Discussion: I Know My Why…Now What?

Posted 10 May, 2013 by Amanda / 12 Comments

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Blogging is HARD. If you’ve ever searched for a road map only to come up empty handed, you’re not alone. (Re)Discovering the Basics chronicles one blogger’s (Gaby’s!) journey to finding her own way in the online world. Together, we’ll open the discussion on how we blog and what both new and established bloggers can learn from each other.

Amanda’s note: Today Gaby will give you items to include on your blog. For your convenience, I’ve made a pdf file that you can download of these items–and why they’re important. If you’d like to read the reasoning behind this discussion series, you can check out my interview with Gaby.

Last time we discussed WHY people blog. Now that you’ve got your reasons, let’s talk about all of the things you might want to consider when creating a blog (book or otherwise).

First and foremost, you have to pick a blogging platform. A LOT of people have written posts about Blogger vs. WordPress. I also know people use wix. Some bloggers just use Tumblr. There’s also the question of self-hosting. And guys? There’s no one right answer. Different things work for different people, but you should definitely do some research, ask around and decide what best suits you.

Once you’ve picked a platform, you need a blog name. The most important thing to remember is: BE UNIQUE. There are SO MANY blogs out there these days, so when you sit down to make your blog, consider your blog title carefully. Make sure it’s something that will stick in your reader’s mind – whether it’s catchy, it rhymes or it’s just really cute and clever. Then make sure no one’s already taken it. This may require lots of googling, but it’s worth it.

Also, most importantly: make sure your blog title is something you can live with. This blog is your baby and for branding (and other) reasons you shouldn’t change the name a ton of times. In my case, there was already a book blog called “Gabby Reads” and even though that’s not how I spell Gabby (G-A-B-Y, for the record), it doesn’t really matter. So I looked deep into my inner quirkiness and found Queen Ella Bee Reads, which is really a private joke I turned into royalty and a blog title. Do I feel silly sometimes? YOU BET. But I own it (I think?).

So you’ve got a unique blog title. The next step is to try and create a similarly unique design. Blogger and WordPress have a lot of preset designs and a lot of them are GREAT but they’re PRESETS. You don’t have to have a ton of design know how to mix it up a little. You can download new fonts from dafont, look for a more personalized background on Subtle Patterns and Google around for different images you can alter on PicMonkey. I also downloaded GIMP (it’s FREE!), but that’s a little more advanced. Truth? I didn’t really know what I was doing when I cobbled together my blog’s look, but these approaches really worked for me. I really did do a lot of Googling, so be prepared for that.

With that all said and done, it’s time to consider what features/widgets you want to have on your blog. What do I mean when I say features/widgets? I’m talking about your menu bar (which might include About Me and Policy pages), social media icons, different ways people can follow your blog (email, Bloglovin, etc)… All of those  little bits and bobs that make getting around your blog easier. You can look around Amanda’s blog or even hop on over to my blog to see what I’m talking about, but here’s a short list of things I think are important.

A Menu/Navigation Bar

Blogger calls this “Pages”. It lets you create multiple static pages on your blog such as an About Me, a Policies Page and so much more. About Me and Policy Pages are great because they let your readers know who you are, what you’re doing and what the rules of your blog are. Furthermore, a lot of book bloggers I know (including myself) find a Review Archive really handy when it comes to finding past reviews.

Blog Archive

Similar to a Review Archive, a Blog Archive will list everything you’ve written on your blog in a handy drop-down menu. This is really great if you haven’t been blogging very long, but it gets a little cluttered the longer you’ve been blogging. Either way, it definitely cuts down on the scrolling!

Social Media Icons

These make it easy to put links to all of the other places on the web your readers can find you. You can Google for free ones or even go on Etsy and buy custom ones. Either way, you can link up to your Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and about a dozen other places you might want to be found.

Search Bar

Want to find something on any given blog? Easy. Plug in a search term and VOILA!

Blog Following Options

GFC is on its way out, but there’s still about a million other ways to alert your readers about new blog posts. This is to help your readers but also to help YOU maintain readership.

Contact Info

Personally, I just have a social media icon that will open an email with my address in it. I know some people don’t like this because it can lead to spam. Either way, you should have some way your readers can contact you if they need to, whether with the aforementioned social media icon or with a built in contact form that doesn’t give away your email address.

