Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How to add a gadget to a blog with a dynamic-view template

This article is about how to add widgets (also known as gadgets) to blogs that have dynamic templates.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Options for adding gadgets to your blog

There are (at least) three different ways of adding a gadget to your blog.  This article explains what a gadget / widget is, and looks at the advantages and disadvantages of each method.



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Changing the Date for a Post

This article is about how to change the date of a post in Blogger.  It looks at where the date value is found, and what format is used to display and edit it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting blog videos indexed, with schema.org

You can put videos into blog post using an icon on the post-editor toolbar - they are one type of file that you don't need to host elsewhere.

If you do this, Google will (eventually) index the contents of your blog post, based on the text in the post, and the file-names of the file(s)you've used.

But the spiders behind search haven't quite got the hang of speech and image recognition yet: as with images, you need to explicity tell them about your content.

Webmaster Central have announced a new way of doing this called schema-markup.org.  This asks people who provide videos to show them in their websites using code like this:
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/VideoObject">  <h2>Video: <span itemprop="name">Title</span></h2>  <meta itemprop="duration" content="T1M33S" />  <meta itemprop="thumbnailURL" content="thumbnail.jpg" />  <meta itemprop="embedURL"    content="http://www.example.com/videoplayer.swf?video=123" />  <object ...>    <embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" ...>  </object>  <span itemprop="description">Video description</span></div>
Sidebar
The code originally given in Google's post was missing the / at the start of the closing </div> statement. I suspect they'll fix it soon - but it's why you may get a message like


"your HTML cannot be accepted: Tag is not closed: DIV"
Fix it by simply changing the second <div> to </div>. 

Unfortunately the suggested won't work for Blogger users, because the Post-editor doesn't let us use meta-tags.    You can put the code into your post if you want, but they will be stripped out when the post is published or viewed in Compose mode.

But there are some options you can use to tell search engines about your video conent:

1) Edit your template, add a conditional statement that is only applied to the post that contains the video, and put the schema.org code (without the H2 and Object statement, of course) into the <head> section.   Something like this:
<b:if cond='data:blog.canonicalUrl == "http://url of your post"'>
PUT THE SCHEMA.ORG META-TAG STATEMENTS IN HERE
</b:if>
Disclaimer: I haven't tried ths myself. But it strikes me that it should work, give the way we deal with other meta-tags when necessary. However "should" is an "interesting" word.   Maybe it won't work, if the tags are not in the same <div> as the video.


2) Put the description of the video into the blog-post - just work it into the text naturally.

3) Use a title statement to give the video some hover text LINK (I guess this works for videos - haven't tried it) or alt-text.

For both of the last two, remember that indexing of text on your blog will link to your blog-post, not to the video, so it may not get the "videos are cool" factor that seems to influence search results.   But they are both easy things to do.

4) Load your video to Youtube (or Vimeo or wherever), and put the content description into the fields there, along with links to your blog, of course.

This will have the vids-are-cool effect, but the search traffic will go to the host site, and may not ever get to your blog -  to get any search-traffic benefit, you need to to have good links to your blog in their the video-site information, or good promotion of it in the video itself.


5) Or maybe the Video Sitemaps or mRSS feeds approach that Google's article LINK also mentioned work well-enough for Blogger-users.    (Sorry, I have no time to investigate either of these - am keen to get comments from anyone knows more about them though.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

AdSense has a new ad-size

AdSense has introduced some new ad-unit sizes.

The mobile banner is 320px wide by 50px high, and designed for mobile applications.    However if you get your ad-code from AdSense (rather than using Blogger's AdSense gadget), it's available to put onto any type of site.  I've put an example of it, and a regular 468x60 banner to show the comparison, at the bottom of the page on this site.

There are also some new widths for link-units:  these are available from Blogger's add-a-gadget wizard too - but as always, if you use this you have only limited formatting control, ie cannot use AdSense color palates and cannot centre the text.

I think that Google are doing some experiments with mobile-ad units (ones with big buttons, and a slightly different look) at the moment:  I saw some when I used a smartphone to look at a non-mobile-enabled site the other day.   Since then, I've enabled the site for mobile access ('cos I discovered that a quarter of the visitors were using mobile devices) - but now when I look at it, the ads inside posts are not mobile, and there are none at the top of bottom (where they were before).    So - no conclusions about what we should be doing at the moment, but I suspect that the best-practise here might be changing.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Google Knoweledge Graph will change how Google searches for our blogs

You may have seen references to Google Knoweledge Graph, and how it has the potential to revolutionize search.

The first few posts I saw were big on hype, but with very little substance. However this article from Mashable explains things a lot more.

Of course we don't know what the effect of this change in Google's approach will have on Bloggers - especially those who rely on search results to get people to visit their blogs. But here are a couple of predictions:

1) SEO, as we know it, will be less and less important. 

Writing for human (ish!) beings will be ever-more important.

No prizes for this one: SEO's changing all the time. But I think that the change will be dramatic. Once Google's algorithms know that a blog is a type of website, and that it's something that ordinary people want to put gadgets onto, and that gadgets are just small bits of code that do something useful, then searches like "how do I to put a list of favourtie posts into my blog" are more likely to return posts that tell you how to use the link-list gadget.

2) Good grammar will matter more

The beauty of keyword searches is that they just spot relevant words, or clusters of words.

