In mid-April, I will have been blogging for an entire year…
An entire year of staring at my computer and thinking of YOU.
Everyday, all the time… thinking how I can entertain you.
Thinking of how I can make sure you NEVER LEAVE ME.
That’s been pretty exhausting.
I had planned for the one-year mark to be the point at which I could STOP thinking about you… And instead, think about the fact that now I was famous.
Yet another plan, gone awry.
There is nothing I have done in the last year, MORE than I have worked on this blog.
It has lit up every corner of my compulsiveness. And my skills at micro-managing.
A combination that has made me EVEN MORE irritable than I normally am.
A combination that has driven me to spend ALL my free-time on the internet.
To spend every, single, free moment thinking about what I call “my readers,” and what everyone else calls, “total strangers.”
An entire year of watching my husband’s eyes glaze over.
An entire year of wondering why the people I love, do not want to talk about my blog…
ALL THE TIME.
An entire year of wishing everyone would just LEAVE ME ALONE so that I could do my blog.
An entire year of perfecting the art of pretending to listen to people, while ACTUALLY thinking about my blog.
My blog. My blog. My blog.
As a result of all that time and energy, you’d think I’d feel like I have a handle on things.
But I don’t. At all.
In fact, the more I learn about the internet, the more I realize the cosmic rift between myself, and every goal I have:
- A well-designed site.
- Billions of readers.
- World domination.
The more I learn, the more I realize all the things I failed to do…
The more I learn, the more I realize ALL the stupid things I have done.
The more I learn, the more outraged I am—that NO ONE told me this stuff.
I’m taking a break from writing about the house this week… to write about the things I wish another blogger had taken the time to spell out for me.
I am genuinely mad that it took me an entire year to learn EVERYTHING I’m going to tell you.
It shouldn’t have taken so long… This information is all out there, but it’s being suffocated by the volume of absolute crap, masquerading as valuable blogging-advice.
Someone find me a podium.
If you’re not a blogger? Class dismissed… Please exit the auditorium in an orderly fashion… I’ll be back on Monday with a post about the kitchen.
If you are a blogger? You’re tired of yet another “how to.”
You’ve already read 100,000 blogging-tutorials.
The majority of which are totally useless junk.
Overly-decorated, empty-headed nonsense… Stupid, generic fluff… Page-filler.
In the guise of insight.
Accompanied by hyper-annotated images so that you’ll pin it.
Oh hey! You know what this is? It’s a Pinnable image!!
SO YOU CAN PIN IT.
My goal is to share technical information that is basic, easy to implement, and important
Information that I would have benefited from knowing SOONER. Way, way, way, sooner.
This is not a list of everything you need to know.
It’s a list of things, that when I learned it, gave me the response of:
WHY did I NOT know this?
WHY did no one TELL me?
I stuck with two themes:
- things I did horribly wrong
- things I did horribly wrong
Incase you have any questions about whether I’m an expert about any of this, please refer to items 1 and 2.
In thinking about how to organize it, I decided to split it into:
- Beginner- information you can use immediately.
- Intermediate- things you’ll need to be self-hosting to apply to your blog.
I started my blog on WordPress.com… and eventually moved to self-hosting. You can read my blog-migration story here. It’s totally awesome, and way more fun than what we’re about to dive into.
This is pretty long… but if you make it all the way to the comments, I’d love to hear your own experiences… what surprised you, what you WISH you knew sooner… the most important thing you learned so far.
Let’s get started!
Part 1 information you can use, regardless of whether you are on WordPress.com, Blogger, or self-hosting.
The photo uploader in your blog should come with guidelines. But it doesn’t. It’s just a tool.
And you are free to misuse it anyway you like.
And I did. I uploaded GIANT photos. For three or four months, it was a free-for-all.
Which is great for the ONE person who clicks on that photo and gets to see your flowers in HUGE, massive detail.
For everyone else, it slows down your site.
It irritates your readers that everything takes nine-thousand hours to load.
It forces the blog do the work YOU should be doing:
1. Compress your photos.
- PRIOR to uploading them to your blog… this shouldn’t be confused with the option to insert different sizes into a post.
- Your photos don’t need to be any larger than the content area available for them to display. Meaning: the width of the space where you write your blog posts.
- Load time affects your Google ranking, your bounce rate, and your reader’s experience… particularly for mobile users. TENTHS of seconds matter
- I’m pretty sure that I’m due to learn something new and horrifying about the ways I’m still doing my photos wrong… especially since I know they’re still too large (but oooo so pretty).
2. Title and Alt Text.
- Your photo’s title and alt text should be a brief description in NATURAL language.
- Name your photos, prior to uploading them. Your camera automatically assigns your photos a number. But you want to change that to something brief and descriptive.
- Alt text (also called alt tag) is how visually-impared people use screen-readers to know what photos accompany your text.
- Alt text is ALSO how Google reads your photos! FILL OUT YOUR ALT TEXT!
- For example, I wrote a post about how to make a bow. I could have uploaded the photos as bow1, bow2, ribbon1, ribbon2… but if I’m more specific, and title it “how to make a bow.” Then Google knows what it’s a picture of.
