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Create Interactive Gadgets for Blogger with the improved API

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In recent times, Blogger has improved drastically in terms of interactivity, customization and new features. Most recently, we have been able to search for and add Google gadgets to our blogs directly through the Blogger dashboard, a feature which has now been rolled out to all Blogger blogs across the system.

On Thursday, Blogger announced several updated for the Gadget API which enables developers to create more interactive gadgets for use with the Blogger platform:

In addition to leveraging social data, gadgets can now access a blog’s post and comment feed via new JSON APIs. For example, with this data you could easily build a map gadget that maps the geo-location of posts, or a “Most Commented On” gadget that ranks posts by the number of comments they’ve received.

What’s more, we can also add our own Gadgets to the directory using an online submission form; this enables our gadgets to be visible in the Gadget directory within 30 minutes of submission, ready for Blogger users to add to their blogs with just a few clicks.

How are Gadgets Constructed?

Google (and Blogger) Gadgets are constructed in XML format, but don’t be put off developing gadgets if you have little knowledge of XML – it is easily possible to create a simple gadget if you have only a little knowledge of HTML!

A very simple gadget can be created using only a few lines of code. Let’s take a look at the “Hello World” example which is explained in the Google Gadget – Getting Started page:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<Module>
  <ModulePrefs title="hello world example" />
  <Content type="html">
     <![CDATA[
       Hello, world!
     ]]>
  </Content>
</Module>

This simple gadget will produce a message saying “Hello World” in the blog (or website) where it is installed.

This basic gadget includes the following components:

  • In line 1, we can see the XML specification for the gadget.
  • Line 2 includes the <Module> tag. This indicates that the XML file contains a gadget, and enables it to be processed as such.
  • Line 3 includes the <ModulePrefs> tag, which includes information about the gadget. In the above example, this tag cites only the title (“hello world example”). We can also include information about the Gadget’s author, a description and other optional information in this section.
  • Line 4 uses the <Content type> tag, which in this case defines the content of the gadget as HTML code.
  • The <![CDATA[ and ]]> tags are used to contain HTML and JavaScript code. Content between these tags typically defines the content and interactivity of the gadget, and for most developers will become the central focus of their gadgets interactivity.
  • The closing </Content> tag defines the end of the content section, while </Module> signifies the end of the Gadget’s code.

Constructing interactive gadgets for Blogger Blogs

When developing Gadgets for use in Blogger, we can use the API to access public post and comment data for the blog which is hosting the gadget. In the most basic forms, this enables us to retrieve and write a list of recent posts or comments for the blog in which the gadget is installed.

We can also access the Friend Connect API to provide social widgets which are interconnected with data produced by the blog on which the gadget is installed, for example, a widget which displays recent comments and highlights those which have been made by a friend of the viewer (see this example).

Some knowledge of JavaScript and JSON is crucial when developing interactive widgets which rely on the updated APIs.  You can find a complete guide to using JSON feeds with Google’s APIs here.

To utilize the APIs for the services on which your gadget will be based, you will need to include these APIs as “required features” in the code of your gadget, like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Module>
<ModulePrefs height="300" title="BlogSocial">
  <Require feature="opensocial-0.7"/>
  <Require feature="google.blog"/>
  <Require feature="skins"/>
  <Require feature="views"/>
 </ModulePrefs>

A full list of features which can be optionally required by Gadgets for Blogger can be found here.

Once you have specified the feature you require for your gadget, you will need to utilize JavaScript to parse and display the items within your gadget. This aspect of your gadget will depend highly on the features you wish to use.

Luckily, Blogger have provided a couple of examples using Blogger feeds, Friend Connect and Open Social features which you can browse through to see how these are constructed.

What new gadgets can we expect to see?

The Blogger Team recently asked Blogger users which gadgets they would most like to use for their blogs; this page details the most requested widgets, and now it is possible for developers to create many of these gadgets including:

  • A recent activity widget, based on Google Friend Connect
  • A popular posts widget based on the number of comments received for each post
  • Recent posts and/or comments in the sidebar (which could even be coded with tabbed navigation!).

Essentially, the list of possibilities are endless!

The updated API and knowledgebase for developers is still rather new, but with these new options available we can expect to see a whole host of new and interesting gadgets available especially for those using Google Blogger.

Want to learn more?

As an avid Blogger user and developer, I’m certainly interested in using the updated API to create some useful and interesting widgets for use in our blogs.

For my post next week, I will explain how to develop a simple Gadget for Blogger using the API for Blogger post and comment data which you can use as a base on which to develop your own interactive gadgets.

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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The Ultimate Checklist To Grow Your Blog in 2019

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Perhaps you’re here because you’ve had a blog for a long time now, but you feel like it’s just not growing as you hoped it would. The good news, however, is that you aren’t alone. Even blogs that you think are “famous” may have also gone through this same challenge. Fortunately, there are many tricks you can apply to help your blog reach its fullest potential. These are doable, and with a little help from experts, you’re sure to achieve the growth you’ve been dreaming of.

