I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blogging tips: following blogs and making sure you can be followed (Part 1)

During the first part of my Crusade, a number of people mentioned how difficult they found it to follow some blogs. This issue came up so many times, I thought it would be useful to write a post to:
  • help you make sure people can follow or subscribe to your blog (and give you a few tips on ways to increase your followers in this respect); and 
  • give you ways to follow other peoples' blogs, particularly where there's no “Followers Gadget".
In this Part 1, I'll be concentrating on helping you make sure others can follow or subscribe to your blog, and giving you ways to follow other peoples' blogs. In Part 2, I'll give you some tips on ways to increase your followers by making it easier for people to follow and/or subscribe to your blog.

Because technology and I are not the best of friends, I’ll be using pretty general language (so forgive me if I make any mistakes in terminology etc). I’ll be focusing on Blogger, WordPress, and personal web pages in this post.

Following/Subscribing

To a lot of people, “following” and "subscribing" means pressing the “Follow” button on this gadget:

But it’s a little more than that, so bear with me.

Following or subscribing is basically a way for you to mark the location of a blog and read new blog content as it is posted. Unless there was some way for you to do this, you’d never remember which blogs you visited, or find the blogs you wish to return to again and again. You’d also spend hours physically checking blogs to find out if they’ve posted anything new since your last visit.

Followers Gadget

The Followers Gadget was introduced by Blogger as a means of social networking, and was later merged with Google Friend Connect (I’ll just call it the Followers Gadget here). It’s a pretty handy gadget, because:
  • for followers - by clicking on the “Follow” button, you can be identified as a follower of a particular blog AND automatically subscribe to blog updates through the blog’s feed. See my previous post about Google Reader, which is a fantastic way to read the feed you’ve subscribed to as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • for blog owners - you can see which (and how many) other bloggers are interested in your blog and what you have to say. It’s also a means of adding subscribers to your blog feed, which means more people are reading your posts.
If you use a Blogger platform (eg, if your URL is http://yourblogname.blogspot.com), you have the option to add the Followers Gadget (go to “Design”, then “Add a gadget” then scroll down the list until you can select the Followers gadget). I have seen some Blogger users who choose not to add the Followers Gadget, but by far the majority of Blogger blogs do have this.

Many WordPress users (eg, if your URL is http://yourblogname.wordpress.com/) are not able to add a Followers Gadget to their blogs. If that is the case, you need to include other links/gadgets/buttons on your blog that allow people to subscribe to your feed (I discuss this more below).

Bloggers who use personal web pages are able to add Google Friend Connect to their sites.

What if a blog does not have a Follower’s Gadget?

If a blog doesn't have a Follower’s Gadget, there are other ways you can subscribe to that blog so you can read its posts:

(1) subscribe using RSS
  • click on an RSS button (I’ve included the following button on my site). It usually has this orange square symbol and may be very tiny, so you might have to look around for it. In some blogs, the button is not actually labelled “RSS”.


    • You’ll then be directed to a page similar to this one – click on the correct button depending on which reader you use (“Google” if you use Google Reader)


    • Some WordPress blogs have both a “RSS – posts” link and a “RSS – comments” link, so click on “RSS – posts”
    • Many WordPress blogs don’t have the orange square symbol, so look for this instead:

    Then click on “entries RSS”

     

    (2) click on Posts (Atom) at the very bottom of all the posts on the blog’s home page (for Blogger). This will usually take you to the same Feedburner page as clicking on the RSS button

    (3) click on the Networked Blogs widget (if you have a Facebook account). I don’t use this myself at the moment, but I believe it’s fairly similar in operation to Google Friend Connect though with a Facebook interface


    (4) if you have Google Reader, copy the URL of the blog you wish to subscribe to, open your Reader, click on “Add a Subscription” on the top left, and paste the URL. This subscribes you to the blog's feed in the same way as if you subscribed by RSS

    (5) subscribe by email (you’ll receive an email every time a new post is posted on the blog you’ve subscribed to, which may not suit some people. However, if you wish to read every post a person publishes, this can be a useful tool)

    (6) on some WordPress blogs, when you make a comment you can tick the “subscribe to this site by email” button, which has the same effect as the dot point above this

    And there you have it, a number of different ways you can follow a blog.

