Blog Audit Challenge 2020: September #blogauditchallenge2020

September 29, 2020

September’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

 I hope that if you are reading this that you continue to be well and that your area is opening up for business and recreation with social distancing precautions. Our county is off the state’s watch list due to a decrease in COVOD-19 cases. Hoping we can stay that way! Stay safe, blogging buddies!

September’s Challenge Focus: Developing Readership

Which is more important to develop readership, views or comments?

Over the last few months, the challenges have allowed me to improve content and design.

We looked at content gaps in August and now September’s challenge will focus on Developing Readership. We see our visitor and follower stats, but how do we know who is reading and engaging with our content? Is there a way to develop readership?

Our host for this challenge, suggests that comments help develop readership.

In my early days of blogging, I gradually grew braver in my ability to comment on the blogs I follow. I found that it started a conversation that was continued on my own blog as they reciprocated and commented on my blog. Gradually, I found blogs that I had a great deal in common with: 1. open to conversation, 2. enjoyment of similar genres, 3. perhaps in the same life stage/age group, 4. taking the connection one step further to share a post on Twitter, and 5. linking to each other’s content.

Commenting is one of the most practical ways to support your favorite blogger! Every comment brings me joy and is a tried and true strategy for developing readership and increasing engagement!

1. Optimize Comment System

  • In order for this to work, commenting needs to be easy. I’ve certainly experienced frustration in trying to comment on a blog post and it just won’t work for some reason. Commenting as a WordPress blogger on another WordPress blog is certainly the easiest. Although there is one WordPress blog I follow that I cannot comment on when I try and comment from the email notification. The comment appears to go through but it never shows up on her end. But when I comment from the WordPress Reader, my comment always goes through. I had about given up when I stumbled on the solution of using the WordPress Reader rather than my email for the point of origin.
  • Other times, I will enter all the required information to comment and the processing icon spins and spins and never seems to go through.
  • Sometimes, the blog will require you to sign in using FB, Twitter, or Google.
  • My tip for bloggers is to keep the commenting process as simple as possible! However, how do we know what the commenting process is like on our own blogs? Maybe an idea would be to set up a group of  ten random friends to make a comment on your blog and report back on the process.
  • If you have difficulty commenting on my blog, would you let me know?

2. Reply to All Comments

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Blog Audit Challenge 2020: August #blogauditchallenge2020

August 30, 2020

August’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

 I hope that if you are reading this that you continue to be well and that your area is opening up for business and recreation with social distancing precautions. Our county is off the state’s watch list due to a decrease in COVOD-19 cases. Hoping we can stay that way! Stay safe, book buddies!

August’s Challenge Focus: Content Gap

Over the last few months, the challenges have allowed me to improve content.

We’ve looked at quality content and now August’s challenge will focus on the gap of information that might need to be filled. Do visitors find the information they expect to find when they land on your blog? Have you thought about your content gaps?

1. Analyze your current content and look for content gaps.

  • I have always enjoyed looking at “Insights” and noticing under “Search Terms”  how visitors have landed on my page. Many search terms already match my content: visitors are looking for summaries, reviews, and certain book titles.
  • One search always draws my attention, and that is the search relating to book clubs: book club suggestions or book club questions.
  • I’ve addressed one part of this search by creating a Book Club Recommendations menu tab. Visitors can find my recommendations organized loosely by genre and star ratings.
  • One content gap I can work on is adding a paragraph to my review that directly addresses book clubs or offers one or more discussion topics for book clubs. I have already done that in a couple of reviews like Deal of a Lifetime for example. For the rest of the year, I want to work on including specific content for bookclubs in each of my reviews. Is this something you would find interesting?

2. Visit other blogs to see what they offer that I don’t.

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A Week In the Life of the Block Editor and Me #WordPress #BlockEditor

August 25, 2020

A Week in the Life of the WordPress Block Editor and Me:

Dear Blogging Friends,

A week ago I began my adventure with the new Block Editor, and this is my seven-day journal of that experience. I held my breath and dove into the deep end without any preparation. You might laugh at me or feel sorry for me, but I hope that sharing my experience will also be a benefit!

WordPress Woes: A Journal

Have you seen my “Growth Mindset”?