Blog Roll

If a reader loves you lots, they might want to know who your friends are, so help them out!

These are just some things I find useful on my blog, but don’t just take MY word for it. I’ve asked 3 of my blogger friends to let me know what they think the most useful feature on their blog is, both for themselves AND for their readers!

Cassie @ Books with Cass

for ME – I need my review archive! It allows me to see everything I’ve reviewed and I can get a general sense of what I want to read more of – and even less of from that one page.

for MY READERS – I think the following/connect widget is most important. It allows people to find you everywhere.

Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books

for ME – It’s my review archive. I consider it important because it helps me when I’m writing reviews for books in a series (since I link up to old reviews), first of all. Apart from that, I generally get an idea of which authors I like to read (based on how many books I’ve read from them).

for MY READERS – It’s most likely the social media icons. I think it makes it easier for them to contact me through various means — and I hope they actually use it!

for AUTHORS/PUBLISHERS – Review policy, hands down. That way they know what they can expect from me.

Rachel @ Rachel Reads

for MY READERS – I think review archive is most important for readers

for ME – Social widgets are most valuable for me because it’s an easy way for me to let all the places I’m available be known.

There are no RULES to blogging, so if you don’t have one or more of these things happening on your blog, DON’T WORRY. But if you spent this post nodding or shaking your head at any of this, be sure to let me know your thinking in the comments below!

Filed under: Discussion,

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12 Responses to “Discussion: I Know My Why…Now What?”

  1. Most excellent points! Uniqueness is particularly prized, considering how many blogs there are out there. And the name! That took me forever to figure out my name and it wound up being not *exactly* what I was looking for but I’ve grown to love it.

  2. I’ve found the search bar to be one of the key things I look for on any blog now. Sometimes I just want to see if someone has read a specific title, and not everyone has alphabetized review archives, so the search bar is key. Anything that makes a reader’s time spent on your blog easier is a good thing!

    I think coming up with a unique name is really important as well, and like you said Gaby, once you have it, you’re sort of stuck with it for the duration. I’m pleased with the name I picked even if it’s not glaringly apparent from the get-go that my blog is a book blog, but I think it fits me. I say as long as you’re happy with your blog name, it’s a good one:)

    • Ooooh the search bar IS really important. I feel like I don’t use it AS much though. Maybe if I’m looking for a SPECIFIC post on a blog I’ll plug in some key words but otherwise I just browse. But maybe I would use it more if a blogger didn’t have a review archive? I find I’m less interested in a blog if they don’t have an archive.

      And yes! Just be happy with the blog name and the rest will follow for sure!

  3. I think it’s very important to be unique! I think a lot of people just want to start a blog and don’t give it a second thought, but then a few months down the road they realize that the name isn’t great, or that their social media names and blog names don’t seem to go together. It only takes a little bit more research and thought, but it’s well worth it!

    One other thing I can suggest is that while you have all the things that are crucial for a blogger to have, it’s also necessary to make sure your blog has easy navigation and is, for lack of a better word, clean. I hate seeing a blog full of clutter — it confuses me and usually I give up on trying to read through it.

    Great post!

      • CLUTTER IS THE WORST! I also get really turned off of blogs that take forever to load. I get that all the bells and whistles are really cool, but I hate having to wait (I also like a more minimalist look in general, but that’s personal taste). I totally respect a blogger who wants to do something a little different and organize differently but if you’re so different I can’t find anything, then maybe that’s a bad thing.

  4. One of the most important things for me when I’m reading other blogs is the About Me page! When I find a new blog to follow (like yours!) I like to read about the person blogging. I find that it makes me feel more connected to the person and what they are writing, so I’ll keep coming back for more.

    Also, the social media icons are a total must! Without them, it’s hard to follow the blog for those of us who don’t have GFC and/or don’t use an RSS reader.

    • I agree about the importance of an about page. We really do read blogs to connect with the blogger. And while you can get to know a blogger through her (or his) posts, it’s a long process. An about page gives you a quick overview.

      I <3 social media icons, especially when they're all in one spot. The easier they are to find and connect, the better.

      • About Pages are super useful but can also be super stressful to write. When I sat down to write mine I was like “Yes, WHO AM I?” So it came out as kind of a random tumble of stuff. But that’s the way to do it, I think. Because everyone’s kind of a random tumble of stuff, aren’t they?

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