12 August 2014

Blog Tips: Facebook Reach, PicMonkey for Bloggers and a Winner

How long has it been since I shared a blog tips post? Soooo long.
I've learned a few cool tricks in the intervening months/years(?!) and since I promised to choose the *BOOK WINNER* to celebrate my six years blogging today, I thought I'd throw in a few blog tips while I'm at it. Cos, well, it's been a while. And these tips might help you.

(Winner announced at the bottom of the post...)

First up... I've figured out a really simple way to beat that nasty miserable Facebook "Reach".
If you have a Facebook page for your blog (separate to your personal profile) you will probably be just as frustrated as I was at the ridiculously low number of people that get shown your posts in their feed, otherwise known as "Reach".
You could have 800 people like your page but only a measly 4% of those likers will be shown your post by Facebook. It totally depends what that first 4% do with your post as to whether any more of your likers get shown the post: they have to interact with it (like it, comment on it and most importantly share it) in order for your post's "Reach" to get anywhere near decent.
People had all kinds of theories about how to increase Reach but none of them made any difference as far as I could see.
I had all but given up on my Facebook page, resigned myself to it being a useless social media appendage and an exercise in frustration, until I figured out this easy peasy trick.

Here's what you do to increase your Reach by a happily decent amount:
  • First get rid of all auto posting via Networked Blogs, Bloglovin etc. You need to post manually to your page. I upload a photo from the post, write a brief intro blurb and include the link. (Don't bother with "link in comments", it makes no difference). 
  • Once you've posted to your page, SHARE the post on your personal profile - this is the key. Then all comments and likes from your personal page will be counted in your total, plus because your post has been "shared" (by you) it automatically increases your post's Reach (i.e. the number of people Facebook shows your post to.) 
Since I've started doing this my Reach has been much better... instead of a measly "40" my Reach now varies between 250 and 500+ . Occasionally it even goes higher. The simple act of "sharing" increases your post's Reach by heaps. Try this tip and see if it doesn't make a huge difference to your Facebook Page Reach.

Something else I do all the time now is USE PICMONKEY. I use it for everything: collages, post titles, Facebook banners -  even my blog header is made in Picmonkey. Sure I have Photoshop, which is better for professional jobs, and I have PhotoScape, which allows me to bulk edit my photos (resizing, watermarking etc) but PicMonkey is my favourite for everything else.
You can use the free version online anywhere, without needing to download any software. I've now subscribed to the "Royale" features, but even the free version is simply brill.
They keep improving it, adding new features, new themes and editing options. Now you aren't even limited by their fonts - you can use your own.

I made the headings in this post in Picmonkey, using my own fonts on a transparent background which I cropped and sized to just the right dimensions. It took about a minute to make four titles. I keep the PicMonkey window with the title format open while I'm writing my blog post, so if I need a different or extra title I can quickly make one without having to start again (once you save something in PicMonkey you can't edit it unless the window with your working file is still open).

You can use Picmonkey to design things from scratch, in the "design" mode. Choose your background, including transparent, size it how you want it, add your elements and voila! Something pretty for your blog in mere minutes, with no fuss.
You can add elements from Picmonkey's wide selection (including chalkboard shapes) or add your own.

You can make blog headers, facebook banners, and collages in a jiffy. You upload your photos, drag and drop the photos in. Don't like it? Drop in another photo. Need it taller, wider, more photos...? Drag the edges to resize, drop in extra elements. It's so quick.

I use Picmonkey all the time in my job at school as well - I create collages from photos I take with my students to help them with story starters and other writing tasks. It's so quick to use I can whip up a collage in the time it takes them to write out their spelling words.

But this is a blog tips post, so I'd better get back to the blog tips (just trying to point out that Picmonkey is extremely useful in more ways than one!)

Bottom line...

When it comes to your blog's layout, it's not just about looking pretty - it's about making sure newcomers can find their way around easily. To ensure your blog lays out the welcome mat for anyone new who stumbles across it, you need to make the most of the space "above the fold". This is the view of your blog people have when they first land on it, the top, the first screen before scrolling down.

To make the most of the space "above the fold" you need to put the most important things at the top.
  • a Header for your blog - not too deep so it takes up too much space. Resize your header so it is approximately these dimensions: 1000px wide x 300 px deep. You can easily make a lovely blog header to the exact right size in PicMonkey.
  • Page tabs: for ease of navigation have your page tabs running underneath your header. Make sure the font is clear and easy to read. If you don't have pages on your blog, check out my tutorial about how (and why) to make them
  • Social media buttons - make it easy for people to find and follow you on social media by having a set of buttons right there at the top of your blog. I've got a whole range of free social media buttons in different styles and show you how to add them in my social media buttons tutorial
  • A welcome panel - so newcomers know who is writing this blog!

A "Welcome Panel" is a short introduction which includes a picture of you so newcomers can immediately see who you are and get a sense of what you're about. I've had an "about me" page for ages, but only recently added a welcome panel.
I did so after visiting a number of blogs and being unable to find a picture of the author - or her name - anywhere obvious. When I visited other blogs which provided a quick little intro+photo in the sidebar right at the top, I appreciated being able to immediately know what the blog was about, without having to go on a hunt. So I added a welcome panel of my own, made in - you guessed it - Picmonkey.

(I've just changed out the picture after I found this great family selfie Miss Fab took. I used PicMonkey's new "shape cutout" feature - found in "frames" - to make the photo round on a transparent background and then added the text separately.)


Right. Phew. That was a whole lot of blogging tips, right there.
I hope you found something useful or learned something you didn't know.
Finally I get to the bit where I tell you the winner of my Commenty Book Giveaway.

I asked you to share with me what you love most about my blog, and I was honestly really touched by your responses! Thank you to every one of you who left me a comment - I wish I had the dosh in my PayPal account to send a book to everyone who took the time to send me comment love on my blog-birthday, but I don't *sniff*

Here's the comment I've picked as my favourite, from among so many worthy, heartfelt, encouraging contenders:

"Yours is the first and only blog I subscribe to. I came for the kids parties that you do so well and stayed for…well, you, really. I love how you are honest about who you are and what your joys and struggles are. You are not trying to show the world how awesome and got-it-all-together you are, and by doing so you come across as a real-life person who experiences the same day to day life that I do. I can relate to what you are saying, but you have a certain something that inspires me to make that day to day life sparkly and pretty and the best that it can be. So thanks!"

This comment gives me goosebumps. It absolutely made my day, because this is what I aim for my blog to be about. So KATHERINE, come on down!

Can you email me on greatfun4kids@live.com and let me know your choice of book (anything from Book Depository, as long as it's not gold plated), along with your full name and mailing address. Then I'll order your book for you!

P.S. Is there anything you'd like me to do a Blog Tips tutorial on? Tell me your burning blog tippy questions...

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