August 19, 2020

It’s time to bite the bullet and put in some practice time with the Block Editor. For a while I’ve been avoiding it entirely by using a “work around”; i.e. copying an existing Classic Editor post and rewriting it. I’m still doing that, but I also created this practice post to build up my Block Editor skills.

OK…..first major frustration! I reread my first paragraph and found something I wanted to edit. I COULD NOT get my cursor to work within the block. I tried for five minutes before I copied and pasted the text into a new block which I was able to edit and then I deleted the old one. (***Edit to add that I have since noticed an “edit” option above a paragraph that will activate it again.) This is the type of shenanigans I don’t have time for!!! I need to know that I can easily return to edit my writing.

Something else that I’m noticing is that when I try to edit, my cursor doesn’t always follow and will sometimes select an odd place to land so that if I’m not careful, my edits end up in the middle of some random line. We will need to watch this carefully! Is anyone else experiencing this?

Thankfully, adding an image (my main post image at the top) seems to be fairly straightforward. I clicked on the + icon and selected an Image block. Then I added the image like I did with Classic Editor using the Media Library. When the image is placed in the post and it’s selected, you can use the edit bar above it to choose alignment and you will use the side bar to add Alt Text, adjust the size, etc.

The next task I attempt is to add color to text. In the classic editor, the color option was clearly visible on the editing bar. After some investigation, I did find out how to add color to the text (on the editing bar it’s under the “v” pulldown menu)….but the available colors are limited compared to what is available in the Classic Editor. I’m color-coding blue anything for which I need to find an answer. It’s slightly annoying that I need to use a pulldown menu to access text color….I need it to be always on the edit bar by default!

While I looked for text color, it also occurred to me that I need to look for how to add special characters (especially accents). I can’t find a special characters menu. Anyone???

A major element I will attempt today is a GIF. (Keep in mine….I BARELY know how to use a GIF in the Classic Editor) First, I choose my Gif and copy the link. Now, I start having difficulty. I click on the + but I don’t know which type of block to choose. I try using the standard paragraph block and paste the link into the “link” tool from the edit bar….NO. I delete the paragraph block and click on the + to try another type of block. I try an image block….NO. I select “browse all” and try video….NO. I don’t see one that says GIF. So finally because I’m out of options, I type GIF into the search bar and a GIF box pops up. I paste my URL into the correct place and click enter. It works!!! (see GIF at the top of this post)

TL;DR: I can use a GIF block to embed a GIF. It seems simple, but I didn’t see it until I did a search. I know now that options for text color are under the “v” pulldown menu in the edit bar. I can insert an image using the Image block. Time spent: one hour. I’m done for the day.

August 20, 2020

I should be able to handle this!

Yesterday left me a bit intimidated though. Is the entire blog post going to be this time consuming? I should be able to handle this (yet I continue to resist embracing my growth mindset).

Where is my “growth mindset” when I need it?! One more pesky annoyance is that in EACH paragraph, I need to reselect the last color I used. (In Classic, the last color I used stayed in the editing bar until I changed colors.) I’m a COLOR person, so this simple detail will cause considerable frustration!

I’ve hit another snag! I want to make a bulleted list here and I can’t find the bullet feature! Ah HA! I just found it under the paragraph formatting option! So here we go…

  • I have an associates degree in Graphics Technology (in addition to other degrees).
  • I spent years as a graphic designer.
  • I’m proficient in programs such as Pagemaker, Quark, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
  • I have used Microsoft Office for years and can create documents, PowerPoints, and a simple Excel Spreadsheet.
  • As a teacher, I mastered SmartBoard technology (Promethean Board) and other programs such as Accelerated Reader, electronic report cards, and generated many reports.

So, why is this intimidating?

This new Block Editor should not be a major obstacle to blogging for me, but it is. I tried the Block Editor once last year and spent one entire afternoon attempting to create a post before I reverted back to Classic. I think I just don’t want to invest the time in another learning curve when I’d rather be reading and creating content! I understand that some bloggers may need the advanced features, but for my simple book review format, I’d prefer to stick with Classic.

