Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Finer Details: Making Your Blog Beautifully YOURS - Robin W.

“NEVER judge a book by its cover” ...well throw-away the key because I am guilty.

Often I pick a type of book, and then sort through them by looking for the most interesting; however, when it comes down to option A or option B, what is the deciding factor? The cover. How else should I shift through the thousands of books out there? You can tell so much by a cover. Is it a photo? Is it a painting? Is it pretty? Is it different?

Blogs are similar. There are thousands of cooking, travel, motherhood, faith, and just everyday life blogs out there. READERS automatically think: What makes this blog different, why should I read this blog?

Other than family, supporters, and friends—how do you gain readers or meet like-minded people? Well I am here to tell you there are few things you can do to make your blog originally yours.

simple changes, made personal:
1. Header
If a photo could express a million words, what photo would you pick? A family picture, desert landscape, a flower, a car? If a photo defined your blog...What would you pick? Your header matters. A cool website that helps you to edit photos and add text: http://www.photobucket.com/. Sign up for an account, and upload. After uploading your photos, click edit, and it will redirect you to many different features to edit photos. You can add the title of your blog, brighten up the colors, auto-fix red eye, and do many other very cool things. Photobucket is easy to use and helpful in enhancing photos. [Note: also helpful for newsletters]

Some examples of headers I have done in the past are:

How to do this? Gray Scale the photo [EXCEPT SIGN], add text.

How to do this? Fresno photo (makes it look painted), add text.

How to do this? Combine different photos, add text.

2. Widgets/Sidebar
Next to your post, what do people see? What is post important to you? There are many things you can add to your sidebar to improve travel on your blog. For me, most of my readers are subscription-based, so the first thing you will see is: "Email Subscriptions." I recommend email subscribing because it enhances the regularity of an everyday reader. They receive an email with your post as soon as it is posted. This might lower the amount of clicks on your blog directly, but it delivers posts directly to their email box. One downside is: the email often un-formats your pictures within the post.

Other sidebar/widget recommendations:
1. Photos : I have 4 photos in my side bar. One of myself, and then my three little brothers. Put a family photo in your side bar! Why? First-time reader's shouldn't have to search in your "About Me" to find your picture.

2. Archives/Search : Let people browse your old posts; make it easier by adding either archives or a search bar or BOTH. Very helpful.

3. Categories : Start to categorize your posts as you post, making it easy for readers to find the kind of post they want to read. Then add the categories widget to your sidebar.

4. Comments : This widget highlights the reader! Whenever a comment is posted--theirs or yours--it is added to the sidebar; thus, making it easy to see if someone replied to their comment.

Stay-tuned for the: EPIC Ending of this 4-part series.

Blessings from Jordan,
Robin W

[Security Blurb: Worried about who will see your blog, yet still want readers? What I did was block search engines, screen comments, and post in a different time zone. Simple things to change and helps avoid unwanted readers. Simply go under settings and change your privacy, time/date, and comments. For an individual step-by-step walk-through please email me or comment below. WARNING: WILL LOSE A LARGE READER-BASE, only do this if necessary.]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

LIFE-LONG BLOGGING: How to Make Your Writing Reader-Friendly - Robin W.

Did you know:
• 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
• 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
• 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
• 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
• 57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
• 70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.

Source: Jerold Jenkins, www.JenkinsGroupInc.com

With statistics like this, how do you get people to read your blog? How do you get supporters, not only your grandmother, to check out and read your entire post from top to bottom. Well, I am here to tell you some simple writing tricks that will assist you in getting a steady increase in your reader-base forever.

FOREVER? Yes, I am confident that as long as you write you will have readers, if you follow these simple steps in your writing:

1. Format: Forget what you learned in high school. Throw the five-paragraph essay out the window, and NEVER think about it again. Paragraph breaks should be short, 4 lines MAX. I give you permission to write an introduction using the word “I,” [he/she is too formal]. Relax, and write. Let the thoughts flow. Organization should be clear, yet recognize the fact that you aren't graded.

[QUESTION: Does this downgrade my writing? ANSWER: No, how many professional writers do you know write only in a stream of complex sentences and long paragraphs. Emerson? Right, that's it. How many of you frequently read Emerson?].

2. Thesis: Numbers and bullets are allowed. Have points? List them. However, your entire post should not be a list. Spread it out, try not to have more than 5-10 points.

3. Fonts: Bold, italics, changing colors, and underlining. Do it more often, but remember if you bold everything it loses its effect.

4. Pictures: Don't have one? Google it. You will be surprised by what kind of pictures you can find on Google Images. However, be original, think of more creative pictures—what relates yet is eye catching and can draw curiosity. Text-wrap your pictures. Slide shows are good; however it is best if you are showing-off photos to pick no more than 4 pictures per post and incorporate them within the writing.

5. Title: “My Trip to Israel” might get a lot of clicks; however, something like “Following Jesus's Steps: Holy Land Adventures” might catch more eyes. Again, be creative.