Today,it doesn't matter if you say
" This few wrong SEO tricks will down the visibility of your blog in search engine result page."  
(thanks for the phrase, Tips and Tricks for Bloggers)
Because, all other things being equal, that sentence will be found by someone who who searches for the keywords that are used.


But with a semantic-network in the picture, the way that the sentences in our blogs are put together is likely to matter.  Searching, for example, for
"what eats, roots and leaves" vs
"what eats roots and leaves" 
is likely to return a vastly different set of results. (Or it would if that wasn't such a hackneyed example that probably half of the English grammar websites in the world use it already.)

Blogger is a long way behind in providing tools to help us write better English (or French or Dutch or Portugese or Spanish or Greek or whatever) - they've only given us a spell-checker in the last year or two, whereas even Microsoft Word has offered basic grammar checking, in English at least, for ages.   Perhaps converting from MS word to Blogger via Word will become more important than before.



Why this post:
Normally, I only post about changes that have already happened, which I think may affect Blogger-users right now.  This is an exception, because I believe we need to be thinking about how the knowledge in our blogs is structured and presented to that it makes semantic sense.  And we need to do this thinking now, not sometime down the track when Google is presenting semantic search results.   (And besides, I really liked the Mashable post).  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Customizable styles in Google Docs

Google Docs now have Customizable styles in documents.

This is a feature that MS Word has had for a long time, which makes a huge productivity difference to anyone who is writing long documents.

Basically, instead of formattting each sub-heading individually (eg making it bold, 12 pt and underlined), you just say once what the rules for that "heading2" is (eg bold, 12 pt and underlined), and then apply "heading2" to any text that you want to look like this. The time-saving comes when make a change.  For example, when you realise that underlining is for typewriters, instead of having to change each sub-heading individually, you just change heading2 to be (say) bold and 14 point - and all the same change is made to every place where you've used "heading2".

I don't know the the addition of Styles to Docs means they will be added to Blogger's Post-editor anytime soon.   But it may affect loading Word documents to Blogger via Google Docs. I haven't tested yet, so don't know if Word's styles will be kept when the document is converted - but I'd hope that they would, given that it's a very mature feature in Word.

The interesting part will come when you either copy-and-paste or publish from Docs to Blogger: is the formatting itself transferred over, or just the style name?

My guess, without testing, is that for copy-and-paste, it might just be the style name. If that's right, then to make the Word-to-Docs-to-Blogger conversion work, you will need to add CSS rules to your blog, using the same style names used in Docs.

And if you have a lot of email subscribers, remember mind that the messages they receive do not have your blog's stylesheet applied to them.   (I experimented with various header style options in BloggerHAT, but eventually gave us and followed the example of other big-time bloggers and applied the formatting manually, for just this reason:  no matter what I tried, my email-subscription messages looked bad,)

(BTW: If you know a way to apply a stylesheet to emails sent by Feedburner, or even by Blogger, then I'd love to hear about it.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Country-specific Blogspot URL may affect your earnings - and other things too

This week, Blogger announced they are redirecting blogspot.com blogs to country specific URLs.

This means that when someone in India looks at http://blogger-hints-and-tips.blogspot.com/, they will actually be directed to http://blogger-hints-and-tips.blogspot.in - and similarly for other countries, so far I know it's been applied to Australia and New Zealand too.

This is likely to have affects on other products:

AdSense:

If you have protected your AdSense ID from malicious use (and really, you should if you care about it), then you will find some new entries in your unauthorised sites list:   I just went into mine and authorised
  • blogger-hints-and-tips.blogspot.com.au 
  • blogger-hints-and-tips.blogspot.in
  • blogger-hints-and-tips.blogspot.co.nz
and I expect to be doing some more as it rolls out further.   

If I didn't do this, then any advertising "clicks" from people visiting via country-specific-URLs won't be counted.

(Interestingly, I tried using the authorise link beside the unauthorized links on the Home > Account settings page.   It said it worked, but those sites weren't actually added to my authorized list.  I had to add them to the Authorized list and click Save myself.)

Analytics:

I'm not sure yet if this has an impact on statistics gathered with Analytics.   Maybe not - my overall visitor numbers aren't down, and the Visitors > Map overlay tool shows that I've had 79 visits from India today.   

I do have some more checks in mind, but these will take a while to do - comments from anyone who has  investigated are very welcome.


3rd party statistics packages:

I don't know for sure, but would be surprised if this doesn't affect the stats gathered by SiteMeter, StatCounter, et al - at least in the short term.


Search


The way to check that you've got a canonical statement in your template is to 
  1. View the blog itself  (ie not the template, and not the posts)
    - eg I looked at www.blogger-hints-and-tips.blogspot.com in my browser, while I was logged off of Blogger.
  2. Look at the source code   (in Chrome, I get to it through the "wrench" in the top right corner, then Tools > View Source - or by using Ctrl / u)
  3. Check that this line is showing somewhere:    
    <link href='http://yourURL.blogspot.com' rel='canonical'/> 
If that line isn't in your source code, then the quickest fix is to either change to a newer template, or edit your template and add it just underneath the <head> statement.


That's all I can think of for now ... but I have a hunch there's more.    Will post again if I find more issues.

How to edit your Blogger template

Update:   this information is now out of date.   See How to EditYour Theme in Blogger for current information.