Blogger tips and tricks after latest updates in 2020
The Blogger blogging platform has brought out a number of changes in the recent months in stages. A number of features give it standard look akin to modern sites. Some features have been modified to make the code compatible with new web rules and some to make the code work on mobile devices. Some others are embellishments.
During this process, the flexibility and ease of the old Blogger is lost and many bloggers are complaining about it. Blogger asked for feedback from users. I too gave it many suggestions, and I am happy to share that the platform has made changes after considering some of them.
I give here a list of main features of 'the new blogger interface' that has been released in June-July 2020. Then I will share some very useful tips and tricks specifically for this platform, from my own experience. If you want to jump to the tips section, click here: Blogger Tips & Tricks.
The post is updated as of September 2020. Since Blogger is in the process of changing the features based on feedback and bug-fixing, you might find more new changes or some earlier changes reverted. Even as I was finalizing this post, the location of some post/ page editing tools changed, HTML icon was brought back from top right hand to the tool bar, theme designer changed and image Alt attribute was brought back.
Main changes in the new Blogger vs the legacy Blogger
- The new Blogger has introduced a modern look and feel in most of menus, starting with the very first one (Blogger dashboard). This has made the design easy-flowing and icons bold/ clear. The buttons for Save/ Preview/ Publish/ View etc have also been standardised across screens.
- The new Blogger is responsive, which means it adapts to screens of different devices (smartphones, tablets, desktops). So, working on Blogger on mobile phones is now easier.
- In the dashboard, the sequence of menus has been changed. That does not make great sense; for example, bringing Earnings before Pages is odd.
- There is a big search bar at the top of Posts and Pages menu screens. The search is more accurate now.
- The list of Posts and Pages comes with picture thumbnail, that helps in identifying the posts/ pages easily.
- Post editor and page editor have been modified in a big way. Some changes are not too good and only confuse the user. Some have been improved after users have given feedback. Some others have been reverted to the old style.
- Table insertion tool was added to the tool bar but has been removed.
- The paragraph type (headings/ normal) was initially changed to H1, H2 etc and Normal was missing; these changes have been reverted. Among headings, there is a plain paragraph option too.
- Some tools that were introduced some months before the 2020 May update (e.g. quote, special characters, line spacing) have been retained.
- The new Blogger treats hyperlinking differently - and changes have been introduced, removed and re-introduced!. As of September 2020, it is a simple tool and the useful option to test the link has been removed.
- Images tool was messed up in June but that has been fixed now. I am told, image icon is presently not working on iPad, and we can trust, this would be resolved soon. Image caption option has given way to image title.
- The Labels list was also messed up, but now has been restored.
- The search description now counts characters as you type it out, and is limited to 150 characters.
- Under option, the option of using or not using <br /> for line break has been taken off.
- The Preview of posts/ pages is now available for smartphones and tablets also. You can also preview the blog by rotating the device.
- In Layout, they made changes in months prior to the 2020 Blogger updates: some Gadgets started appearing pre-loaded depending upon the theme. You have to hide if you don't want to display them on the blog. This feature has been introduced in all themes other than the Classic Theme.
- The Stats section undergoes a major change in its interface. Instead of a summary followed by statistics about posts, pages, etc, it starts with the latest post. The display of graphs is modern, sleek.
- It also gives search keywords data. This could be harbinger to more analytical data being displayed on Stats in future.
- The Theme screen has been re-designed. Now all themes are shown on the main screen and there is also an option 'Switch to the first generation Classic theme'.
- Blogger seems to be deprecating Classic Theme. Theme Designer and Layout are not available for classic theme and you have to use HTML for editing such a theme.
- In some themes, a large number of options in the Theme Designer (Theme>Customize) for fonts, colors etc were introduced some months back. These may or may not be visible, depending upon the theme you choose.
- The Add CSS facility was removed and is restored.
- The theme preview pane may appear on the right pane rather than below the menu area.
- The HTML, whether of Post and Pages or of Theme, is now color-coded. That helps when you work on the code. However,
- the HTML view of Posts and Pages is not broken into clear lines, which makes editing difficult in HTML mode as compared to the earlier version;
- on posts/ pages, the color coding does not cover the entire document but disappears mid-way.
- Settings now come in a single web page with sections. In a way, this is better than different sections.
- Favicon moves away from Layout to Settings.
Useful Blogger tricks
I give here some Blogger tips and tricks that will improve your blogging experience on this platform. (In fact, all of them are also relevant for other blogging platforms including Wordpress, with minor changes.) They will help you keep your content safe, save time, improve looks, optimize posts for search and so on.
The actions suggested here do not need knowledge of HTML or other web languages and can be implemented easily through on-screen tools.
Save the Theme when you work on it especially if you edit HTML. Blogger's internal systems ignore small errors such as not providing closing tags or applying wrong attributes. But if you make a big error in the code of the theme, that can impact rendering of the theme in part or in full, and the damage cannot be undone unless you bring back the old code. So, saving the code before you work on the theme's HTML is highly recommended.
For saving the theme, click on the three dots in the Theme screen and click on Backup. An xml copy of the theme will be saved on your device. For applying this saved theme, go again to Theme and the three dots, click on Restore and upload the saved xml file.
Save the Post or Page when doing a major edit. This might look foolish but ask any long-time blogger. He would have had at least one nightmare when he was editing a post and something happened, and the content of the post was lost and could not be retrieved. I have found that laptop's touchpad or tablet's keys/ stylus can sometimes behave funny. It also happens that you get a call from someone or you are munching snacks while composing the post; your attention is distracted, your hand falls on wrong keys and the damage is done.
