22 March 2008

Increase Your Blog Appeal #3: Drawing the numbers & Housekeeping



Let’s do the housekeeping first: heartfelt thanks to all of you for your comments, suggestions, and feedback. I finally got Blogger to let me in to edit my site (ever since I upgraded Safari it’s been problematic to access the site editing options) so was able to change my background colour and darken the text font. As I said in a comment, it’s easy to change the font size of a blog I’m reading, as an Apple user. We use Apple/Command and + or – to increase or decrease the size of something we’re reading, and there are also buttons in some programs. Unfortunately, because I don’t use a PC, I don’t know what the equivalent command is, but in Firefox, for example, you should be able go to the menu under View: Text: and find the command to increase or decrease text size.

Xris, the affable Flatbush Gardener, also told us about improving blog usability with expandable post summaries (thanks and a tip of the ol’ gardening hat to you). He also mentioned sites that will analyse your website performance and make recommendations. I confess to being essentially a luddite about web-based things—I’m a writer, a quasi-professional photographer, and a rank amateur about web-based design etc, so a lot of this has been utterly new to me—and slightly scarey, too, being new! So once again, a tip of the hat to Xris for sharing these tidbits of info.

So, you’ve done all these things and you’re perhaps wondering about increased readership? I know some people don’t care how many readers they get, but others do. After all, we’re putting our thoughts out there for the world to see, and we want people to see them, right? For whatever reasons. I do my blog in part as a way to give back to the gardening community at large that I learn so much from, and to promote local nurseries and other topics of interest, plus to promote other bloggers that I enjoy. I call it gardening karma, and prefer to be positive and encouraging, except, of course, when growling about the weather, which we all do on occasion, but especially we who are Canadians—it’s a national pastime for us.


Networking: I can’t stress this enough. Read other blogs, but most importantly, leave comments. Comments are the blossoms in a blogger’s existence, even though we sometimes have to put up the word verification exercises to keep out spambots that want to take over the known universe. Take the time to say, “hello, I was here, loved your blog”, and you’ll find the recipient comes to visit—and leaves comments—and before long, you’re back and forth like old friends. My days wouldn’t be complete without regular visits to a number of blogs I especially love, quite frankly. There’s not always time to leave comments, of course, and sometimes, for reasons only known to the blogging sites, it’s a challenge to do so.

RSS feeds: I confess to not being able to explain this real well, but others certain can and have. Having a feed that people can subscribe to lets your fans know exactly when you’ve written a new post, and in some cases emails it to them directly. You can use any number of methods to burn a feed. I use FeedBurner . There are numerous feed readers for every webbrowser too, if you prefer to read your blogs right in the browser.

Get Involved with Blotanical. I’ve extolled the virtues of Blotanical before, and will continue to do so, because it’s an awesome resource for finding new blogs, tracking posts, getting to meet other bloggers, and simply having fun with garden blogging. Yes, you can collect points, (which sadly, aren’t redeemable for mixers or earrings or more plants), but it’s for fun, and I’ve met so many new (to me) bloggers as a result of my activities with Blotanical. Like anything, the more you put in, the more benefits you get out, so if you don’t sign in, send notes, visit other blogs, or otherwise get involved, you won’t see any increase in traffic. But I’ve been tracking my stats for almost a year now, and they have increased significantly by being involved with Blotanical.

One thing I'd really like to encourage: if you're involved in Blotanical, either as a blogger or a non-blogging member (or just visiting) take a page out of Carolyn's book and go visit Blogger # 300--or 200, or 176--in the top 300. Carolyn says it best, but I'll summarize and suggest that you do explore new-to-you blogs whenever you have time and inclination; whether via Blotanical, or via people's lists of blogs on their websites. You'll find an amazing, rich and terrific world of gardeners out there, all crazy about "this thing of ours" called gardening--and garden-blogging.

Answer Your Comments: If you love to get comments, then reply to them, and see how many more you get because you do give feedback. It amazes me that some so-called professional writers find it beneath themselves to respond to comments on their blogs. Others are far more generous and their comments in return are just as interesting as the posts. I cherish each comment I receive (except the spam ones) and do try to answer quickly, but sometimes fall behind. Some bloggers choose to answer comments by going to the commenter’s blog and posting a comment in reply, and that’s a nice idea too. And some have figured out how to answer each comment directly underneath, in italics--perhaps this is a feature of Wordpress or Typepad, because I can't find it in Blogger. Anyone?

