How to customize your WordPress.com appearance (widgets)

Hi everyone! Laura from Northern Virginia here to tell you what to do after you’ve set up a WordPress.com account.
The following are some customization ideas for your new blog:

1. Change the template from the standard blue one to a different one.
Click on “Dashboard”
Then click on “Appearance” which will bring you to a “Manage Themes” page.
I think the “Ambiru”, “Connections”, “MistyLook” or “Ocean Mist”  templates look great. If you want a darker template, you can try adjusting the colors, or try “Chaos Theory”, “Freshy”, “Neat” or “ChaoticSoul” (we use this one). Try some of the different templates out and see what you like.
You can add a customized header (like ours with the path light/OLP logo and picture of one of our homes lit up).  Robin Steele can help you create a custom header for your blog, similar to ours.

2. Change the name of your blog.
Click on “Dashboard”
On the left-hand side click on “Settings”
This should bring you directly to “General Settings”
Change the blog title from “USERNAME’s blog” to something like “Outdoor Lighting of NAME OF YOUR TERRITORY Blog” or “Outdoor Lighting Perspectives – Exterior Lighting Solutions and Bright Ideas Blog” or you can keep your name but actually add spaces between words. For example, Kenneth and Staci Wells chose the username “alamocitylights” and their blog’s web address is: http://alamocitylights.wordpress.com/. They can change their blog name (what appears across the top of their page) to “Alamo City Lights”. As you can see on their blog page, they decided to customize theirs even further and give it the name “Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of San Antonio Weblog”
I suggest you also change the tag line from “Just another wordpress.com blog” to something that describes what your blog is about and include key search terms that you think customers are searching for on-line when looking for our services. Something like “A blog about outdoor lighting for residential and commercial applications in NAME YOUR TERRITORY” this may be too long to fit, but it is in small print. Kenneth and Staci used “Outdoor lighting for landscape, architectural, and outdoor living applications in San Antonio and the Hill Country” as their tag line.

3. Add more widgets
Click on “Dashboard”
Click on “Appearance”
At the top where it says “Current Theme” and has a picture of your template, click on “Widgets” under options.
The available widgets will appear and you can add more widgets (ie, things on your sidebar of the blog, such as text boxes, recent posts, pictures, links, etc.
I suggest you add:

A) Links/Blogroll for your local OLP webpage
Change the default “blogroll” from the wordpress websites to sites like
Your local webpage
Outdoor Lighting Photos from Flickr http://flickr.com/photos/27798849@N06/
Free Nighttime Design Sign-up Form http://www.outdoorlights.com/ComplimentaryLightingDesignDemonstration.html
YouTube Videos on Outdoor Lighting http://www.youtube.com/user/OutdoorLightsDotCom
A Main Link to Your Main Blog Page
and anything else you think is good to add.
You can add links by clicking on “Dashboard” and then “Links” on the left-hand side. Then click “Add New”. This will allow you to type in a title, the web address, and a description (if you like… I did not include descriptions on ours).
Also, I would suggest changing the default heading “blogroll” to “links” (most people visiting the blog will not be familiar with the term “blogroll”).
You do this by adding a new link, like mentioned above and then under the “Categories” section clicking “Add new category” type in “Links” and click the “add” button.

B) Option to email you.
Create a text box entitled “Contact Me Via Email” and in the body of the text box type the exact format as it appears below
<a href=”mailto:yadayada@outdoorlights.com”>Click here to email me</a>
Make sure you type in your correct email address in lieu of my example one yadayada@outdoorlights.com.  The WordPress.com support forums do not suggest actually typing in your email address so that it is visible to blog readers, because spambots search blogs for such email addresses.  None of us need more spam in our inboxes!

C) Text with key search terms
Create another text box with Arbitrary text or HTML, including key search terms. Use these terms for SEO (search engine optimization). Type in anything and everything that your potential clients would search on-line to find out more about outdoor lighting.  Ours were: “Outdoor lighting northern va, landscape lighting northern virginia, low voltage lighting northern virginia, architectural lighting northern va, elegant exterior lighting va, outdoor lighting northern virginia, lighting contractor, outdoor lighting arlington va, outdoor lighting fairfax county va, outdoor lighting loudon county, outdoor lighting prince william county, outdoor lighting fauquier county, outdoor lighting stafford county, outdoor lighting warren county, deck lighting northern virginia, outdoor lighting washington dc metro, nighttime lighting design, outdoor lighting garden lights, outdoor lights northern virginia, garden lighting northern virginia, outdoor lights northern va”

D) Add video to your widgets/side bar by using Vod Pod
Read here on how to do that:
http://blog.vodpod.com/2007/09/07/posting-videos-to-wordpresscom-with-the-post-to-wordpress-button/
Add these videos to your Vod Pod and any others you want
http://www.youtube.com/v/DnTP68ZRig4&hl=en&fs=1
http://www.youtube.com/v/9emzSO9Pnac&hl=en&fs=1