Blogger (and other auto-saving platforms) have a very useful feature: they save the work on cloud at a regular interval - usually every few seconds. But that can sometimes work against the blogger. You type a long post and by a wrong click, the entire post gets selected, and then you click on something (e.g. the Enter key) and all is gone. You can undo the loss if you quickly press the undo icon or press ctrl and Z keys, but the content will be lost if autosave has happened before un-doing the mistake.
What you should do, especially when editing a post on which you have worked hard, is to open the same post on another browser and keep it as back-up. If the one on which you are working is lost or some wrong edits were saved, you can use the back-up post. But if the new post is working fine, close the back-up post without saving. Make it a habit so that you do not get nasty surprises like I've mentioned above.
Make the best use of Search Description on Posts and Pages. The search description given to the post or page overrides the website/ blog description or one given automatically by search engines. Therefore, do not let this very useful feature fritter away.
Search Description comes in the right column of the editor for post and pages. If your blog is not showing this, go to Settings>Meta tags>Enable search description.
The search description gives you 150 characters to describe the post or page. Compose it the best way you can. It can have summary/ top highlights/ the strongest point/ tip out of the post... anything that would catch searcher's attention. In addition, include one or two keywords for which you want the post/ page to show up on Google.
Don't forget to give custom permalink. On Blogger, you get the following type of domain name for the blog: https://www.example.blogspot.com. Each post gets the URL like this: https://www.example.blogspot.com/2020/07/post name. Unless you want to make a major change in the code of the theme, you have no control over the URL of the post except the last part (post name in the example given here). The post name is automatically given by Blogger by picking up words from the post's title.
However, you can change the post name by clicking on Permalink> Custom Permalink in the right column of the post editor. Give it the name that strongly relates to the post. If possible, put a relevant search keyword in it. Do not make it too long, and do not use space or special characters.
At present, Blogger does not allow custom permalink on pages.
Use paragraph format for giving sub-titles in posts and for improving SEO. This feature is also often ignored by bloggers. If you want to give a sub-title or sub-sub-title, use paragraph format (one of the tools in the tools menu). Why - read the next para.
HTML has the facility to give 6 levels of headlines, from H1 to H6, through special expressions called headline tags. Search engines give importance to these tags and use them to find search keywords in web pages. The paragraph format of Blogger uses four levels, and the fifth one is for normal text.
The default format is Normal. When you click on it (in the toolbar), you get more options of headings. When you apply 'Major Heading' format to a paragraph, that paragraph gets the topmost level of headline. Search engines take it as a major statement. So, if you put a highly relevant search keyword in that paragraph, that improves search engine optimization to that extent.
Generally speaking, do not put more than two Major Heading formatting in a post. To sub-titles of a lower level, apply Heading or Subheading formats.
Each of these paragraph formats has a standard style, which may make the font too big or ALL CAPITALS. You can change some of these using the tools available in the toolbar but some can be changed only with HTML. So, if you want to give a sub-title in a particular type of font/ size/ color/ slant that the heading format does not allow, change the format to Normal and do the desired modifications.
Use one or two controls on commenting, to ensure genuine comments. Blogger gives you many options (Settings> Comments) to control comments. You may feel like applying all of them. But if you do so, commenting will become difficult and that will irritate your commenters. On the other hand, if you do not apply any of these, your blog might start receiving unwanted, even harmful, comments.
My advice is that you use one or two of these: moderation (= you approve each comment before it is published on the blog), captcha (commenter must put some words etc before the comment is accepted) or allowing only commenters who are registered or have Google account. Moderation works the best if you keep approving comments regularly.
Go for an independent domain name. If you are a hobby blogger, you need not bother about the blog's domain; the one given by Blogger will be good enough. However, if you are blogging for professional purposes or earning money from the blog, giving an independent domain name to the blog helps in many ways. The independent domain does not have blogspot in it.
For giving the blog an independent or custom domain, click on Settings>Publishing>Custom domains. You can apply a third-party domain if you have already purchased it from a domain name registrar or you can buy a domain through Blogger itself. On clicking on Custom domain, you are guided to the next steps.
If you feel that you will stick to Blogger (not go for Wordpress or some other blogging platform), buying custom domain from Blogger is a great way to give your blog an independent identity. You do not need to host the blog on a web host (which is quite expensive even for the cheapest plan), you do not have to learn anything new and you don't have to bother about transferring assets to a new place (which can be slightly cumbersome) because you continue to blog with the existing Blogger blog while your blog is known by the independent domain name. Your only cost is to maintain the domain name year after year, which does not cost much. At present, Blogger gets you a new domain name at about $10 a year.
Use images again, without downloading or uploading. You might have noticed that when you want to upload an image, it gives you different options and one of them is 'Blogger'. This option allows you to use an image already included in some post.
Blogger keeps all your images in a folder in your Google Photos account, and lets you use them elsewhere. Since you have worked on that image (resized, improved quality, etc) earlier, why not use the same image again? This suits even more if you do not have many original images suiting your subject.
Use draft and scheduling to improve your efficiency as a blogger. As we discussed above, Blogger keeps auto-saving the blog post/ page when you edit it. For publishing it on the blog, you need to click on Publish button (arrow at top right end of Blogger screen). When you do not publish the post and leave it saved, it becomes a draft post and you can access it from the list of posts. You can keep editing the draft again and again till you are satisfied with it, and then you can publish it.
Similarly, you can create a post but not publish it immediately. The 'Published on' option given in the right column of post editor lets you schedule the post to a later date and time. After giving a future date to the post, you need to click on the Publish button. This feature helps greatly to plan posts for the time when you will be busy in other jobs or will be touring.
Happy blogging on the new Blogger!