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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!