December 20, 2012

Blogger's special features: updates

We had published a series on the often ignored but very useful features of the Blogger platform.
All the features given there are still available on Blogger; just the links to use them appear in new places. So, we won’t repeat the content again but add to our earlier suggestions. We have avoided tweaks and tools that need caution and technical knowledge.

There are a few new widgets that Blogger has added, and these relate to Google+ integration. Adding Google+ button / Google+ badge / Google+ followers’ thumbnails on the blog is likely to improve your social networking. But we are not sure of it unless you use Google+ as your main social networking platform.

When we talked about Dynamic Views in an earlier post, we had advised that bloggers should refrain from using this option as the blog lost more value than it gained by using it. We are still not convinced  about that, but we also agree that Blogger has been working hard to restore functionalities of the standard blog in dynamic views. It has restored some widgets in the sidebar and now displays Adsense ads too in dynamic views. You can also customize a blog’s appearance to some extent within a dynamic view.

Settings menu [Settings> Search Preferences> Meta Tags] allows you to put a description meta tag. This is a useful SEO tool. You should write a description of your blog in the given text-box in such a way that it clearly tells search engines about the key content of your blog.

In the Post menu [Post>Edit], Search Description tab in the right-hand column gives you additional facility to tell search engines about your post. You should post relevant keywords here. This function is also available on Pages.

Within the settings menu, you also have the facility to put the Google Analytics ID [Settings> Other> Google Analytics]. Google Analytics is a very powerful tool provide by Google for site analysis. When you sign up for this [Google Analytics link here], you get an ID that you need to paste in the box provided under the Settings menu.

Google Analytics tells in detail how, from where and when people visit your blog, what search terms they use and so on – in a much more detailed way than the Stats menu of Blogger. This information can be used to improve search and Adsense performance of the blog.

Blogger also gives you the facility to give your posts a more meaningful URL. For example, if we wrote a post in March, 2012 on ITB with the title ‘Mentionable items on a photo blog’, it would automatically name the post something like this:
http://indiantopblogs.com/2012/03/Mentionable-items

Look at the last part of the URL; it does not tell what the post talks about unless you see the full title of the post. Here comes the customizable URL option of Blogger: In the Post menu [Post>Edit], on the right column, there is a section named ‘Permalink’ and under it, there are two options: the automatic option is the default option and the other one is ‘Custom Permalink’. If you want to customize the post URL, type the desired URL here and click on ‘Done’ button. 

In the present example, if we wrote the following URL in the given box, it will reflect the content of the post much better – more so, to search engines:
http://indiantopblogs.com/2012/03/photo-blog-mentionable-items 

Note that you have the liberty to change the last part of the URL only. You can use only dash, underscore or dot in addition to alphabets and numbers in the URL.

For bloggers using the Blogger platform in the US and the UK [not in India and other countries yet] and interested in earning through blogging, there is more good news. You can allow Blogger to give affiliate ads with your posts. For this, you need to have an Adsense account where you are given choice for affiliate ads. Select the types of ads relevant to your post and there you are: earning a few bucks if someone makes a purchase through your post’s affiliate ad link.

Blogger allows transliteration. As of now, our experience with computer-based automatic translation / transliteration has been awful, and so we do not recommend bloggers using translation widget on the blogs except when the blogger is convinced that the blog really needs translation facility, however rudimentary it may be.