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I am new to the blogging world, but finding it suits me well.

I've gotten significant traffic, as best I can measure. (I'm seeing about 30-40 unique visitors daily). Not bad for an amateur site. But I'd like to move to the next level. I've recently added categories, which are a bit of a chore on Blogger, and that's helped get some of my older posts read. And I have made just over 10 bucks on my ads!

Thoughts on the following?

How can I get more traffic? - I'm registered at technorati and a link to my blog is in every email and message board signature I have.

Is it taboo to include personal pics of my kids from time to time? If I'm hoping to get strangers to see my site, is it bad that every dozen or so I post my kids smiling faces? Does it make it feel amateurish? I suspect so, but I'm too close to judge.

Is there a way to bury relevant keywords in my html so search engines will find me quicker?

I make it a rule to have some sort of image with every post. I find it makes it much easier to read. Pitchers is purdy!! Anybody else think this is important?

Thoughts, tips? I've read a few articles and they were mildly helpful but I'd love to hear from the dozen or so folks around here who have very similar blogs (in scope, content, and style).

Dan

Edited by DanBuck
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How can I get more traffic? - I'm registered at technorati and a link to my blog is in every email and message board signature I have.

The best advice I can give is to be patient. There are no "silver bullets" when it comes to bumping up your search engine rankings, and indeed, if you try to hard, Google et al will actually put the smackdown on you. Naturally, stuff like Technorati, and promoting to your blog organically (like putting the URL in your signatures) will help and is always a good idea; it's more likely they'll find your site that way than to cross your fingers and hope they'll find you via Google. Ultimately, you're better served putting all of your time and energy into pumping out quality, well-written content. This is what search engines - and human readers - look for above all else.

Is it taboo to include personal pics of my kids from time to time? If I'm hoping to get strangers to see my site, is it bad that every dozen or so I post my kids smiling faces? Does it make it feel amateurish? I suspect so, but I'm too close to judge.

That really depends on what your blog is about. If you claim to be writing the best blog on, say, foreign sports cars, but you're constantly sticking in photos of the young 'uns, then yeah, it'll be perceived as off-topic and amateurish. However, there are plenty of blogs out there that are just about life in general, and photos of the kids, dogs, birthday parties, family reunions, etc. are quite apropos. My neighbor's blog is a good example of this, methinks.

Is there a way to bury relevant keywords in my html so search engines will find me quicker?

See my previous comments. First of all, keywords mean nothing, I repeat, nothing (or at best, very, very little). Google has even come out and said that they don't really look at keywords and other meta tags anymore. Focus on your content, first and foremost, making sure that it's consistent, well-written (don't forget to check your spelling and grammar!), posted consistently, etc. The days where you could try to, um, "influence" search engines and their rankings are long over. Search engines have wised up to a lot of the "tricks of the trade", so to speak.

I make it a rule to have some sort of image with every post. I find it makes it much easier to read. Pitchers is purdy!! Anybody else think this is important?

Pictures are always a good idea. Just make sure they make sense within the context of the article, that they're appropriate, somehow, for the topic you're writing about. For example, if you're writing about a CD, than posting a picture of the CD artwork, or of the musician, makes perfect sense. If you can't find a photo to go with the post you're writing, don't just stick in any old image, just so that you have a photo. Better to not have a photo than to have a photo that's pointless, makes no sense, etc.

I've been running my site for the better part of 8 years now. I've never tried to "boost my search engine traffic". Yes, if you view my source code, you'll see some keywords and other meta tags, but I don't focus on them. Rather, I focus on putting out what I hope is solid, intriguing, worthy content that folks will read, notice, and link to. And so far, it seems to work, as I get pretty solid traffic, I think.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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There are a few other things that can help. If you haven't already, you might want to take a look at some articles on writing for the Web, as there are some core differences between print writing and Web writing due to the differences between the two media. This article provides a nice overview, and links to some other resources. He also has another article on blog mistakes that might be worth reading.