Have I listened to or watched a tutorial? NO. I think because of my above experience, I hope I can just figure it out! What I have found to be generally true for me is that if I fiddle with it first, tutorials tend to make a lot more sense. So I’m sure a tutorial is in my future!

TL;DR: Well…so far…so good. Just entering plain text (hitting the return key automatically brings up a new paragraph block). I didn’t try anything extra fancy except those bullets! Applying color to text requires extra steps. (reminder; if you create a custom color, write down the code somewhere in case you use it again!) Selecting heading size is fairly straight forward and in the same place as before. I still can’t find a special characters menu…..and I am wondering if Block Editor automatically saves my draft because I had to do a manual save just now. Time spent: one hour.

All for today!

August 21, 2020

(I want to insert a picture right here so my text will wrap it) OK…I’ve hit a major problem and I might need to contact my blogging phone-a-friends! I CANNOT figure out how to drop an image into a block so that the text wraps the image. Grrrrr….. For now, I’m leaving it above the text, but it’s not how I have always done it in Classic. I inserted an image into this paragraph block and you’ll see what I mean when it ends up above the paragraph with no wrapping. SOS! Anyone?

(I’m interrupting here to report that my post is automatically saving my draft….an answer to my question from yesterday.)

Another aspect I experimented with today is setting publishing details (social media sharing, categories, tags, excerpt, etc) Here’s what I found: first select the black settings wheel icon (next to the publishing option in the top right). It will default to “block,” so select “post.” Here you can schedule your post to publish (by clicking on “immediately” to set a date and time) or just leave the immediately setting. Farther down you can select categories and tags, featured image, and write an excerpt. Hummmm…..where do I find the twitter social media sharing? Davida at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog to the rescue! (she had to contact support to find out) It’s going to take a village! So to edit your twitter message, select the small circular green (jetpack) icon at the top next to the settings option….this will bring up a new window where you can set up social media sharing and customize the message. I only have twitter connected, but I assume all the social media options are available here. Clicking on the green icon again will toggle off this window. To continue with settings, select the black wheel (settings) and “post” again. This was all in one place in Classic Editor…now it’s in two windows. I feel thrilled to navigate all these settings without accidentally hitting “publish”! I’ll take the win!

TL; DR: I managed settings OK today (with help from Davida); “Inserting an image” and wrapping text, however was a FAIL. Time spent: two hours.

I’ve had enough for today!

August 22, 2020

OK…..last night I thought about how to insert text and make it wrap and I remembered that Karen @ Booker Talk published a post on the Block Editor but it was during the time I had my head in the sand! I went back to read her post and found out that I need to look for a block called Media and Text to make a text wrap. Thanks Karen!

Help! I have no idea where or how to find a Media and Text block! But I do remember under settings that I have the option of Block settings or Post settings. So, I’ll start there. ….oops! Not there! Now, I remember that + icon that shows up under the paragraph when you start your next paragraph. So I click on that and Voila! I see different types of blocks! But I don’t see Media and Text, so I click “browse all” and it brings up another window on the left with all the possibilities. When I scroll down, I’m able to locate Media and Text. Whew! OK…now I’m ready to see how this works. Below you can see how the block looks when I add an image and text.

OK?!?!??!!? This two column format is not exactly what I am looking for…..the image on the left defaults to the center of the column and I can change that to the top….but then the text starts below it. I still can’t get it to wrap around the bottom….unless I cut some text and make another block underneath??? This seems way too laborious! I’m going to ask Karen and try it again later! I’ll leave it like this and create it again with an explanation if I can make it work! Grrrrr….

Abi Daré grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and has lived in the UK for over eighteen years. She studied law at the University of Wolverhampton and has an MSc in International Project Management from Glasgow Caledonian University as well as an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. The Girl with the Louding Voice won the Bath Novel Award for unpublished manuscripts in 2018 and was also selected as a finalist in the 2018 Literary Consultancy Pen Factor competition. Abi lives in Essex with her husband and two daughters, who inspired her to write her debut novel.

TL;DR: Image wrapped by text FAIL (two days now!). Time spent: one and one half hours.

August 23, 2020

OK…. Tina @ Reading Between the Pages came up with a alternative solution to my image wrapping problem!

First, use the Image block (click on the + and select image from the pull down menu).