After three months… I learned to fill out the title.
After six-months, I learned that it’s even more important to fill out the Alt-Text… when I learned that I’d STILL been doing it wrong, I was mad.
I was SO mad.
Mad, mad, mad.
So to make up for it, I wrote CRAZY long descriptions. I shoved EVERY keyword in there that I could think of.
Then? At nine-months? I learned that I was STILL doing it wrong!!!
I learned that Google does not like that. At all.
In fact, Google thinks CRAZY long descriptions are proof that you are spam, and should be ignored.
Tags are not your personal lifeline to Google. Tags are not keywords. Tags are not every single thing you can think of that has to do with your post.
Tags are meaningless outside of your site.
Let me say that again:
Tags are meaningless outside of your site.
They are for NAVIGATION. For your READERS.
Think of them as subsections of categories. Ways to link posts together.
Learning this was actually embarrassing for me.
When I was on WordPress.com, their internal-search engine DID use your tags, to include you in their reader. In fact, it would suggest EXTRA tags when publishing a post! Which, for me, was all the encouragement I needed to use AS MANY tags I could think of.
Which was a lot.
God knows I am creative when it comes to ensuring I will not be overlooked.
When I found out I was doing tags wrong, I had over 400.
Like a tag-hoarder.
I tried to fix this recently. Using a tool that came highly recommended—the Yoast tag optimizer. It took me roughly ten-thousand hours to figure out how to install it. Then, it crashed my site.
I thought I used it wrong, so I tried again.
And? It was AWESOME. I was FINALLY getting my tags under control! I was GETTING SHIT DONE.
And then it crashed my site again…
The day I emailed Yoast? They STOPPED selling it. Because it will CRASH your site… And they will not reimburse me for the nine-million hours I wasted with it, or the two heart-attacks I had when it exploded.
I SHOULD split this up into about four posts, but have no time for that much work… so you are just going to have to plow through.
I won’t be offended if you bail…or start speed reading… or just copy this cheat sheet for later:
-title, alt text
-think about linking related posts.
3. Fill out your slug
4. Inspect Element
– take a look at the code behind your website.
Fill out your post’s slug.
What’s a slug? It’s part of the permalink… The code that displays in your url bar.
WordPress automatically defaults the slug to your post’s title… unless you save it as an untitled draft, in which case you get nothing but a number.
Google uses the slug to get information about your post… A number means nothing to Google.
When I learned about the importance of filling out the slug, I mistook it as yet ANOTHER way Google wanted me to tell it EVERYTHING I could about my post.
I’m pretty sure Google thinks this site is run by a total lunatic by now… because I wrote some slugs that give “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” a run for its money.
You think I am kidding? I am not:
http://victoriaelizabethbarnes.com/Holiday MashUp: where I lure you in with an abundance of sparkly Christmas stuff, but then discuss the prevalence of luxury-home blogs and how I have failed to sleep with Channing Tatum.
Incase you hadn’t noticed, brevity is not a strength I have.
But you can edit the slug to be something neat, clean, brief, and descriptive.
WOW! We made it to the end of Part ONE! I know you CANNOT wait for Part TWO!
If you made it this far with me, here’s a special treat… the SECRET DECODER ring to your blog!!
Way more overwhelming information than anyone could possibly ever need… you decide.
- Inspect Element.
When you learn about inspect element, you feel like you have learned EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW about the internet. It feels like a secret that you have uncovered via your own outstanding research skills, and probably no one else even knows about it.
You feel like an internet genius. And that now you have the key to all human knowledge.
What is it? It’s an option in your internet-browser that lets you see the code behind a website.
Let’s say you want to know anything from the widgets I use, to the exact numeric code for the shade of orange font I favor.
- Right click on the part of the webpage you want more information about.
- Depending on your browser, you are looking for something similar to “inspect element.”
When you click on inspect element, it will open a window over top of the webpage.
Whoa. What is that? How is that helpful?
It’s totally confusing, yes… but total confusion is still better than total ignorance.
Like everything else, the best way to learn about it, is to use it.
I never bothered to learn more than what was essentially self-explanatory, but if you’re so inclined, here is Google’s own introduction to inspect element. It looks very thorough, and not too technical… but I got bored after one paragraph, so I can’t really say for sure.
Will inspect element give you EVERYTHING you need, to magically create whatever you’re inspecting? No. Of course not. We would all be Steve Jobs if the internet were that easy.
But it’s a great way to begin learning more about your blog. If you can understand 1% of what you’re looking at there? That’s going to be REALLY helpful.
It is also a great tool for making temporary changes to your CSS, or other details… You can adjust padding or color, or even remove items temporarily in the inspector, rather than guessing, saving and then viewing your site… When you find what works, then you can go apply that number to your actual CSS editor.
You can also “view source,” which will give you even more code…I never use it, since mostly I’m just interested in pretty fluffy details.
THANK YOU for reading this far! I know it was long!! I hope you found some part of it helpful!
Part 2 will be less tech stuff. It will be my personal advice about wading through blog-land, and the things I would have done differently, or sooner, or not at all…
This took me 700 hours to write… I hope you’ll share it with your blog-friends.