Blogging Awards. Some think these are silly, or a waste of time, but I think they’re great fun. What better recognition than to be accoladed by fellow gardeners and bloggers? Some of the awards are memes, where you are awarded a particular accolade and then spread the joy forward—and I confess I was awarded two during a recent busy period of my life and lost the messages as well as neglecting to play them forward, for which I apologize profusely! One really neat set of awards is Colleen’s Mouse and Trowel awards, where you get to nominate, then vote for, your favourite blogs in a whole fine host of categories. So this is a shoutout to Colleen for all the work she’s put into those, and an encouragement to readers to get involved and nominate your favourites in the next couple of weeks.

The most important thing to remember about blogging? It’s all meant to be fun and a pleasure, not a set of tasks. In that way, it’s like gardening, so I’ll wrap this up with a paragraph from a gardening column I wrote early in the year:

• Most Importantly: Stress-less gardening. Repeat after me: gardening is not rocket science. We are gardening for the pleasures of it, not to stress ourselves with growing longer beans than the guy down the road, or perfect roses that are the envy of the neighbourhood, aren’t we? We garden for the exercise, not to wear ourselves out until we hurt all over, but there are things we can do to make it easier for those who are older or dealing with illness or injury. The main thing is to give ourselves permission to not get it all done perfectly.

Just substitute “blogging” for “gardening” and remember not to stress or worry—just enjoy blogging, as I enjoy reading all of you! ☺

42 comments:

  1. Wow! What a "site" for sore eyes (couldn't resist the pun). I love your new color scheme. I hope you like it too and didn't change it just because I complained.

    I also encourage anyone who finds themselves spending hours reading other people's blogs to start using a RSS reader. It's the easiest, most efficient way to find out when your favorite blogs have updated.

    Blotanical is an excellent source for finding new blogs but it doesn't have the features for tracking new posts from your favorites that Bloglines or Google Reader or any other RSS reader does. They are different tools for different purposes. Not everyone participates in Blotanical and even among those who are listed, not all choose to share their feeds (so their posts don't show up on the Picks tab).

    What differentiates blogs from other types of publishing is its interactivity. It is a conversation. Comments are a great way to join in. So is linking to other blogs, either in your posts or in your sidebar.

    Thanks for a great series.

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  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly after reading that bit of your article. Stress free and fun...

    I can't figure out how to answer after every comment either. I think it looks nice and you don't have to go through many to find your response but I haven't figured out how to do it on Blogger. Hmmmm Of course I find it difficult to do most things on a computer. I am just thrilled to get a post up with pictures. Sometimes the spacing gets weird with that.

    Very good tutorial Jodi.

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  3. P.S. I can read your blog much easier with the change in background and lettering. Thank you.

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  4. I can't remember where I came to you from!! However you have some really useful info on your blog!
    Thanks

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  5. Great post. I agree with all that you said. Especially commenting on other blogs you like. I know I'm at fault for not doing this often enough. I love to read blogs and every garden bloggers post I just have a hard time finding words. I need to try subscribing to RSS feeds. As much as I love Blotanical it's a pain to weed through the blogs I don't read to find new posts. And of course I do miss some.

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  6. Regarding answering comments in italics beneath each comment, it's easy to do on my WordPress-template blog. One of my options with comments is to edit. So I just select Edit, then type my response underneath each comment, and put it in italics. Hit Save, and it's done.

    Like you, I can't stress enough the social aspect of commenting and replying to comments to get more readers. Everyone likes a personal touch, and that's what comments excel at. It's what sets blogging apart from other gardening media.

    The only downside is it can eat a lot of your personal time to leave a bunch of comments. (And I mean real comments that show you've read the post, not the quickie "Great site. Come visit mine." comments I sometimes get.) But the payback is in new friendships as well as increased readership, so it's worth it.