    Making sure your blog can be followed

    If you want to make sure your blog can be followed, add a Followers Gadget (preferable, if possible), a Networked Blogs widget (optional), an RSS button or link (essential), and a "Subscribe by email" gadget (preferable).

    And keep an eye out for Part 2 of these Blogging Tips, which will give you further tips for increasing your followers/subscribers in this respect.

    How about you: do you have any following or subscribing tips, or additional ways to follow/subscribe other than those I’ve listed above?

    56 comments:

    Luke Raftl said...

    Very informative Rach!

    I do get annoyed when I find a great blog that I can't easily follow. It's such a waste! Luckily when I set up my site I followed an online tutorial that stressed the importance of such things. The Google Friend Connect plugin was the greatest discovery of all!

    Jolene Perry said...

    It's my pet peeve when people don't have their own sites on their blogger/google profile - it makes me crazy!!

    Francine Howarth said...

    Hi,

    I didn't make it into the crusade because of flu, but gotta say, "if you want followers put your follow buttons top of your blog sidebar" it's a tad frustrating if one has to go hunt for it near bottom of page. ;)

    best
    F

    Patsy said...

    I agree with Jolene. When people follow me, I like to take a look at their blog and sometimes it's not easy to do that.

    Trisha said...

    "(4) if you have Google Reader, copy the URL of the blog you wish to subscribe to, open your Reader, click on “Add a Subscription” on the top left, and paste the URL. This subscribes you to the blog's feed in the same way as if you subscribed by RSS "

    I'm hoping this will solve the problems I had with following a handful of blogs - they had the option of subscribing to RSS via email, but didn't give me the chance to choose which email. It was automatically subscribed to my computer's email program, which I don't use. So I am gonna try the above instead!

    Trisha said...

    YAY, it works!!! Thanks so much Rachael :D

    li said...

    Good tips! Thanks for making it plain and simple.

    KO: The Insect Collector said...

    Whew! A ton of info-- thanks for sharing!

    Jules said...

    Great tips and I have them all. Now if I could just get Google to remember and update them I'd be happy :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

    Yves said...

    Rach, I think you hit them all. Google reader has been a lifesaver...my blog is on wordpress so I can't do google friend connect, however I was able to set up networked blogs and I placed my subscribe bar at the top of my sidebar so visitors can see it right away. I would also suggest, if it hasn't been already, to set up a google connect profile. If that blog you just visited uses the gadget, it allows the blog owner to follow you back. Thanks for sharing, looking forward to part two :-)

    Susan Fields said...

    Thanks for the great tips, Rachael! Luckily I was able to figure out a lot of this when I tried to follow the other blogs in the Crusade, but some of this is brand new to me - very educational!

    Kerri Cuev said...

    Good stuff Rach, thanks! I'm still getting the hang of Google Reader also.

    Ann said...

    I have gotten a little frustrated trying to find blogs of followers that have not linked their blog to their profile. Thank you for posting all this information. I don't use Google reader, but now I am eager to check it out.

    J.L. Campbell said...

    Some good posts have come out of your Crusade. I don't remember which blog I read where some tips were given. It was only then I realized that my email addy was not listed in my profile. This will help a lot of bloggers, I'm sure. I still have 4-5 people left that I need to track down. Hope they see this post.

    Shari said...

    Great tips!

    Susanna Leonard Hill said...

    Thanks, Rach. This is very helpful. I got frustrated while trying to follow all the blogs before the first crusader deadline. i didn't manage it in part because some of the blogs I just couldn't figure out how to follow.

    Michael Offutt said...

    Great post. You may want to bookmark this or something for others to resource when you do your next crusade.

