Setting Up Your Blog

Blog Features & Headers (3)

It’s time to get started! You’re not writing a review, you’re not posting your “Hello, World!”, you’re not creating content. You’re choosing from a plethora of themes, colors, and widgets. But even before that, let’s talk names.

Naming Your Blog

For most free accounts for blogs your username will become part of the URL to your site. For example. If your username on WordPress is SomeRandoBlogAboutBooks, your URL will be SomeRandoBlogAboutBooks.wordpress.com.

Imagine putting that on a business card to promote yourself.

That’s insane.

And consider what your blog is going to be about. My blog started as a place to post work for school. It had to have my name. Now I use it to promote myself as a writer, it should still have my name.

Here are some tips for naming your blog and coming up with your URL.

  • Are you a writer yourself and do you need build a platform?
  • Keep it short and sweet and easy to write down and remember.
  • Read it out loud to avoid awkward words

Pick a Theme

This is all up to you and your preference. But remember that people need to look at your blog. Remember that they won’t be going into the administrative side to search for blog posts, they are going to see them right on the front page.

I recommend something clean and straight forward with a left or right hand sidebar with space for social widgets. Sidebars let you advertise yourself in house to your visitors. Think of it like a hostess letting you know that a sale is going on and where you can find that special rack.

Some themes allow for feature areas at the top of the landing page (your home page), but keep in mind that if you don’t plan on having one category or type of post move its way through the features, your unchanging features section will be the first thing people see when they visit.

Categories and Tags

Think of categories like sections in the attic… a well organized attic. Over in the right are all of the Christmas decorations, just past the ladder are some of the older toys you never wanted to throw out, and on the other side are some old clothes in boxes. Then in each of those sections are boxes. The Christmas and Halloween sections both have boxes of lights-but they’re different. Your old toys and clothes are arranged by ages. To bring it into book blogging:

I would categorize all my reviews as Reviews, obviously. But I review from Picture Book to New Adult, so I would tag those reviews with the title of the book, the author, its age range, and any themes that fit with it. Tags are a way to specify what is in your post, Categories tell your audience what type of post it is.

Navigation

Navigation is so important on your blog. You want people to be able to get around your site and find your tags, your TBRs, your personal posts, and especially your reviews. Personally, I use my categories to add to my navigation.

You do not need 10,000 categories and you especially do not need 10,000 menu items.

Just like naming your site, keep your menu short and sweet. Don’t use sub items unless you need to.

For example:

  • About Me
    • Writing
      • Project 1
      • Project 2
  • Book Blogs
    • Master Post
    • Book Tag 1
    • Book Tag 2
    • Book Tag 3
  • Reviews
    • BookRecs

This makes it easy to find things on the site. Keep in mind, most people following a book blog, are following for reviews. These should be out in the open on your blog.

Remember that categories have a hierarchy and that you can choose more than one category for your posts. For example: When I post a 4 or 5 star book review, I place them in the BookRecs category, which is a child of Reviews. If you click on Reviews, all of my BookRecs come up in that category as well. If you click on BookRecs it automatically filters into my 4 and 5 reviews only.

Sidebars and Widgets

Last thing for this lesson: widgets are your friends. On the side of many blogs you will see other places to connect with the bloggers. Some have badges, Twitter/Facebook feeds, links to any and all social media accounts, and even what the bloggers are currently reading.

Most blogging platforms have widgets for this. Widgets give you access to a service. For most blogging platforms, you can find them in your admin dashboard and fill out a form with your username, preference on status updates, colors, and whether or not to show link previews.

Sidebars are a great place to keep live information because they show up on every page. If someone stumbles on an old review, they can see that you are still posting from your recent posts, see that you are connected on twitter, and reading new and relevant books from your GoodReads widgets.

Not all themes have sidebars. If the theme that you like does not have a side bar I recommend putting all this info on the About page rather than the footer since not everyone will scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.

~

Remember to take your time with all of these choices. Setting everything up before you get started will alleviate a lot of the work to come later.  Keep en eye out for next week when I talk about making images for your blog posts.

 

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