Tuesday, March 25, 2014

#AtoZChallenge Tips & Tricks

So you took the leap and joined the A-to-Z challenge this April.

Back in January or February, when you signed up, you were all like "yo, I got this burger grilled"--but now it's end of March, and you're beginning to wonder if maybe you made a mistake.

You didn't. Now breathe.

You'll have the time of your life. April 2014 will go down in history as the best-ever month of your bloggy life. On May 1st you'll be exhausted, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, ADD from too much coffee and not enough food, and you'll begin to count the days till April 2015.

That's it: baptism through fire. Welcome to the A-to-Z family.

As a challenge-warming gift, here's a collection of the best advice I've either learned myself (through fire) or have been fortunate enough to be a recipient of (through generous bloggers more experienced than me).
With April love, from me to you.

If you're on Blogger...
Add that Google Friend Connect widget. You want more followers? You have to make it easy for them to follow you, and nothing beats that one-click Join This Site button. If people follow you through other means--RSS, whatever--that's great, too; all I'm saying is give them choices. Add the Friend Connect thingamajig and watch the numbers grow during April.

How will you visit 1500+ blogs in April?
You don't have to get through them all, of course, but keep in mind that each one is a potential bloggy BFF. So you want to get through as many as possible. You want to connect. You want more visitors to your blog, too. The A-to-Z co-hosts recommend starting with the blog immediately after yours, and moving down the list that way. It's systematic, and might not work for everyone, but after trying different approaches, I can bear witness: working the list this way got me through more blogs than any other approach.

(P.S. -- would love to hear what approaches have worked for you.)

Please. Please. There's nothing more annoying than finishing a lovely thoughtful comment, clicking Post, and getting a garble of deformed characters to decode. Most of the time I'll give it a try; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But guess what? During April, blogger patience is at its lowest. Everyone on the A-to-Z tour wants to visit as many blogs as possible, so it's up to us to make it easy for them to do so. If you're really concerned about spam, don't allow anonymous comments, or--last resort--turn on comment verification. But please please no CAPTCHA. Seriously. We're asking nicely.

Include a hyperlink to your blog in your comments
For years I'd wondered, awe-struck, at these amazing bloggers who commented and left a signature link, actually clickable, in the comment. Something like this:

If I click that text in black, it takes me to Jemima's blog--or even a specific post in that blog. No more hunting through G+ or Blogger profiles to find the right link, no more hunting through the blog for the post the blogger wanted to share with me. I love those links.

But I couldn't figure out how to leave one of my own.

Copy-pasting my blog's address didn't, of course, work. The would-be visitor had to copy that and then paste it into their browser's address field. Better than nothing, but still not awesome--or efficient--enough.

Until Vidya Sury came along and, with infinite patience, shared a blow-by-blow how-to with me (which I then proceeded to share with the world on the A-to-Z blog). Read that post if you have time; lots more pearls of wisdom for your blogging pleasure, but I'll give you the low-down on creating the signature link here:

It really is that simple. Copy the link you want to share (your blog's home page, a specific post) and paste it between the quotation marks. The next bit dictates what text will show once your comment is posted--so when I paste the above into a comment on your blog, what you see is Life In Dogs, and when you click on it, it takes you to this blog's home page.

Go on. Try it in the comments below.

Twitter Share Button--with your own Twitter handle
Ida Chiavaro, who I met, I think, in my very first A-to-Z (2012), and who happens to be one of the nicest people I've ever met, recently did the blogosphere an invaluable social service by posting about how to add your Twitter handle to the Twitter share button in your posts.
This button.
Why do it? Because every time someone shares your post to Twitter via that button, your handle will be included--which means, m'dear, not just that you'll know it's been shared but that it'll also show up in the feed of your Twitter followers. Neat, right?

How? Here's my Cliff's Notes of Ida's post (please do read hers for more detail). Please note this applies only to Blogger--but I'm sure WordPress has equivalent settings that, with a bit of adjusting, will work just as well.