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  7. This has been a superb series of posts, Jodi, with so many great pointers to consider. On the subject of responding to comments within the comments, do you folks on Blogger not have an "Edit Comments" function? That's how we can do it at WordPress.

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  8. I'm at fault for not always answering my comments. I love to get them and read them all, but answering each one can be time consuming, especially now that the comments have increased.

    I'd rather leave my own blog and go and visit your blog and leave you a comment if my time is limited. I honestly don't know how people have the time to go back and check to see who responded when they left a comment and who didn't. I can barely get them all read once without going back to each one again. I think it is different if there is a question asked or if comments start a conversation. I'd hate for people to stop leaving comments though, they are so very appreciated.

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  9. I have just enjoyed the past 10 minutes ro so reading your blog, thank you for all the advice about blogging. Your blog is good to look at and full of good information.

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  10. I also wish there were an easier way to respond to comments in Blogger. And then there is the proverbial questions, do commenters go back and read the replies to their comments? On blogger you can 'subscribe' to the comments on a post and get an email each time someone comments, but I use that only selectively on other blogs because it can fill your email inbox up with comments you aren't interested in.

    And I heartily agree, if you are reading more than a dozen or so blogs, you need to use a feed reader (I use Google Reader) or you will waste a lot of time checking/re-checking for new posts, or miss an interesting post from a favorite blogger.

    Cheers, Jodi, on a great little series.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

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  11. Another post filled with good information and advise, Jodi. Blogging is like 'real life' in that to make friends we first need to be a friend. Visiting blogs and leaving friendly notes is a way to show others we're interested in them, and hopefully they'll return the visit.
    Rather than answer my commenters on my site, I prefer to visit them. There's never enough time to return to the comments on each site, and apart from that, I can't always remember every site I've left a comment on. I do however, appreciate each and every friendly hello from visitors. As you say, the interaction is why most of us do this, and what makes it so much fun.

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  12. Awesome post. Lots of great info for the blog newbies and us oldies both. I agree that Blotanlcal has boosted my blog hits and comments. Wonderful community of garden bloggers out there. Happy to be a part of the group!
    Carol

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  13. I've been checking out garden blogs tonight and have enjoyed yours:). Happy Easter.

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  14. Jodi: Thanks for this series. I for one need all the useful tips I can get. :)

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  15. Jodi, What an informative post. I learned several things and will try them out. One being the over use of exclamations. I have always had a problem with that!
    I find myself more interested in blogs that read like a friend talking to me, and those that share at least a part of who they are. Someone you would ike to meet in person and have a cup of coffee with. Thank you for all of your interesting posts(!)

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  16. Am enjoyng your comments and tips for attracting readers to your blog. Am already trying to put some of them to use though I touch on gardening occasionally and on books and mysteries, a lot!

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  17. I'm really loving this series! Thanks so much for taking the time and energy to do this.
    ~Angela :-)

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  18. love the look! i'm too scared to play around with templates now. once i got it working i left it at that.

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  19. Thanks for putting out this information - I just got into the world of garden blogging about 3 weeks ago, so this is helpful. Now if I can only keep out of the garden long enough to visit some blogs and leave some comments! And one day I might figure out how to move posts off the front page...

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  20. This has been a really good series Jodi--full of information! I absolutely agree with everyone who said a feed reader is essential in keeping up---I can't even imagine how much I would miss without Google Reader!

    Oh, and thanks for the Shout :-) I have a lot of fun with the Mousies, and it makes me really happy to see so many others having fun as well!

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  21. Hi Jodi,

    Thanks for this post, it was really a great round-up of strategies.

    I just wondered if you'll be adding the Green Thumb Bloggers blogroll to your new design? Your site is still listed but I don't see the blogroll here. Gimme a smack if I'm just not seeing it!

    Thanks, and happy spring,

    Amy.

    Playing in the Dirt

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  22. This was a great post Jodi .. I really have to remember to not over do it in the garden as well.
    When we tear out of the winter "gate" like a race horse it is hard to remember THAT though .. and sitting here emmersed in reading blogs ?.. that hurts as well.
    So .. I'm trying to take both activities as "restained enjoyment" under "rules of engagement" ? LOL
    Joy

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  23. Hi Jodi excellent post, you are correct gardening and blogging about it is a lot of fun. My problem is time; so many interesting blogs to read and so little time

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  24. I like comments - they remind me of everything I forgot to say in the original post. When I answer it gives me an opportunity to 'fill in the blanks'.