Next, create a paragraph block underneath it and write or paste your text.

Finally, click on the image and select left (or right) and the text below should wrap like this! YAY! This will work!

Author Abi Daré

Abi Daré grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and has lived in the UK for over eighteen years. She studied law at the University of Wolverhampton and has an MSc in International Project Management from Glasgow Caledonian University as well as an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. The Girl with the Louding Voice won the Bath Novel Award for unpublished manuscripts in 2018 and was also selected as a finalist in the 2018 Literary Consultancy Pen Factor competition. Abi lives in Essex with her husband and two daughters, who inspired her to write her debut novel.

Incidentally, Karen replied back to me and also suggested the same option as Tina.

I think I’ll end on a high note today!

TL;DR: Text-wrapped image success! Time spent: One hour.

August 24, 2020

Today, I played around a bit with Reusable Blocks for content that routinely appears at the end of my blog posts. In the classic editor, I copied and pasted this information from a previous post. I decided to experiment with reusable blocks to see if it might save me some time! To create a reusable block, click on the 3 small dots at the end of the editing bar and find “add to reusable blocks” in the pulldown menu. You can group paragraphs to make one savable block and name it. I created a few reusable blocks and labeled them.

Eventually, my goal is to make a book review template using the new Block Editor and reusable paragraphs.

TL;DR: I spent time investigating reusuable blocks. Time spent: one hour.

August 25, 2020

I’m experiencing some frustrations using the reusable blocks I created yesterday. I saved them as ONE group block and now I can’t add color to the subheadings. I’m going to delete the combined reusable block and make separate blocks that I know how to edit. ……. I’m taking time to do that now…..Grrrr…. I feel like I wasted my time yesterday.

Tina @ Reading Between the Lines sent me this article on how to create and use Reusable Blocks. Thanks Tina! From a quick look at the article, I realize that if you edit a reusable block (for example the subheading color), that it changes the block everywhere you have used it in the past. This is not good. A workaround is the option to change the block back to a regular block before editing….then it will only change the block you are working on and not in any other posts. I think I will not use reusable blocks as much as I first thought I would because I almost always change colors for each post. It’s back to copying and pasting for me I think!

FINDS OF THE DAY: (1) I found a horizontal LINE Block (separator) !!! Click on the + and then do a search for blocks using the word “line”….you will find a small line separator and a paragraph length line! I’ve been looking for this all week to use between my standard end-of-post paragraphs ! I’m doing a “happy dance” right now! (2) I also found that I can close a gap or increase a gap between paragraphs by using the up or down arrows next to the paragraph symbol. (I had deleted a paragraph and thought I was stuck with a big gap.)

What I still need to know:

***One thing I’m still uncertain about is manually running the entire post through Grammarly before I publish. I do see the Grammarly icon below each paragraph block. For the first few paragraphs, I was able to edit the paragraphs in Grammarly one block at a time. Unfortunately, this only lasted for a few paragraphs and then my clicks started producing blank screens. So much for using Grammarly.

With Classic, even though I was prompted with spelling edits, I always put the entire post through a Grammarly check before hitting “publish.” I can’t find out how to do that with the Bock Editor and editing with Grammarly at the end of each block refuses to work consistently. Anyone???

In fact, I just paused to do a Google search and it seems like there are many complaints about the Grammarly and Block Editor interface. Lots of frustration and finger-pointing that seem to be directed at Grammarly. (I guess I’m pleading *not responsible for errors* in this post!)

***I never found the special characters menu. Anyone???

***Assigning text color is the most annoying of tasks! In the classic editor, once you assign a color, it remains an option in the entire post (until you change the color). But with Block Editor, the color needs to be chosen again for EVERY block! (and if you’ve used a custom color, the code has to be entered each time) So if each block has a subheading, you will be hassling with color frequently. I couldn’t figure out how to change the color of the subheadings in the reusable blocks when they were grouped together. So, that was super annoying until I converted them to regular blocks! In fact, after writing this post, I realize that the element I’m having the most difficulty with is color which seems ridiculous to me.

TIP: If you’re switching to Block Editor, now is the time to connect with your blogging community to ask questions and offer support!