Also, I realize you're using Blogspot, which takes care of most of the HTML coding for you. However, it's never a bad idea to brush up on your HTML, just to make sure the code you're writing (if any) is as good as possible. Why is this important? Because if your HTML is messy, complex, and poorly written, it may negatively impact your search engine rankings (the search engines may not be able to decipher what they should be indexing). Personally, I believe anyone who spends any time working on the Web in any capacity should learn how to write valid HTML, and not leave it all up to some editor... but I'm kind of wierd in that regard, I suppose. W3Schools has some good tutorials.

Also, make sure you're active in the rest of the blogosphere, participating in other conversations (either here or on other blogs).

Finally, you might want to look into registering a real domain name for your blog. Can make it easier for people to find you, remember your site, etc.

Hope this helps...

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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I started my blog after you, and am still in the developipng stages, but the things I have tried to do are:

1 - Post regularly - I try and do 4-5 posts a day. In order to do this I also sometimes have to hold bak on other things I have to say, until there is less to say

2 - Include photos -I'm with you on this one. I try and get at least one per post usually 2 or 3. I suppose as a rule of thumb I want it to be that it's difficult to find a whole screens worth of pictureless stuff

3 - Focus - I could have had a general blog where I talk about all different types of films, plus pass on my opinions on other things that go through my head, but I decided not to. For a start there are like 100 faith and film blogs out there and without the clout of Jeffrey or Peter no-one is really going to read me regularly except friedns and family. I also wanted to do something better than anyone else was, so I'm hoping after a couple of years I'll have sufficient content and searching info that anyone searching on Bible film onfo will be unable top avoid running into my site. THat could only really happen if it was fpocussed. To get best results focuss on one thing and out all your energy into it. I guess do what you (think you) do best)

4 - Promotion. There are a few things I tried here. Actually most of my Friends and family don't know about the blog, cos it's not really for them, and I'm a bit embarrassed by it. On the other hand, there were a few significnat people that I wrote to and specifically told about the blog, some of whom blogged me, some of whom had twins didn't. Once I've got a bit more content I'll get things a bit more indexed and then I'll wrote to a few others. That is the beauty of the WWW. And it's great that Alan has the "look outside" section - talk about a great way to pool resources.

5 - Indexing

I haven't done this cos I need to round out my content a bit first. But I will do soon, so it's not a mess

6 - Quality - still working on this

7 - Try to include links etc as often as possible so the site is seen as being helpfuol. It also breaks up the text and makes it look at lot more readable. I feel that to be taken seriously I should be doing longer posts -plus it's what I what to do really - but I have to make it look appealing, especially to those who need to read it but might feel unenthusiastic about it's length

8 - Comment on other blogs. Apart from anything this is part of the fun of blogs - talking to other people, building relationships, networks etc. So I did it before I had a blog, but now I guess that everytime I do it I'm potentially spreading my name and blog. If I say something interesting someone might click on, or at least hover over my link. Two birds, one stone.

9 - Meta tags

I was surprised to hear this is old hat - I didi it anyway. If you right click and choose "page source" you'll see how most sites do this (it will also explain all those times you do a search, get something that sounds good, and then can't quite find it when you get to the page.). I've only just done it with mine, and I'm surprised to hear that it doesn't work anymore. Our church site does it, and as a result has had a lot of "hits", and does well in searches in a relevant area compared to our last site design.

10 - Reply to commenters

If you value people visiting your blog, you should reply when people comment.

I also found no.9 in Opus' link to be something I'd not thought of before.

Matt

PS oh, and Mark Good acre's www.ntgateway.com/blog has some good stuff on biblioblogs which might be useful

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Regarding my comments on meta tags...

Not all meta tags are worthless. It's still a good idea to have the "description" meta tag in place, because this is typically the short summary the search engines display if/when they return your site. If you don't have a "description" tag in place, they'll just grab the first 20-25 words they find on your site - which is probably not a good thing with a blog, since the content is typically changing over so quickly.

My primary point, however, was not that you shouldn't have keywords (they may still come in handy) but that you shouldn't spend a lot of time trying to tweak your keywords to get the perfect combination that will influence your search engine listings. Chances are, it will be a waste of time and energy, time and energy that could've been spent writing a couple of quality articles that would've made your site far more valuable.