This involves editing the HTML code of your blog. Yeah. Back it up before you start ;)

In the Edit HTML window, you need to look for a specific bit of code. It's not hard, but keep in mind there's something like 3000 lines of code in there.

You're looking for a line of code that reads something like this:

expr:href='data:post.sharePostUrl + "&target=twitter"'

Ida suggests copy-pasting that into the Search box, and apparently if you do the line with this code will pop up all highlighted in yellow and everything. Didn't work for me. So I looked for it manually--you know, scrolling through all the HTML gibberish, and finally did find it, around line 1600. (Every blog's code is different, though; yours might be before, or after.)

Line 1600 says 'shareButtons' -- HTML paydirt. Now see those black triangles on the left? Those are expandable sections of code. So if I click on the triangle next too the 1600, I get 48 more lines of code -- and that, presumably is where I'll find my Twitter code.

Line 1616: blah-blah-blah TWITTER. Paydirt again.
Click on image to view larger.
Careful; there's a bunch of similar lines (because that's where all the share buttons are, and their codes are similar). Make sure you edit the one that says "twitter". The screen shot above shows mine already edited--you can see the @Guilie73 halfway through the third line.

So on your blog, the original code will look something like: 

expr:href='data:post.sharePostUrl + "&target=twitter"' expr:title='data:top.shareToTwitterMag' target=' blank'>

Do NOT mess with the bit after expr:title= ; the only thing that concerns us now is the code between expr:href and expr:title Which you'll substitute with this:

expr:href='"https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=@YourTwitterHandle%20"+ data:post.title + "&url=" + data:post.url'

Make sure you write your twitter handle instead of YourTwitterHandle, or it'll make for some hilarious tweets :)

And... voilá. Now when your visitors use that revamped Twitter button, they see something like this:

Still got to figure out how to get the whole title of the post to show up. Will share when I figure it out :)

Update Mar 30: These instructions worked fine for me--until I posted this how-to, funnily enough. Then the tweet refused to include the post title or even the URL. Nothing I did fixed it. So I changed to Shareaholic buttons. I'll post a how-to on those soon.

Get your very own Favicon!
Look at the top of the browser page, where it says Life In Dogs. See that square image on the right? Blue with a dog profile on it? That's this blog's Favicon. (The dog, Sam, would argue his name is not Favicon.)

Why get one? Well... why not?

How? I've got some awesome bloggy friends. They're not just fun and funny and great writers and kindhearted and love animals, they're also knowledgeable. And generous with that knowledge.

Donna  B. McNicol, who I met through NaNoWriMo a couple years ago (and who, by the way, recently moved to Ecuador, and has been blogging, hilariously and perceptively, about the whole experience), has (also) been blogging some outstanding A-to-Z-prep posts. One of them concerned, among other things, Favicons. So I read, I saw, and I Favicon-ed. Your turn.

Were these tricks helpful? Will you try them? Let me know how they work out for you. Happy A-to-Z-ing, everyone!


  1. Hello I am quietly wandering about the A to Z list in a random mad way, and thought I know that blog, so am here to say hello. . . . I know that's twice now.

    Good advice I would say; although I use just the one trick myself, smile a lot and write mad comments on folks blogs. It can have one of two effects. The first is they hide in trees and stuff thinking I will not find them, and the second is they will comment on my blog and say . . . . . Go away are you mad . . . .

    Not long to go now so good luck. . .

    Rob Z Tobor

  2. Great A-Z tips! Six more days until April 1st. It's gonna be a great year! Thanks for stopping by my Chihuahua Blog http://chiwawaluv.blogspot.com/

  3. Time is a crazy train, a runaway space monster, and I’m a slo-mo gal but I’ll do my best to click on through – nothing but glorious experiences so far – really looking forward to the daily enlightenment - LOVE the breathability, the calming effect of this post! And oh the dogs, I totally dig the dogs! And finally...here's your link : D


No love like Dog Love--or Blog Friend Love!