Building a Better Blog

I know what you’re thinking…this gal’s had this blog for six weeks, so what can she tell me about blogging? Well, let me offer my defense in advance. I may have only this particular blog for six weeks, but I’ve also had another one for six months. Between the two I’m using both of the more popular free blogging tools, Blogger and WordPress. Both now and prior blogging myself, I spent a lot of time reading dozens of blogs on a variety of topics, including blogging. You can learn a lot by lurking and comparing sites! I’ve also had a “presence” on the web (at least Web 1.0) with a non-blog site since 1996, and in that time I’ve learned a little bit about what readers like and don’t like. So, I’d like to offer my observations on building a better blog, whether it’s about genealogy or any other topic.

RSS Feeds – Why Full Feeds Matter

RSS feeds are a great way to get more readers of your blog. That’s what we all want, right…someone to actually read what we write? But, I’ll let you in on a little secret – if your blog isn’t allowing the RSS feed reader to view the entire post, you may lose a subscriber. For instance, sometimes I try to catch up on some blog reading during my lunch hour in work. But, my employer’s internet security blocks most blog sites, especially any hosted by Blogger or WordPress. However, I am able to use a blog reader even though I can’t actually “visit” the blog’s site. But, when a blogger doesn’t allow a full post to be seen by the reader, why subscribe? The post starts off with a tantalizing sentence or an intriguing idea, and just as the post gets interested it stops in mid-sentence or has the elusive “…” and ends. I will have to visit the site to view the whole post. Ay, there’s the rub! I can’t always visit the site! Since it doesn’t “cost” anything, why not make your blog post readable in full to all readers? Blogger Full Feed

If you use Blogger, in your Dashboard go to Settings. Under “Site Feed”, the first option is “Allow Blog Feeds”. If you choose “Full”, your subscribers that use a reader will be able to see and read your entire post without having to visit your site. If you choose “Short” or “None”, your subscribers will quickly unsubscribe because the main purpose of site feeds is the ability to “read” many sites without actually visiting the main site page each time.

Wordpress Full Feed

If you use WordPress, from your Dashboard click on “Options” then “Reading”. About halfway down the page you’ll see “Syndication Feeds”. Where it says “For each article, show:” you want to choose “Full text” in lieu of “Summary” to allow subscribers to read your whole post.

Allow All Readers to Comment

One of the highlights of blogging is when a reader posts a comment to your post. It’s nice to know that people are actually reading what you write, and the fact that they found it interesting enough to comment on it is rewarding. Some bloggers choose to review comments before allowing the comment to appear on the site. This is done mostly to prevent “spam” comments or ones that are otherwise unfriendly or rude. This is a personal choice for the blogger. But, one thing that all bloggers can do is open up the possibility for more folks to write a comment by allowing “Open ID”. You can still review the comments first if that’s your choice, but “Open ID” allows readers to comment even if they don’t use the same blogging platform as you do.

Blogger Comments

For example, if “Open ID” is not enabled and your blog is hosted on Blogger, a reader can not post a comment to your blog unless they also have a Blogger/Google account or you allow anonymous comments. Again, enabling “Open ID” doesn’t cost anything and it just makes it easier for readers to comment.

In Blogger’s Dashboard under “Comments”, there are several options. Allowing “Anyone” does just that. “Registered Users” is the Open ID option, which allows people to comment even if they don’t have a Blogger blog but have one on WordPress, Livejournal, or other sites. If you have “Users with Google Accounts” selected, you may “turn off” a potential poster if they don’t already have a Google account because it’s a hassle to register merely to post a comment.

On WordPress, under “Options” and the “Discussion” tab, you can choose the setting for comments. Most WordPress blogs don’t require a “Wordpress” account, only the commenter’s name and email (which isn’t shown on the blog publicly, but the blog’s owner receives the email address via email if they choose the option of email notification of new comments).

If you are a blogger and you want to gain more readers and allow more readers to comment on your posts, these two simple things can help with those goals. Now back to our regularly scheduled genealogical discussions…

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11 thoughts on “Building a Better Blog

  1. Points taken. 🙂

    I’ve made your suggested changes…

    Happy lunch-hour reading!