TL;DR: I gained new knowledge about using Reusable Blocks. I WILL be watching a tutorial soon and specifically looking for answers to my blue-coded questions. Time spent today: two hours.

Time spent for a FINAL edit (Where are you Grammarly?!): one hour.

TOTAL time spent on post: ten and one half hours. Significantly more time than I would have spent creating this in the Classic Editor.

For my simple book review format, I can see NO advantage for using the Block Editor. I imagine I will become more efficient over time, but still….the Block Editor seems like a lot of fuss for minimal gain and an intimidating learning curve.

I hope my musings haven’t confused you! Producing this journal entry post allowed me to practice while at the same time giving you a peek into my process. I can confidently say that I “got my feet wet!”

NEXT STEPS: In the next few days, I want to work on creating a book review template in the Block Editor. This saved me a great deal of time in the Classic Editor, so I’m hoping it will work the same with the new platform.

Thank you surrounded by a floral wreath

A special shout out and thanks to Karen @ Booker Talk and Tina @ Reading Between the Pages and Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for helping me navigate my first week with the Block Editor! You are the wind beneath my wings!

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QOTD:

Have you started using the new Block Editor? What has been your experience? Do you have tips or questions for me? I’m always happy to share if you need help or encouragement or feel a rant coming on!

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Happy Reading Book Friends!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

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Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
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Pinterest

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***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

Blog Audit Challenge 2020: July #blogauditchallenge2020

July 29, 2020

July’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

 I hope that if you are reading this that you continue to be well and that your area is opening up for business and recreation with social distancing precautions. Our area is mostly locked down again because of a surge in COVOD-19 cases. Stay safe, book buddies!

 

July’s Challenge Focus: Quality Content

Over the last few months, the challenges have allowed me to improve content.

Design, SEO, and Links all contribute toward quality content. For July’s challenge, the focus is on the information that is provided.

1. Determine whether your older posts meet your current standards.

WOW! This is a huge, HUGE task! Obviously, I’m doing things differently in my third year of blogging than I did in my first year. Starting in January, I’ve been systematically returning to old posts and updating them. Here’s the checklist I created:

  • Read through content:
    • In three years, I have developed kinder ways of writing negative reviews!
    • Does the format of my review reflect the format I use today?
    • Can I add more content (text or links) or delete extraneous content?
    • Can I remove outdated or irrelevant content?
  • Check all links.
  • Run the content through Grammarly. I was not using Grammarly the first year of blogging and I have found several errors by using it to update old content.
  • Check categories and tags.
  • Fill out the Twitter share section (shockingly, I was not sharing my posts to Twitter in the first year).
  • Fill out the Excerpt section (I was not doing this in the beginning either).
  • Create a Pinterest graphic for the post (yup, I didn’t use Pinterest the first year either) and make it my Featured Image. (I also share this updated post to Pinterest with the Pinterest worthy image.)
  • Check the size of all my pictures and add Alt Text.
  • Change the size of Headings and Subheadings to match today’s format. (one thing I was doing was using H4 for less significant headings and I read that it’s best to simply bold the text and not use H4)
  • When updating, DO NOT change the original URL! Sometimes I feel like a title change is needed and I have to live with the original URL if I make a change.

Sometimes I feel as if I’ve created an entirely new post! However, this investment of time is worth it because my DA has jumped several points since January! SEO rewards updating.

Yes, it is tedious to update old content. I set a schedule and update one to two posts per week. It will take me a while, but it will be worth it. I created a spreadsheet where I can track my updating project. I made columns for my checklist and also one for ‘reshare.’ That way I know exactly where I left off, which posts have had the ‘treatment’ and which have not, and which posts have been reshared. I’ve linked the older posts (reviews) to my #throwbackthursday posts. So, I’m accomplishing two objectives: updating an old post and creating new content. This provides extra motivation.

I have read that it’s not good to delete a post. (it messes with Google in some way) I’ve been tempted! I simply fix it up the best I can, rewrite parts of it, and leave it be.

Remember to reshare the updated evergreen content posts that you’ve worked hard to update!

2. Check for errors.

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Blogiversary and Giveaway!

July 27, 2020

Three-Year Blogiversary & Giveaway!

See my second-year reflections here.

