My blog has been changed to make it more appealing for those who have New England ancestors and want to see the area through photos. Things I’ll include are typical white New England churches, libraries showing their genealogical collection, historical societies, cemeteries, war memorials, in general, anything to do with history.

For four years I’ve blogged mostly about my personal genealogy in New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire), New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. I still will, can’t forget my own roots.

Please check out the labels on the right side for articles. The header tabs at the top are a work in progress.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

10 Things I Wished I Knew When I Started My Blog

Blog header for my blog.
In October, I will be celebrating my seventh year of blogging, so I decided this was a good time to share the 10 Things I Wished I Knew When I Started My Blog. At that time, I knew very little about publishing a blog (blogging was relatively new to the genealogy world), and I knew none of the items below.

My blog hasn't changed much since the day I started. A few minor things have been though. I replaced my original header picture (above) to replace a photo I took in the dead of winter, of an old cemetery in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. I now include other topics, not pertaining to genealogy and make an extra effort to include my photographs.

I wish I had learned these 10 topics during my early writing days, but I didn't. If I had known a few of these things, they wouldn't be a major project now. The items are in no particular order.

1. I should have started labeling each blog, with major content or subject words. The words, known as search words are used for me and readers to locate my blog topics, like: Revolutionary War, Surname: Smith; Location: New York; Cemeteries; DAR; Research Tips and so forth. The labels are shown at the bottom of each post, and on the label bar at the right side of each blog.

2.  I should have kept a list of all blogs written, with date and title. I have written over 1230 posts and it's difficult to remember what was written. To use search words (as mentioned above), takes a while and sometimes those words aren't the ones I initially typed. I still don't have a list, but if I ever do make one, it would be on excel and it would help me immensely.

3.  I wish I knew about checking all links I've put in the posts to see if they are still active. I didn't begin doing this until rather recently, and after seven years, many old addresses have disappeared. They need to be corrected or deleted.

4.  I try hard to reply to all comments. I know how I feel if somebody doesn't respond to my comments, so I do my best to respond to any I receive. In the earlier years, I didn't do this, and that was pretty inconsiderate. I clearly remember the ones who sent me messages when I first began. It was a nice feeling. With so many blogs available to read, readers can move on to other blogs, they don't have to deal with an ungrateful writer. If your post is ever selected to be on a Best of the Week list, you best thank that blogger. Many readers will take notice if you do or don't.

5.  Sourcing your facts in a blog is as important as it is in your genealogy. I didn't know this in the beginning of my writing days, nor did I know it 27 years ago when I began doing genealogy  (then, most people didn't source). If your post has facts, you need to go a step beyond.  Thanks to the many professional bloggers, webinars, seminars and genealogy magazine writers who stress the importance of sources, most genealogy bloggers are now sharing where their information came from. Along with sources for facts we need to give credit for all photos and images we use.

6.  I should have spent more time preparing each post. Some of my early posts have major problems. They aren't consistent with font and size and some are bold. When I come across them, I take the bold feature off, make the size normal in Veranda style. If you are using a program with very small print and light font, such as a grey, I won't read your post. We all like to read something that's easy on our eyes.

7. I learned that people will have opinions on what to do in order to have a great blog. Well, some ideas are great, and others, I don't quite believe. For example, I read that all blogs should be "short and sweet." Well, I've read some great stories that are quite long, and some are continued and I had no problem reading them. Since then, I've written a three-part story which seemed quite popular. Just your own judgement and do what you want to do.

8.  I wished I knew about some of the sites that help bloggers with hints and tips, such as the free Problogger or the hundreds of informational blogs out there to help all writers. I didn't know about these sites until four years ago. There are thousands of bloggers, and we all need a little help in the beginning.

9. When I discovered I didn't need to write almost every day, I felt freer because I wasn't tied to my computer, and my readers were probably happy because they didn't need to spend their time reading yet another blog. If you subscribe to 100 blogs, I doubt you would want to read 100 of them a day. On a personal note, I wrote 260 posts in 2010 (my first full year) and 94 in 2015. This post is my 43rd one for 2016. It isn't because I don't have enough material to share, it's because I don't feel it's necessary to share everything, nor do I want to spend the time, since some can take between 2-4 hours or more, if I need to drive somewhere to take photos.

10.  I learned that my blog is not about page-views (the number of hits, that is, people looking at your post). In my first few months, I spent every day checking those figures and wondered who was reading what I was writing. For most of that time, I worried about what the readers thought, and who they were. Months and years later, I discovered those figures don't always represent real people. The stat figures are not an indicator of how good or bad my blog is and the same goes for others.


Wendy Callahan said...

These are excellent tips for both novice and experienced bloggers, no matter what they write about. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts.

All of these are important, especially replying to comments, because the idea of blogging (and social media in general) is to have a conversation. Sometimes it seems like we've lost that because there is a screen between us. I still prefer sitting down with someone, with a cup of coffee or tea, and chatting face-to-face. But we can't always do that, so blogs are such a great way to converse with someone far away who shares our interests or perspectives.