    Hart Johnson said...

    It's a hard thing without that follower button. Typically, if I know I will want to go back often, I just put them in my blogroll, but that is an honor I don't do willy nilly, as there are only so many slots there... it is typically reciprocal and the blog has regular updates with content that engages me.

    It's hard though--that google reader... it's just too much when there are a lot of blogs. I've been keeping a spreadsheet so everybody gets visits.

    Autumn Shelley said...

    Thanks so much for all of this! It's been so fun to create a blog that people actually respond to as opposed to my first endeavour some time ago! Having a great time and look forward to more!

    Regina said...

    That helps a lot. I always struggled at first when I didn't know how to add ones that weren't obvious to me like a follow button. But now I have it in the bag. *wink*

    Nas Dean said...

    Very informative, thanks Rachel. When I click on a photo and see its not connected then I send a message through Add a Friend, advising them that their blogs are not connected to their friend connect.

    E.C. Smith said...

    Thanks, Rachel. I'm challenged by all of the techo stuff, so having the light shone into the deep dark hole is super helpful!

    Shelley Batt said...

    I handled this subject on my blog. People need to make sure that when you follow a blog that they can find your blog so they can follow you back. If they click on your picture or click on a comment you left that it is linked to your blog. It's very helpful to have the google reader but if we aren't doing the Crusade people won't be able to find you ever if you're not doing this. What I had to do is go to a blog that I followed and click on my own picture to see if my blog was on the page that popped up. It wasn't and I had to go into the settings but and add a link to my page then my blog was linked to my pic. I feel strongly about this because people are missing out on opportunities of getting bloggers to follow back. No one is able to find you. If you don't have google you'll need to research on how to do this. After the Crusades and the A-Z there are still people out there they may follow you if they can find you. Just trying to help.

    Rogue Mutt said...

    I made sure to put an Email subscription link on the right side of mine. Until this started I never knew that on your Blogger Dashboard it showed updates from all the blogs you're following. That's a real timesaver. So is the RSS

    Rachel Morgan said...

    Thanks for posting this! I hope people take note of it ;-) I posted a few "following" tips after I'd managed to follow everyone on the crusader list because I noticed how so many didn't have their blog linked to their profile and it made it so hard to follow people back... (I still remember when you pointed that out to ME in my early blogging life, and I had no idea that my blog wasn't linked!)

    Elena Solodow said...

    Yes, it's always nice when you can clearly follow people. And I always like it when there's an email and blog link attached to profiles so I can thank people for comments and follow them back!

    erica and christy said...

    I find it hard to believe that you and technology are not the best of friends! You seem so enlightened! I'm behind on following crusaders (no surprise), but for many of the ones I've tried so far, I have had some trouble. Thanks for posting this! christy

    Cinders said...

    Thanks for posting this. One problem I've had is that if someone joins my blog, I want to joins their's in return, but when I click on their picture it doesn't give me a link to their blog. I've tried messaging some of the people, but nobody has responded.

    Cherie Reich said...

    Great post, Rachel!

    Marie Rearden said...

    Super helpful! Finally learning how to follow non-blogger blogs. Thanks for sharing.

    Marie, http://marierearden.blogspot.com

    Rachael Harrie said...

    Hey guys, thanks so much for your comments :)

    It is hard when people don't have their blogs showing in their profiles! I did a post on this last year (including a "how to"), will run it again after Part 2 to remind people :)

    Hugs,

    Rach

    Brooke R. Busse said...

    I prefer to use my Dashboard for updates on the blogs I follow. If I can't find a Follow button in the sidebar, I click on where it says Follow in the top toolbar (for Blogger blogs). If a blog isn't Blogger, then I use the Add function on my Dashboard.

    Jodi Henry said...

    Great post and thanks for the how-to's. These are great and in our industry it is essential that agents/editors/publishers can seek and find you. I've seen complaints as of late regarding inaccessibility of querying authors from agents on twitter.

