Monday, December 05, 2005

Creating a dropdown menu for your Archives

Blogger automatically creates an archive for your blog, displaying a list of links to your archived posts in a sidebar on your blog.
If you have been blogging for a long time, this list of archive links will become very long, hereby sometimes interfering with the layout of your blog.
You can however create a dropdown menu for your archives in Blogger, reducing your archive list to one single line, like you see in the sidebar on the left.

All you have to do to create your own dropdown menu is copy and paste the following code into your template on the location where you want the dropdown menu, without changing anything:


<p style="text-align: center">
<select name="ArchiveMenu" onChange="location.href=this.options[this.selectedIndex].value;">
<option value="/">- Archives -</option>
<BloggerArchives>
<option value="<$BlogArchiveURL$>"><$BlogArchiveName$></option>
</BloggerArchives>
<option value="/">Current Posts</option>
</select>
</p>


Tags:

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Blogger navbar

Bloggers often wonder if and how they can make that little Blogger toolbar at the top of their blog disappear. That little toolbar is also called the Blogger navbar.

If you read Blogger's Terms of service thoroughly, there is a mention that only blogs that are hosted elsewhere and that are uploaded using FTP are allowed to disable the Blogger navbar. Although The Terms of service is a little vague about this matter.
However, if they wanted you to be able to disable the navbar, I'm sure they would have given you the option to do so in the settings of your blog. But does this mean that if they haven't given you the option to do so, but it is possible, that it is forbidden?

Although it is not mentioned explicitly in the Terms of service, Blogger support recently stated that removing the Blogger navbar or Blogger button is indeed a violation of the terms of service if you are not uploading your blog via FTP.
This means that they 'could' take down your blog or stop your hosting on Blogger if you remove the navbar.

Besides, the navbar has its use. It can be used to search the index of your blog (assuming that the Google robots have visited your blog), and people use it to navigate to other blogs. Remember that you can change the colour of the navbar in the template tab of your blog cockpit, to make it fit in more with the rest of the blog.

However, if you really want to get rid of the navbar on top of your blog, there is a way. Just copy and paste the following code between the <style type="text/css"> and </style> tags of your blog template, and it will be history:

#b-navbar {
height:0px;
visibility:hidden;
display:none
}



Tags:

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Making expandable posts in Blogger

Blogger lacks a few interesting features. One of them is the creation of expandable posts.
An expandable post is a blog post with an intro that tries to get the attention of the reader, and where the rest of the post can be read by clicking on a 'read more' button.
If you search for the creation of expandable posts in the Blogger Help, a possible solution is suggested. However, the solution that is being suggested will create a 'read more' button for all your posts, not only the ones that really do have more text to read. And what good is having a button that says 'read more' in a post where there is nothing more to read.
But there is a way to create expandable posts in Blogger, that lets you decide if a 'read more' button should be shown or not.
All you need to do is copy and paste some code into your blog template.

The first thing you should do, is make sure that the 'enable post pages' in the archiving settings of your blog is set to 'yes'.

The following code lines should be placed in your Blogger template, between the <style> and </style> tags:

<MainOrArchivePage>
span.fullpost {display:none;}
</MainOrArchivePage>

<ItemPage>
span.fullpost {display:inline;}
</ItemPage>


The following code should be placed in your Blogger template, between the </style> and </head> tags:


<script type="text/javascript">
var memory = 0;
var number = 0;
</script>


Copy the following code directly after the Blogger template tag <$BlogItemBody$>:


<MainOrArchivePage>
<script type="text/javascript">
spans = document.getElementsByTagName('span');
number = 0;
for(i=0; i < spans.length; i++){
var c = " " + spans[i].className + " ";
if (c.indexOf("fullpost") != -1) {
number++;
}
}
if(number != memory){
document.write('<a class="readmorebutton" href="<$BlogItemPermalinkUrl$>"> Read more...</a><br>');
}
memory = number;
</script>
</MainOrArchivePage>


The next code should be placed directly after the <style type="text/css"> tag in your template:


a.readmorebutton:link, a.readmorebutton:visited {
float: left;
margin: 2px 2px 2px 2px;
padding: 2px;
width: 115px;
border-top: 1px solid #CCCCCC;
border-bottom: 1px solid #000000;
border-left: 1px solid #CCCCCC;
border-right: 1px solid #000000;
background: #CCCCCC;
text-align: center;
text-decoration: none;
font: normal 10px trebuchet ms, verdana, sans-serif;
color: #194B77;
}

a.readmorebutton:hover, a.readmorebutton:active {
float: left;
margin: 2px 2px 2px 2px;
padding: 2px;
width: 115px;
border-top: 1px solid #CCCCCC;
border-bottom: 1px solid #000000;
border-left: 1px solid #CCCCCC;
border-right: 1px solid #000000;
background: #EEEEEE;
text-align: center;
text-decoration: none;
font: normal 10px trebuchet ms, verdana, sans-serif;
color: #194B77;
}


That's it!
Now every time you want to write an expandable post, you write the post like this, including the two tags:


This is the post entry.
<span class="fullpost">Here is the rest of the post that people can read after clicking the 'read more' button.</span>



Tags:

Friday, November 25, 2005

A few tips on Blogging

The most obvious, popular and effective way to promote your blog is to visit other blogs and to comment on their posts. You could for example click on the 'Next Blog' button of the Blogger toolbar above your blog, until you read an interesting post that you have an opinion on. If you write an amusing or interesting comment, you can be sure that the owner of that blog and maybe some other readers will check out your blog as well.
Don't write spam comments like 'please visit my blog', but make sure that you write down a personal opinion about what is written in the post.

