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Archive for April 17th, 2012

If you don’t know, ASK! A couple blog explanations that might seem obvious, but are not necessarily crystal clear to new bloggers

“If you don’t know, ask! There are no stupid questions.” This was a refrain I heard from my father all my growing up years. Perhaps it’s why I was never afraid to ask questions of teachers, professors, bosses, or trainers. In fact, I developed a knack for assessing others’ struggles to ask or articulate their questions, frequently asking a question I knew the answer to just for the sake of the others in the room.

I’ll never forget one instructor who was not terribly proficient at her subject matter bumbling through an explanation to the point where she seemed to have lost virtually the whole room. So I raised my hand like a good Catholic schoolgirl, and asked, “So are you saying…?”rephrasing what I thought she was trying to convey. She was so annoyed that she pointedly answered my question, finally clarifying her point, but speaking loudly and slowly and directly to me as if I were the idiot.

Even though there really are no stupid questions, sometimes we forget how much we know or how easy what we do is for us, so we can skip steps or fail to adequately explain the entirety of a process. This came to light for me recently when a friend who’s moving her website to the WordPress platform asked me, “So what’s the difference between categories and tags?”

I realized, as I tried to answer her, that it’s not as obvious as one might think. Categories are the broad topics or headings under which your posts fall. In my case, I’ve got them broken down into 9 categories. You only see 8 of them on the list to the right because one category, Guest Posts, has no posts associated with it yet. (Hint: You’re highly encouraged to submit a guest post!)

Tags, on the other hand, are the keywords associated with each post. While the insertion of tags and placement of posts into categories is not automatic, it’s easy enough on most platforms, as they have mechanisms that allow you to select tags and categories for each post. In the tag cloud for the Marcie Brock blog, the terms that are used the most often are larger; lesser used terms appear in a smaller font.

If tags and categories are something you’ve been ignoring or overlooking, please make them a priority! Proper tagging and categorizing can make all the difference in how well ranked your posts are in the search engines.

One other often overlooked piece of your blog setup is the facility for building pages. Similar to a regular (nonblog) website, you can add pages to your site. While you can add or change content as frequently as you like, the pages are static and remain fixed – usually with the names indicated across the top of your blog header. Most of the free blogging platforms will allow you to build up to 10 pages. At the very least, you should have an About page that includes your bio, purchasing details for your book, and contact info. Depending on your platform, you may be able to turn one of those pages into a virtual bookstore and sell your books from your blog. The free WordPress.com platform does not allow for this – but Blogger does, as does a stand-alone WordPress.org blog.

In coming posts, we’ll talk in further detail about the kinds of things you might want to include on your sidebar(s), as well as how to choose a template that works best for your needs.

In the meantime, happy tagging!

MARCIE

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