Monday, September 15, 2008

23 ways to take your Blogger blog to the next level

Chris Brogan offers 50 Ways to Take Your Blog to the Next Level. It includes lots of great pointers from my very first blog friend. Of course, Chris's list includes tips for the extremely popular WordPress self-hosted platform. So I got motivated to add some ideas for taking your Blogger blog to the next level.

What?! Heresy! You can't use Blogger!

Well, sure you can. Despite all the peer pressure to use WordPress like everyone else, the secret is that what you do is more important than where you do it.

I've used WordPress, and TypePad come to think of it. And I'm still here. It's up to you to decide. Use the tools that suit you best.

So, if you're with me on this, here are tips to make your Blogger blog so good, no one will ever really think about the fact that you aren't on WordPress with all the cool kids.

(You may want to open Small Biz Survival in a new tab, because most of these tips are implemented there.)

    Get a better template:

  1. Start with the Stretch Denim theme. Customize the colors to your liking. It's the most professional of the choices available and the least stereotypical of Blogger. It's not hard to customize with colors and fonts of your choice.

  2. Explore other themes. Mashable has a list of 50 More Beautiful Blogger Themes and a list of 30+ Templates and Tools for Blogger. Or do a search on Blogger Templates. Blogger is making it easier to upload a new template, and then customize it with easy layout tools.

  3. Replace your header with a custom image. You can create a banner to suit your site and theme, and post it from the Edit Layout section. Here's an example; I'm rebuilding an archive of The Great Big Small Business Show, and re-using the banner from the previous WordPress site.

  4. Get your own identity:

  5. Get your own custom domain. Register your own .com URL, and set it up to work with Blogger. Go to Blogger Help and search for Custom Domain to get detailed help. Your old address will automatically redirect, and your search results in Google will still find you.

  6. Set all your Site Feeds to Full. That gives you a separate feed for comments, for individual labels, as well as for comments on individual posts. Give your readers options!

  7. Burn your feed at FeedBurner, and tell Blogger about it. Blogger will point readers to your FeedBurner feed so you have full statistics on subscribers. Blogger calls this Feed Redirection. Search the Help for the instructions.

  8. Enable Post Pages, from the Archiving Settings. That gives each post its own page and URL, so other folks can link back to you.

  9. Add the best Gadgets:

  10. Add the Google Search Box, and keep it near the top. It's incredibly common for readers to want to search for something specific in your blog. Make it easy.

  11. Add your Labels list. If you Label each post with logical categories, then your Label list in the sidebar is a terrific index for readers.

  12. Add a news feed. You pick the keywords most relevant to your topic. Google provides the news stories that match.

  13. Share your Google Reader Shared Items. Google Reader has a super easy "Add to Blogger" button that will automatically install a Clip of your shared items for you. Or you can let GReader generate a JavaScript, and then you can put that into a Gadget manually.

  14. Consider adding a Followers list. I'm watching this one to see if I want to add it, but I don't want to have both this and MyBlogLog's visitors gadget. Too duplicative. I'll keep an eye on it.
  15. Include your blog Archive. I'm partial to the hierarchy style, myself.

  16. Use the HTML/JavaScript option to add site statistics. Stats packages like Google Analytics, StatCounter or Woopra need a snippet of code to record visitors to your site. You add this as a gadget in site layout, and then you get incredibly detailed information about who is reading what on your blog.

  17. Drag gadgets to alternate page positions. You have more than just a sidebar. Put items above and below the posts, and all the way down in the page footer. As a matter of fact, Google Analytics wants to be the last thing on the page, so put its gadget at the very bottom. Just don't get carried away, OK?

  18. Make it easy for readers to comment:

  19. Use the inline comment form. Under Settings, on the Comments tab, set the comment form placement to be "embedded below post." That keeps it on the same page as your posts. This is a big improvement over the old separate comment page or the even-worse pop-up window. (Both of those are still options!)

  20. Open up commenting. Turn off the word verification and comment moderation. Allow anonymous comments. You'll still get less spam than WordPress users, and you can selectively turn these back on as needed, if you ever have a problem. Even with 12 blogs on my Blogger Dashboard, only occasionally do I have to delete a comment. Problem comments are usually more trollish than spammy, I've found.

  21. Manage your blog:

  22. Use posts as pages. Blogger doesn't give you a way to create separate pages. So just create a post with the title you want. You can set any date you want, so you might date it near (or just before) your blog's launch date. Then you can create a link to it in your sidebar or above the main posts area.

  23. Schedule posts ahead of time. Blogger finally got around to adding this feature, so take advantage of it. Build your editorial calendar, work ahead, and set Blogger to do the work of posting.

  24. Post via email. It's under Email on the Settings tab. You can set it to post automatically, or to save emailed posts as drafts. This is the easiest way to introduce absolute newbies to blogging.

  25. Host images at Picasa Web Albums. Images from your posts are automatically uploaded to a Picasa Web Album. You can also use it to host badges, RSS buttons, or other images you want to upload separately and place in a gadget.

  26. Let Blogger worry about traffic spikes. Even when I got LifeHacked at Small Biz Survival, with a spike from just over 100 visits daily to over 3,700 visits in one day, my Blogger site never went down. That's pretty darn cool, and exceptionally tough for other hosts to manage.

  27. Backup your blog with one click. OK, two clicks. On the Basic Settings tab, there's a new option to export. You get an XML file with your whole blog you can save to disk. It worked lightning quick, even with over 800 posts.

What hacks and tricks do you use on Blogger? Share!

And while we're at it, who has the tips for TypePad, and for users?


  1. Becky, thanks for standing up for the oh-so-lowly Blogger types. We get a lot of crap from elitist Wordpress & Typepad folks, but it's still the most widely-used platform out there. And if you know how to trick it out, it really shouldn't matter.

    One of the sites I like to refer to is Blogger Buster. Check it out - including the free eBook that they offer.

  2. Thanks, Scott. Appreciate the solidarity, and thanks for the link.