6. Content: Have a lot of thoughts? Break your posts into parts. For instance, last week I traveled to Um Qais and have a four part post. See:

Keep a post under 500 words.

7. Be you: Whether funny or serious, Be you. Funnies will come.

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
... A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
... A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

Stay-tuned for:
Technology: Keeping an Up-Beat Blog
How do Readers Know when you Post? Simple Improvements and Comment-Etiquette

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

[BLOGS] Discouraging Stats: Blogging Woes - Robin W.

Have ideas? Yes.
Have a blog ? Yes.
Enjoy writing? Yes.
But STILL don't have the readers? YES!!!

Well I am here to tell you DON'T GIVE UP! You don't need to change your voice to get people to start reading your blog.

Note: This isn't an unrealistic weight loss program or campaign slogan, it is an easy way of making some simple changes that will completely change your blog.

I was in your same position when I moved to Jordan about 9 months ago, and thought that between family and friends I would have good reader base. But I was shocked to find out I didn't! So I started making some changes, and since then I have had incredible results.

In the next four weeks I will take you on a journey of creating a vision and putting it into action while gaining the most readers as possible. Whether you want to publish recipes, travel adventures, pictures, or simply everyday life—there are little things you can change to grab people's attention.

Time an issue? I promise I will NOT tell you:
1. You need to post everyday.
2. You will need to change who you are or how you write.
3. You need to get rid of your blog and start over.

So take a deep breath, and enjoy writing as I begin to break down some helpful tips to improve your blogging experience. My ultimate goal is to encourage YOU as a writer, so please feel free to contact me with any personal questions.

First you want to create a focus, a vision-statement for your blog. My blog, Love Notes to Abba, started off being very faith-based, which limited what I could write about; thus, creating instant writer's block after a few weeks. Later, I widened my focus. A common misinterpretation is that a successful blog needs a NARROW focus, but it doesn't. It needs a vision. You can see my vision on my About Me page—it is simple. I choose to write about “injustice, faith, travels, and the daily happenings of a 20 year-old girl choosing to live radically for Christ in the Middle East.”

By creating this wide vision I am able to freely write funny posts about daily life, serious posts about the news, exciting posts about travel, and life-changing posts about my faith. This mixture adds flavor and variety to my blog which keeps my audience reading.

Yet a blog should still have a constant, and never stray too far from the vision. Your readers should feel your passion as if they were walking along-side you on this journey.

So this week ask yourself these questions:
1. What is the purpose of my blog?
2. What is the focus of my blog? Have I clearly stated it on my blog for my readers?
3. Is my focus too narrow? Or Is my focus so broad that my audience doesn't know what to expect?

Stay-tuned for more on:
Themes and Layouts Made Simple, yet Beautiful
The Importance of a Title and Comment Etiquette
How To Make Your Writing, Reader-Friendly

Please feel free to contact me or post any comments. I will be checking in throughout the week.

Blessings from Jordan.

Robin W

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Why Open the Door if No Refreshing Breeze Comes In?"

The title quote came from one of today's writers. The response to the "Power of 3" writing prompt is like a refreshing breeze to me. The door was opened...and the wind of well-written prose blew in. Here are the blog links of our participating writers.  Be sure and let them know you dropped by.

1. Belinda: Three Things I Can't Do Without


Unable to post on her secure blog:

This I Fear
By B.R.

I would cross the Empty Quarter by camel, but I fear the nights by a smoking fire, trembling in my sleeping bag waiting for the scorpions to emerge from the darkness, dragging their spiny tails behind them. I fear the angry tribesmen I may come upon who guard their territory and honor and women ferociously even though all but the women were stripped from them years ago. I fear there may not be too many convenience stores along the way, or that my GPS device might not survive the sandstorms. I long to be the next Wilfred Thesinger in all his humble assimilation and discerning alertness, but I fear I may only curl up and die around Dune #3.

I would go sky-diving if it weren’t for the co-counselor I worked with at a summer camp. We were sitting on our bunks the first night, sharing stories when she told me of her brother, a sky-diving instructor. On one dive, his chutes just didn’t open, didn’t balloon up with the life-giving air they depended on so much. His sails flapped limply until gravity could thrust his body no further. His student landed with ease in an open pasture. If it weren’t for that co-counselor – and the field of scorpions I would inevitably land in if I were to make a successful jump – I would be on the next thrilling sky excursion you planned.

I would share who I really am with you if it wasn’t for fearing your raised-eyebrow reaction. My heart I would give to you on a plate, if I didn’t fear so much you returning the dish untouched, the contents grown cold, the chef deeply offended. There is nothing worse than mustering courage to share my story, memory, dream, only to have someone nod carefully, smile thinly, or laugh lightly, without reciprocation or questions. The awkward moment passes. So I fear that if I were to fling open the windows like that with you, there may only be darkness – or worse, scorpions – to greet me. Why open a door if no refreshing breeze rushes in? Why unlatch the shutters if no light will come pouring through the cracks?



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