See my first-year reflections here.

giphy-1

Grown Up

At THREE, I feel pretty “grown-up.” I’m fairly steady on my feet; I’m becoming more fluent in my ability to craft and format reviews; I’m thoroughly enjoying the ‘playground’ of the world wide web.

giphy-2

Growth

Areas of growth this year include:

  • Using Alt Text
  • Using Gifs
  • Improving SEO
  • Gaining Followers and Views (THANK YOU!)
  • Expanding the types of posts (beyond book reviews) and participating in more memes
  • Updating Old Posts (in progress)

giphy-3

Virtual Friendships

One of the most treasured surprises this year is realizing how many virtual bookish friendships I’ve made in the book-blogging community! I’m not mentioning names here, but you KNOW who you are if you’ve interacted with me on our blogs! One result of the friendships is this recent collaborative post with twelve blogging friends. Right after I hit ‘publish’ I thought “I need to expand this next year to include more friends!” It’s not only friendly conversations, but it’s also the fact that these blogging friends are scattered around the world! It’s a diverse and interesting community!  It was this year that I realized I probably have at least twenty book/blogging friends that I could call for a coffee meetup if I were ever in their countries and their neck of the woods. From these virtual friendships, I’ve gained a support system that I’ve discovered is essential in the blogging community. I hope in your blogging world that you are connecting and conversing!

giphy-4

Followers!

A special SHOUT OUT to each of my followers!
Your views, comments, and shares are treasures to me and they do not go unappreciated!

  • I return comments as soon as I read them, so if you leave a legit comment and for some reason you do not receive a ‘like’ or return comment, please connect with me in an email because I do occasionally find legit comments in the spam folder. Regarding spam, I trust WordPress to do their thing and filter the spam, so I usually don’t question their filtering system unless I happen to recognize you as a regular visitor. I try to check spam at least once a month, but they add up fast (hundreds in a month) so please let me know if I’ve missed your comment.

giphy-5

WordPress Reader

As long as you’re here, I want to mention how dependent I am upon the WordPress Reader to read YOUR blogs. The notifications in my email inbox are overwhelming ….in fact, my inbox on a typical day is exploding with spam. For myself, I find that using a ‘reader’ is more efficient than email.

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Goals:

  • Make progress toward updating all my old posts
    (#throwbackthursday has helped motivate me as I reshare one older review each week); by the way, I discovered that when I started updating my old posts in January that my DA increased several points in a few months!
  • Start using the new WP Block Editor (I’m doing a ‘work-around’ right now by copying an older Classic Editor post as a template)
  • Continue working on SEO
  • Create my own Meme and Link-Up post

giphy-7

Stats:

I don’t compete with other bloggers. There’s space for each one of us and our unique voices. However, I do compete with myself! I love to look at my stats, and it seems that the learning curve is never-ending. For other stats nerds and new bloggers who are interested in what three years might look like for one blogger, here are a few stats with a comparison to the same time last year (scroll past if this doesn’t interest you!):

Total views: 130,558 (2019: 45,534)

Total followers: 1,924 (2019: 1,059)

Total posts: 393 (2019: 197)

Most viewed post: Where the Crawdads Sing 

First follower: Gail @ The Junia Project (thank you dear, faithful friend!)

Most recent follower: Amy @ Read.Dream.Live (thanks for the follow and welcome!)

Most frequent commenters (tied): Carla @ Carla Loves to Read and Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog (your positive, encouraging, and supportive comments are dearly appreciated!)

Thank you surrounded by a floral wreath

Thank you again, everyone!
Regarding blogs, Lashaan @ Bookidote recently said, “I cherish its existence with my whole heart.” I completely concur Lashaan! Blogging requires a great deal of effort, determination, persistence, and time…but I love its existence with my whole heart!

Signing off for now because I’ve used up my quota of exclamation points!
With gratitude, Carol

a stack of three hardback books



Year THREE Blogiversary GIVEAWAY!

3 year blogiversary & giveaway (balloons, banner, and polk-a-dots)

Thank you, Readers and Followers, for supporting me! I hope my reviews have encouraged you in your reading endeavors and have helped you find some great reads! To celebrate I’m offering a Giveaway!

