is advisable to add a subscription button to your Blogger template.

Most blogs feature an RSS subscription button in an easy to spot location which links to their feed URL. This helps readers understand the ease of which they are able to subscribe for updates, particularly if this is accompanied by a brief explanation or a link to a subscription page.

Unless the majority of your blog readers are technologically savvy, you may also like to add an email subscription form (or link) to your template. Many readers are unfamiliar with the benefits of RSS, so offering this alternative method of updates will be warmly welcomed.

4. Make it Easy for Readers to Comment

Blogger’s comment system is a source of contention for many. By default, Blogger comments are set to only allow registered users to leave comments on blog posts. This means that only those who have registered a Google account will be able to comment, preventing a great proportion of your visitors from participating in the conversation flowing from your posts.

Unless you blog specifically about Blogger for those who use Blogger, my advice would be to allow anyone (or at least those with Open ID identities) to comment on your posts. This setting will ensure you don’t place such restrictions on your blogs, thus putting many people off from even visiting in the future, let alone add the value of a comment to your post!

To change the comment settings for your Blogger powered blog, simply go to Settings>Comments in your Blogger dashboard. My advice would be to change the settings for who can comment to one of the following:

  • Anyone (includes Anonymous Users)
  • Only registered users (includes OpenID)

If you are anxious about spammers hijacking your comments, you may prefer to add word verification or moderate all of your comments, rather than allow these comments to be immediately published. Your readers will surely understand these precautions against comment spam, and will be more understanding than if you simply restricted commenting to those who have and use a Google account!

Another method of ensuring comments are “reader friendly” is to have the comment form open in a pop-up box, rather than load this into the same page.

This setting ensures that readers can easily get back to the page they were previously reading after leaving a comment. While the full-page comment screen does feature a link back to the original post, it is rather ambiguous! Make it easy for your readers to get back to reading your posts by changing this setting in the Settings>Comments page in your Blogger dashboard instead!

5. Add Static Pages and Navigation Buttons

As I wrote in a previous post, blog readers can benefit from easy access to important pages in your blog, such as an “About” or “Contact” page.

Adding such “static pages” to your Blogger blog offers readers an easy method of accessing this information.

By default, Blogger does not allow us to create such pages from within our dashboards (as in the case of WordPress and other blogging systems). Instead, we should create these pages as posts, then link to these pages from somewhere within the blog template.

You can read full instructions for this in the “Create Static Pages in Blogger Blogs” post. Try it for yourself; I’m sure your readers will be thankful for the difference in usability!

6. Add a Search Box to Help Readers Locate Posts of Interest

A search box is one of the easiest methods your blog readers can locate posts of interest, but this is a feature which is so often overlooked!

The easiest method of adding search functionality to your blogger powered blog is to add a search widget to your sidebar. Currently this feature is only available in Blogger in Draft though it will soon be rolled out into the mainstream usage of Blogger.

To add a search widget to your Blogger blog, simply log in to Blogger in Draft. Click on the Layout tab, then choose to add a new “Gadget” to your blog’s sidebar.

In the “Basic” gadget list, you will see the link to add a search box as an option. In the pop-up page, there are a few options for the search functionality you would like to use, including searching the web, or searching your blogroll.

Choosing to only search your own blog is probably the best option for those who prefer readers to stay on their own site though!

Once you have configured your preferred options, simply add this widget to your sidebar. The resulting search box is powered by Google and will create a search box which appears above the main posts section in your blog.

This search box will be really useful for readers to locate posts of interest without the need of scouring through your long archives or labels pages. It is particularly useful too if you have chosen to remove Blogger’s nav-bar from your design!

7. Remove Clutter from Your Layout

Readers have a much easier time navigating through your content if they don’t need to filter through clutter in the sidebar or on your front page!

Take a look at the widgets and scripts you use in your Blogger blog. Are they all really necessary? Do they add value for your readers, and are you able to maintain and use all of them to their best advantage?

If not, get rid of them! While it may seem like a good idea to feature links to dozens of blog directories, blog schemes and interactive widgetry in your sidebar, your readers may not feel the same way.

From experience, I can honestly say that such links don’t actually add much value or generate more readers to your blog. Too many can in fact have the opposite effect and drive your readers away, especially if such widgets have an impact on your page loading time!

In the same sense, it is a good idea to limit the posts which appear on your front page. Too many posts can have a great impact on the time it takes for your blog to load. I’d suggest that between 5 and 7 posts of average length is a good number to appear on your blog’s home page. If your posts are very long or use a large number of images, you may prefer to make this even less.

