Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wax on, Wax off: 5 Tips to Make Your Blog Shine

You've got a great blog full of wonderful content. You promote it and see decent traffic. Or not. Regardless, it can only help to polish up your site with these 5 easy tips to make your blog shine.

5 Tips to Make Your Blog Shine: Give your blog that extra polish!

1. Social Media Icons

If you have a blog, you should have a presence on at least some social media outlets. Make it easy for your subscribers to like/follow/friend you by having a nice set of social media icons in the upper right hand corner of your blog. Search Google Images for social media icons and find a set that matches your style. There are plenty of free ones you can download as well as some paid ones or even some you can have custom-designed to match your blog.

Tip: even if you're not active on many social media sites now, try to find a set with a robust selection of icons. If you join a social media site down the road, it's going to be super annoying when you realize your set doesn't include their icon.

And be sure one of these icons links to your good old-fashioned email address. Many people (like me!) still prefer to contact people via email and it's beyond frustrating to see stuff like "I love to hear from my readers!" or "Contact me with your pitch" on a site and then not be able to find the contact information. Make it easy!

2. Pin-It Widget

If you're not on Pinterest, you really should be! At a minimum, I recommend setting up an account for fun and then figuring out your strategy from there. (Here are some great articles about it: Get More Followers, How I Increased My Blog's Traffic, and 10 Do's and Don'ts.) But even before you're on Pinterest, it can't hurt to let other people promote your blog on your behalf via Pinterest. Make it easy for them by using the Pin-It Widget. It's slightly technical but don't be scared! Pinterest provides instructions or you can always ask a techie friend to help.

3. Favicon

You know that little icon the shows up in the browser tab and when you bookmark a site? You can personalize yours to set you apart from the crowd. There are just a few steps:

1. Create the image. The image itself needs to be square (for example, 200x200) but if the interesting part of your image isn't square, then it's best to use a transparent background. Here's mine:
Favicon for

2. Convert your file to the favicon file type, which is .ico. You can use this free favicon generator.

3. Upload it to your site. Blogger has an easy upload tool in the header part of the Layout section. I don't know how it works for other blogging software but you can probably search for it in their Help section or Google it. If it's your own website or you're hosting your own domain, you can upload the .ico file to the main directory on your server.

You might have to clear your browser's cache in order to see your beautiful changes.

4. Feature your best content/categories

Since a blog is chronological, new visitors to your site might not see all the awesome stuff you've written in the past. Make it easy for them with the following tips:

1. Add links along the top of your blog that go to either categories or pages on your site.

2. Add links to your sidebar that lead to your site's best content. Maybe your DIY posts are always a hit, so you can link to that entire subcategory. Maybe you have one post that always gets a lot of traffic, so you can link directly to that post. Take it one step further by representing this link with a snazzy image. On my blog, I've created a Top Stories page that highlights my top posts, and I link to it from my an image in my sidebar: Best of Vicki Lesage.

3. Use labels wisely. By categorizing each of your posts, you make it easy for people to find all your posts on the same theme. But I see many sites that overdo it. If your label only has one post in it (e.g. "Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Recipe") you might want to remove that label and recategorize your post into something broader (e.g. "Thanksgiving", "Holidays", or "Recipe").

5. Check Your Links

Remember that blogroll you set up when you started your blog and you added all sorts of other bloggers just to be nice? Take another look at that list and make sure that:

a) These are still people you want to be linking with. Do you still endorse their content? Do they update their blog regularly?
b) The links still work. I recommend using Xenu Link Sleuth (free, must download it, don't be overwhelmed--it's really easy to use) to periodically check all the links on your site.

Make Mr. Miyagi proud! Set your site apart from the rest by taking the time to make your blog shine. If you make things easy for your visitors, you'll see more success. Good luck!

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Vicki Lesage, Author