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Monday, April 11, 2011

How To Start A Blog | Adding Links, Pictures And Videos To Your Blog

This is the fourth lesson in a series How To Start A Blog. Today, I'll cover how to add links to your blog posts; plus, pictures and videos. If you want to start the course from the beginning, go to the Make Money tab on this blog or click here.

Links, pictures and videos add dynamic features to your blog. You are no longer just a stream of text in cyberspace. I'll cover each element in detail and you should be a whiz by the time we're finished.

We will be focused on the center section of your Blogger editor and these icons.

Links

Links allow you to connect to other content, either on your blog or somewhere else on the web. To create a link is simple.

Highlight the text you want to use and create the link. As an example, you might be writing about health care and you found a really interesting article about health insurance on another blog site. Before you highlight the text, go to the article you want to link to, click on its title. That will produce the exact web address for that article in your browser URL viewer. Highlight the URL and copy it.

Now, return to your blog, highlight the words health insurance and click on the Link button. A window will pop up. Paste the URL into the box that says Web Address and click OK. the word health insurance should appear underlined, like this: health insurance. You now have a link to that article embedded in your blog post.

When you view your blog, the link will show up differently, based on the template you selected. On my blog, the links show up as an orange text with no underline. How the link shows up may be different on your blog, and that is all determined by the formatting of the template you selected.

How To Use Links

Links give you the opportunity to expand the content of your blog and also redirect visitors to other parts of your blog. In the example above, you are giving your reader additional information that may support your post.

Links are good to use when you are writing about news and national events. If you make a statement that the budget deficit is going to be 900 Trillion dollars, you might highlight 900 Trillion and link it to a Budget Office document that confirms your figure.

I wrote a piece about Sesame Street going into Nigeria. I put a link in the post to the Wikipedia information on Nigeria. (And I just showed you another use of links in this paragraph).

You can use links to other content on your blog. I write a series of posts on weekly events. At the end of the post, I'll include a link to the previous event. On last week's post, I'll include another link to this week's post. By providing links to other content on your blog, you can help your readers navigate to content they have an interest in and increase page views - building a better relationship with your reader.

There are two ways to add links to content on your blog. The first is the way I did it above. Sesame Street going into Nigeria is not the title of the blog post. So I went to the blog post, clicked on its title and copied the URL from the browser window. I highlighted the text, clicked Link and pasted the URL into the Web Address box.

Another way to create a link to other content on your blog is to highlight the entire title of a blog post. Here is a link to the last lesson in this series. How To Start A Blog | Best Practices - I highlighted the entire title and pasted it into this paragraph.

The first time you do this, something strange will happen. The blog title will appear one or two lines below where you pasted it and it will be large and in bold. There is a simple fix for this. You highlight the link, and click on the Bold "B" at the top of the editor. This will change the text to a normal style. But it is still huge. You can put your cursor at the very beginning of the link and backspace until it goes onto the line where you want it. The text should automatically re-size. You can also use the font sizing tool to make it smaller. "Normal" is the size you want to select.

Another quirk that the Blogger editor has is if you try to continue writing text after the link you just inserted, all of the text will appear blue and underlined and becomes part of the link. There is a simple way around this. Place the cursor at the end of the link. Hit ENTER or RETURN, depending on which computer you have and the cursor will move to the line below. Hit the space bar twice. Then, type the next word you were going to use to continue the sentence. Using the arrow keys, back up the cursor to one space before the new text. Use the Delete key to wipe out the first space and it will take your new text back up to the line with the link, and there will be a space between the link and your text. You can resume writing at that point.

You can link text to anything you want. Links give your readers options and can help them spend more time on your site.

Pictures - Where To Get Them And How To Place Them

Before I show you how to insert a picture into your blog, I need to tell you how to acquire pictures.

You may have your own. If you are a good photographer, use your own pictures. Get them on your hard drive and in a second I'll show you how to insert them into your blog.

But how do you get other pictures? I love pictures. To me, they add a lot to the post. They offer another dimension to what you are presenting your readers. I love funny pictures, too.

A good picture can draw traffic to a post. Here is a perfect example. I Need A Caption For The Picture Check out that link. The post has gotten hundreds of hits. A lot from Facebook and a lot from visitors to the site. The post is not Search Engine Optimized, so I know I'm not getting traffic to the post from search engines. But a picture can tell a whole store and you should use them.

