Sometimes you just need to pay back those who helped you. This is one of those posts. Through the last 12 years I have had a website there have been thousands of other websites that helped me take my site to the next level. I would like to pay back by paying it forward. I am including 5 things I did to improve my blog for free.

Stop Using Blogger.com

I know a lot of people that use Blogger. Not everything Google does is gold.  Blogger is a good entry level platform but in reality though Blogger sucks to build a blog site around. You would think that a site owned by Google would be good at Search Engine Optimization and traffic building. Blogger is not good at either and I personally believe that it hinders both traffic and optimization.

Blogger does nothing to build your blog. It limits a lot of the things that will take your blog to the next level. Sure there are thousands of cool blog templates and goodies but this isn’t a reason to stay with blogger. Customization on blogger sucks. Trying to build your own template was a pita and really was a hack at best.

All of bloggers features (Bells and Whistles) kills loading speed, kills search engine work and limits traffic. These features are there to benefit Google not your blog. Google wants to maximize profits by sharing your hosting limiting your bandwidth and forcing you into using their advertising model. Just look at the blogger nav bar put on every site that uses blogger. None of these things are a positive for your blog.

If you spend the time to post to your blog even if its only for family and friends you deserve the best for your product. Google is watching out for Google not your blog.

Remember your blog is your property…not Googles.

Start Using WordPress

My recommendation is to more to WordPress. You can buy a domain name add hosting and add a cool template like Thesis for under $150. The increase in your ad revenue through a better optimized and better SEO friendly site will easily pay this increase in cost.

WordPress is designed to be used as a heavy use blog platform. It comes pre-designed for Search Engine Optimization. The back-end is even easier to use than Blogger.

The open source support that supports WordPress is huge. There are millions of features and things that are free to download to make your blog better.

I believe that by just switching to WordPress my posts became much more Search Engine Friendly and the traffic I gained was at least 50% of my increase.

The idea of blogging is to share your thoughts. Why blog if no one is going to read it?

Connect your social media and your blog

One of the best moves I made in 2009 was to connect my Facebook account and my blog. Every time I make a blog post it is automatically posted to my status on Facebook. I have approximately 450 friends on Facebook. For my blog this is my target audience, my friends. For a business it could be people interested in your business or fan page or whatever.  These are people already interested in you why not engage them directly. Facebook is a glorified address book that posts changes in your life or business to the internet in real time. It is easy to add a social media tool bar to every post on your site.

It is easy to connect your blog to any number of social media products from Digg to Reddit, to FriendFeed.  You can see eransworld’s social media links here.

Social Media also allows you to build relationships with other internet surfers. Build personal relationships, business relationships and other types of relationships through social media.

When someone appreciates your work and adds a digg or a tweet about your post send them a thank you message. Add them as a friend; add their link to your blog post. There are many ways to show appreciation.

Being a Social Butterfly Pays!

Installed Thesis

Thesis is an added extension of WordPress. It’s a technically called a theme but it’s so much more. I think it’s a template to make a great blog. It takes many of the more popular widgets (widgets are coded packages that allows for an installable plug-in for WordPress) and other fun features and combines them into one package. Here is an excellent review of Thesis: A Review of the Thesis WordPress Theme

It extends the usefulness of WordPress.  For those of us who are PHP hacks and not programmers it makes our lives much easier.

Another Great resource for Thesis users: MattFlies: 100 Resources for Thesis WordPress Theme Users

Why not make blogging easier?

Upgraded site navigation

This one was a multi-step process to upgrade the stickiness and the ease of navigation around my blog. It is easy for posts to get loss in the natural evolution of a blog, however often times that content is timeless and should be relevant.

I did some research and found a way to install a plug-in that keeps track of the most popular posts. It is a good idea to reheat once hot topics. I have many posts that have had several different periods of activity.

Creating a site map that is usable to the user.  I have an XML site map for Google indexing but I needed one that allowed users to casually browse my posts. I have often found great content on sites that may have not been search for directly. Clicking on a recent posts or most popular posts or even site maps has generated great content for me to read.  Again I found a plug-in for WordPress that addressed this issue.

My home page shows the last 10 posts in order. The top two show the full content and the 8 remaining show a blurb of content with a graphic. This allows visitors to view your sites content quickly and easily. For my site it offers a buffet of tastes. My site doesn’t always have a theme other than thoughts I have had while thinking. Different things make me passionate enough to write about in my blog so the content is varied and not themed. Most successful blogs are themed/niche blogs.

Other navigation aids include categories. Every time I add content I make sure that I enter category data into the post. This allows posts to be segregated into mini-themes like music, business etc. You can be as detailed or as vague as you like but by categorizing and using tags you can group posts together.  This is good for example if someone sees a cool music post on your blog and would like to easily find other music related posts they can simply click on the category in your navigation.

Another important tool I added was a tool by LinkWithin. It makes a section at the bottom of your post with related content. It uses images to give a visual plug to your content.

You spent the time to write about what you are passionate about why let it die there?

Bonus Item: Content is still King.

If you want to create a successful blog you need to produce content. Provide your readers with value and they will keep coming back. One popular method to do this is with a how to post. A how to post is designed to explain some process or procedure that people in your niche are seeking an answer or explanation.  A good example is from my Freshman English class in High School where we had to write out a technical process. I remember a fairly hot girl in class writing about how to peel a banana. (It was probably R-Rated and thus why I remember it. Thank you Ms Terris for such a wonderful assignment.)

I recently wrote a how to piece on a common repair on my wife’s ATV. In a few short days it has become quite popular in the ATV community. I had a problem with my wife’s ATV. I googled the problem and found many people needed answer on the problem. I fixed the problem and created a blog post about the problem.

The key to building your blog bigger and better is to provide value for your reader. If they gain something every time they visit they will return. Building readership through content is the most successful way to build a great blog.

Blogging is what writing a book 30 years ago was. Blogging is closer to real time information. The delay is shrinking from the time of discover until it is published. Blogging allows anyone to become an instant publisher without delay.

Happy Blogging