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My Blog Must Haves

Japanese Craft Supplies Cabochon - Small Black BowSometimes the simplest things are the most overlooked – especially when it comes to your blog layout.  You know your way around your blog, but does everyone else?  Is information easily accessible?  Do you have the basics on your blog – so that readers will be able to find what they need?  Here’s what I consider to be essentials for your home page.  The layout is up to you, but I really believe that if you add these components to your blog, you are going to give your readers a more pleasant experience.  This will in turn make your life easier.

  1. Blog tags or categories. You probably already have them, but do they make sense?  Remember to choose the top 20 or 30, but be careful about category madness.  Scrolling through too many is a pain.  Don’t be afraid to ask your readers either – ask them if you are missing something, or if you have the right ones.  I did, and it’s one of the best ways to quickly revamp  your tags.  I’m always reviewing my tags.  It’s an ongoing process.
  2. An About Me section. Who is the woman behind the crafting mask?  I want to know.  Plus I want to scream out “Pride & Prejudice is my favorite book too!” when I read your profile.
  3. A search box in a prominent place. I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve been to that don’t have search boxes.  I need it, because when I come to your blog and want to search for that hippopotamus project, how will I do it without a search box?  Also, if you have a search box, you don’t have to have tags for everything under the moon.
  4. E-mail me. The best way to grow your blog is to connect with your readers and to network.  Please have an e-mail address easily accessible for this purpose.  I highly recommend getting a blog-specific address at Gmail (that’s what I do) so that you don’t clog up your personal e-mail.  You want to know if anyone has questions about your hippopotamus craft project, don’t you?
  5. Social media buttons. I’m actually in the process of revamping this part of my blog.  I want to have it more consolidated up at the top, above everything else.  In a week or so I’ll have my Facebook, E-mail me, Twitter and more all on one line.  This makes it SO easy for readers to connect with you outside your blog, in the places that they visit regularly.  A great example of this can be found at Dollar Store Crafts.  Along these lines, if you have a Facebook Fan Page you should get the Facebook “Like” widget.  Facebook users can like your fan page without leaving your blog.  You can see an example on my blog, Mod Podge Rocks.
  6. A links section. If I like your blog, then I want to know what blogs inspire you because I will probably like them too.  What are your resources?  My personal practice is to put my favorite blogs and top referrers in my link section.  I always like to give credit to those who send me referrals.
  7. A privacy policy. This is for those of you who run ads.  If your ad network collects information for targeting purposes, then you need to let your readers know that.  It doesn’t have to be plastered over the front page, but you do need a link to it.  Your readers at least need the choice to opt out.  Just so you know, most advertising networks simply collect information on pages you visit rather than your personal details.  I don’t mind visiting pages that log my preferences – I would rather see ads I’m interested in.
  8. A techniques/resources/FAQ section. This one is for those of you who do more specialized crafts (like me).  Mod Podge requires a little background and a video or two, so I’ve got a Learn How section on my site.  If you have a basic crafting site, you may be able to ignore this – but if you’re getting into some crazy woodworking or advanced sewing, I suggest providing resources for your readers in case they need some instruction.  You don’t want anyone to visit your blog, say “I can’t do that” and then leave.  Have a main section of techniques and then for each tutorial that is advanced, link within the entry.  It’s got to be easy to find for your readers or they may not come back.  This also makes life easier for you, as it gives you a place to refer people for those inevitable “How do I lathe something?” questions.

There are many more components to a blog (as you can see from everything I’ve incorporated into mine), but I believe that these are the essentials.  At some point soon I’ll do an entry on the extra “goodies” I love to have on my blog.  Did I cover everything?  Is there anything essential to a craft blog that you like to see in the front page?

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9 Responses to “My Blog Must Haves”

  1. Awesome tips to a great blog:) Thanks so much! I need to get on the privacy policy-as I don’t have ads yet it may be of interest eventually. I also love the idea of a FAQ page.
    :)gina
    http://www.hiyaluv.com

  2. Elexa says:

    Wow I really learned a lot from this article and I love the blogs that you used for examples, I follow them regularly.
    I must go now and spice up my blog with some of your helpful comments. Thanks!

  3. Holly L says:

    More great tips! I think I have most of those…the darn searchbox gadget in blogger doesn’t work on my blog – it is kind enough to show the links to other blog via my blog…and I KNOW I need to pare down my categories.

  4. Christine says:

    I just recently added a search box to my blog, it was so easy to do. I do need to work on my about me page though :/. Great article–helpful tips, thanks!

  5. amy says:

    Thanks everyone! Holly, it didn’t work on my blog either, so I put in my own search box. Go here at customize it to get the HTML: http://www.google.com/cse/

    Or if you want one on the fly, go here: http://www.google.com/cse/tools/create_onthefly

    Specify the URL to search with your own blog address. You can customize it.

    Note that in the HTML code you’ll see a size=”40″ . . . you can change that size to make the box larger or smaller (horizontally). Size 40 was too large for my column, so I shrunk it down to 31. Hope this helps!

  6. Michelle says:

    Thanks for your blog tips, Amy.
    This may sound very elementary but what is a “links section’? Is that the one found below the blog “Create a link”?
    When I write about something or quote another blog, I link their website to mine by using the blogger tabs. But how would they know that I linked them? – By personally informing them by email everytime or will it be automatic?
    Thanks and Happy birthday!

  7. amy says:

    Hi Michelle! If you visit Mod Podge Rocks, you see a section on my lower right-hand side called “Crafty Bloggers Like Myself.” That is what I mean by links – links to sites you like!

    I’m not sure if that “Create a Link” section automatically notifies a person – I’ve never been notified that way. I can tell you that you can set a Google Alert to get an e-mail of links to your site. That is what I use to find links in Blogger.

  8. Connie M says:

    Thank you for the information~I don’t have a search box ~ how would I put that on. I’m with blogger and not even sure how to show my tags. help?

    • amy says:

      Hi Connie! Read the reply to Holly above for the info on how to add a search box.

      As far as tags, when you create your post you have the option to add them right under the posting window. They automatically display under your post, and you can add them to your blog column under “Design” in the Blogger dashboard. If you would like to learn more about Blogger, I highly recommend reading as much as you can online. This is a great place to start!
      http://bloggerfordummies.blogspot.com/

      This site should be able to answer most of the questions you would have with great tutorials. Thanks!!

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