If you have a personal blog, make sure that your visitors can get an idea about who you are in just a few seconds, by mentioning a profile or a name, the city or country that you live in, or by having a little picture of yourself on your blog.
It can be very confusing to end up on a blog not knowing if the owner is male or female and where he or she is from. Also mention what it is that you are writing about.

If someone leaves a comment on your blog, respond to it in your comments! Say 'thank you for commenting', answer their questions or give your opinion on what that person wrote. Blogging is interacting with your visitors. If you don't respond, they will stop commenting. New visitors will be tempted to leave a comment if they see that you respond to your visitor's comments.
You should consider it an honour that people comment on your posts.

Don't write extremely long posts. A lot of people visit many blogs a day, and are interested in reading short, interesting stories. Most visitors will not stay much longer than 3 minutes on your blog.
You could also insert little images in your post. They will give your visitors an idea what the post is about, and they give your blog a more interesting look. There are a lot of websites on the internet where you can find free, royalty-free images.


Tags:

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Meta tags

When the robots of a search engine like Google visit your blog, they only look at the Meta tags of your blog.
Meta tags are a few lines of code that you can add to the template of your blog, between the <head> and </head> tag. The code is not visible to the regular visitors of your page, only to the robots of the search engines.
There are 3 Meta tags that are important, and that you should include into your blog template: Description, Keywords and Robots.

The Description tag is used by a lot of search engines as the description of your site in the search results of that search engine. For example, if someone searches for the name of your site in Google, that person will see the description that was written in the Description meta tag. That's why the description should be appealing, interesting and should be describing accurately the content of your blog.

The Keywords tag was used until a few years ago to determine the position of your site in a lot of search engines. Spammers have made this way of determining the position impossible. Therefor, many people say that the Keywords tag is of no use anymore.
But it doesn't hurt to include the Keyword tag into your template anyway.
The Keyword tag should recite the most important keywords that define the content of your blog. If you are writing a blog about a particular subject, you will notice that some words will reappear many times in your blog posts. These words should be included in the Keywords tag.

The Robots tag decides whether a search engine should include your site and make it possible for other people to search for your site. There are people who don't want their blog to show up in search engines like Google. For example, teachers who don't want their pupils to find their blog. In that case, it's important to include the Robots tag to let the search engine know to ignore the blog.

Here is an example of the Meta tags I have described. You can copy the code, change the information to be relevant for your blog (don't erase the quotation marks), and paste it into your template, between the <head> and </head> tag.

<META name="Description" content="Write the description of your blog here.">
<META name="Keywords" content="keyword1,keyword2,keyword3">
<META name="Robots" content="index,follow">


If you don't want your blog to show up in any search engine, you should only include the Robots tag, like this:
<META name="Robots" content="noindex,nofollow">

After adding the Meta code to your template, you can analyse your code for errors here: Meta Tag Analyzer


Tags:

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ping directories

Every time you have written a new post on your blog, you should send a ping to all the directories and services that you have submitted your blog to.
This sounds like a lot of work, but in fact it only takes a few seconds.
Sending a ping to a directory is like shouting to it: hey, I have written a new post on my blog! Come and check it out!

So why should you do this? By pinging directories and services, their little spider robots that crawl the web for new posts, will come to see what you have written and will update the information the directory or service has about your blog.
A lot of directories and services will place your blog on top of the list of updated blogs, which will make it more visible to potential visitors.
Other services look for the links in your posts and inform blog owners that you have mentioned a link to their site, who will surely visit your blog to check out what you have written about them.

So, directories and services will collect the new data from your blog, and you end up with some new visitors.
That's why you should send out a ping every time you write a post.

How do you send out pings? A very easy way to ping is using the ping-o-matic. (click on the link to go to the site)
You fill in the name and URL of your blog, check all the services to ping and push the 'submit pings' button. That's all.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to ping.


Tags:

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Blogrolling - managing your links

If you have family, friends or colleagues that own a blog or website, it's a good idea to exchange links. You place a link on your blog that leads to their blog, and they place a link on their blog or site that leads to yours. That way you can both gain visitors.
It's also a great way to obtain a better position in the Google search engine, because your position in Google is partly calculated by the number of links on other websites that lead to your blog.

Does that mean that you have to start messing with your blog template every time you want to place or delete a link to another site on your blog? No!
Blogrolling offers an easy way to manage all your favourite links.

You create a free account at Blogrolling, create a new 'blogroll' (that's how they call your linklist) and copy and paste a little javascript code in your blog template, on the position where you want to show your links in your blog.
Now, everytime you want to add another link to your blog, you just have to go to blogrolling, click on 'add links', and enter the URL of the site where the link should lead to.

