SpouseBUZZ Blog Series: Bells and Whistles

So, now you have a blog and you want to jazz it up with some bells and whistles. You want some Blog Bling. What are your options and how do you get started?

There is no shortage of things you can add to your site to make it more manageable for you and more interesting for your readers. Below are just a few of the items that I’ve experimented with in the past.

Let’s talk about practical items first, then we’ll get to the fun stuff.

As was mentioned before, I would encourage you to add a sitemeter or a onestat counter to your blog. According to most everyone, they are the industry standard and a must if you want to understand where your traffic comes from, who is linking to you and where your readers are located. Please don’t get one of those faux counters, the one that turns over every time someone clicks on an individual post or a comment, the one that counts one visit as eight. If you do, you have no true sense of your numbers and if you decide to solicit advertising, you can’t honestly provide an accurate measurement of the level of traffic you get. You may be over-inflating your traffic by a huge percentage. We’ll get to advertising in a moment.

One of the items I found useful to both me and my readers was a search engine that was specific to my site. If I wanted to recall an old post, I could just type in the subject matter and the search engine would search my blog. I’m sure there are many options, but I used Blogbar for this purpose and I loved it. You can find out more here. You can customize the color, and the directions on how to paste into your sidebar are very simple to execute.


Notice the red "RSS" logo in the lower, right-hand corner of SpouseBUZZ.


You should definitely add an RSS feed aggregator to your site. Savvy blog consumers are increasingly turning to feed aggregators that will quickly scan the new posts from their favorite blogs. I wrote about this here. In our case, we have 282 readers subscribing to the SpouseBUZZ feed. You can subscribe to our feed by clicking here. You can also subscribe to the feed of your favorite blogs and log onto one site to see what’s new at dozens of sites, rather than having to click all over the place. If you haven’t posted a link on your blog so that others can pick up your RSS feed, search in the help section of your blog software for instructions on how to do so, and make your feed available to your readers. Technology is rapidly evolving. Keep up with it, or be left behind. When I stated blogging, very little bling and useful stuff was available. Now, there are all kinds of choices, which takes us to the next part of this post.   

Onto the fun stuff…

Another useful widget (widget = blog bling) is a poll. Say you want to poll your readers on something, fun or otherwise. It’s very easy to add a poll to your blog and it encourages reader participation. I have used Vizu before, a free service, but polls have come a long way since then. I was recently introduced to a new, more expanded polling widget. Sodahead allows people to explain their votes, communicate with each other about their votes and even post video polls. You can also create a page there. How fun is that? So, just for fun, and I know this poll won’t apply to all of you because we have far more readers than we do reader-bloggers, but for the bloggers out there who would like to use a polling widget in the future, register (must register to vote – irritating, I realize) and cast your vote.

Sign up with SodaHead and play around. This could be a lot of fun. We had a great time with our Army Wives poll earlier this year, close to 1,000 voters participated. We’ll be doing more polls in the future. Maybe we’ll do video polls of our SpouseBUZZ LIVE dance-off and let you choose the winner. AWTM has laid down a challenge.

Many of you love the animated characters that you can create. A while back, I created an Andi Meez. It was fun building my Meez and, it was free.

Meez features a military line of clothing. Click here to build your Meez.

There are all kinds of widgets available to bloggers. In TypePad alone, the choices are endless. Search the help section of your blog service provider to see what is available to you. 

Now this is a fantastic service.


Unfortunately, I discovered it two days after I had deleted my personal blog. A blog which had over two year’s worth of posts. Deleting it was painful because I had spent so much time and effort on my posts. Oh, how I would have loved to known about this before clicking the "delete account" button. If I had, my writings would have been preserved forever. I wouldn’t have been interested in selling the bound version (and nobody save my family would have been interested in buying it), but having a copy for the sake of posterity would have been nice.

Let’s talk advertising, and getting noticed. I know that blogrolls are a popular item, but personally, I’ve become much less fond of them than I used to be. I rarely scan someone’s blogroll, there are just too many blogs out there. I generally bookmark favorites and visit that way. However, I realize that blogrolls, especially for small communities, serve a purpose and others do like them. AWTM has already discussed networking, but there are other ways of getting noticed, too. You could purchase a blog ad, or participate in a Blog Ad Swap. Doing so will generally expose your blog to people who might not otherwise find you and who knows, maybe they’ll keep coming back for more.

Want to make money on advertising? You can sign up with Blog Ads and offer advertising to other bloggers on your site. There are some rules, so click here to read them. I’ve used Blog Ads in the past and had a good experience with them, but you can search for other companies which offer similar services.