E) Add Flickr widget from the options of widgets.  Give it a title such as “Outdoor Lighting Photos” and fill in the proper RSS feed.  If you have your own Flickr account, fill this in.  If you want to use the main OLP one type in the following for the Flickr RSS URL:
http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?id=27798849@N06&lang=en-us&format=rss_200

Those are just some suggestions with which to start.  Below is the web address of the online forum for WordPress.com blogs incase you need to search for an answer on how to do something or post a question to their experts: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/
Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.
Once you have set-up and customized your blog, please post a comment to this article and include your web address of your new blog so others can see it!

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Google AdWords book recommendation from Pat

Hi everyone!  It was great to see you at the annual meeting in Dallas.  We hope you found the Social Marketing Round-Table facilitated by Robin, Laura and I informative and applicable for your market.

I highly recommend the book Winning results with Google AdWords by Andrew Goodman.  Even if you are looking to hire someone to manage your Google AdWords, you should educate yourself to make certain they know what they are doing. 

This book is easy to read, gives you the history of internet advertising, and can help you save thousands of dollars each year on advertising.  After reading it we were able to change our entire ad campaign, reduce costs, increase our CTR (click thru rate), and drive more traffic to our local web page. 

Google AdWords can help give you a solid foundation for your internet marketing campaign.
If you have any questions, please let me know.

Brightest regards,
Pat in Northern Virginia

The annual sales meeting at the Mirage in Las Vegas

One of the tips and tricks about having a blog is to link to popular sites. So, since we just got back from Vegas, I thought I would add a blog piece with links to some of the great things we saw and places we visited. So, here goes.

The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas was beatiful. For example, in this last sentance, I linked to the city of Las Vegas because their travel and tourism site likely receives very strong traffic. The rooms at the Mirage were really beautiful and they were very comfortable. Everything was clean as could be expected. The picture on this page is the room I had.

On the last night, Julie Hough and I took a walk down to the Bellagio Hotel to see some Las Vegas lights. I had not been there before so this was a real treat. The fountains at the Bellagio were amazing. I had thought that they would just have very tall fountain flows but that was not the case at all. There was a water fountain show. It was to Disney music and the fountains danced and soared to the music. It was a tremendous treat.

Again, never having been to Vegas before, the Donnie & Marie Vegas Show struck me as odd. I would have never expected Donnie and Marie to have a show in what they call sin city. Marie Osmond sure does look great after that Nutrisystem diet. We didn’t see her in person but she and Donnie had a huge sign over the door at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.

On the way home, I had a huge chunk of time when I had to wait at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. In general, the airport was very clean and comfortable. Although, my biggest disappointment was that they did not have CNN playing on TV monitors. That would have made the wait go much better.

One good thing is I bought a sandwich at the Carnegie Deli at the Mirage before I left and took it to the airport with me. I used their take-out. They made it very quickly and as can be expected from a New York style deli, it was huge!

The other restaurant at the Mirage in Las Vegas that I loved was called Cravings. It was a huge buffet. I went for breakfast and they had a tremendous selection. A couple of my favorites included the eggs benedict and also the latin breakfast section.

So you can see in this article, I am trying to link to lots of sites that have high traffic because this is a technique that will help with SEO in organic search engine listings. When we start to get traffic on this article, I will let you how it works.

Check out AlphaInventions.com!

Check this out!

alphainventions_stats

So, the traffic on my own personal blog basically stinks. But on Friday I work in my daughter’s classroom for about an hour. I come home and emote onto my blog about how amazing teachers are and how I can’t possibly fathom how they do it all. I do a few things, go out shopping, have some lunch, and go to do another post. I take a look at my stats and see a bump on my views. So I think I might have had 20 people or so look at it. Then I looked at the scale and it was over 200!! This was in a matter of hours.

So, WordPress.com has the most amazing stats. You are able to click on the blip for that day and it tells you what articles people viewed, what they searched for, what sites sent people, etc.

I saw that the high volume traffic was coming from AlphaInventions.com.

I looked up it up and it’s truly legit. It’s a really cool site where when you go to their page, they rotate WordPress blogs that are being updated and published right at that moment. So, you get to see the freshest news hot off the “wire”.

I read some more about the site and they said they were working on a personalization engine that could allow people to see updated blogs that were specifically aligned to their personal preferences. That would be great.

But here’s the real aHa. If you do a post about them, your post is automatically picked up on their site. Take a look at how my traffic went from negligible, to over 200 when my teacher article was picked up, to over 900 when I wrote a post about their site.

I highly recommend it for both viewing enjoyment and also for SEO.