Thank you for keeping the conversation going and happy early blogiversary to you!

Marian B. Wood said...

An excellent "top 10" list. Thanks for the reminder to go back and check old links to be sure they still work. I haven't done that, but it's important so readers will find the material and not be frustrated.

Barbara Poole said...

Wendy, it would be nice to sit with a blogger/friend like you and chat about anything. I think, since most people share their posts on facebook, it's easy to take the lazy way out (which I admit, I do frequently), that is to do a LIKE, and not leave a comment. I currently subscribe to about 350 posts, and I don't have time to read many of them. With this post, I've had quite a few comments on fb, and only one comment to this post...that one is from you. So, I thank you. And the blogiversary mention was nice (I see you caught that..normally, I don't even mention it).

Anonymous said...

Nicely done. I, too, dropped the number of posts over the course of time. I have a FB page that I post on regularly. Mostly a quick observation or discovery and sometimes that becomes the launch for a blog post.

I started my blog in 2010 after using emails with stories and images for a number of years and my son said "Mom, you should blog. Much more efficient and a better medium." The good thing was that I took my emails and cut and pasted them into Microsoft Word and edited them there and organized them as well in a BLOG folder on my server. I kept that process in place so that my final drafts are on my server along with images that I used. Fortunately WordPress has evolved with me and now I can control my fonts and settings and paste them into the blog post so they appear as I want them without much tweaking. Plus I have my work backed up on my server and the cloud.

One more important thing. At the end of each blog post, I state the copyright at the end of each post. Although it is supposedly implicit, I think it is important to remind researchers and readers so that if they use your blog post as a reference, they mind the copyright. This is an example of what I use.
© Copyright September 2016. All Rights Reserved.

I welcome anyone to view my blog and let me know if they have any suggestions!

Barbara Poole said...

Marian, First, I want to thank you for the compliment and comment. It seems most comments on facebook to this post have to do with the links, we all have problems with them. And, second, I'm not sure why your posted message just recently showed up! Another mystery with Google's Blogger. Really, I think I could have gone to a top 20, because I knew almost nothing about blogging.

Barbara Poole said...

Hi Deborah,
Thanks for your long comment, and fortunately I had the time to look at your blog and facebook page. You have a lot of material, and once I got wind of your trips to the various places, with mentions of Hurley, Southold, Hudson Valley, New Haven and others, I was interested, as I've got ancestors or old family members in those locations. Your blog, "The Lost Son" was perfect with the dark or bold font, but then it went light, and my ole eyes had trouble reading it. I've never followed a personal facebook page, but I did yours and left a few "likes" you might have seen. That is very nice, and I'm envious of your trips. I know you'll enjoy your retirement!
You are right about the copyright statement, I have one as well, but it is so far at the bottom, it takes a while to get to. Since I'm not much of a writer, people don't steal my material, but they do with my photos! Thanks again.

Janice Brown said...

First, congrats on 7 years at blogging! That is quite an accomplishment when most don't go beyond 2. And also compliments on such a nicely written article with excellent advice. I agree 100% that it is not about the hits and page views. Many of those can be bots and not real people. It's all about stories and sharing.

Barbara Poole said...

Janice, if you only knew how many times I tried to quit blogging. I remember telling Heather 5 years ago that I intended to leave the world of blogging. So, I guess it is an accomplishment that I made it this far. Thank you for your very kind words, they are appreciated.

Mary Kircher Roddy said...

Great post. I especially like your admonition to keep a list of posts. Definitely something I should be doing.

Jackie Corrigan said...

Congratulations! Love Tip#2 and think I should do that one for sure!

Barbara Poole said...

Mary Kircher Roddy and Jackie Corrigan, thank you both for writing about the same tip. I've been thinking how I'm going to do it and the way I see it, there are only two methods for me. One is writing it down and the other is a typed list, so, I'll do a sample of 10 titles to determine which way I want to go. Good luck to the two of you.

Elizabeth O'Neal said...

Congratulations for sticking to it, Barbara. I've really enjoyed your posts, as well as your wise advice. :-)

P.S. If you'd posted this a few days sooner, it would have been a great addition to the September Genealogy Blog Party!

Barbara Poole said...

Thanks, were an early blogger that I've followed for many years. I appreciate your comment here and nice words. Oh, I'm sorry about missing your deadline, so, I'll have to look into your Genealogy Blog Party to learn more.

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Happy upcoming blogiversary! I thoroughly enjoyed your list which I suspect resonates with many of us who started blogging years ago. For me, #4 is THE just seems rude to ignore what a reader has bothered to write about your story, even if it's "just" a "thank you for visiting and commenting". In essence I think you've said this too: be yourself, write to your own style.

I love the graveyard with the irises in the foreground.

Good luck with all your future blogging.

Barbara Poole said...

Thank you Pauleen for all your comments. The list was rather easy and I imagine it could have gone to 15 or 20. Regarding the thank you's, I like to show my appreciation for a nice statement. What I don't like are the people who leave a comment all about them-self or their ancestors and no mention to my post!

