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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?

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