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

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blogging Basics: How to increase your followers and build your platform (Part 1 of 3)

(Source)
I've run these posts before, but they're so important I thought they might be worth a repeat.

My "How to increase your followers" series will involve:

Part 1 - Following blogs and making sure you can be followed
Part 2 - Ways to increase your followers and/or subscribers
Part 3 - Some essential blogging requirements.

And on October 1, I'm being interviewed at Laura Barnes' blog as part of her Saturday Savvy Sensation series, where I'm giving some tips about platform-building. I hope you can all join me there :)

In this post, I'll be focusing on making sure people can follow or subscribe to your blog (and giving you a few tips on ways to increase your followers in this respect). I'll also be giving you ways to follow other peoples' blogs, particularly where there's no “Followers Gadget". I’ll be focusing on Blogger, WordPress, and personal web pages.

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:
  1. 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 post about Google Reader, which is a fantastic way to read the feed you’ve subscribed to as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  2. 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 (Wordpress does not allow this). If that is the case, you'll need to include other links/gadgets/buttons on your blog that allow people to subscribe to your feed (I discuss this more below). You can also add Networked Blogs, which operates in a similar way to the Google Friend Connect gadget.

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

How do I follow a blog that does not have a Follower’s Gadget?

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

(1) subscribe using RSS
click on an RSS button (which often looks like the following). 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) 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

(3) 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)

(4) 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
(5) click on the Networked Blogs widget (if you have a Facebook account). It’s fairly similar in operation to Google Friend Connect though with a Facebook interface. It allows you to read the posts from the blogs you've subscribed to, in a similar way to Google Reader.


(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:
  1. add an RSS button or link (essential)
  2. add a Followers Gadget (if your blog host supports it. This is the most common way of following in the blogging community among non-Wordpress users)
  3. add a Networked Blogs widget (optional)
  4. add a "Subscribe by email" gadget (preferable).
And keep an eye out for Part 2 of my Blogging Basics series, 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?


59 comments:

Liza said...

You've explained some things I was wondering about. Thanks.

Kelly Polark said...

Informative post!

A.J. Mullarky said...

I really need to find out what RSS is. Helpful post, thank you :)

Cynthia said...

A Lot of very useful information. Thanks!

Claire said...

Rachael, I can't tell you how much this helped me (I read your original post a few weeks ago when I first started my blog)and want to thank you so much for sharing this knowledge.
I have a quick Q - when I have clicked on the 'Follow' button on someone's blog, where does it list it? I've clicked on loads of people blogs and have no idea where the info went! It's like it went into a black hole.
Thanks. Loving being part of the Campaign, btw :)

Jennifer Groepl said...

Thanks! Very helpful information.

Rance said...

Fantastic advice, Rachael! Thank you so much for all you give back to the blogging community!

Written Words said...

Thanks for these tips. I've incorporated some of them into my blog, but I cannot get the "Networked blogs" widget to work on my Blogger account-I get a message that the code is too long.

bel said...

Very good advice. I had the followers widget, but added the "follow by email" and RSS widgets this morning.

Thanks so much!

Barbara V. Evers said...

Rachel, This explained a lot, but I can't seem to add the RSS feed to my blog. I thought I had it, but I don't see it. When I went to add the gadget in blogger, it created a menu of my most recent posts on the blog page. I already have that in my archive list. What am I missing here?

Laura Pauling said...

Great advice RAchel.

I have a wordpress blog but I also have a followers badge through google connect. It's only the basic wordpress templates that are hosted by wordpress that don't allow a followers badge. Even though I have a template right now, wordpress doesn't host my wordpress blog. :)

Sheri L. Swift said...

Thanks Rachael, I know some don't have blogger & this explains how to get us to follow! ; )

lizakane said...

Thanks for this, since I'm one of the wordpress blogs you mentioned and can't have that nifty google friend connect widget on my site!

I definitely rely on Google reader's "subscribe" button, which they conveniently install in my web browser, so I can simply subscribe to ANY blog and it automatically sends it to Google reader, and I can sort out my blogs via folders.

Matthew MacNish said...

This is an excellent breakdown of what may seem like a simple topic to some, but can actually get pretty complicated.

I'm running a kind of experiment about followers on my blog today.

