Sunday, March 10, 2013

5 ways to make your blog better

My regular readers likely have spotted some of the recent changes to MyTurnQuips.  I hope you like the changes and look forward to making MyTurnQuips even better in the coming years.  These updates were made to improve the blog.  Unfortunately, it occurred to me after the fact that writing about this process would make for a great post.  Thus, I don't have "before" and "after" pictures.  These are some of the ingredients and enhancements that I have made to improve my blog:

1.  Read, read and never stop reading:  Many of these improvements were a result of reading both online and books.  I subscribe to a diverse number of blogs and regularly seek out new blogs worth following.  Additionally, books can be your friend - particularly for those, like me, afflicted with Old Fart Syndrome (OFS).  Books provide an alternative to always looking at a screen.  In particular, I went the local library and withdrew several "For Dummies" books.  I will note that many of these books I had reviewed in the early days of starting this blog, but guess what?  When you are in the beginning phase of something new, not everything "sinks in"; furthermore, with a memory like mine even some of the things that did "sink in" get lost in the fog of OFS.

2.  Write down or record those great ideas NOW!  You never know when or where a good idea will strike.  As many writers will relate, you may experience periods of "writer's block" so when you do receive moments of inspiration, write it down.  At this stage, I don't even fool myself that "I'll remember it later" - I won't and you probably won't either so write it down before it passes.  Ideas often strike me while communing on a dog walk, with Mick the Wonder Dog.  I use an app, "Voice Recorder" on my Google Android phone where I can quickly and easily record brief thoughts to retrieve later when I am in front of my computer.

3.  What's a Flavicon?  This is one of the "enhancements" that I stumbled upon in my online reading.  As in my "Finding God..." post, once again, Wikipedia came to my rescue.  After figuring out what it was, I had to figure out how to get one and this is easily done by using Google search using a phrase like, "How to create a Flavicon".  In doing this search, one of popular approaches was by using Gimp.  I found this "You Tube" video by Mr. Fixer to be a great, concise reference.  If you have don't have Gimp, let me strongly recommend it to you.  It is a great, free tool that you can use to resize pictures, build a Flavicon and more.  MyTurnQuips now has a Flavicon!

4.  Be your own biggest critic.  On those many walks with Mick the Wonder Dog, I will work through parts of my blog and some great new ideas would come to mind as well as well as some instances where things just did not work as intended on my blog and and some tweaking is necessary.  I have 2 examples from my recent round of changes.  First, my stocks page.  At one point, I had attempted a conversational approach where I commented on my thoughts and approach in regards to my stock selection.  I simply was not able to keep up with this (nor was I entirely a successful stock picker) and after careful consideration, this approach needed to change.  Since I do often comment on technology, I trimmed this page into a disclosure of my individual holdings and stocks of interest.  Second, my coverage of the two local parks that I frequent.  The problems with my past approach was the amount of real estate on the top navigation bar (too much) and these pages failed to clearly tie why they are important.  This problem was solved by moving both pages off the navigation bar and replacing them with a single page that helps to create a tie in between the holistic and philosophical importance of these resources to this blog author (the blogger).

5.  Evaluate your advertising.  In my post, "G's Top 7 blog annoyances," I identify ads as one of my biggest potential annoyances.  The primary objective of this blog is to provide a forum for me to run my mouth, plain and simple.  If it ever makes some spare change, that will be a bonus, but I won't rush to quit my day job yet.  As such, I have experimented with advertising.  I have tried using Google AdSense which uses a "contextual approach".  In general, AdSense does a decent job in picking ads, but you do not control what ads are displayed and for casual bloggers such as myself, it might take me several years to ever earn the $100 required before Google will cut you a check.  As a result of my reading (see #1 tip above), I have now explored Amazon Associates.  Although, I have not earned any income thus far (I have only deployed the ads within the past week), I am very impressed with this option. As with Adsense, the ads are very easy to set up.  Unlike Adsense, I am the one who selects what products will be advertised so I have control over selecting products I believe are worth considering and which fit with my content.  Furthermore, unlike Adsense, the threshold for payment is only $10, Amazon Associates are based on actual purchases, not clicks (like Adsense) so this might be harder to achieve - time will tell.  I also like the ability to create a personalized "Amazon store" and I have placed a link to the store on my top navigation bar.  I do like the "look" of the ads, but I notice that the pages can potentially load a bit slower than when using Adsense.  As fore stated in #4, I will need to continue to be my biggest critic and may continue to alter my advertising choices in the future.

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