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Three Easy (and Free!) Ways to Make Your Blog Your Own

You already know how to choose the perfect blog name and how to update your title and tagline to reflect…

You already know how to choose the perfect blog name and how to update your title and tagline to reflect your site’s personality. Now what?

Maybe you don’t want to jump into the world of premium themes or custom CSS yet, but there are still simple tweaks you can make from right within your dashboard to inject more “you” into your blog and draw readers in. Here are three quick updates to make right now:

Change your widget titles and comment prompt

You’ve poked around your widget options, picked the ones you want to use, and dragged them into your sidebar, but have you tailored them? They don’t have to be called “Recent Posts,” “Archives,” or “Blogs I Follow.” You can configure widgets to give them any title you’d like.

Spice them up with titles that reflect the personality of your blog. Write a television blog? Try “Last Week’s Episodes,” “Previous Seasons,” and “Critics’ Recommendations.” A homeschooling site? How about “Current Assignments,” “Last Month’s Homework,” and “Reading List”? Be punny. Be funny. Be yourself.

This extends to your comment prompt. “Leave a Comment” works just fine for some blogs where a shot of zaniness isn’t wanted or appropriate, but the comment prompt can be another way to add personality to your site. Some we’ve seen and loved are:

  • Speak now or forever hold your piece.
  • Say it, don’t spray it.
  • Your $0.02 gladly accepted here:
  • Penny for your thoughts . . .
  • Are you talkin’ to me?

Head to Settings → Discussion in your dashboard, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, type your custom text into the “Prompt” box, and hit the Save button. It’s one of the last things readers will see, so make it count!

Add your elevator pitch

Readers hopping around the blogosphere have a lot of options. How do you get them to stay put on your site? Adding a short elevator pitch to your home page helps visitors feel confident in making the decision to settle in and keep reading.

What is an elevator pitch? It’s the quick-and-dirty summary of what your blog is about — no more than three sentences letting readers know who you are and what your point of view is. You’re not an internationally-famous name (yet), so you need to clue readers in to what you’re going to give them. If you’re a photographer who loves streetscapes, tacos, and pet rabbits, your elevator pitch might be:

Urban life and decay, through the lens of a shameless tacoaholic owned by Thumbelina the lop-eared bunny. Join my quest to capture the true souls of all 50 American capital cities in pictures.

Add an elevator pitch to your sidebar with a text widget. Don’t worry about getting it perfect; you can tweak it as you go. (You’ll also want to make sure you have an engaging “About” page, something we’ll cover in-depth tomorrow.)

Customize your email to new followers

Most of us use the “Follow By Email” widget to allow readers to opt-in to receiving new posts by email. When a reader clicks Follow, they get an email asking them to confirm their subscription. Here’s what it says by default:

Howdy.

You recently signed up to follow this blog’s posts. This means once you confirm below, you will receive each new post by email.

To activate, click Confirm Follow. If you believe this is an error, ignore this message and nothing more will happen.

It’s a start, and it gets the job done. But wouldn’t you rather create a seamless experience for your readers, where every communication they get from you is unmistakably yours? You can use this message to offer readers a warm thanks for choosing to follow you, tell them a little more about yourself, and encourage them to be active participants on your site.

To change the text, head to Settings → Reading in your dashboard, scroll down to “Blog Follower Comment Text,” make your updates, and click the Save button. Et voilà — you’ve improved your blog’s first impression and created another opportunity for readers to connect with you.

These are all minor changes in the greater scheme of your blog and content, but they make a difference to your readers: now, it’s not just your posts that communicate who you are, it’s everything about your site. They also encourage readers to dig more deeply into your blog to see what other nifty tidbits they can find — they’re your own little Easter Eggs.

You don’t buy a picture frame and display it with the stock photo inside. (We hope!) Why would you do that with your blog? Put your stamp on your site!

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  1. Where do I start? How about ‘thank you’ followed by ‘thank you very much.’ I don’t feel ready to drop money on a premium theme, and mess around the widgets to learn how to use them. I started to make some changes to my blog. I really appreciate this…alright I will be quiet now. ;)

  2. Reblogged this on Stacks and Ranges and commented:
    How do I love this post, let me count the three ways. I fooled around some of the themes, thinking I needed a change. What I really needed was more tweaking. This post saved me mucho time messing around. A big ‘Thank You’ to the Word Press posse. Nothing makes a Winnipegger’s heart sing like the word ‘free’.