I'm really happy you like my header picture. It's even on my genealogy business card. That was taken about 4-5 miles from where I live and I was lucky with the color, lighting and beautiful flowers. (The cemetery stones always look like that, lol.)

I can't copy anybody else's style, because I'm not a writer. Ideas come quickly, but not all other aspects of writing.

Thanks for writing from Australia.

Family Sleuther said...

Congratulations on your seven year anniversary. That's a tremendous accomplishment. I appreciate and agree with your top ten list. Lots of good considerations here for bloggers new and old alike.

Barbara Poole said...

Thank you Family Sleuther for writing the kind words, and I'm especially glad you agreed with my list. During my many years of reading lots of blogs, I'm sure I've read a few lists, but honestly, I don't remember what was written. Within 15 minutes I had my title and my list, and it took many hours to word it correctly.

Les said...

I think I was one of your first followers and I can safely say you've never have lost my interest. I also remember in one of your first blogs saying something about not known if you would run out of things to write about. LOL
Keep it up!

Lisa Gorrell said...

Hi. I found your blog through Randy Seaver. I love your tips no. 2 and 6. I think I will start to keep a list of my posts as well. Luckily I haven't written many blog posts but I have two blogs. I also went back to my first blog and changed the template because the type was too light. Thanks for tip no. 6! I think it looks a lot better now.

Nancy said...

Great post, Barbara. I notice that we started our blogs within two months of each other. Those were great first years for bloggers. For me there was a feeling of community which I notice less now. (But maybe it's just me and how I'm not keeping up with everyone.)

There are so many things to learn as a beginning blogger, and even as an experienced blogger. Those labels -- whew, it takes a long time to fix those even after only a few dozen blog posts. But it's hard to know exactly which labels to use when one begins, especially without a clear, specific vision of blog content.

And broken links. When I look at some of my old blog posts I always check the links but rarely otherwise. Wouldn't it be great if there were some easy way to check all the links in all of our posts?!

Comments. I was like you at the beginning: I rarely responded. I didn't notice that anyone responded to my comments so I did the same. These days not many people comment on my blog posts but I respond when they do.

I'm one (probably of a rare few) who doesn't include citations on blog posts. My opinion is that others who are searching my family will be more likely to contact me for more information if I don't give all the information they need right in the post. But maybe not. Maybe I'm just encouraging those who add people to public trees without citing sources.

One other thing I've learned is to use the image properties link to include image title text and alternate text. Images will more easily come up in search engines with that information included. I don't think you have a problem with people not finding your images, but maybe more with people stealing yours.

Thanks for a great post and the reminders about some things I haven't thought about lately.

Diane Gould Hall said...

Thanks for posting your list. I completely agree with every item. The one thing that stood out for me as a reminder, was the sourcing. I am very diligent about sourcing in my Legacy database. However, I have rarely taken the time to source on my blog posts. I will take your reminder to heart.
As far as keeping track of blog posts. I do have a method. I copy every post to Evernote. That makes them searchable and available. I also create a book at the end of each year. Additionally, I have recently begun entering the blog link into the Events section for the individual in Legacy. I mark it private and it won't show up on any reports unless I want it to. But, it quickly tells me what blog posts I've written for which ancestor and when.
Congrats on hanging in there. Happy Blogiversary!

Barbara Poole said...

Les, thanks for writing. I'll always remember the following month when you kindly went to a cemetery and took photos of my ancestor's grave. That was my first experience receiving help from a reader, and I'll never forget it. Thanks for being with me all these years.

Barbara Poole said...

Lisa Gorrell,
Thank you for writing and I'm glad a few of my hints may help you and your readers. I didn't intend this post to be a self-help, but I'm finding that it seems to be. Anyway, I read your blog and I love the light green and darker black font, thank you for that!

Barbara Poole said...

Nancy, thanks for the nice long comment. I had Cheryl Palmer as a mentor of sorts, meaning she encouraged me and told me about Thomas MacEntee and his Geneabloggers group. If I didn't have that information, I doubt I'd be blogging. The blogging community has changed big time, so it isn't you. It really was fun, with lots of people learning as we went along. We both know what happened once facebook and social media took off.

I have to say, regarding my sources, most of them are links (hopefully, the experts know what they are talking about).

You are right, I've had a major (in my opinion) problem with people taking my photos, but I'm now used to it. It balances out with the lovely compliments I get about the photos. I never thought about people trying to find my photos, guess it isn't a concern right now.

Thanks for writing, and Nancy, and you continue on as well.

Barbara Poole said...

Diane Gould Hall, It sounds like you are pretty organized and I could have learned somethings from you. Having a book printed from one of the blogger-to-print publishing companies was smart, really smart. I wished I had done that from the beginning because I knew back in the beginning people were doing that. However, I kept telling myself to quit blogging (too much work, too much time), but I trekked on. Also, you use Evernote, and understand it. I have Kerry's book and that's as far as I got. To enter over 1,000 blog posts seems monumental, so matter which method I use. I hope readers read your comment, it's useful.

Also, I subscribed to your blog because I like the layout, size and the fact that you have information on Michigan and Connecticut. Thanks for writing.