Here’s a checklist you can follow:

  1. Venture Into Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the most effective strategies in digital marketing, which you can also apply on your blogs. Affiliate marketing refers to the act of partnering with companies and businesses that are looking for bloggers who are willing to try out and promote their products and services. In the beginning, you might not be able to reach more prominent brands and companies, but if you keep going, affiliate marketing can also be very effective in helping your blog grow in terms of audience reach. The more you network with affiliates, the more traffic comes to your site.To provide you more insights on digital and affiliate marketing, read through this digital marketing checklist.

  1. Link With Other Bloggers

In the blogging industry, success isn’t so much about competing with each other. In fact, there’s a lot you can achieve by simply linking with other bloggers as well. This means that, from time to time, you create posts that allow you to connect with others in the industry, or you create collaboration posts with other bloggers. That way, you’re both doing each other a favor by expanding each other’s blogs to the current networks that you both have, much like exchanging gifts.

Here are other ways for you to also link or engage with other bloggers:

  • Comment on the posts of other bloggers
  • Mention other bloggers in your posts
  • Engage in the social media pages of other bloggers

 

  1. Create Detailed Content

Especially if you’re writing about solutions to common problems of your viewers, be very detailed about it. Readers want to have answers as soon as they visit your website. Without clear, actionable content, you’re not only going to lose one reader, but you’re going to lose others as well.

Some of the best strategies you can employ to ensure detailed content are the following:

  • If you’re talking about technical or serious matters, include statistics and case studies
  • Stay away from broad statements that are going to leave your readers guessing
  • Whenever you can, include actionable and real data. (e.g. Climate change is expected to hit a _____ mark by 2020. To combat this, one of the things you can do is…)

While the optimum length of every blog post should still be around 500 to 2,000 words, this doesn’t mean that you cannot put in detail. Never write and post anything haphazardly. Be sure to do your fair share in researching beforehand.

 

  1. Enable Social Media Sharing

If you’re a blogger, you’d know it’s inevitable to also have social media accounts. If you can, go for the three major social media pages, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. The more active you are on social media, the more effective you become as well. Keep in mind the following techniques in terms of social media posting:

  • Keep a fixed schedule of when you usually post new content. This will make it easier for your visitors to expect new posts. Through this, you can also build anticipation among your readers.
  • As you schedule your content posting, also factor in the usual available time of your target market. For instance, if your blog is about parenting, you might want to post at night, when all mommy duties have been done for the day, and they can check their social media.
  • Refrain from posting every hour. Keep your posts within a healthy interval so that your followers won’t become bored or even annoyed. At least every other day is enough to keep your followers excited.

What you can do is post an update on each social media account when you also have a new blog. Link your blog post to your social media post so you can draw traffic to your website. With social media, it’s also easier for your followers to share and spread the word about your content. By simply clicking the share button, they’re able to post this on their social media sites as well.

Conclusion

When you strive to make your blog perform better, it shouldn’t end only with the growth per se. You also have a more significant task to fulfill, which is to apply the necessary strategies that are going to motivate your readers to keep coming back. These above-mentioned tips can help you achieve these two goals. Now you can be on your way towards running your blog to its fullest potential.

 

 

 

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Blogging

7 Reasons Nobody is Reading Your Blog

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Blogging is tough work. It’s not backbreaking labor like ditch digging, but it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.

It may consume hours, days, weeks, and months of dedication before you see results. Even with a solid commitment of time and creative energy, results aren’t guaranteed. It’s not just about coming out with new content, it’s more about coming out with content that is of real value, will rank in Google, and that people are actually going to read and share.

Millions of blogs are humming along on the Internet, but only a fraction could be termed successful. If you have a blog and it has no significant readership to speak of, there are a few possible explanations.

1 – You Write About Things People Don’t Care About

“It’s easy when you first start blogging to act like your blog is an online journal. While your blog should be personalized, it should be focused on your reader,” copywriter Michael Leonard explains.

“People, for the most part, only care about themselves. As a content creator, it’s your responsibility to give the reader what they want.”

If you’re only writing about yourself, people will eventually tune out. The best thing you can do is to switch your focus to topics your audience is passionate about. Not sure what that might be? Go ahead and ask your existing readers for their input on topic selection.

2 – You Lack a Consistent Voice

Consistency is a huge facet of blogging success. People need to feel they’re encountering the same voice, style, and personality one post to the next. If there’s too much variety in style and content, you’ll fail to resonate with readers and eventually they’re apt to wander elsewhere.

3 – You Have No Social Media Presence

Blogging and social media go hand in hand these days. If you don’t have a social media presence, you’re missing out on the opportunity to expand your blog readership (and vice versa).

Instead of trying to be on every social media platform that exists, spend your time focusing on one or two platforms (such as Instagram or Facebook). By pouring all your energy into building up audiences on these channels, you’ll be much more likely to see a positive impact on your blog.

4 – You’ve Never Done SEO

SEO might be a bit technical for your taste, but it’s still essential. Without an SEO strategy, you won’t be able to capitalize on organic search traffic.