Giveaway limited to followers who can receive an Amazon (U.S.) digital title (sorry I don’t have an international account….it’s on my to-do list).

I’m giving away ONE ebook of your choice not to exceed $20.00 (U.S.). You must supply an email address and be able to receive an ebook from Amazon (U.S.). ***edited to add….if you are international, I’m willing to try out Book Despository!

To enter the giveaway:

1. You must be following this blog (please don’t follow to unfollow because that’s rude and uncool), and you must be at least 18 years old.

2. To enter, please comment on this post and let me know if you’ve read a book or added a book to your TBR as a result of reading the blog.

3.  Entries close at midnight PST on Sunday, August 9, 2020.

Good Luck! The winner will be chosen at random using a random number generator on August 11 and announced on the blog on Wednesday, August 12 (and I’ll respond to your comment so that you receive a notification). If I don’t hear from the winner in 24 hours, I will draw another winner.

This is a GREAT chance to win that last book you’d like to read this summer!



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

At the end of the week, I’ll publish my July Wrap Up post.



ICYMI:

Summer’s ONE “Must-Read” Book

Summer 2020 TBR

Book Club Recommendations

My Best Reads of the Year So Far

10+ Highly Rated and Favorite WW1 and WW11 Reads



Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
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Goodreads
Pinterest



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book covers and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

Blog Audit Challenge 2020: June #blogauditchallenge2020

June 29, 2020

June’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

 I hope that if you are reading this that you continue to be well and that your area is opening up for business and recreation with social distancing precautions.

 

June’s Challenge Focuses on Links:

Of the topics covered so far, I think I feel the best about my use of links to enhance my content and to attract visitors. At least, I feel more confidant in discussing links than I have previous topics! I can always improve, but I think I’m doing OK in this area.

There are two types of links:

1. Internal Links

  • The importance of using internal links is to keep visitors engaged with your content and spend more time on your site. Part of analyzing your blog data is tracking the “bounce rate,” i.e. the time visitors spend on your site. If a visitor only reads the page which caused them to land on your site, this contributes to a high “bounce rate.” If a follower or visitor looks at another page on your site (either through a link, a menu tab, or the search bar, etc., this helps to lower your “bounce rate.” Low “bounce rates” are optimal and increase your SEO! (see what I did here?!)
  • In my posts, you will usually notice internal links. When appropriate, I will link to related content (e.g. a book by the same author or a post with a similar topic) and I also include links to previous content in my ICYMI section. In my menu options, I have included pages with links to a great deal of blog content. In these monthly blog challenge posts, I am linking back to each previous month.
  • TIP: I have recently learned that SEO best practices suggests not using “see here” when creating links. SEO likes it when you use specific descriptive words. So instead of “see review here,” it would be better to write “see my review of Simon the Fiddler.” In my monthly wrap up posts, I have been writing “my full review here” (which you can see in my May Wrap Up post)….starting tomorrow, I vow to do better in creating internal links with more specific descriptive wording for my wrap up post!

2. External Links

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Blog Audit Challenge 2020: May #blogauditchallenge2020

May 30, 2020

May’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

 I hope that if you are reading this that you continue to be well and that your area is starting to open up for business with social distancing precautions.

May’s Challenge focuses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

SEO is something I continue to work on, and I find it becomes more routine over time. Keywords are a critical component of SEO.

1. Key Words in Headlines

  • Key words are the words that individuals put in the search bar to search for content.
  • Key words are the most important component of SEO.
  • Identifying key words is a critical first step in creating content. Think about what people would search for in order to find your content. Various apps are available to help you find optimal key words. I have never used this option, so I  can’t offer a recommendation. A search on Pinterest will result in more articles than you could ever use on SEO and Key Words.
  • Reviewing books makes the selection of key words easier because the book title in my heading is also my key word(s).
  • In addition to showing up in the title of the post, key words need to appear (naturally) throughout the content of the post. At first, it was easy to include my key word(s) in my post title but I had to make a conscious effort to sprinkle the key words throughout the content. So in place of using a term like “this book,” I had to form the habit of replacing these phrases with the book title. Using key words becomes even more effective when you can use them in subheadings.

