Tuesday’s Tip – Do You Make It Easy to Follow Your Blog?

blog followers

As genealogy blogs become more popular, those who read them on a regular basis are always looking for easy ways to keep up with their favorite blogs. Have you thought about the type of welcome mat you are providing for your current and potential readers? What tools do you offer so that readers can get alerted when there is new content on your site? One of the keys to a successful genealogy blog is making sure that your latest post is always available to your readers!

Offer Different Access Points

Unless you really know your readers, you can’t predict how a person will want to subscribe to your content. They may add you to a list of bookmarks, perhaps add your blog to a list of genealogy blogs on Pinterest, or add your RSS feed on Feedly or another RSS feed reader. If you only offer one or two options, you maybe sacrificing potential readers and site traffic. You can offer a variety of subscription options without making your blog sidebar appear too crowded. Review the options listed below and also check out your own favorite blogs and see how they make their blog available to readers.

RSS Feed and Feed Readers

While some who read blogs may bookmark or “favorite” the blogs they want to track, after about 20 or so link, it becomes difficult to manage. For this reason, many blogs use RSS feeds to create a “news channel link” that then can be used in “reader” programs. These programs, like the popular Feedly reader

For Blogger, in your Dashboard, click Layout, Add a Gadget and then add the Subscribe gadget. For WordPress, most templates will come with an RSS feed button built in. Tip: it is always a good idea to keep track of the URL for your RSS feed in case you want to use it as a link or share it with others.

If you want to attract Feedly users, then visit the Feedly button page to learn how to add the Follow on Feedly button in your blog sidebar.

Email Alerts

Some readers like to receive your latest post in their email. Don’t leave them to their own devices – setting up a Google Alert – just add a “subscribe” feature in your sidebar.

For Blogger, in your Dashboard, click Layout, Add a Gadget and then add the Follow By Email gadget. For WordPress, add the Subscribe 2 plugin to your sidebar (for self-hosted WordPress sites only).

Don’t Forget FeedBurner!

Another option is to create a new RSS feed at FeedBurner (http://feedburner.google.com) and then enable the BrowserFriendly and SmartFeed options in the Optimize section. Doing so will enable those with different RSS feed readers easily add your blog to their subscription list.

See What Does “Burning a Feed” Mean? and Setting Up a FeedBurner Feed here at GeneaBloggers to learn more about FeedBurner.

Other Notification Methods

Once you’ve posted new content, make sure you share the link out on your social media platforms. This means posting the URL to your post (not your blog) to Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and other sites.

You can choose to automate the posting using site such as Buffer or Tweetdeck, but be careful: if you have an error in your post title or post, often you can’t “retract” those automated updates. For this reason some bloggers opt to post to social media manually or to build in other review procedures so as not to compound any errors.


The most successful genealogy blogs are those that offer a variety of methods to keep up with the latest content. Don’t restrict your blog to just one method or what you think is the most popular method. Realize that your readers have different habits when it comes to accessing online information; honor their choices and make sure you’re covering all the bases including RSS feeds, email alerts and social media.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Ancestry.com Announces New Home for MyCanvas

Ancestry Saves MyCanvas

Early this morning, Eric Shoup – Executive Vice President for Product at Ancestry.com – announced that Ancestry would continue providing access to the popular genealogy self-publishing platform MyCanvas. This is good news to the many MyCanvas users who have been busy downloading content since Ancestry’s initial announcement on 5 June 2014 that it was shutting down MyCanvas along with other non-performing Ancestry.com platforms.

According to Shoup’s post at the Ancestry.com blog, the functions of MyCanvas will be assumed by Alexander’s, a Utah-based printing company which has been a long-time service provider for the MyCanvas product line.

Shoup notes that the transition over to Alexander’s will take about six months and current access to MyCanvas will be extended beyond the 30 September 2014 shutdown date originally announced. Once the transition is final, the entry point for MyCanvas will be at the Alexander’s sites.

