Today we're critiquing the blog Tonya Peila - Just My Life, an eponymous blog by Washington mom and photographer Tonya Peila. A blogger since 2008, Tonya posts about motherhood and parenting. She also publishes product reviews. Tonya's blog was ...

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"BlogCoach: Grow Your Blog" - 5 new articles

  1. Critique this Blog #37: Tonya Peila - Just My Life
  2. Critique this Blog #36: Health Food Lover
  3. Like Blogging? Then It's Time to Say Goodbye to Blogger
  4. Get Started with Google Buzz: A Guide for Bloggers
  5. You Can Now Add Pages to Your Blogger Blog!
  6. More Recent Articles

Critique this Blog #37: Tonya Peila - Just My Life

Today we're critiquing the blog Tonya Peila - Just My Life, an eponymous blog by Washington mom and photographer Tonya Peila. A blogger since 2008, Tonya posts about motherhood and parenting. She also publishes product reviews. Tonya's blog was critiqued here on BlogCoach about a year and a half ago. She approached me again because she's recently redesigned her site.

Tonya would like to hear any advice you have to give. More specifically, she'd like to increase her readership. She's also wondering if her blog's layout and navigation is effective.

What advice to you have for Tonya?

Critique this Blog #36: Health Food Lover

Today we're critiquing the blog Health Food Lover. Blogger Michelle posts healthy recipes as well as occasional giveaways. Recent posts include "Wild Edible Weed Dandelion Salad," a "Wholesome Whole Foods" blog carnival, and "Wild Edible Walk and Talk with Sergei Boutenko."
Michelle would like you to help her answer the following questions:
  • Does my sidebar look too busy? Too many adds etc?
  • I want to use my blog when I finish my course (Naturopathy) so I want to keep it professional but I still want it to show my personality. Is there a way to meet in between the two in terms of blog design and the tone in my posts?
  • I'm thinking of making my footer much larger to include a list of my pages, copyright, disclaimer etc. Would this be a good idea?
  • How can I improve my posts?
  • Is my site easy to navigate and to get what it's about?
  • How I can improve my design?
  • How I can increase my readership and subscribers?
  • How can I connect to my readers more?
Readers, take a look at Michelle's blog. do you have any tips for Michelle?

Like Blogging? Then It's Time to Say Goodbye to Blogger

Do you blog on Blogger? If so, go make a full backup of your blog posts NOW and then come back and read this.

If you're a "deal blogger" or "frugal blogger", and you like blogging, you need to move your blog. Now. Blogger has an ineffective system for finding and removing spam blogs, and bloggers are suffering as a result. It's not just deal bloggers, either. Visit Blogger's help desk and you'll see post after post after post from bloggers of all sorts with the same issue.

What's happening? Blogger's spam-seeking bots spider its blogs looking for offenders. Blogger doesn't give any specifics about how the bots "find" them, but my theory is that it looks for words that turn up commonly in spam blogs--words like "free" and "sale" and "cheap". Another theory is that Blogger's bots look for blogs by the same user which link to each other. When the bots find a potential spam blog, the blog is locked or, as seems to be more common lately, deleted without a human ever reviewing the blog to see if the bot's judgment is accurate. Baby Cheapskate, Freebies4Mom, All Aboard Deals and way too many other read-worthy blogs have disappeared in an instant.

Can it happen to you? Sure it can, especially if you use words like "free" and "sale" a lot in your blog. And don't think you're immune just because it's already happened to you once. This isn't chicken pox or mono. My blog was locked once before for the same reason, too. Evidently there's no system in place to exempt blogs that have been reviewed and exonerated from Blogger's spam seekers. You need to move your blog away from Blogger. Now.

Too late?
If you DO wake up one morning to find your blog deleted, don't panic. Your information isn't gone. Unless Blogger decides your blog IS a spam blog. (And if it is, you're probably not reading this.) If you've published thousands of posts, your backup file may be too large to be usable, I'm sorry to say. But still, don't panic.

The first step to recovering your blog is to file and appeal and a request for a review (by a human). These are two separate things. Once your blog is restored (for me it took four days), your posts can be transferred to your new blog if your backup file didn't work.

In the meantime, buy a domain name (hopefully you already have one) and open a hosting account. Find yourself a blog designer to take care of setting up your new blog and transferring posts to WordPress. I paid $300 to have it done, and it took two days (email me if you want a referral). You can do it yourself, of course, but if your blog has just been deleted, your probably a bit stressed out and might not want to deal with the steep learning curve.

Let your readers know what happened via Twitter and Facebook and tell them that you'll be up and running again soon. Your readers will stick with you, I promise.

Of course, if you go ahead and move your blog before it's deleted, the process will be MUCH easier. Blogger has a big problem, and they don't seem close to solving it. It's really a shame.

If you have any questions, I'm happy to try to help or point you to someone who can. Leave a comment or email me.

