Monday, February 11, 2008

Customizing Your Blogger Template

The most fun you can have in Blogger, in my humble opinion, is customizing your Blogger template.

If you've been using Blogger for a long time, then you know the frustration of having a dozen or so templates that were completely un-customizable. If you wanted a new feature or new functionality, it usually meant changing your blog template completely. Many frustrated bloggers migrated to Wordpress, TypePad, or even LiveJournal.

Blogger templates have changed for the better. Today they offer a core group of basic templates you can completely customize. Additionally if you happen to be very good at writing CSS code, you can even create your own templates from scratch.

Let's look at a few of the basics that will be important to making money with Blogger.

Pick your template under the "Pick New Template" subheading of the template tab. It doesn't really matter which one. When you signed up for Blogger you chose one, and there are many other options available.

I like to use the Fonts and Colors subheading to customize mine. Having a blog that looks exactly like several thousand others is probably not advisable, but if your readers don't mind, it's fine. I customized my colors including a nice "Cash Green" header. I even uploaded a little graphic of some Benjamins!

As I said, those things are fun, but they don't make the money.

The Page Elements subheading is where you generate Green. Most of the templates are pretty basic. They have a blog posts column, a header, a navigation column and sometimes a footer.

To edit any of the elements currently, click on the edit button.

Edit your header first.
SEO Hint #4: The header is very important because it's the first thing a search engine will read. It's important that your keywords are contained in the header. You have a title and a subtitle option for most templates. Note that not all templates display the subtitle.

WARNING:
You can upload an image to be used as the background of your header. DO NOT replace your title with an image, even if the image has text. Search engines cannot read text in images. If you would like to use an image as a background you can. Find or create an image that fits in your template, and has enough contrast so that you're heading is still readable.

Next you can edit the blog post block. Most of these options are pretty basic. For now just make sure to select "Show E-Mail Post Links". Soon we will add the ads between posts. You can do that now if you're already have an AdSense account. If you followed our instructions on Blogger Settings, everything should be set appropriately already.

The navigation column is located on the right of most templates, on the left of a few. Right now you probably only have Profile and Blog Archive. The blog archive is important, and the profile can be useful. The profile is used by every blog on your account. If you are going to use multiple blogs, you probably want to disable the profile.

We're going to cover just a couple of the basics that are important to making money. Click on "Add a page element". A pop-up window allows you to choose a new page element.

The first two, Slideshow and Poll, enhance your readers experience, however they do take up space that is valuable.

The List and Linked List elements are similar except that one of them provides hyperlinks. The link list is useful if your blog is part of another website. You can use this to provide navigation back to pages on your website. The list element is not very valuable in my opinion.

The Picture element is eye candy. You can use this however for a nonlinked advertisement.

The AdSense element will be critical. We're going to cover this in depth soon. Hang in there.

The Text element can be very valuable. Remember text is read by search engines, so you can use this block to customize text that will appear on every page. Paragraphs with your keywords describing your website can be very useful here. If you've decided to eliminate your profile, you can replace it with a keyword rich block of text.

Don't be afraid of the element called HTML/JavaScript. Even if you know no HTML, you will use this element frequently. If you can cut and paste, you can use this element. A majority of the advertisements, referral programs, and affiliate programs will be installed using this element.

The Feed element is very powerful, however it generates links to external websites. Until your website is well established, don't use the feed element.

The Labels element you will use starting today. This allows your readers to navigate within your blog based on the labels at the bottom of each post. It's also important because it allows search engine crawlers to navigate your blog more easily. Simply turn it on, and select "by frequency" or "alphabetical".

Newsreel and Video Bar don't add much to your site. There are better ways to accomplish both of these functions and get paid for them. So leave them off for now.

The Logo button is only there if you decide you want to give Google some free advertising. My opinion, Google can afford to buy advertising. I'm not giving them any for free.
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