    We all have our talents. I can fuss with a template as easy as transplanting a hosta but when I looked at Botanical all I got was confused :)

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  25. I'm a new blogger, and I just want to say *thank you* for this series of posts. You've obviously taken a lot of time to put together all of this information, and it is very helpful to me!

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  26. Jodi: Thanks for taking the time to share these thoughts and observations. I will be reading them again. I only wish I had more time to check out all the gardening blogs each day. No stress right?

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  27. Jodi, I've been trying to access 'expandable post summaries', and it won't take me there. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks.

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  28. You always have such interesting posts. You do a great service to bloggers with your info. Thanks!
    Aiyana

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  29. Great post, Jodi. Thanks so much for this very informative and enlightening series on increasing blog appeal.

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  30. Hi Jodi:
    An interesting "Blog" lesson.
    I have a very nice link for you. "Catperson" that you are. BTW, did you get an email from me re pictures & clickability?
    http://junosdiary.blogspot.com/

    Cheers

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  31. Jodi -- this has been a most interesting and informative read. Great tips you've offered.

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  32. The changes look good.
    How did you work the map thing? It is a great idea for all blogs to see a visual aid like it.
    Matt

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  33. Grateful to you for excellent advice, although it's not easy to chat and visit other bloggers if you have to work, write and sleep few hours now and then.
    I have a shady garden that was dying on me for years, now I only plant what already survived here.
    If you have the time and inclination, please visit my blog, it's about love, from a romantic point of view.
    And thanks again, happy gardening.
    http://notfromcincinnati.blogspot.com/
    J.

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  34. Re: comments in italics

    Comments in blogger can include basic HTML tags. I use those when I reply to put the name of the person I'm replying to in bold. People automatically lock onto their name quickly when scanning, and can find my response o their comment more easily.

    I'll have another tip which is too long for a comment. I'll respond in a post on my blog.

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  35. Jodi - another fine post.

    I'd just like to add something for those of us who like to use Links in our posts. Test them out after publication. It's quite frustrating clicking on a link to nowhere, though I don't mind so much when looking at older posts, 'cos who knows what the originator of the link may do when editing their site. However, there's no excuse when the post is fresh. Blogger users please note, Blogger sometimes adds its own stuff to the link address you've carefully inserted into your piece - I know because it's happened to me. You don't know, because I've tested my links as soon as I've published...

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  36. Great series of posts on blogging Jodi, I enjoyed reading them. There's one thing missing though: where do we find the time to do all that reading and commenting? I'm doing the best I can but there are already so many blogs I regularly visit and comment on, so getting involved with Blotanical? Well, I do need to sleep every now and again. ;-)

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  37. Two really good posts Jodi. I've been frantically busy recently and it was all I could do to keep posting. It happens. But you're right that the commenting and networking side is just as important. And so ... I'm back :)

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  38. Three great posts full of very usefull information. Like you I also use RSS feeder to read the new posts on my favourite blogs. Answering to comments is something not all bloggers do, and it reallyu makes a diference (I try to answer to all comments even if sometimes it takes me days before having the time to do so).

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  39. Thanks for the information, I just started my blog and love to look at all of the professional looking garden blogs out there.

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  40. I'm just getting started with blogging. Thanks with your ideas it will be a start.

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  41. Catching up after emerging from the deadline dash to answer all your nice comments again.
    MSS I do like the colour change--and your comment wasn't a complaint, not at all. I like your comparison to blogging as a conversation; exactly so.

    Lisa, it seems that the responding after each post is a feature in Wordpress and Typepad, and Blogger hasn't gotten that far yet.

    Suburbia, welcome, glad you enjoyed.

    Vanillalotus, don't worry about not having time to always comment. I don't either--sometimes I don't want to just say, "nice post" but actually discuss something, and other times there just isn't time to comment.

    Pam, you're also correct that it takes time to leave 'real' comments. I think if you visit a site regularly and comment every few posts, that's plenty to let someone know you're reading and interested and conversing.

