Friday, January 30, 2009

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Blogging - Just Do It - Today

If you are not yet a blogger, but keep thinking about it, stop waiting, and begin Today.

You have lots of questions - and doubts, and these have been stopping you. Which blogging service? How do I want my blog to look? What do I want to write? Who will read my blog?

Forget all your questions. You can always just delete your first blog and start over with a different service, format, and content - after you have learned by doing.

Go to www.blogger.com, click on "Create A Blog," and follow the instructions. Pick whichever Template you are attracted to, but don't sweat your choice - you can change it later. Then begin writing your first Post. Whatever you write is just fine. Write something today, and again tomorrow. Tell your friends about your blog when you feel ready.

There is plenty of time for fancy designs and add-on's later. In my personal opinion, simple is always best. I have visited so many blogs that were virtually unusable with several things flashing and unwanted music blaring. To avoid anoying your visitors, keep a light background with dark type, minimize the clutter, don't blink or pop-up anything, and don't play music without your visitor's permission.

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I'm a BIG fan of Blogger.com

I'm a BIG fan of Blogger.com - I have several blogs on Blogger, and have been very successful with my Daily Inspiration - Daily Quote blog. I have also tried WordPress and others, so I do have a basis for comparison.

There are 4 issues that set Blogger far ahead of the other free blog sites - and most of the for-pay ones (in my opinion).

1. No unwanted ads ever -- and I can run my own ads through AdSense

2. No extra charge for custom CSS - I can and do highly customize the look and feel of my blog. WordPress charges for that.

3. A Blogger blog automatically gets MUCH better placement in Google Search - after all, Blogger is a Google service, and they do favor their own. Why not start out with a free quick and easy boost to Search Engine Optimization.

4. Blogger supports custom domains at no extra charge. Get one for $10/year (from GoDaddy or other) and point it at your Blogger blog. Blogger makes that easy also.

Downsides to Blogger - in comparison to WordPress:

1. No pages. WordPress supports pages that are not blog posts. With Blogger, I need to put non-post stuff on another web site.

2. No Tag Cloud. Tag clouds are both cute and functional. I'm hoping Blogger gets them soon. (Yes, there are 3rd party tag cloud widgets for Blogger. I've tried several, but none worked well)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

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An Easy Shortcut To a Fresh Blog

The best content for your blog is always your own writing - either posted every day or scheduled for daily release. However, it's nice to have something new show up automatically on your blog.

Today's tip is to display content from another blog or blogs in your sidebar - not just the names of the blogs, but actual content. This keeps your blog fresh even when you skip your own posting. Ensure that you have the permission of the blog's owner to republish their content.

For Blogger, click Add a Gadget under the Layout tab. Currently, the Blog List gadget is at the top of the list of gadgets. Check Snippet, and then click Add a Blog to Your List.

For WordPress, click Appearance on the Dashboard page, then Widgets, Then RSS.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

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How to Keep Your Blog Fresh While You Are Away From Your Computer

It is well known that blogs with daily or nearly daily posts get more visitors, but how to handle days when you are traveling, busy, or just don't feel like writing?

The best way to ensure that your blog is updated daily is to write blog entries in advance. Unless you blog strictly about current events, you can write several posts on days when you do feel like writing, and schedule them for future posting.

Consider maintaining a constant backlog of future-dated posts - enabled for automatic publishing on specified days. For my main blog Daily Inspiration - Daily Quote, I always have at least a week's worth of daily posts scheduled. Moreover I schedule the posts for the same time each day - which gives readers an even greater sense of dependability.

For Blogger, click on "Post Options" just below your post to access Post Date and Time. For WordPress, enter your desired post date and time in the "Publish" tab in the upper right of your Add New Post screen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

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How To Publish an Email Newsletter For Free

You have heard about the benefits of publishing an e-zine and building a subscriber base - they're all true. But the cost and effort... Here's a quick tip for turning your blog into an e-zine for zero cost and zero effort.

FeedBurner - now owned by Google - will turn your blog into an e-zine, manage your subscriber list, and mail out all your posts... for free. ConstantContact and other emailer services may have to watch their back sides.

To try the service, go to http://feedburner.google.com and sign up.

After your account is set up, click on the Publicize tab, and then on Email Subscriptions.

It's almost too easy, and it's been working great for me.

