Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Book Review: Blogger -- Beyond the Basics

Blogger book cover - Lee JordanIf you write a blog on Google’s Blogger platform—or ever have any plans to—you need to pick up a copy of Blogger: Beyond the Basics: Customize and promote your blog with original templates, analytics, advertising, and SEO (From Technologies to Solutions) by Lee Jordan. This is the definitive guide to planning, designing, pimping out, promoting, monetizing, measuring and SEO-ing a Blogger blog.

The book explains the techniques to accomplish all of these objectives through the fictional story of Georgia Peach, a woman passionate about fresh fruit. Procedures are illustrated using examples from Georgia planning, developing and promoting her Fruit for All blog.

The story begins with Georgia researching competitive and related blogs, planning her strategy, and then customizing a Blogger template to create just the look she’s after by replacing the header image, modifying fonts and colors, changing the layout and customizing the sidebar. Along the way, the author cites helpful tools such as text editors (HTML Kit, Arachnophilia, Dreamweaver) and color tools (Color Hunter, transparent color generator, VisiBone colors by shade).

Next, she makes her blog posts easy to share using social media badges and other techniques, such as turning on Email Post Links within Blogger. Social media buttons are common, but the author provides an easy coding technique to automatically collect the dynamic information for the bookmark service, so that when the button is clicked, the attributes in the tag will automatically populate the title and URL boxes.

As the story of Georgia's blog continues, her experiences provide illustrative examples of routine, advanced and just plain cool features like:
  • activating backlinks and trackbacks
  • creating a blogroll
  • adding a Twitter widget
  • replacing a blogger profile with a Facebook badge (very cool)
  • providing PayPal service for e-commerce
  • selecting and building widgets
  • creating separate RSS feeds based on post labels
  • adding an outside RSS feed to a blog
  • integrating a video player
  • setting up a Google AdSense for Search box
  • displaying AdSense adds in RSS feeds using FeedFlare
  • creating a customized Recommended Product ad from Amazon's affiliate program
  • using advanced traffic reporting features in Google Analytics
and more. If it's possible to do something in Blogger, you can probably find step-by-step instructions for the task in this book.

There's very little to not like about this book. The writing style gets a bit cutesy at times, but never crosses the line into annoying. The section on search optimization is elementary, but that's more because of the inherent SEO limitations of the Blogger platform than any fault of the author.

As the major blogging platforms have evolved, WordPress has become the more feature-rich tool, but Blogger puts all of the basic functionality into an easier-to-use package. For writers who choose to use this platform, Lee Jordan's Blogger is an indispensable guide and reference.


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