There is a bit of an art to finding the right pictures on the Internet. I always open another tab and go to Google. I'll type in pic: and then the description of what I want. As an example, I might type in the Google search box, pic: funny Obama and see what comes up. I might also try funny Obama pictures. What you search for is only limited by your imagination. You may have to play around with a few different search terms before you get a block of pictures that show up on the Google page.

Once you think you have a picture you want, click on it. It will enlarge the picture. On the right, there will be a link that says full-size image. Click on that. Now you have the largest and purest form of the picture.

The next step I know how to do on a Mac. You PC guys may have to try something different if you cannot do this. Mac has a feature that allows you to take a snapshot of an image. I press SHIFT, COMMAND, 4, simultaneously. My mouse arrow will convert to a cross-hair. I position the cross-hair at the top left of the picture, hold down the touch pad button and drag the cross-hair to the bottom right corner of the picture. When I release the touch pad button, I have a snapshot of the picture.

I don't know if MS has a feature like that. You may have to try and drag the picture onto your desktop and then re-size it in another editor program.

Make sure all pictures you use have either a .GIF, .JPG or .PNG file tag. Those are the only formats acceptable in Blogger.

Once you have your picture file ready, click on the little picture next to the Link button. This will open a window where you can select photos. Click on the bar at the top and you will be given an option to select a picture to upload a picture or select one from the web. If you are uploading a picture, click on its filename and it will take a few seconds for it to upload. At the bottom of that window is a button that says Insert Selected Photos. Make sure the picture you want is surrounded with a blue border. Click the button and your picture will appear in your blog.

At first, the picture might appear gigantic as it is loading. Don't worry about that. As soon as the picture is fully loaded, it will automatically re-size to fit in the blog. Click on the picture. a little bar with options on it will appear at the bottom of the picture. Here, you can change the size of the picture and also its placement. Text will automatically wrap around the picture. It's very slick and easy.

I like to position my pictures on the right because the text wrap on pictures on the left places the text right up against the picture and I don't like that cramped look.

Be careful with pictures that were originally very small. When you blow them up to a larger size, they can look awful. If the picture is all pixelated, you don't want to use it at that size. I love pictures, but a bad picture is a negative, not a positive.

Adding Video To Your Blog

Next to the picture icon on the editor bar is an icon of a movie slate. You can use this to upload video clips to your blog. The process is almost identical to uploading pictures and you shouldn't have any trouble.

Sometimes you will run across videos on other sites, like YouTube. You may want to include the video on your post. It's simple, but you need to follow a few directions.

On each YouTube video, there is a button below the video that says Embed. Click on that.

Below will be a box with a bunch of HTML code in it. Don't freak out. This is simple. Below the box are options that YouTube offers on sizing and appearance of the video viewer. Any selections you make on the options will automatically change the HTML code.

The biggest problem you will have with YouTube videos or other embedded videos is the sizing of the viewer. If the size isn't right, the viewer will run off the area where your text is on your blog and it will overlap onto whatever you have on the right. It looks bad.

There is a simple fix for this. Select the smallest size viewer from the YouTube options. I believe it is 560 X 280. The only number you have to worry about is the 560. I think you can change the number right there and the viewer will re-size. For most blogs templates, you want the first number, the width, to be 500.

Click on the HTML code. All of the code will automatically highlight. Copy it. Return to your blog editor and click on the Edit HTML button at the top right.

This will take you into the HTML editor. Simply paste the code you copied from YouTube or wherever you got it from after the text you want the video to follow. Click on the PREVIEW button and see how it looks. If it is too large or too small, go back to your blog editor, while still in Edit HTML mode and look at the code. If you read through it, you can spot something like "width: 560" (code, code, code) "height: 280" (code, code, code.) You can just go in and change either of those number, then hit PREVIEW again and see how it looks. 
Once you have the size you want, go back to Compose mode and continue writing. In Compose mode, the video will appear as a black box. Don't worry about that. Any time you click on PREVIEW, you can see how it looks. 

Once you're satisfied with the video placement and you've finished writing - proof read twice, add Labels, Preview, maybe proof read again, Publish. 

Now, you'll have video content on your blog, links and pictures. And that is How To Start A Blog and make it more dynamic.

To see other lessons in this series, click on the Make Money tab at the top of this blog or click here.

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