And you can add Google Friend Connect to a Wordpress blog, just check this:

http://www.expand2web.com/blog/friend-connect-wordpress/

Otherwise, great post, thanks Rachael!

Magan said...

Look at you all nice and informative!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yes, make sure your blog is listed under your Google account, or your little icon won't bring up a blog to follow!

Carrie Butler said...

Great advice, Rach! :)

Brinda said...

I thought I had all these, but I checked out my blog and added the RSS button. What a great wake-up call for me when I thought I had covered my bases. Thanks!!

Angela Brown said...

Just as an add-on, when we choose to Follow, make sure to follow publically, especially if you want to make sure other people can follow back to your blog.

Jules said...

Thanks for doing the blogging series! I'm a new blogger and can use all the tips I can find.

CherylAnne Ham said...

Great tips! Your post a few month back about using google reader efficiently really helped me out too. I look forward to reading more of this series. :D

Isabella said...

I'm looking forward to reading the second part of the series - I need it.

But I had a question about commenting. Some blogs have the commenting section right below the post (like my blog) and I can't seem to properly comment on those types of comment sections. I can comment on those like yours (the pop-up windows) but its weird. Do you know what the problem is? I really wanted to introduce myself to some Campaigners but can't...

JEFritz said...

I'm glad you reran this. You always do a great job of explaining these things. Thanks, Rach!

Rachael Harrie said...

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments :)

@Claire, you're very welcome - I'm so glad to hear my posts have helped :) When you click "Follow", the blogs you're following are picked up in two places - on your blogger Dashboard (the "B" icon to the very top left of your blog or in Google Reader (if you have a Google Account). I'd suggest reading the feeds in Google Reader as it's much easier - I've done a post on that if you want to check it out in my Blogging Posts page. Hope that helps :)

@Barbara, sorry to hear the RSS gadget isn't working. Email me if you would and we can see what alternatives we can come up with.

@Written Words, that's rather strange. Are you pasting the code into the html gadget to add it to your blog? Shoot me an email if you want and I can check out the code - maybe there's an error there somewhere.

Jocelyn Rish said...

I wish I'd seen this post a few months ago when I first started my blog! I thought the Google friend connect doohickey was just a popularity contest thing, so I didn't add it to my blog (since it was embarrassing that I didn't have any followers!). It wasn't until the campaign started and people were leaving comments asking how to follow my blog that I learned people actually used it to add blogs to their readers. So I added it last week, and now I think I'm good to go with all the ways to help people follow me. I have planned a post about my learning experiences, and I'll definitely be linking to this post to give people the 411.

inluvwithwords said...

Thanks Rachael. A great breakdown in plain English. Just what I needed. =)

Lacey Devlin said...

Fab post, Rach!

P.S. I'm in love with your 'Find me online' buttons.

Jemi Fraser said...

Excellent tips! I had a 'd'uh' moment the other day and realized I didn't have an email subscription thingy on my blog. I have it now! :)

Heather said...

Great tips, and each a must for every blogger who wants to build their platform. Thanks for this, I'm bookmarking it!

Sheta Kaey said...

Apologies, I must withdraw from the Write Campaign due to sudden and increased demands on my time with work and school. I had hoped to participate, but I find I must pare down my responsibilities in favor of more important things (not to demean the campaign, but you know what I mean).

I hope to participate in the future. Thank you for allowing me to sign up and I'm sorry for the unexpected departure.

Doreen said...

I have a wordpress blog and was able to transfer my Google Followers and the widget over. It is difficult {I used a professional smart guy}but can be done.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I HATE RSS and never use it. I like to Google Friends follow or click 'Like' to connect the blog to my Facebook page. I get really frustrated when I find a good blog and they don't have any easy way of following them.
Informative post.
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

N.Scott said...

You are full of wisdom. Thank you so much for the post.

Question: depending on the topic, depending on the day, I post comments. Is there anyway of tracking replies to comments I've made on other people's blogs?

Stobby

Rachael Harrie said...

No problems Stobby :) Definitely. When you post a comment, just click on "Subscribe by email" or tick "Email follow-up comments to..." at the bottom of your comment form. Otherwise, you can click "Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)" to see them in your Google Reader. The email options will send all comments made after your comment to your email address, and I often use this. This is great if you're interested either in other people's comments on a post or in seeing if the blog owner responds to your comment.