There even is a way to add new links to your blog with one click without having to visit the blogrolling site, by adding a Blogroll link to your browser toolbar. That way, you just have to click the Blogroll link whenever you are at a site that you want to add to your blogroll, and a link to that site will be created.
No more searching and messing with your blog template!
You can even fully customize the way your links are being displayed.

My Blogroll can be seen in the left column of this site, where it says: 'Interesting links'.


Tags:

Monday, November 21, 2005

RSS feeds

Every now and then someone asks me: "What are these RSS, Atom and XML feed things about, and do I need them on my blog??"
You could start searching on the internet for more information on these site feeds, but most of the time you need to be quite a computer freak to be able to understand what the hell they are talking about.
So let me try to shed some light on this subject for you.

Take me for example. Since I am a full-time computer geek and internet addict, I read about 50 blogs on a daily basis. Yes, 50, at least. You might ask yourself where I find the time to read them all. Well, that is where these RSS feeds come in handy.

RSS, Atom and XML are 3 different standards, but theoretically they do exactly the same thing. They create a basic, unformatted text layout of your blog entries, so that they can easily be imported into other programs that are called newsreaders.
The RSS feed of this blog looks like this: http://theblogdesk.blogspot.com/atom.xml
Now if you enter the address of the RSS feeds of all your favourite blogs in a newsreader, you don't have to visit all the blogs anymore. The program will tell you which blog has got entries that you haven't read yet.

The most famous RSS feed newsreader is Bloglines. It has 3 major advantages: it is free, it can read all 3 feed standards and it is an online RSS-reader. This means that you don't have to install it on your computer, and that you can check your favourite blogs for updates on every computer in the world with an internet connection.


So how does it work?
You go to http://www.bloglines.com/ and create an account. This is totally free and only takes a minute. Then you go to the 'My Feeds' tag, and click on the 'add' link to add one of your favourite blogs. You enter the blog or RSS feed URL (for example: http://theblogdesk.blogspot.com or http://theblogdesk.blogspot.com/atom.xml) and Bloglines checks if this blog publishes an RSS feed.
If it finds one or more feeds, you can subscribe to one of them and a link is added to 'your feeds'. If a blog supports more than 1 feed standard, subscribing to one of them is enough.
Once you click on the link that is created for your newly added blog in 'my feeds', bloglines considers the entries that you see of this blog to be read. Now every time you enter bloglines and the blog link is in bold, this means that there is a new entry on that blog that you haven't read yet.

bloglines also has a notifier that you can download. When you install it, it creates an icon in the windows toolbar. By right-clicking on it you enter the e-mail adress in the settings that you used to log in to bloglines. Now every time a blog that you have subscribed to has a new entry, the icon notifies you of this.
So instead of checking each blog every half hour to see if you guys have written an entry yet, I get notified by an icon when you do. That's the advantage of these feeds.

A lot of people use Bloglines to read their favourite blogs. So make sure that you activate the 'Site Feed' of your blog in the settings of Blogger. You set 'publish site feed' to 'yes', and 'descriptions' to 'Full'. Then you republish your blog. Your blog will now have an RSS feed with a URL like http://*your blogname*/atom.xml

Now you can submit your RSS feed URL to all the feed directories that were mentioned in my entry 'Blog directories'.


Tags:

Friday, November 18, 2005

Bloghopping

One way to get people to visit your newly created blog, is to go bloghopping.
If you like reading other people's blogs, you will surely like it. Blogexplosion must be the most famous bloghop service.
You sign up to Blogexplosion, add your blog to their directory, wait until it is validated by the administrators, and then you can start surfing member blogs.
For every 2 blogs you visit in Blogexplosion, you earn a credit. Earning a credit means that one of the Blogexplosion members will be shown your blog.
So for every 2 blogs you visit, 1 person will be visiting your blog.
However, don't expect to find a lot of loyal readers for your blog among the Blogexplosion members, because most of them are only bloghopping for the same reason as you: to get more visitors to their blog.
However, someone might just find your blog interesting enough to bookmark it and visit it again.

Before you submit your blog to Blogexplosion, you must have written at least 3 posts. If not, your blog will not be accepted to their directory.
You can click on the button below to go to Blogexplosion.




Tags:

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Web tracker

The next thing you should do after registering your blog, is add a web tracker to it. A web tracker is like a visitor counter, but it can give you much more information than a normal counter.
A good web tracker will be able to give you information about the referrals to your blog, or how visitors have found your blog.
You will be able to see the search term they have entered in a search engine like Google or Yahoo to get to your blog, or the site that has lead them to yours. In that case, that site probably has a link to yours.
It’s not just a way to keep track of the amount of people that visit your blog, but also a great way to find out what your visitors are interested in or what they love to read.

A nice free counter that can give you all this information can be found at Extreme Tracking (You can click HERE to go to extreme tracking). You sign up, copy and paste a little button code in your blog template, and you can start checking why people are visiting your blog.
Google has recently launched a similar feature: Google Analytics. But if you are not familiar with tracking information, Google analytics can be quite confusing, and their information is not real-time.


Tags: