Optimize your feed

No matter how inexperienced you are, you most likely know what a feed is. So, I’m not going to bore you with a long introduction.

Basically a feed (no matter if it’s RSS or Atom) is content published in a machine-readable way. You publish it, your readers subscribe to it, using a feed reader.

Burn your feed!

Instead of hosting the feed yourself, a lot of bloggers (including me) outsource it to Feedburner. There are some big advantages:

  • No matter how many readers your feed has - you don’t have to care about serverload and bandwidth
  • One address for all feed formats
  • You have nice statistics
  • You have an archive of your posts, should you loose your database

So, head over to Feedburner and burn your feed.

Why isn’t anyone subscribing?

Have you told them? Your blog still has it’s old links to it’s own feeds.

You could install the FeedSmith plugin, which insures that requests to your blog’s feed get redirected to your new FeedBurner feed.

Open the header.php of your theme. Look for something like this:
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS 2.0" href="<?php bloginfo('rss2_url'); ?>" />
<link rel="alternate" type="text/xml" title="RSS 0.92" href="<?php bloginfo('rss_url'); ?>" />
<link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="Atom 0.3" href="<?php bloginfo('atom_url'); ?>" />

Change the href’s to your new FeedBurner address. For bloggersjourney it is href=”http://feeds.feedburner.com/bloggersjourney”.

RSSIf you have a feed icon on your blog, change the link target.

You could get a feed chicklet from FeedBurner (look under Publicize).

Looking for a nicer icon? How do you like the black one in my sidebar? It’s from Bittbox. They offer free feed icons in 8 different colors and various sizes.

But people won’t visit my blog anymore!

Don’t worry. It’s true, some of your readers will read most of your articles in a feed reader. But where’s the problem? Is it that they don’t click your ads? Feed readers are web savvy. People like that have become nearly blind to ads. They wouldn’t click on them anyway.

Take Shoemoney as an example. He changed his feed to only show excerpts of his articles, but not long after that, he was back to full feeds. Why? Because Jeremy is smart enough to give his readers what they want. Are you?


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I do follow - How about you?

You just read a really interesting post. Now you want to let the poster know how you feel about it. Maybe you know a few things that could add even more value to the article. What do you do? Of course, you leave a comment. Afterwards you feel good about yourself. You are sure to have helped the poster.

You have entered your blogs address so others can check it out. If your comment really is that insightful, I bet you that some people will visit your blog. But someone will not: Google. Big G won’t count the link for your brilliant comment. Why? Because the blog’s owner didn’t teach Wordpress how to do that.

By default Wordpress gives commentator links the “nofollow” tag. Originally thought to prevent comment spam, it tells the Googlebot not to follow the links to the commentators’ links. While it didn’t prevent spam, it hides one of blogging’s most important aspects from Google: community.

IFollowYou can decide for yourself, whether you want to reward your reader’s participation or not. If you do, simply install Semiologic’s dofollow plugin. From now on, everyone who comments on one of your posts and enters his blog’s address, will get this link indexed by Google.

If you’re a member of Bumpzee, you will find a big community of blogs that do follow there..


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Give your blog a nice theme

A freshly installed Wordpress is nice, but ugly. Luckily for you, the Wordpress gods have forseen this and thus they granted people the choice of themes. The easiest (and probably the most common) way to choose a theme would be to browse the Theme viewer for one of your liking.

Instead I would suggest to hop over to Weblog Tools Collection and browse through their articles (and subscribe to their feed - it’s worth it). This way you get a nice overview of the latest themes - “latest” also meaning “not widely used yet”.

If you’d like to do me a favor, please keep this in mind:

  • Red text on a black background is only cool, if you’re a depressed goth with a WoW-addiction.
  • Newspapers use black (or dark grey) text on white ground for a reason. It’s easy on the eyes.
  • No psychedelic colors please - You’re not Timothy Leary and I don’t want to open my mind.

Choose one you really like. After all, the first thing people notice about your blog is the layout. It’s not more important than the content, but neither should it restrain them from reading your articles.


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www prefix - yes or no?

At some point you have to choose what you’re address should look like. Take a look at your browser’s address field. This blog’s URI is bloggersjourney.com. No www. No matter what part of this blog you visit or how you enter the address into your browser.

Spiders and bots are really simple minded. Yes, even the Googlebot. www.bloggersjourney.com and bloggersjourney.com are two different sites for them. So, to make sure your pagerank doesn’t get devided between the two domains, and you don’t risk to be punished for duplicate content, you should install the “enforce www. preference” plugin.

Unzip the archive, open your ftp client to copy the enforce-www- preference.php to your blog’s plugin directory. Activate it in your blog’s plugin management and you’re done.

From now on, no matter what address people enter to visit your site, it gets redirected to the address you entered in your general options.


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Give Comment Spam no Chance

If you haven’t already, you will soon find spam to be the biggest pita for your blog. Like emails, your comments would look like a classified section for pharmaceutical products. Unlike emails, your comments are not only read by you, but also by your visitors, which makes them a high priority target for spammers.

When you install Wordpress, you already have an anti-spam plugin in your plugin directory - Akismet. While it’s not that bad, I found it to be suboptimal. Both the numbers of false positives and false negatives are a bit too high.

So, instead of Akismet I prefer Spam Karma. I’d suggest you head over to Dave’s Blog and download it.

The installation is pretty easy. Just unzip the archive, open your ftp client to copy it as is to your blog’s plugin directory, so the path looks something like this: yourdomain/wp-content/plugins/SK2/.

Activate Spam Karma in your blog’s plugin management.

To configure Spam Karma, take a look at Andy’s configuration post (That’s where I got my settings from and it’s working like a charm).

I hope it’ll do for you what it did for me - get rid of this crappy spam.


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