Want to know more? (external links)
Check in at tomorrow for a brand-new blog critique!

Get Started with Google Buzz: A Guide for Bloggers

Google Buzz is here, arriving to a chorus of "Why do we need another social media platform?". A more useful question, I believe, is "How can I use Buzz to build my blog?". It's a question I'm still exploring, but I'm optimistic about the potential I see so far.

This is Google, after all, and Google is huge. So is Buzz's potential for changing the landscape of social media. Buzz is not to be ignored, and there's no reason to do so, since the setup is so easy (see below). Why not embrace Buzz as yet another way to share your blog with the world?

What is Buzz?
Google Buzz publishes your feed, complete with images, to a follower's Gmail page, where a post looks like this (click the image to see it larger):

Followers have the option of "liking" (a la Facebook) the post and/or commenting on it. The follower can also share the post via email or send it directly to another user's stream by adding a comment prefaced by inserting "@" followed by another user's email address.

Responses to your Buzz postings are sent right to your Gmail inbox. You can respond from there, too. Like Facebook, your followers view your posts on their own turf, making accessing and responding to the info you offer extremely convenient.

Getting Started:
Click the Buzz link underneath your inbox link in Gmail to get started, or go to You'll need a public Google profile. If you blog using Blogger, you probably already have a profile, but even if you do, you should check it to make sure you're sharing only the information you want to share. You can also decide whether you want to show a list of accounts you're following and who are following you on your profile.

You can create a custom link to your profile. Mine looks like this: You'll find the option at the bottom of your "edit profile" page. You can direct readers to your Buzz profile by adding #buzz to the end ( and sharing that link.

The next step is to select the sites you want to be part of your Buzz stream. Right now, you can choose from Blogger blogs, your Google Reader account (the posts you share will show up in your stream) Twitter account, Flickr account, or Picasa account. You can do this through Gmail (find the "Buzz" link right under your inbox link on the left side of the page) or through the main Buzz page. From Gmail, you can also edit your list of followers.

Note: If you're a Wordpress user, your posts will show up on Buzz if you connect your Twitter account and post blog updates there.

Adding Buzz to your Blog:
Soon, you'll be able to easily add a "Buzz This" button to your Blogger posts. You can do it now, but because the platform is so new, you'll need to manually add code to your blog template. It doesn't look too hard. You can find out more here. There's already a plug in for those with self-hosted WordPress blogs as well, which is a little embarassing, since Google owns

Another easy way to entice your readers into following you on Buzz is with the Buzz widget at

Sharing Items with one click:
I've found an easy way to share links to sites around the web on Buzz with just one click: Add your Google Reader account to Buzz, then head to Reader and click on "Your Stuff".

Drag the "Share" bookmarklet to your browser toolbar. Reading something you want to share? Just click the bookmarklet. Shared items will turn up in your Buzz stream. Of course, if you enable Twitter, links you post there will enter your buzz stream as well.

Looking ahead:
Because it's so new, Google Buzz is most useful for those of us who already use Google's other services--notably Gmail and Blogger. If you don't use Gmail (which, as a blogger, I LOVE), you're a bit left out at the moment, since you wont' be able to view your own Buzz stream except via your profile. You won't be able to see anybody else's stuff either.

As we've seen with Gmail, Google Documents, and other Google services, however, Google products evolve. I expect we'll see lots of additions and tweaks to Buzz over the coming weeks. There isn't much available in the way of 3rd party Buzz apps yet (there's not even a gadget for igoogle). They're coming, though.

Additions I think (I hope!) we'll see soon:
  • The ability to integrate Facebook Updates
  • The ability to add any RSS feed to your stream (giving WordPress bloggers the ability to auto-update their streams with their posts)
  • FeedFlare FeedFlare options
Readers: Tell me what you think of Buzz so far!


You Can Now Add Pages to Your Blogger Blog!

Hey Blogger users: Blogger has finally added much needed functionality to Blogger Blogs--pages!

From the Blogger Buzz blog:

This feature lets you easily publish static information on stand-alone pages. For example, you can create an About This Blog page that discusses the evolution of your blog, or a Contact Me page that provides directions, a phone number, and a map to your location.

How does it work? From your Dashboard at, just click  to the Edit posts tab. You'll see the new "Edit Pages" option in the navbar:

Just click and you'll be shown an editor that looks a lot like the one you see when you create a post:

Enter your title and page content, and then publish. A handy widget allows you to add links to your pages to your sidebar or to the top of the blog, navbar style.

You'll find a list of your pages at the Edit Pages tab, along with the options to edit, delete, or view them. If you're using a custom template, you may need to fiddle with your html a bit. You'll find instructions for doing so here.

Well I know what I'll be doing this afternoon! What pages will you be adding to your Blogger blog?

More info on creating pages in Blogger.

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