Odds and Ends:

Your blog is your creation. As in life, each of us have different personalities and what appeals to some may turn others off. Having said that, let me offer a few comments on my personal preferences for your consideration.

Music and Videos: I prefer these not be forced on me when I click on a site. If I see the link and want to play it, I will click play. Note that I’m talking about blogs here, not My Space pages. Many blogs have music or videos set to play as soon as you click on the link. Not only is this a turn-off to some, but you should remember that often, people are blog surfing from the workplace. If they click on your site and music blares from their computer, their co-workers know they are playing and not working (uh oh). Just something to consider.

Comments: I don’t know about you, but I have a zillion user names and passwords. Too many to count. It gets irritating, but such is life. Unless it’s absolutely necessary that I sign up for something, or I know I’m going to need it again in the future, I won’t. Many of you require TypeKey, Blogger or other types of registration before someone can comment on your blog. You may have valid reasons for that, and it’s your business to establish the rules for your blog. However, some people are just fed up with having to register for one more thing, and they draw the line somewhere. I’ve drawn mine at comment registration.

Spammers are a consideration. An important one, so I would suggest using a verification system like we use here at SpouseBUZZ (type in the numbers/letters you see), which ensures that commenters are indeed human beings, but other than that, I prefer comments be open to everyone without having to go through yet another registration process. If you have a problem with someone, ban their IP address and delete their comments. I read a lot of blogs that I don’t comment on because I’m personally revolting against having to register with a dozen different systems in order to join the discussion.

The bells and whistles listed above are just a few that come to mind. Do you have Blog Bling that isn’t mentioned above? Tell us about it.

SpouseBUZZ Blog Series:

Part I: Blog It, Don’t Hog It

Part II: I Want a Blog, Now What?

Part III: Privacy/OPSEC

Part IV: Networking

Part V: Blog Etiquette

About the Author


Andi is married to an active-duty soldier and is the founder and former editor of SpouseBUZZ.

She is the founder of the Annual MilBlog Conference. The MilBlog Conference is the premiere event of the year for military bloggers. President George W. Bush, U.S. Representative Adam Smith, GEN David Petraeus, LTG Mike Oates, LTG William Caldwell, RADM Mark Fox, MG Kevin Bergner, MG David Hogg and The Honorable Pete Geren have addressed previous conferences.

While living in Washington, DC, Andi was the Ambassador to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Sew Much Comfort, a non-profit organization which makes and delivers, free of charge, special adaptive clothing for wounded service members. Andi has worked with several non-profits to help our wounded heroes and their families. She finds that work to be the most rewarding and meaningful of all.

Andi strives to find humor in the good, bad and ugly of life and is a firm believer that laughter has the ability to cure most ills.

  • My blog was previously set to google users only because I had a jerk who left me mean comments all the time. As a new blogger, I didn’t really know what to do about it.
    Then I realized how annoying it was to have to register to leave comments so I changed it back to ‘anyone can comment’ because I think I know how to handle the nasty people a little better, lol.
    I really enjoy the blogging series. It has been SO helpful to me! :)

  • Andi

    It’s a personal preference, Kasey, but I do believe that many blogs would get more comments if the process were easier on the reader.
    I remember my first batch of horrid comments and how disturbing it was, but when I learned how to ban IP addresses (which isn’t always full-proof, by the way) things got better. In my case, the weirdos didn’t want to go to the trouble of using other IP addresses just to pick on a lowly blogger they disagreed with.

  • HH7

    Ooooh looks like I have some jazzing up to do. So much to learn…

  • This is to much fun. I have played with the Widget and later I will play with meez.com. Like I need another reason to play around online when I should be doing homework.

  • I completely agree about the music thing. I have actually turned off the sound on my computer at work for this very reason. And 99% of the time it is too loud and not necessarily a song I would want to listen to.
    That said, I have come across one blog who has the most lovely song playing. And I am finding myself going to her site just to play the song. (I know, I need to just download it to my iPod.) In fact I am listening to it right now as I type this . http://melandjg.blogspot.com/

  • OK, OK…I changed my comment requirements. I agree with the song thing, I’m not in an office or anything, but sometimes the baby resting on my lap wakes up when something pops up like that. I neeed to jazz up my site too…some day….
    and BW, I already have that song on my iPod :) I originally downloaded it for a GirlScout activity.

  • Thanks for the helpful information. This is really a great series. I am pretty good with the blog bling, but the RSS feed has been my bane. I know I need to figure out how to make it accessible.

  • Bells and whistles then traffic! Great post…