    Robin, again, that's a great idea, to visit the commentor's blog and leave a note there. Kate does that, and I do often, but this week, for example, I've been pressed for time and haven't done a HUGE amount of reading; tonight will be catchup night.

    Starnitesky, thanks for visiting, and I'm glad you enjoyed.

    Carol, I rarely subscribe to comments unless it's a really interesting thread with a lot of discussion; and rather than get even MORE email than I do, I'd sooner revisit the post that intrigued me and read all the comments.

    Kerri, excellent points, and I have some new blogs to visit today!

    CABS, it's a fine group of gardeners and bloggers, for sure. It's neat to find a new blog and then be able to encourage others to visit too.

    Sandy2 thanks for visiting, and belated Easter wishes to you as well.

    Patricia, glad you found it useful. You're on my list of places to visit later today.

    Beckie, don't worry excessively about the exclamations--just think of them as seasoning like salt or curry, and it gets really easy to use them more effectively.

    Book Bird Dog, glad you've enjoyed the series, I like the variety of subjects on your blog.

    Angela, always good to hear from our favourite magpie, and I'm pleased you are enjoying the series.

    Claire, I hear you. If it weren't for Kylee's helpful posts, I would never have done anything to my template either.

    Kay, with gardening season coming on it does get to be a challenge to do all the garden fun AND post AND read...but just remember it's all for pleasure, not to be a bunch of 'gotta-dos'/

    Colleen, always glad to give a shoutout to bloggers like you who make this all so much fun. Go Mousies!

    Amy U. I did have the Green Thumb Bloggers roll up once after I changed design, but when I went to move it I deleted it, and something between Blogger and my webbrowser has been giving me headaches. I'll pop by to explain and will try again.

    Joy, what a good description of us tearing into the spring garden like a racehorse out the gate! With spring so reluctant this year it's going to be extra hard not to overdo it when we can finally work outside.

    Rusty, you're already into high garden season so I can see where you're coming from, timewise. I suspect it will get that busy for most of us shortly.

    John, your blog is always a highlight to read and while I don't always comment, I always read your comments because they're also a delight. Funny about Blotanical not working for you because you're so good with website stuff!

    Amy, welcome and I'm glad to be of help.

    Layanee, that's right--no stress! It's all meant to be a joy, not a task.

    Beckie, something went strange with that link. It's fixed now.

    Aiyana, we're all in this together, and I've learned a lot from other bloggers too. So this is a thank you to everyone!

    Carolyn, you also inspired me with your 'go visit Blogger # 300' post, hence I wanted to shoutout to you and remind others of your inspiration.

    Sharon, thanks so much for the link to Juno's blog!

    Nancy, glad you enjoyed!

    Matt, haven't figured out what to do about a map yet--some of the widgets seem tricky for me, and slow to load.

    Joanna, I hear you--though I've decided sleep is overrated. :-)

    Xris, your posts are so useful, and your comments too!

    VP, you're so right about links. I don't know what it is with Blogger, I've found those extra bits of stuff too, and that's really annoying!

    Yolanda, yes, we do need to sleep, etc. I read and write really fast, so that means I probably can cover more territory than some. And I've given up housework. :-)

    Sue, good to see you, and you're right, it happens that we get busy and doing posts and visiting others can lag behind. Most people know that, and it's no worries. The people I feel for are the new ones with real interesting blogs and few readers. So I like to comment on their sites as much as possible.

    Life in Pots, welcome, and I'll get to visit you shortly.

    Likewise you, Leslie, glad to be of help!

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  42. Though it is the gardening connection that got me to your blog through Blotanical, it is your seven cats that first inspired me to stay and look a little longer. I am impressed to hear your intent to help new gardeners get some publicity. Thank you - I am one of them. I work full time and we farm so I don't really have spare time but it sure is interesting to see all the pictures and ideas being posted.
    Back to the cats - we were always dog people, until we 'accidentally' rescued a couple cats who snuck their way into our hearts. We now have 3 in our house, along with a small dog.

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Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment! It might take me a bit, but I will return the compliment whenever possible.
Spammers--need not apply. Because I delete your comments and they will never make it here. Kthxbai!

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