Take a look at FeedBurner email in action by signing up to follow my Blogging Tips and Techniques blog via email - using FeedBurner, of course.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

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How to Find Great Free Articles for Your Blog

Sometimes you run out of ideas for your blog, and sometimes you just want to post a wider range of content. Either way, there is an easy way to post other peoples great articles on your blog - free, and with complete legal permission, as long as you follow the rules.

A number of article directories offer free articles on almost any subject for you to post to your own blog.

The following instructions apply to EzineArticles.com but ArticlesBase.com and others are very similar.
Step 1
Go to www.ezinearticles.com

Step 2
Click on a category, sub-category, and an article you like.

Step 3
Click on "Ezine Publisher" in the upper right corner of the page.

Step 4
Copy the contents of the box labeled "HTML Version"
For an example, look at http://ezinearticles.com/ezinepublisher/?id=1796600

Step 5
Create a Post in your blog, select "Edit HTML" mode, and Paste what you copied in step 4.

Step 6
Click Preview to see how the article looks.

Step 7
Select "Compose" mode, and correct any formatting errors.
For Blogger (Blogspot), you need to remove the extra blank lines.
For WordPress, you need to remove the duplicate title.

Step 8
Copy the title to your blog post. Copy the KeyWords field from the EzineArticles page to your post's Tags or Labels field. Click Publish

Step 9
Respect the rights of the author by NOT modifying the article, author name, or links in ANY way (other than as mentioned in step 7). The author has provided a quality article for your free use on your blog specifically because he or she desires and expects that your blog readers will recognize the value of the author's writing and will follow the link to his or her web site or blog.

Friday, January 23, 2009

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How to Purge Microsoft Word Smart Quotes from On-Line Articles

On-Line articles and blog posts should not include so called "smart quotes" and other non-ASCII characters because older browsers and many email programs display them as a sequence of garbage characters. Here is how to understand the problem better and correct it - very easily if you have an Apple Mac.

Step 1
If you write all your on-line articles with a text editor or HTML editor, you don't need to read this article. The formatting of your on-line articles will be fine.

Step 2
If you intend to use Microsoft Word to author on-line articles, select Preferences, Auto Correct, and un-check all the "Auto-format as you type" options. Also un-check the "Replace text as you type" option. This should prevent the problem in future articles.

Step 3
Smart Quotes and other non-ASCII characters If you have articles that you have already written using Microsoft Word, or if you want to write articles that will look their best both in print and on-line, you need to understand more about "smart quotes." By default, Microsoft Word changes both single quotes (apostrophes) and double quotes into "smart quotes" or "typographer's quotes" - a different mark for the end of a quote than for the beginning. By default, Microsoft Word also converts two dashes into an "em-dash," three periods into an "ellipsis," 1/2 into a single character, and more. These all cause problems in on-line articles because they are all extended characters and not part of the basic ASCII set that is universal to all browsers and email programs.

Step 4
If you have a PC, go to step 6. If you have an Apple Mac you have been blessed by the computer gods, because your solution is so easy. Go to http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/ and download a free copy of the Text Wrangler text editor software.

Step 5
Start TextWrangler. Click File-Open, and enter the name of your file. Click Text-Convert To ASCII. Click File-Save. You are done. All the "smart" double quotes, single quotes, em-dashes, ellipses, and other non-ASCII characters have been converted to their best ASCII equivalents.

Step 6
If you are still reading, you have a PC and have to fix your files manually. Open your .doc file in Word, and turn off all "Auto-format as you type" and "Replace text as you type." - as in step 2.

Step 7
Open the Replace dialog. Type a double quote into the Find box and into the Replace box. Click Replace All. Repeat using a single quote (apostrophe).

Step 8
Getting rid of ellipses, em-dashes, and the others is harder. If you only have a few, edit them manually. If you have a number of them, the following MAY work for you depending on your OS version and settings: Using ellipses as an example, highlight an ellipsis and press control and c. Open the Replace dialog. Click in the Find box and press control and v. If you don't see the ellipsis in the Find box, give up and replace them one at a time. If you do see the ellipsis, type three periods into the Replace box, and click Replace All. Repeat for em-dash, 1/2, and each other non-ASCII character in your document.

Final thoughts:

* Even if you think that you have not used quotes in your article, remember that Microsoft Word will turn the apostrophe in "don't" into a "smart" single quote.

* You may have to customize the specifics of these techniques to your version of Operating System, version of Microsoft Word, and settings.