Hello and happy 2016 everyone!
I hope every single one of you is healthy and happy!
In my last post I wrote I would take two weeks off, well…I meant off from posting recipes because actually I haven’t stopped working for the blog.
A while back I posted an article about choosing a blogging platform. Today we are going to talk about the 4 Major Blog Choises that come before and after finding a blogging platform. These choises lead in 4 Major Changes for this blog and I want to tell you all about it in detail so sit back, grab something to drink and relax. This post will be a bit long.
1 . CHOOSE A SUITABLE BLOG NAME
Well, a blog name should be short and memorable. That’s obvious one might say, but from what I’ve experienced finding a good name for your blog is not so easy.
Firstly, finding a name goes together with finding a free domain which can be challenging. There are millions of websites and blogs and as the number grows finding an available domain becomes difficult.
Secondly, blogs have a personal character. It’s often hard to separate yourself from your blog. Many people start blogging in difficult life periods (I am one of those people). Health problems, major life changes or the need to share a learning journey are some of the reasons that make people wanting to start a blog. Therefore the name is not just a well-designed brand. It’s something that means something to the owner. That sentimental connection sometimes prevents bloggers from making wise strategic decisions right from the start.
I had a big list of names when I decided to create this blog. I could not find a free domain for any of them. Theodora’s Kitchen Diaries won. But this name is definitely not short and memorable. As time passed by I became aware of some technical issues that go along with long names: a) Post titles exceed Google title limitations, b) When used in social media you get really long addresses hard to copy (url shortener necessary for tweets), c) Not looking good typed in professional cards, etc. This name has to go. That’s the first major change that will happen sometime in the future.
2 . DECIDE ON BLOGGING LANGUAGE
When I first started Theodora’s Kitchen Diaries I took the decision to use English as the basic language. I wanted to share Greek recipes for baked goods with people from around the world. I also found this was a great opportunity to practice my English.
Participating in the 2015 Food Blog Awards competition gave me the chance to meet very talented Greek bloggers and food lovers. All the social media competition shares brought several Greek readers to my blog. Plus, recipes posts for some competing categories had to be shared in Greek as well as in English so I wrote some posts in both languages.
Now some posts are written in both Greek and English whereas others only in English. Some other posts have a link to
a wordpress.com site that was supposed to be a Greek recipe Index for tkd. Now I feel like my online house is messy. And I am not at all ok with messy. Messy and I do not get along. Therefore it’s time to deal with this mess and to go bilingual all the way.
There are actually 4 ways to do that:
a) Create posts that contain recipe translation in both languages .
In my opinion this is quite confusing. I tried it in a few posts but I did not like the result.
b) Create separate categories and tags within the same blog for each language.
That actually makes it harder to keep the blog simple, clean and organized.
c) Create another blog for the second language and link back and forward between the two sites.
This could actually be a great option but in my head it sounds like: Two sites to handle and maintain. Want to make the sites look the same? You have to pay to self-host a second site (since I self-host the main blog already). Want to keep the second blog free? Then the two sites will look different. So…no. (I actually did that for a while but it did not work at all, no one visited the tkd recipes in Greek blog.)
d) Use a special plugin to make your blog bilingual. That’s what I actually decided to do.
3 . CHOOSE A THEME
Unless you are a site developer, or have someone to help you with your blog, the best thing to do is to take some time to test various themes before going public. You should be really happy with the layout, typography, colour, sidebar and plugin options the theme you chose offers.
If you are on wordpress.org and you are considering uploading and using a free theme you should check that the theme is updated from time to time. WordPress platform updates quite often and you don’t want to end up using a theme that was last updated 2 years ago and is no longer compatible with the new wordpress version.
If you want to make small changes to the theme you are currently using (a small change would be to override theme’s code to remove a fixed separator line between posts for instance or change the alignment on titles and texts) then the best way to do so is by adding custom css instead of making changes directly to the theme’s html code.
As a novice I did the second of course. It just seemed so much easier to access the html code, search for the word align and change left to center or justify. I did many many changes that way. That is a huge mistake because the changes I made directly to the code will disappear whenever I decide to update the theme. Custom css would override basic html coding and would’t be affected by updates.
Text align, font size and colour, text transformation, separator lines, header size and layout, footer style are some of the changes that I made. Now I don’t even want to think what would happen if I’d ever update the theme and I don’t want to think what would happen if this old version of the theme were no longer compatible with wordpress.
The theme has to change and everything has to be done right this time around.
4 . DESIDE ON SOCIAL MEDIA SHARING
Starting a blog you actually want people to read, goes hand in hand with social media sharing. What I would recommend first to determine which platforms you really like and use in a daily basis. The chances are that your content will show up in suggestions more often if you have a daily active online presence and by that I mean sharing, pinning, liking and all that jazz.
I did not use social media much before creating my blog. I only had a Facebook account that I didn’t bother to visit often. When I started the blog I created accounts on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ (that was obligatory since at first the blog was on Blogger) and lately I discovered Bloglovin, StumbleUpon and Yummly. Some I love and visit every day, some I never grew to like and sharing looks like a boring obligation.
Without further ado I am announcing that I am ditching Twitter and StumbleUpon. I will also try to find a way to ditch Google+.
Can I do that or is my google account, e-mail and youtube, connected with it? I have to do some research. (Yes, I was able to do that. Read how here). I just don’t use these platforms very often. Twitter moves way too fast in my opinion. You should be online 24-7 to have the chance to actually see the content of the blogs you decided to follow; not at all my cup of tea. I don’t have that much time available for social media. I prefer not having the account at all than having unanswered comments and dissatisfied followers. Guys, if you ever tried to contact me on Twitter and I never got back to you I am really sorry! It’s really hard for me to keep up.
WHERE DO I STAND NOW:
At first, making all these changes by myself felt like a nightmare, so I thought about asking professional help but to be honest I have been trying to save the money needed for these upgrades and I do not seem to be making any progress so I am back to zero. Something more important and urgent always comes up and I am not able to cover the theme+plugin+professional fee expenses all at once. I am making the theme change alone and I’ll try to do the same with the bilingual set up. These are the most important changes in order to fix the mess I created.
I found the way to set up a testing environment for the new theme, as I did not want to experiment with coding and new plugins directly on the blog in fear it could crash (read instructions on instaling and running test environment here). That went well and I am ready to apply the changes to the blog now and probably by mid-February I will be able to run the blog in both languages. I don’t want to turn off the site though so I will start with the new theme tomorrow, somewhere around noon, and build some details as I go. I wanted to wait for this change until 16/01/2015, when the final Food Blog Awards event will take place, but by then everyday routine will be back and it will be hard for me to dedicate enough time. Plus everyone is still in a holiday mood and there is little trafic so not many will be disturbed by real time happening changes :-).
The name change, as I mentioned above, will happen at some point in the future. I have already decided on the new name and registered the domain but it’s not the right time to do this yet. I will tell you more when the time comes.
Thank you all for being so patient and reading this post all the way to the end. Feel free to ask questions if you like (I am not a pro nor an html epxert but since I’ve been running this blog alone I learned some basic stuff). I would also love to hear your experience on blogging. Did you ever face any problems with the theme you chose? Do you find yourself liking some social media platforms more than others? Why?
All changes mentioned above were done. After installing a new theme I created a child theme and also used custom css for some extra changes. I have succesfully updated the theme twice and the blog was not at all affected. That’s what I call success!
This post is also available in: Greek