Hope that helps,

Rach

Enid Wilson said...

I've been wondering how to follow wordpress blogs. Thanks for the explanation.

Every Savage Can Reproduce

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Great post! Can't wait for parts 2&3! :)

Kerri Cuev said...

Great tips Rach! It bugs me when I find a great blog with no follow button. Unfortunalty, I don't have the time to add it to google reader (unless I'm Campaigning). I'm glad you posted this!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great tips and I love the visual nature of the post. It always makes more sense to me when I can see something.

Angela Orlowski-Peart said...

Wonderful tips, Rach - very easy to understand and super useful :-)

Michael Di Gesu said...

Great post Rach...

This information is vital to anyone who blogs...

kelly said...

Some comments as a follower:

I found that setting up a dedicated (free!) email account through either Yahoo! or gmail, and then putting a widget for that email account on my igoogle home page, has helped me keep up with emails revolving around a certain topic, like blogging. That way a bunch of daily emails don't get lost among the spam and business email I get at my regular account, and I can keep up with my blogs.

One thing that has proved somewhat difficult for me is trying to post on blog platforms that are different from mine. I am a wordpress user, so when I go to a blogger site it always wants to log me in with my google account, which had been set up for a different purpose. Wordpress blogs want to log me in with my wordpress account. So my identity is not unified across blogs, and if I log in as my google account my personal blog is not readily attached to my name.

I know you can log in through OpenID underneath, but I have already lost entire posts for not being logged into Wordpress at the time I hit "publish your comment." I find this whole thing slightly annoying.

Kristin Baker Przybyla said...

It's so weird that just today I wrote a blog post asking if there was an easier way to manage the blogs I follow. My post would have been unnecessary if I'd read yours first! Thanks, I'm off to check out Google Reader now...

Madeleine said...

Very thorough and great advice, thanks Rach

Ann said...

I have printed these instructions out. Thanks Rach! I was just about to write a blogpost about blogger telling me I can't follow wordpress blogs because I am following the max of 300. Yet I can add blogspot blogs. Very frustrating!!!

ajkulig said...

I hate to say it, but you are going to have to have some INCREDIABLE content to make me work that hard at following your blog. Otherwise, sorry, it's probably not going to happen. I had problems following some people blogs in my groups. If I spend a minute looking for a way to do it--or have to enter my email so I get updates from you directly--filling my in box with junk instead of catching your updates in my reader--I'm sorry but that is not what I look for in a blog.

Dawn M. Hamsher said...

Rach, Thank you for posting this! Great for beginners!

I have noticed a terrible problem with Blogger Following...an intermittent problem where the link to follow someone is missing. It happens on my blog too. I wish they would fix it!

Thanks again for the great post!

Trisha said...

This is definitely a helpful place for beginners (and even some who aren't beginners. hehe) to start.

Abby said...

Such great information. Love it!

J.L. Campbell said...

Useful tips, as always. Certainly makes it easier to find people.

Pauline said...

Thanks so mush - this is really helpful info!!!

Zeeshan said...

Thanks for the info. Another interesting article I came across - http://bit.ly/zPz5om

Sudhaa Gopinath said...

Thank you so much for the useful post!!!

Kens Blog said...

Thanks going to use these tips i following you now

icebreaker said...

nice posting, I have blogged for a year but only have three followers.

Daniel Benny Simanjuntak said...

Great blogging tips! This is all I need I want to increase my blog followers and I am thinking about it on how do I do that. Now I know the answer and I can start do your tips now for my blog followers. Thanks a lot! :)

FATEMA YOUNUS said...

Just leave me a comment once you've followed me and I'll follow you back :)

http://wondergirlsbeautyblog.blogspot.co.uk/

Stephen W said...

I don’t believe in RSS feed to promote online business, but I take the support of social media helps you give a long rope to broadcast products and services.

http://www.buyfollowers.net/

Katty Tech said...

i don't understand your post clearly please help me

"The Ghost" said...

Thanks for the great information! I use Networked Blogs and I love it! It just makes it so easy to upload data from my blog directly to my Facebook Fan Page.

http://www.billcollectorshateme.blogspot.com/

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