  3. Leave a comment – come on. You are not seriously suggesting that such tired old clichéed comments are inspiring?

    Elevator pitch???? I don’t know how many times I had to read that. (No, I didn’t know what it meant). What amazing jargon. I’m sure it is really the in-thing but it is totally meaningless. Sounds like a new term for sales pitch.

    A variety of people, including project managers, salespeople, evangelists, and policy-makers commonly rehearse and use elevator pitches to get their point across quickly

    which makes it even more meaningless or worthy of use as a description.

    Appreciate you are catering for a lot of beginning bloggers, but a) keep the language clear and avoid jargon and b) don’t used hackneyed old sayings as great examples.

  4. I really appreciate your text! – It’s always inspiring to see things from another point of view. I guess it’s pretty helpful to get your blog some individual appearance and function.

  5. I find it especially fun to sprinkle easter eggs all throughout my blog to attract the more adventurous readers. For those who don’t pursue them, I guess I sapped the energy from them all thanks to my clunky prose.

      1. They’re hidden messages or items you find in random places. For example, if you click a certain link or button on someones blog it may display a special message that people would normally not see. Easter egg is just a phrase to describe hidden messages.

      2. No problem. The best “easter eggs” are in movies. You should Google what easter eggs are in your favorite movies :)

  6. Thank you so much for this segment of The Daily Post. As a beginner, all the settings are a bit of a minefield. This helps to break it down into a more manageable ‘fine tuning’ for the novice. Bit by bit my Blog will get there – eventually.

    Thanks again :)

  7. My name is Betty. I like to writer about fictional and non-fictional things that are in the news as well as family and friends. Thank you and God Bless

  8. This helped a lot, mainly because I had no Idea that you could even personalize your blog’s comment area. I wasn’t quite ready to click around all over the place, but this helped a ton! P.S. Are you southern? Also why does it greet me by saying “Howdy”?

  9. This is great! It got me immediately looking over my settings. I had already customized the widgets before, but I went straight to them and redid all the titles. I also updated the comment prompt. Now I just need to think up a good elevator pitch. Really great tips!

  10. Great ideas and I’m working on that elevator pitch. Unfortunately Suffusion doesn’t allow for a change in comment prompt. Been trying to get rid of the default “add response” for nine months.

  11. Great ideas. I was just wondering how much of ‘About me’ is appropriate to show on a blog? Is this better or worse perhaps than having elevator pitch just on the front page? Most blogs do tend to have a section for ‘About me’ but not sure if it would be read?

  12. Changing the comment prompt is a really good idea, and I am going to put it into practice right now. But I have one question: why did you not do it here ?

    1. The comment prompt is hard-coded into the theme we use here, and we cant change it without changing it for every other blog that uses the same theme. We’re working on overriding that, though.

  13. These ideas are all very cool, but I am beginning to wonder if (along with premium theme purchases and customisation upgrades) they are worth the effort!
    Harking back to last week’s discussion on leaving thoughtful comments and berating those that “like-in-order-to-lure”, WordPress have made it TOO simple and easy to look at all the photographs contained within your post, “like” that post without reading all the text included within, “reblog” it without knowing what’s been said in that post, and now we get to “follow” the blogger – all from the Reader.
    There is, therefore, no real reason for any other bloggers to even visit that post, let alone your blog. How on earth are you supposed to get them to “Leave a Comment” when all they are doing is surfing via WordPress Reader? If WordPress are going to keep these functions, I reckon hitting any one of those toggles should immediately open that post over on the authors blog. It’ll do wonders for our Stat Pages, after all ;)
    I (she says with pride in her voice) LOVE to visit other people’s blogs, as I am sure there are many others out there who also do. I agree that tweaking headlines for widgets and adding personalised texts helps your audience understand you a bit better (should you wish to be better understood, that is).
    And whilst I’m thinking about it, I miss the days when you logged into WordPress and were taken directly to the Freshly Pressed page…{sigh}…

    1. We don’t think it can ever be too easy to access, comment on, and share the awesome content that WordPress.com bloggers create every day! And since reading the full text of a post still requires you to leave the Reader and head over to the individual blog, we think we’ve hit a nice balance between making it easy to skim and engaging with other bloggers – there will be some meaningless “likes,” but the core of our community is bloggers who want to be part of a blogging community. Still, this is food for thought, and I’ll make sure the team that’s responsible for working on and improving the Reader sees this comment. Thanks!