A few weeks ago, Google released a bunch of info they had gleaned after indexing a billion webpages, specifically info about the HTML authoring techniques used on these webpages. In the section on meta data, which includes meta tags, they describe keywords as "mostly useless".

BTW Matt... your post has duplicate content in it.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Some random thoughts on the subject . . . .

Personal Stuff -- I think photos of the family are perfectly appropriate IF your website revolves around your life, and IF your readers know from the start that it is a Dan-focused site. In other words, if every fourth post is about your wife or child, don't expect to pull a lot of regular traffic from people looking, instead, for film reviews.

One word of warning: Personal websites are a dime a dozen, and the ones that get decent traffic earn it by the quality of the content. I have read every single word Dooce has written over the past five years -- not because her life is particularly interesting, but because her writing is so intimate and witty and, at times, heart-breaking. I don't mean at all to discourage you, Dan. I only mention this because you're asking specifically about increasing traffic, and in the blog world content is king.

Photos -- I don't have any qualms with your including a photo with each post, but I do have strong opinions about how it should be done. Right now, your front page has sixteen photos on it, and each is a different size and differently formatted. Some are centered, some left-justified, some right-justified, some at the top of the content, some within the content. Another rule of blogging is that old McLuhan standby -- "the medium is the message." The more professional and deliberate you are about your design, the more legitimacy your site will earn.

Get really familiar with a photo editor. Experiment with it and your blog until you find a standardized format that is pleasing to your eye. Opus is a great example here. His images are all either 485x100 pixels and centered or 150x150 pixels and left-justified. Because the main content area of your Blogger template is 460 pixels wide, and because your photos have a CSS-generated border of 14 pixels, I'd suggest that you never use images wider than 446 pixels.

And as Opus has already mentioned, the same rules apply to spelling and grammar. I'm much less likely to bookmark and revisit a site if the author hasn't taken the time to carefully proofread his or her content.

Google Ads -- How important is that $10? Do you hope to turn the site into a real source of income? When I launched Long Pauses five years ago, I made several very deliberate decisions about the purposes of the site, and one of those decisions was to assume that it would always lose money. Not much money -- just the annual cost of hosting -- but I never wanted profit-potential to influence my writing or motivations. (I never wanted it to feel like work, for one thing.)

If you do want to make money, then definitely follow Opus's advice and buy your own domain (unexposedgranite.com is available). I don't know how Opus and others feel about this, but I'm not a big fan of the blogspot/Google ad combo. Again, it's the medium as message problem.

Except for the index, every single page in Long Pauses is managed by Blogger. I'm intimately familiar with Blogger tags now, so if you have any questions, Dan, feel free to PM me.

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I don't know how Opus and others feel about this, but I'm not a big fan of the blogspot/Google ad combo. Again, it's the medium as message problem.

If this tells you anything, I have a customized stylesheet running in my browser that hides almost all advertising, including Google Ads. :)

Photos -- I don't have any qualms with your including a photo with each post, but I do have strong opinions about how it should be done. Right now, your front page has sixteen photos on it, and each is a different size and differently formatted. Some are centered, some left-justified, some right-justified, some at the top of the content, some within the content. Another rule of blogging is that old McLuhan standby -- "the medium is the message." The more professional and deliberate you are about your design, the more legitimacy your site will earn.

This may be just my anal designer self speaking, but I completely agree with this. This is one of those subconscious things that you never think about, and yet a good, solid, consistent layout for text, photos, etc. does make a difference - especially if you want people to become regular visitors. For example, Subtraction is one of the most organized sites I've ever seen, and considering the design is so simple and sparse (and pretty much black and white), it works extremely well.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Some random thoughts on the subject . . . .

Except for the index, every single page in Long Pauses is managed by Blogger. I'm intimately familiar with Blogger tags now, so if you have any questions, Dan, feel free to PM me.

Thanks for your input Darren.

I don't understand what the above statement means.

By the way, I'd still love to hear more about your personal connection to Angels in America. The film still haunts me.