Readers will certainly prefer to navigate through previous posts or use your search box to locate other posts of interest than scroll endlessly down the page to read previous articles.

What would you add?

I hope this post has offered some good starting points to help you decide how to make your Blogger powered blog become “reader friendly”.

What other ideas do you have which could ensure Blogger blogs are more friendly for their readers? Please let us know by leaving your comments and suggestions below.

Amanda is a freelance blogger and web/blog designer. She writes about Blogger at www.BloggerBuster.com and maintains several other blogs on various subjects.

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7 Habits That Can Make You a More Efficient Blogger

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Starting a blog is exciting, whether you’re using it as an extension to promote your current business or you’re just trying to maintain the blog as a personal endeavor. In any case, part of your success will depend on your ability to write new blog posts at an efficient rate; if you aren’t producing new blog posts fast enough, your audience could lose interest in your content. Similarly, if it takes you too long to write a new blog post, your profitability is going to decrease.

The solution is to focus on improving your efficiency as a blogger, so you can accomplish more in less time and end up with more raw content as a result.  

The Best Habits to Improve Your Efficiency

These are some of the best habits to improve your efficiency as a blogger:

  1. Dress professionally. If you’re working from home or blogging in your free time, you’ll be tempted to wear the most comfortable clothes and lounge in the living room while writing. But if you want to be successful and work efficiently, it’s much better to dress professionally and establish a professional work area. The idea is to treat your blog work like it’s your job. You’ll take your work more seriously, and you’ll be less inclined to follow distractions. It may also change how you think about your work and how you approach problem-solving.
  2. Practice good hygiene. While you’re at it, make sure to practice good hygiene—especially if blogging is your full-time job. The most obvious habit here is to shower regularly, but you’ll also want to keep your clothes clean, take good care of your environment, or as 14K Gold Teeth suggests, clean accessories like custom gold grillz. You’ll feel more professional in your environment and will have less clutter to distract you.
  3. Stick to a routine. Routines are vital for improving your efficiency. They help you establish consistent processes, which you can follow to save time and refine your habits. They give you something predictable to work with, so you aren’t scrambling to figure out what to work on next. They also reinforce your most productive habits, so you can continue working without thinking too much about it—in other words, they’re procrastination-busters.
  4. Set a strict schedule. While you’re developing your routine, try to create and stick to a strict schedule. For example, you might set a timer for one hour to read the latest news, a half hour designated to preparing an outline, and another hour to finish your full first draft. These temporal limitations help you avoid Parkinson’s law, which states that the amount of time it takes to do a task will swell to fill whatever amount of time is allotted to it; in other words, the tighter you set your timetables, the more efficiently you’ll be motivated to work.
  5. Keep an editorial calendar. Create a high-level editorial calendar as early as possible, and stick to it the best you can. This will help you ensure your high-level goals and priorities never fall out of your sight, and make sure you never run out of work. Set target dates for drafting and publication, so you’re always working toward something, and jot down your new topic ideas whenever you get them.
  6. Stay organized. This should go without saying, but the vast majority of new bloggers suffer from not being organized. They read new material that could serve as inspiration for a new post, but lose the original article. They set goals for themselves, but forget them or change them too frequently for them to take effect. Create a system for taking notes and keeping track of your high-level priorities, and stick to it.
  7. Keep reading on a regular basis. Reading is one of the best ways to consistently and reliably improve your writing, so make time for it in your schedule. Reading work like yours can help you generate new ideas, improve your vocabulary, and increase your fluency, so you can write faster.

Learning and Improving

It’s a good idea to track your time while working on blog-related tasks. It will allow you to gather data on your productivity habits, and ideally, see how they improve over time. If there’s a particular task that takes up a disproportionate amount of your time, you can drop it or focus specifically on improving it. If you notice a strategy is making you more efficient in one or more areas, you can use it more frequently or apply it to different areas.

In any case, the real secret to becoming a more efficient blogger is committing to improve over time. Pay attention to how your habits develop, and continually refine your approach.

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Oh, Now I Get It! How to Explain Complex Topics to Your Audience

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Technical writers have a great number of skills, but perhaps the most important is the ability to adapt your language to the level of comprehension your audience has. A highly technical and complex article can overwhelm readers or even bore them.

“But it’s impossible to delight my readers and keep them engaged when I’m talking about the

IEEE 802.11ac principle of broadband technology,” We hear you cry. And, we get it. Turning a technical article into a sexy piece of content can feel like a daunting task, but it’s not mission impossible.

Here are a few content creation tips that will help you explain complex topics to your audience in a delightful manner.

