1. Don't try to do it all at once. Really, you don't need all of the bells and whistles and you will just make your head spin. Start simple (the Blogger templates are there for a reason). Nobody is out there ready to say, "Hey, why don't you have a perfect blog?" Plus, it is the content that matters, not the extras.
2. When in doubt, use Google to find some help (or ask the Flannel Friday Facebook Group). Many people write posts on how to use Blogger and they can be extremely helpful. I have tried searches such as "blogger how to make header pixlr" and refining the search to show the past year (Blogger upgrades all the time. You are better sorting through the newer stuff first.)
3. Thing about your tags. In Blogger, they are called Labels and are along the right side of your page. These are important and are like an index to your blog. I like mine in a Cloud format, because I have quite a few and don't want to take up my whole side of the screen with labels. To add labels, go to your layout and click on "add a gadget". Scroll through the list and choose "Labels". Give it a title (like Labels, choose how you want to sort them (alphabetically or frequency), and how you want them displayed (list or cloud). Then click on "Save".
4. Over the past year, I saw Pinterest buttons appearing on people's blogs. Since I wanted one too, I found this article. Once that was added, my Pinterest following has exploded. After all, as children's librarians, most of us are looking for similar stuff.
5. Once I got started on changing my blog, I wanted to add my blog address to the pictures that I post. This is helpful because when people save my pictures in Pinterest or on their computers, they can find their way back to my blog. Plus, it is free advertising. Picassa and Blogger work well together since they are both Google products. I load my pictures into Picassa and there is a text editor where I can add my web site right to the picture. You are also able to add it to every picture, but I like moving the text around and changing the colors depending on the background.
6. Okay, so you have your blog going. Next, you will want people to follow it and remember it. Yes, you can participate in the Flannel Friday Round-Up (which is always awesome), but what if you post something other than Flannel Friday? What if you post something on Tuesday or Wednesday? First, you can add a "Follow by Email" gadget from your layout. If you do this, then anyone who adds their email address, will get an email of your post any time you post. Second (and my favorite), is adding a Chicklet to your blog. A Chicklet is that little orange button that will allow people to follow a RSS feed. This makes it really easy for people to follow your blog in a feed reader such as Google Reader (sigh, it is going away) or to read it in an app such as Flipboard.
7. Now that you have people following your blog, you want them to go back and find other posts. One way to do that is by using LinkWithin. This adds 3 pictures/links from your blog at the bottom of each post. (Note-it does take a couple of hours to kick in so don't worry if it doesn't work right away.)
8. Recently I hosted the Dig into Summer Reading Extravaganza and wanted some bling to go with it. To do that, I created a blog button so that people could add that button to their own blogs. This button, when clicked, leads back to my post. These are great for blog hops too (Storytime ABCs is a great creator of them!). I made my own button in Pixlr. I had to do multiple searches for this-one to learn how to create the blog button and another to get it on my site. What I learned from this experience is to never ever work on the code in Microsoft Word. It adds extra code and messes it up. Always use Notepad.
9. My newest addition (last week) is a new blog header. I got tired of looking at a solid orange block with my blog title in it and got creative in Pixlr again. To make your own, follow the directions at Sweet Jelly Bean. Mine took about 30 minutes.
That is all I have for now. What's next that I want to add (and still need to learn)?
- better photography (but that may be the shadows of the building I am in)
- a Twitter button once I actually start posting more stuff on Twitter (I am a once a month person, although I have been better lately.)
- an email button (I am sure it is easy, but I just haven't had time for it).
- enhance the "about me" section or add a new page across the top (know how to do this, just haven't had time).
- adding stuff that Anne at So Tomorrow has listed as the "next level" (scheduling posts definitely tops that)!