2. Labels, Tags, and Descriptions

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Blog Audit Challenge 2020: April #blogauditchallenge2020

April 29, 2020

April’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in a Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

Well….April continues to be a bit derailed due to Covid-19! I hope that if you are reading this that you are well.

April found me having difficulty reading books with heavier content and I had a serious case of the “blahs.” How about you? Doing any hard thinking is a discipline these days!

April’s Challenge is to focus on Design:

1. Images

In my first year of blogging, I discovered how important it is to have at least one Pinterest quality image in each blog post. Before that discovery, I simply used a book cover as an image. (I need to note here that I can’t stage photos with books because I read exclusively on the Kindle.) Now I use a book cover image that I grab from Amazon and “enhance” it. First I use the app PhotoGrid to add a background for the book cover. I save this image in PhotoGrid’s already squarish format. Next, I open Canva and use a template I created for Pinterest that has been designed for a square image and that has the Book Title at the top and my blog name at the bottom. I use this template over and over again and switch out the picture, color, and text. Here’s the last Pinterest image I created using PhotoGrid and my Canva Pinterest template:

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhom (coveer)

In blog posts, I attempt to incorporate other images. For example, in my review of Code Name Helene, I also used a real-life picture of Helene. In addition, I always include an author’s photo.

I have a certificate from a community college in graphic design, so I’m familiar with using images in a layout. The creative use of images is an enjoyable aspect of creating a blog post.

Something new I’m experimenting with this year is using animated GIFs. I think it’s important not to overpower your content with gifs, so I use them sparingly.

As with any new element, there’s a learning curve and I had to experiment multiple times to master the process for using them in a WordPress post.

2. Optimize Images

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Blog Audit Challenge 2020: March #blogauditchallenge2020

March 30, 2020

March’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in a Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

Well….March was a bit derailed due to Covid-19! I hope that if you are reading this that you are well.

On the subject, I found this video clip very helpful, reassuring, and comforting!

March found me preoccupied with finding paper towels and toilet paper! Because of orders to stay home and isolate, I spent many reading and blogging hours ordering food and paper goods online. I had difficulty reading books with heavier content and had a serious case of the “blahs.” How about you? Thinking strategically about the blog became nonexistent. So, I don’t have too much to report unless good intentions and reflection count for something!

March’s Challenge is to focus on The Trimmings:

1. The Header

In anticipation of the March Challenge, I contacted an artist friend in February and inquired about designing a new header for the blog. The header needs to reflect my site and my personality and set a tone. When I first started the blog, I set it up quickly and impulsively and grabbed some generic graphics from Google images….I realized later that this is not recommended and I’ve known for some time that I need to come up with my own original artwork or pay for the right to use an image.

My header reflects me and my personality, but I don’t think it reflects what I DO. I know I need to think about branding.

  • My style– I’m a casual person. I love informal, warm, and welcoming. My current floral header reflects my love of nature, lots of color, and gardening, and it sends a warm vibe. So I’d like to keep that feel but stylize it so it’s uniquely me and doesn’t look like I pulled it from Google images! I think I’d like a pen and ink drawing and water color.
  • My mission-My header needs to convey a clear message about what I do….it needs to reflect my mission (from the January Challenge). Right now I have some words that suggest what I do, but I’d like my header to also visually reflect what I do.
  • My branding– I need to match my header to the rest of my branding. I definitely want my branding to reflect the informal, friendly, warm, and bookish vibe.

Definitely, I have a great deal of work to do in this area, and after the Covid-19 situation dies down, I will have more brain power to devote to this task!

2. The Side Bar

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Blog Audit Challenge 2020: February

February 28, 2020 

February’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in a Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

February’s Challenge is to focus on Information Pages:

1. About Page

One of the first things I look for when I land on a new-to-me blog is the About page. I’m disappointed every time there isn’t one. Jo Linsdell states that the About page is statistically one of the most visited pages on a blog, and I’m adding to those statistics every time I visit a blog. Before I give a follow, I like to know just a little bit about the blogger. I’m looking for a picture, points of connection, and a smattering of compatibility. One item that Jo Lindsell suggested is including a CTA (call to the action on the About page), so I edited mine to include that. I hope you’ll give my About page (found among the menu tabs) a glance and that you find it helpful.

2. Legal Disclaimers

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