Imagine That You Are Explaining the Subject to a Non-Tech-Savvy Friend

One of the most important things when creating technical content for a more broad audience is consistency. So, as much as possible try to use the same tone, level of knowledge, complexity of vocabulary, and so on. The easiest way to calibrate your writing style is to imagine that you are writing for a friend or a relative that has nothing to do with your area of expertise.

Imagine you are trying to explain a particularly complex topic to them, in a friendly and light discussion. How would you approach the subject? What elements you think would bore or frustrate them?

What helps you in the real world is adapting your style and vocabulary to the other person’s knowledge. You know that you don’t have to explain what an Internet browser does, but you might have to tell them more about the coding behind it when discussing responsive web design, for instance. Use common words and keep them engaged with a lighter, friendly style.

Adapt Your Vocabulary and Structure

Let’s take a look at how you can flip your technical writing to be more approachable. First of all: use concepts that your audience is familiar with or at least has a general idea about them.

A good start is to check what search words visitors use when browsing your website. You will identify commonly used terms that are related to the technology that interests them. Use those keywords yourself to keep visitors on your page.

Also, be careful about the structure of the text when writing online, especially when you are trying to explain something complex. Make sure to split your text into readable chunks. You can also help the reader understand the subject better by using titles and subtitles to separate the main ideas of your article.

Build up the Knowledge of Your Audience, from General to Detailed

Once you have established a common language and vocabulary between you and your target audience, start methodically presenting your topic, from general level information to more detailed aspects. Applying this rule will help you readers understand the topic better without wasting too much time. Online readers tend to ignore content that is, irrelevant or hard to understand.

While it is important to get the basics straight before getting deeper into your subject, make sure to summarize the purpose of your article at the very beginning, as it will let your audience know what they will learn about after going through it.

Use Style Tools That Help Your Audience Relate to the Topic

The fun part of writing about technical topics for a general audience is getting creative with it. Because you can’t use the “boring,” “stiff” technical jargon, you must come up with expressive comparisons, examples, and analogies. You can even evoke anecdotal evidence to support the facts since they are highly relevant for many of the users.

Helping them relate to the topic you are writing about is the key to grabbing their attention. Use day to day examples for the systems and processes you are describing, or mention the best-known similar thing. Give them examples of possible situations when they can come across the topic you are writing about and enable them to talk about it themselves.

Ultimately, is all about correctly identifying the level of knowledge your audience has. Encourage them to comment and ask any questions and keep the conversations alive.

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IT Management Solutions: What is the Key to Improving Employee Efficiency?

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There are many ways you can improve your employees’ efficiency. From decluttering the workspace to encouraging a stress-free environment, there is a whole range of things you can do to make your work life run smoother. One such technique you need to adopt for your company is an IT management solution.

What Does It Do?

An IT management solution such as SysAid takes all of the day-to-day programs that a business will use and consolidates them into one easy-to-use package. Every employee should be able to log on and complete all their work without having to leave the initial program.

It can contain such subsections as project management, customer relationship management, billing and invoicing, and a whole host of other features.

Why Should Employers Implement Such a Solution?

A system such as this allows managers to have better visibility over the company as a whole. They will be able to tell if an employee is completing their daily tasks to the best of their ability and will also allow them to see where they are lacking.

The data from the completion of these daily tasks can easily be tracked and analyzed to see where employees are struggling with efficiency. With some adjustments, efficiency can then be improved in these areas.

Project Management

One of the key reasons to install an IT management solution is for the project management aspects. A good project management program lets all employees know where they are with their projects at all times. Whether you are just working on the project or a project manager, you will be able to see the stage that the project is at and all the steps and processes that still need to be completed.

This collaborative nature helps improve speed and efficiency and stops the project becoming grounded in a lack of communication. If you are not yet using a project management system, you will notice that many small but important problems like misuse of resources will be greatly reduced.

Customer Relationship Management

By having your customer service staff use one portal for all their needs, you will see a great improvement in efficiency when it comes to handling customer enquiries. An IT management solution can contain a database with all your customer’s information. This means that if a case needs to be passed from one team member to another, there is little to no chance of any relevant information being lost in the transfer. Everything should be in place in the one database.

Invoicing and Billing

Keeping your various accounts and invoices in different places can lead to items being forgotten or double-charged. By using an IT management software, your managers and accountants will be able to successfully keep track of all costs and reduce unnecessary spending. This will improve efficiency as multiple enquires are not being made to complete invoices and other reports.

There are just some of the ways an IT management solution can improve your business. If you feel you need to improve your company’s efficiency, consider implementing one today.

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