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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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