    Lisa

    P.S. I’d like to hear your comparision of the two blogging platforms that you are using. I’ve tried WordPress but only for a very, very short time and don’t have much experience with it.

  2. Hi, Lisa,

    I started blogging with Blogger for my Gene Kelly site and I really like it because it’s so easy to use and has a lot of great features. When I wanted to start this blog, I choose WordPress for two reasons: 1) the ability to have “pages” for static information without having them reside on another server, and 2) several variations of the “What’s Past is Prologue” name were already taken at Blogger! I thought the page feature would be useful to show my genealogy writing as well as put up family information for each of the surnames I am searching (which I haven’t done yet).

    While I think WordPress is easy to use as well, I think I enjoy Blogger more. Unless you host your WordPress blog elsewhere (other than on wordpress.com), you are unable to use Google Analytics, any script on the page, and you’re not allowed to use affiliate advertising sites such as Amazon.com. I didn’t know that when I started on WordPress (I guess I didn’t read the fine print). On my other blog, using Google Analytics provides much more information on visitors – where they come from, what search terms they used to find you – that WordPress’s “cheap” version of Google Analytics. Just in terms of posting, etc, both are about the same but I find Blogger slightly more “user friendly”.

    Thanks for commenting!
    Donna

  3. Donna,
    I always enjoy seeing people like you and Steve Danko publishing records from Poland (in Polish or Cyrillic) with translations to help me improve my own – thank you.
    I wish I could pretend to understand today’s article on blogging, but alas I do not. I am however rather perplexed by your publishing the birth entry in yesterday’s posting as a bitmap rather than a jpeg or other smaller file. Am I missing something here that is easy for you to explain?

  4. Bronwyn,

    I thought I did upload it as a jpeg. I don’t even have the record on my computer as a bitmap, so I’m not sure how it could have shown up as one! I always upload images as jpegs since they are smaller.

    Donna

  5. Three reasons why you may want to shorten your feed.

    1. It encourages comments because people have to actually visit your page.

    2. If they actually visit your page they see whatever you have on your page that is not picked up by your feed.

    3. Scrapers use your feed to steal your posts and repost them as their own.

    I have have shortened my feed on my garden blog because of the scraping issue. I use full feeds on my other blogs. Just some other thoughts.

  6. Apple and Donna,

    I haven’t heard the term “scraper” before but I was the victim of one just this week. She claims that she was “trying to provide another avenue for genealogy researchers to get the information” and not stealing my content. She has taken all of my posts off (which were her only content) and has replaced them with mostly newspaper matter and she has started including the sources of her material. She seems intent on creating “Genealogy Headlines” sites for all 50 states. I’m off to change my blogger settings to shorten my feed. Thanks, both of you, for educating me.

  7. Hi Donna,

    The IBC was created by a web-bot so I really didn’t think there was much concern for genealogy bloggers. Seems I was wrong! With my content I’m still not going to shorten my feed but I will be monitoring my content to see where it turns up.

    Kathryn,
    Could you send the url for your scraper? You say she is creating sites for all 50 states and this really worries me.

    fallnappl at aim dot com

  8. Hi Donna,
    I have just gone back and saved your image – it shows up as a Bitmap Image, size 446 KB (457,654 bytes) when saved direct from the blog page, or 19.4 MB (20,365,312 bytes) after clicking on the image! I don’t THINK I am doing anything unusual with it – saving it as a bitmap is the only option I am given. However I have to confess to not understanding many of the workings/settings of public library computers (I’m in the UK).
    Images I save from Steve Danko’s blog come up as jpegs.
    I found the “Can Your Grandparents Teach You About Love?” article most interesting – thank you for sharing it.
    I’m hoping more Polish records come your way and you are happy to show them!!
    Bronwyn.

  9. I believe in the same points. I always think that turning feeds to short is really cheap especially if the blog updates are low.

    I was really telling some of my blogger friends the same thing. Good post!

  10. Pingback: Some Interesting Articles … « Jessica's Genejournal

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