One other issue related to MyCanvas that has been a frequent concern to users: the inability to ship products to Canada. According to Lorine McGinnis Schulze of the Olive Tree Genealogy Blog, Alexander’s will extend shipping of MyCanvas products to Canadian residents.

Stay tuned here at GeneaBloggers for further developments related to MyCanvas and other Ancestry.com products and services.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Tuesday’s Tip – Using TITLE and ALT Text on Blogger Images

Tuesday’s Tip – Using Title and ALT Text on Blogger Images

This past weekend during the Blogger Boot Camp where over 50 new and prospective genealogy bloggers were “immersed” in anything and everything about Blogger, I mentioned the importance of properly naming and tagging image files in your blog posts.

Power Up Your Blogger Images

Why should it really matter if your image file name is image01.jpg instead of Obtituary of John Smith.jpg? And should you add descriptive language to the uploaded image? Here’s why:

  • By changing the file name to one that describes the image, you’ll make it easier for others to locate your image, your blog post and your “cousin bait.” It isn’t easy to determine the name of an ancestor in an image when the image name is image01.jpg.
  • By adding descriptive text, you’ll allow others to use Google Images to find your images.
  • From a social media sharing standpoint, adding descriptive text to the image allows you to control what gets posted along with the image to Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms.

Descriptive File Names

Remember when file names were limit to eight characters or less and no spaces? Well if you don’t you are lucky those days of caveman computing are over! Make sure you rename images that are produced from a scanner or mobile phone camera so that the name describes – briefly – the content of the image.

Most devices will spit out a sequential file number such as IMG 0001 or SC0001 etc. Here are some ways to add a descriptive file name:

  • Be as brief as possible. Instead of “My great-great-great grandmother’s obituary” which doesn’t indicate who you are or your ancestors’ name, use something like “Death notice Catherine Sullivan O’Keefe 1928.”
  • Some researchers prefer a specific naming convention such as “OKEEFE Catherine Sullivan obit 1928.” Be consistent if you do decide on a formatting system and style.
  • Save longer descriptions for the Image TITLE and ALT tags mentioned below.

Image TITLE and ALT Tags in HTML

Once you’ve uploaded your image to Blogger, you can add text to the Image TITLE and ALT tags in HTML without even having to know HTML coding.

  • The ALT tag allows you to add “alternate” text which is helpful when a viewer uses a browser which has disabled images. Instead of the image, they’ll see a grey box with the ALT text in the center. Technically the ALT tag is reserved in HTML for displaying alternate text when the image cannot be properly displayed. Another reason to use ALT text is that those with visual impairments who use a screen reader will hear the ALT text when encountering the image.
  • TITLE, when used in conjunction with the IMG tag, defines the title of the document, or image, in our case. It displays information when the mouse hovers over the image and it provides “excerpt” text for social media postings. The TITLE tag is also used with the HREF tag for links to give a descriptive name to a hyperlink.

Example: Scanned Obituary of Catherine Sullivan O’Keefe

Here is a recent post at my blog Destination: Austin Family about Catherine Sullivan O’Keefe’s death in 1928.

How to Use TITLE and ALT text on Blogger images 01

Once the image is added to the post in draft mode, click the image and you’ll see a toolbar appear.

How to Use TITLE and ALT text on Blogger images 02

Click the Properties link and the Image Properties dialog box appears.

How to Use TITLE and ALT text on Blogger images 03

Here you can add the Title text and the Alt text. They can be the same or they can be different. Usually the Title text is more descriptive but I’ve reversed them in this example.

The result: Hover the mouse over the image and the Title text appears.

How to Use TITLE and ALT text on Blogger images 04

In addition, when posting to social media such as Pinterest, the Title text is included:

How to Use TITLE and ALT text on Blogger images 05

And finally, a search on Google Images using descriptive text will bring up the image:

How to Use TITLE and ALT text on Blogger images 06


Yes it is tempting to go back to all your images in your blog and set the IMG TITLE and ALT text, but start by getting in the habit of adding the information on all new blog posts going forward. Then cherry pick the most important blog posts – the one’s you feel best serve as cousin bait for your genealogy – and update the descriptive photo information.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.