    J

    Michelle said...

    Great post Rach, I've never added the RSS feed.. I'm off to work out how to do it :)

    Rachele Alpine said...

    I have to admit that I didn't know about google reader for a looooong time. I was crazy enough to follow between 30-40 blogs through my favorite places. I'd click on them each day and hope for a new blog entry. It was madness, I tell you, madness!

    kmullican said...

    TY a million times over - the wordpress bloggers have been a challenge to try and follow!

    Laura Howard said...

    Thankyou for this...

    Tara said...

    Ah - super helpful. Now I know how to follow some of those blogs I couldn't figure out before! Thanks.

    L'Aussie said...

    Well I definitely commented but it's gone. I linked to this post in my post yesterday. You say it so well.

    Denise<3

    Adina West said...

    Very timely - especially the tip about copying and pasting a URL into Google Reader if no other options are available.

    Thank you!

    Jackee said...

    So helpful! And look at you, Rockstar! I go on a blog break and you've created and amazing crusade--inspiring and helping others along the way. Great job, Rachael!

    Have a great night!

    Amanda Milner said...

    Wow, you truly are the Blog Whisperer, Rach! Lol! Great info! I really hope the bloggers who don't have their blogs linked on their profile read this...I really hope MY blog is linked to my profile!! Lol!
    I have an award for you. ☺ It's cute and it doesn't look like you have it yet;) Lol!
    But I know you are hella busy so do whatever you want with it;) Seriously. You deserve it☺

    obi said...

    ohh always good to read your blog, very good tips ;)

    Shannon O'Donnell said...

    Excellent post, Rachael! It really does help when the blog owner makes it easy for us to follow them. :-)

    Lisa Gail Green said...

    Great explanations! It can be confusing at the beginning. Sometimes long after that point too. BTW you won an autographed book on my blog! Your stalking has paid off! LOL I emailed you - send me your address, and I promise not to stalk back, just mail the prize.

    TerryLynnJohnson said...

    well, this is interesting! I always wondered how that feed thing works. If someone doesn't have a follow button, I'm afraid I don't ever remember to find them again.
    So, I'm a new follower - brought my dead fern named Cacophony, and hope to join in the conversation when I can.

    Sylvia van Bruggen said...

    I have follower buttons, but they are at the bottom of the page, definitely moving them to the top!

    I have RSS and a subscribe via email button.

    Alas google friend connect doesn't work on my site! Am already considering moving everything to blogger :)

    Karen Peterson said...

    Thanks for posting these tips. I know most bloggers don't care about numbers, but I don't understand why they would make it a challenge to follow their blogs at all.

    Leslie Rose said...

    Wow,Rachael,this is the "missing manual" for blogging. Thank you so much!

    Julie Flanders said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Julie Flanders said...

    These tips are wonderful! I'm new to blogging and just reading this post has been so helpful. I have to start putting these tips into action now. Thank you, Rachael!

    mooderino said...

    Great post. i've only been blogging a few weeks so it's all new to me. Is there any way of telling which posts people are reading most?

    Joanna @ Zeb Bakes said...

    Would you happen to know how one subscribes to a rss feed if you blog with wordpress to a blogger blog? or indeed how to subscribe at all to a blogger blog? I have loads of friends who use blogger and I try following them but never get any notifications of new posts. I have to remember to go and see what they are writing about.... I second what everyone else says about the word verification thing, it is really off putting and only by being determined do I ever get through the process.

    Rachael Harrie said...

    @Joanna - sign up for Google Reader (you'll need to create a Google account). Then you can subscribe by RSS to either Blogger or Wordpress blogs, and all the feed will appear in your Reader.

    This post about Google Reader will help:

    http://rachaelharrie.blogspot.com/2011/02/using-google-reader-to-organize-blogs.html

    Joanna @ Zeb Bakes said...

    thanks I will have a look at that and the post you link too as well. Very kind of you :)

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