This will leave you 100 percent reliant on paid and/or social traffic … and that will damage your results and lower your chance of building a flourishing audience.

5 – You’ve Never Invested in Link Building

In order to satisfy Google’s algorithm and prove you have an authoritative website that’s worth turning up in the search rankings, you have to demonstrate that you’re a trusted source for content. One of the ways to do this is by developing a link-building strategy.

Link building is the process of acquiring backlinks from other authoritative websites to your own. Though you can do this manually, it’s far more efficient and cost-effective to hire a white-label link-building service like SEO.co.

This approach frees you to focus on the content side, without neglecting the optimization facet of the equation.

6 – You’re All Words and No Visuals

All words and no visuals is a recipe for supreme boredom. If you aren’t careful, it’ll destroy your audience and leave you with an echo chamber of a blog.

As tough as it may be to swallow, accept the fact that people will likely read only an average of 20 percent of the content on your page. In other words, the average person will ignore 80 percent of your blog content.

Much of this depends on the limited nature of the human attention span. The quickest way to get past this is to incorporate some visuals to provide some relief and boost engagement.

“Visual elements jump off the page,” Quick Sprout explains. “If someone is scanning through your blog post, they’ll likely stop at the images. They’ll skim the first few lines before and after the picture to digest your points of emphasis.”

You don’t have to change your entire blogging strategy, but it’s wise to give some attention to visuals. An occasional infographic or video will go a long way with your audience.

7 – You Don’t Post Enough

You don’t have to post a blog piece every day to be successful. But if you’re uploading only one every few weeks, you’re forfeiting your opportunity to engage an audience.

As a general rule, you should post at least three times a week. This means you’ll have to generate something once every two days (with an occasional lapse of an extra day or two). At that rate, you’re most apt to stay at the front of your readers’ minds without overwhelming them.

Develop Your Blogging Strategy

Publishing a random blog post here and another casual commentary there isn’t going to get you the results you desire … no matter how good the content might be. You need a defined strategy that delivers high value to a specific group of readers in a manner that’s consistent with your brand personality and objectives.

One would hope this article has opened your eyes to what that can look like moving forward.

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Blogging

Beware Trying to Profit Solely through these 2 Travel Blogging Income Streams

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Sponsored post revenue.

Ad revenue.

Until you build a huge, loyal readership, who gobbles up your posts left and right, sponsors have little interest in advertising on your blog. Sponsors want maximum bang for their blogging buck. Advertisers want to get their business in front of as many interested, hungry eyes as possible. Imagine an advertiser paying for a television spot. Why? Businesses wish to receive massive exposure in front of hundreds of thousands to millions of interested people who will buy their product or service.

If this makes sense on television, why would you believe a sponsor would pay you money for the 10 people a day who read your new blog? Why would you believe advertisers would pay money for the 40 daily, un-targeted, non-engaged visitors to your blog? Advertisers have no interest spending money in a campaign that cannot work. Business owners do not pay bloggers to advertise their venture for 10 non targeted visitors daily. Why then do travel bloggers try to profit solely through both sponsored post and advertising channels if most get 10, 50 or maybe 100 visitors daily, to their blogs? Especially if said blogs lack engagement and targeting, you will not make a cent of ad revenue and sponsored revenue until you build a large, loyal following.

Building large, loyal followings takes time, energy and a certain generosity. Few bloggers put in the time and energy. Few bloggers generate significant sponsored post and ad revenue. But most travel bloggers see top travel bloggers raking in sponsored revenue, imitate the top pros, rely on these 2 income streams and struggle horribly to make income because sponsored post and ad revenue are only reliable, consistent income streams for bloggers with huge, targeted followings.

Try this Instead

Write and self-publish eBooks.

I wrote a travel blogger eBook to help you become a full time travel blogger. Although I do generate more and more sponsored post and advertising revenue, self-publishing eBooks allows consistent income to flow to me while I see more sponsored opportunities appear in my email inbox.

Convert the eBooks to audio books. Sell audio books to generate consistent income. Convert the eBooks to paperbacks. Sell the paperbacks to generate income. Create and sell online courses. Engage in affiliate marketing.

Most importantly, be generous and genuine. Help people freely in as many spots as possible. Be of service. Be helpful. Write and publish posts to your blog. Write and publish guest posts. Broadcast live videos on Facebook and YouTube. Publish a podcast. Being generous in many spots online boosts income because you gain the skills and exposure to become a known commodity in your blogging niche. Why do you think I guest post in so many spots daily? I love helping people and also know each post builds my skills and increases my exposure. The more folks know me, and the more folks who see I can write, income flows to me through all channels. But I never relied solely on sponsored post and ad revenue as a blogging tips and travel blogger because income does not flow through those channels until you build a large, loyal following. That takes time.

Diversify and Prosper

Diversify income streams. Be generous in helping people and in giving people options. Some of my readers prefer listening to audio books over reading eBooks. Some readers prefer reading eBooks over listening to audio books. I cater to their preferences and earn more income as my sponsored post and ad revenue grows.

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