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When you set up your blog, you chose a template. It's essentially an HTML page that includes Blogger-specific tags -- tags that, for example, tell Blogger where to put your content and the date and the heading and the comments, etc. Every page on your blog looks the same because they were all created from the same template.

Long Pauses is also controlled by a single Blogger template. There is no fundamental difference between the function of your blog and mine. Mine doesn't look like a blogger site, though, because I designed and completely customized my template. There must be 1,000 individual HTML pages in Long Pauses now, and every single one of them except for the index (the splash page you see when you go to longpauses.com) is controlled by that template. This much simplifies my life because I like to redesign the site every six months or so. Now, all I have to do is adjust the template and my style sheet and click on "republish entire blog" in Blogger. It does the rest of the work for me.

Because Blogger tags are unique to their database, learning how to customize a Blogger template is almost like learning a second coding language. All I meant in my last post was that, if you ever decide to customize your Blogger template, I'd be glad to help.

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When you set up your blog, you chose a template. It's essentially an HTML page that includes Blogger-specific tags -- tags that, for example, tell Blogger where to put your content and the date and the heading and the comments, etc. Every page on your blog looks the same because they were all created from the same template.

This is actually how a lot of template-based content management systems - Blogger, Moveable Type, TextPattern, Wordpress, etc. - work. It can be a little tricky at times, since like Darren said, you're essentially learning a second language (and some of them can be pretty verbose), but it makes it very easy to manage an entire site's design with just a handful of files.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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BTW Matt... your post has duplicate content in it.

Whoops - thanks

By the way - useful tip about not varying photo formats. I do vary mine a lot, for various reasons. I will have to think on whether I agree with this, and I guess how to do it for different types of picture (e.g. a video cover is portrait, whereas a screen shot is landscape).

My site defintiely looks like a blogger one, but I did think very carefully about which template. I tried to tweak it, but I know so littel html that I'm not really in a position to give it a face lift. Maybe one for the future.

Matt

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Matt, I was probably overstating my case a bit when I used Opus's very specific image sizes as an example. I share his anal-retentive qualities, though, so when I first opened Dan's page, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the variety of formats.

A friend of mine launched his blog just over a year ago and has quickly become a force (all things being equal) among online film writers. There's much to emulate from Girish:

- He's using a Blogger template and, as far as I can tell, hasn't customized it at all.

- He posts an image at the top of every post. They aren't all exactly the same size, but they're always left-justified.

- He posts, on average, three times a week. Each post is in the 700-word range, and he pays careful attention to the details of his writing. I visit his site every day because his content really is great.

- He responds to every single comment, and because of that, his site serves almost like a forum. It's the "hub" for a lot of us film bloggers.

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By the way - useful tip about not varying photo formats. I do vary mine a lot, for various reasons. I will have to think on whether I agree with this, and I guess how to do it for different types of picture (e.g. a video cover is portrait, whereas a screen shot is landscape).

The key word here is "consistency". Deciding, for example, that "a video cover is portrait, whereas a screen shot is landscape" is a good start. Decide on some basic style rules - for example, all portrait images will be between 150-200 pixels wide, or they'll be aligned left, or they'll all have a black border around them - and stick with those rules. Sure, there will be times where you have to deviate from that, and you need to be flexible, but stick to it as much as possible.

I suppose from one perspective, this could seem boring and predictable. But look at it from another perspective. If you create a consistent approach to laying out your pages, one that you stick with 95% of the time, people know what to expect visually when they come to your site. They'll know, even if on just a subconscious level, how to anticipate your layout and read your site - which makes your site a far more effective communicator, which I assume is the primary reason for starting a blog (or any website, for that matter).

Also, setting up a consistent layout means that when you do deviate from it, you can actually use it a neat effect, to emphasize something really cool. Here's a good example. Most of the time, when entries appear on this blog, they appear like that - aligned left with a black border around them. Nothing too flashy, but it gets the job done. However, see what he did with the image on this entry, which is a special entry about a very special project he's been working on. It's a much different treatment, and not only does it look way cool, but it makes this blog entry seem really special (which it is).

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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