Home » The Saturday Series » How To Blog » Must Have On Your Blog (5/10)

Must Have On Your Blog (5/10)

Wel­come to my new “How To Blog” series! In this series, I’ll try to put my knowl­edge to good use and shed some light on the basic of blog­ging. You will learn how to set up a self-hosted blog, what are the must-have plu­g­ins, how to attract read­ers, how to mon­e­tize your blog etc. I’ll pub­lish a new “How To Blog” post every Saturday.

We’ve already cov­ered a few sub­jects in this series, and today, I wanted to high­light how impor­tant it is to have a few basic infor­ma­tions on your blog.

Although it’s by no mean a rule, I’d sug­gest you imple­ment the following:

  • An “About Me” // “About this blog” sec­tion
  • Archives
  • Cat­e­gories
  • A tag system
  • An feed sub­scrip­tion button/ link

These will likely enhance your read­ers’ expe­ri­ence with your blog and will help them under­stand your work, fol­low­ing it and keep­ing track of it.

An “About Me”/ “About this blog” sec­tion: Even though we all like to stay mys­te­ri­ous, I strongly encour­age you to explain your read­ers who you are, why you blog, and what is your blog’s gen­eral theme. We’re not talk­ing about putting a real name (user names or nick­names are per­fectly fine!) or a full-length pic­tures! But it’s nice to get to know each other a bit, isn’t it? Blog­ger comes with a build in “about me” sec­tion, but it can be a bit short. You could cre­ate a new post, set the date way back in the past (so that it doesn’t show it the mid­dle of your cur­rent posts) and link to it in your side­bar. Word­Press users can just cre­ate a page, like my “About me” and “About This Blog”. Some peo­ple also com­pile memes they get tagged for (like the “things about me”) and link to it.

Archives: This is extremely impor­tant. You want peo­ple to read your cur­rent post, but don’t you want them to dig into the old ones as well? Most blogs today come with a build in archive sys­tem, but it will likely be a chrono­log­i­cal archives (by months, by years etc.). This doesn’t make it easy for your read­ers, because most peo­ple will rather like to browse your archives by post titles. So, for Word­Press users, I per­son­ally love the AWSOM Drop Down Archive plu­gin (you can see it in action on top of each of my post). I also like the Extended Live Archive plu­gin, to imple­ment on a sep­a­rate page (see my Archive Page). And for Blog­ger users, you can also imple­ment a drop down menu sys­tem with a bit of HTML tweak­ing — I did it when I was on Blogger.

Cat­e­gories: This is another impor­tant part of your blog. Just make sure you don’t have too many cat­e­gories, which can be extremely con­fus­ing for read­ers. Don’t cre­ate one cat­e­gory per item. Instead, try to group your cat­e­gories into a few sub­jects. I’d say you shouldn’t have more than 20 cat­e­gories. For Word­Press users, I have a few plu­g­ins which make cat­e­gories fun. First, the Cat­e­gory Icon plu­gin, which I recently imple­mented on my blog. It will asso­ciate a unique icon of your choice with each of the cat­e­gory. Warn­ing: this plu­gin can be a bit dif­fi­cult to set up and tweak… I spent a few hours on it! You can also check out the Cat­e­gory Cloud Wid­get plu­gin or the Cat­e­gory Order plu­gin that allows you to reor­ga­nize your cat­e­gories the way you like.

A tag sys­tem: a tag is a hyper linked key­word you can use to describe a spe­cific post. For exam­ple, I tagged this post with the “how to blog” and “tuto­ri­als” tags. They help your read­ers find all the con­tent avail­able on your blog on a spe­cific sub­ject, much like cat­e­gories. How­ever, unlike cat­e­gories, you can use as many tags as you wish… they are a bit like sub-categories. Word­Press 2.5 comes with a build-in tag sys­tem, which I find extremely use­ful (if you haven’t upgraded yet, check out the Ulti­mate Tag War­rior). Tag help your blog nav­i­ga­tion. You can dis­play your tags in your side­bar as lists, in a cloud like me… To my knowl­edge, tags don’t exist on Blog­ger blogs.

An RSS sub­scrip­tion but­ton: Most peo­ple will fol­low up your blog with a feed reader, so it’s very impor­tant for you to imple­ment a sub­scrip­tion but­ton in a promi­nent place on your blog. Not a design spe­cial­ist? You can down­load beau­ti­ful sets of icons for free: try Feed Icons, or check out this great list of over 35 styles of feed icons. Once you picked an icon, link it to your blog feed, usu­ally some­thing like “http://www.yoursite.com/feed/”. There are many Word­Press plu­g­ins for your feed. Let’s men­tion Feed­burner Feed­smith (which detect all ways to access your feed and redi­rect them to Feed­Burner to bet­ter track sub­scribers), Bet­ter Feed (exten­sive feed cus­tomiza­tion), and Sub­scribe Me (encour­ages sub­scrip­tions).

So, do you have all that on your blog? Any­thing else you find is a must-have on blogs?

16 comments

  1. Nice tips, really helpful.

  2. @Seraphine — Too many tags kill tags…

    @Froggywoogie — For the smi­leys, it’s a plu­gin: WP grin. Wel­come to Word­Press, I’m glad you play on my team now ;-)

    @kyh — Oh, maybe then! I for­got… I thought labels were more like cat­e­gories. My mis­take. For my blog… thanks, I appre­ci­ate the praise, espe­cially from you cause I like your work! Mostly, I love try­ing out new things with Pho­to­shop as my skills get better.

    @Hayes Pot­ter — Thank you! I enjoyed read­ing yours tips as well. You gave me some good ones!

  3. Hi Zhu,

    I’m still using blogspot and have kept it pretty much stan­dard issue since I went into blog­ging. My cat­e­gories are all shot and even I couldn’t tell which is which when I look back into the archives. :-)

    I guess I’m still a dinosaur when it comes to the finer points of set­ting up a site, but with a day job that comes with a lot of trav­el­ing, I just don’t have the time — to learn and to apply. :-)

    Any­way, I can always go visit all the great blog sites set up on the inter­net and applaud their set-up and beau­ti­ful designs.:-) But the real attrac­tion for me is read­ing good con­tent, be it about well explained tuto­ri­als such as this, travel and food posts, polit­i­cal analy­sis, or per­sonal expe­ri­ences. Some­day, I may find the time to explore tweak­ing and trans­fer­ring to WP as you rec­om­mend, that’s why I keep tab on your tuto­ri­als. As of now, I will sim­ply enjoy myself vis­it­ing, read­ing, going over your site for its mag­netic effect on my visual, aes­thetic, emo­tional and intel­lec­tual senses.:-)

    Nice thing about the blo­gos­phere is that I can go from my stone age site to your 21st cen­tury site in one click.:-)–Durano, done!

    durano lawayans last great read…The Democ­rats’ Dimin­ish­ing Dominion

  4. Very nice basic intro to blog­ging! Some­time dur­ing the sum­mer I am going to move to my own server and buy a domain name, I am really look­ing for­ward to that!! For begin­ers the big blog king­doms (or sites) are a good start­ing point with some of the start up pack­ages they have!! Thanks for an infor­ma­tive and intel­le­gent post that i will come back to for tips!!

    DianeCAs last great read…Going crazy on IMVU

  5. This is state of the art for begin­ners Zhu and even some vet­er­ans could pick up a few hints. Of course I checked and glad I found every­thing ok on my blog ;-)

    Well, maybe except for the tags, but then again: I haven’t upgraded to WP 2.5. — I use Tech­no­rati tags some­times though and find the very useful.

    Ren­ny­BAs last great read…A memo­r­ial for TorAa’s son Ruben

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