Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Commenting 101: Wrap Up and Resources

When I started this Commenting 101 blogging series, I expected it to last a couple of weeks. I also expected to lose a few readers because I know my philosophy on blogging and communication isn't for everyone. Imagine my surprise when this ends up being Week #10 and I gained quite a few new readers over the course of the last couple of months. I guess some of you do agree that Commenting on blogs is an important and worthwhile task for bloggers.

I thought it would be a good idea to wrap the series up with a quick highlight of what we've learned, and a few links to some other resources that I've found helpful! Here are the Cliffs Notes:

Week 1: Why Should I Bother?
Commenting on other blogs is the Number One easiest way to grow your own blog. Good comments lead to community, encouragement, a growing readership, and good relationships with other bloggers.

Week 28 Reasons Why You Should Comment on My Blog 
(guest post from Heather of Dollar Store Crafts)

We remember names when they show up routinely in our Comments section. This can lead to establishing relationships with other bloggers...who will be likely to read your blog in turn. You may even land a guest post or a job!

Week 3: How to Leave a Good Comment

The basic gist of a "good comment"? Be genuine, read the entire post, NO SPAM!, and make it easy for bloggers to return your comments.

Week 4: General Commenting Etiquette

Just like in the world outside our laptops, standards of behavior apply to blogging too. Basically, don't leave the same exact comment on 56 other blogs in an effort to boost your own hits. Don't ever request a "Follow." It's a huge turn-off to seasoned bloggers. And please, don't be rude. You'll wind up featured on My Favorite Hatemail. I promise.

Week 5: Commenting and Link Parties

There is a way to participate in link parties graciously. You can link to 94 blog parties every single day, but if you aren't engaging your readers, how full is your blog?

Let other party participants know your link is on the list too by visiting a few others. (Novel concept, right?) Leave a few thoughtful comments, and remember that you can't make anyone visit your blog and/or leave a comment.

And please don't forget the hostess! It is a huge amount of work to put together any link party, whether it's a weekly event or not...and I see a lot of hostesses neglected. They may have 350 links at their party, but only a handful of kind "thank you" comments. Not cool.

Week 6: Responding to Comments

This week in a nutshell? If you have a new blog, or a small blog...you really need to return those comments by visiting the commenters and leaving a genuine comment on their blogs. This is the most basic building block of networking, and it will lead to great relationships with your readers. And if you're serious about growing your blog, this needs to be done in a timely manner. If you're waiting 3 or 4 days to return comments, your readers have most likely forgotten what they may have said in the first place.

At some point, your blog will grow and reach a place that returning 20-30+ comments each night is just not doable. In those cases, I recommend replying via email to as many comments as you can. Read each one, appreciate them, and move on.

Week 7: Fitting it All In

The honest truth? You can't. You can't be everything to everyone, all the time. When life comes calling, you have to answer. If you've put in the time to build a loyal readership, they know that you can't blog about life if you aren't living it.

Week 8: Why Word Verification is Bad

Word Verification (click over if you don't know what that is!) is awful, the bane of most bloggers' existences. Please take it off your blog. You will have happy readers.

Week 9: Adding Your Email Address to Your Blogger Account

Really, those "noreply-comment@blogger.com" emailed comments are just as bad as seeing Word Verification on your blog. Busy bloggers don't like having to click through 10 hoops to answer a question that could be taken care of in a simple email.

That's the series in a wee nutshell. If you are a new blogger, I really recommend reading through it. These are all things I've learned during my time blogging...I wish someone had shared these thoughts with me when I first started out!

Here are a few fantastic Resources that I found helpful:
1. 10 Techniques to Get More Comments on Your Blog (via ProBlogger)
2. Comment Love (via Thrifty Decor Chick)
3. 10 Tips for New Bloggers (via Southern Hospitality)
4. Blog Unto Others How You Would Have Them Blog Unto You 1 (via The Stories of A to Z)
5. Blog Unto Others, part 2 (via The Stories of A to Z)

I have fun ideas for two new series...the trouble is that I can't decide which one to do next...so tune in next week to see what I decide on.

Thank you for sticking with me throughout this series!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Do You Remember?

"In Flanders field the poppies blow
Between crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."

-John McCrae, 1915

We all enjoy our days off from work and school, our barbecues, and our Memorial Day sales...but don't forget the men and women who died to make our wonderful American lifestyles possible. Take a moment today to thank God for the blessing of living in the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

More Highlighted Links--Share Your Best Post!

Good morning, friends! If you're here to link up to Weekend Bloggy Reading, it's open for new links until 10 pm (ET) tonight. Please share your best post of the week with us...crafts, recipes, home decor, book reviews--all kinds of posts are welcome.

*If you join up and link back to me within your post (with a link back or my party button, whichever you prefer), you'll earn an extra entry in the Giveaway for a set of vintage European skeleton keys.

I got be a "Centsational" talent scout for Kate again this week. Did we feature you? Click over to see this week's edition of The Best of the Blogosphere at Centsational Girl!

Here are a few links from Weekend Bloggy Reading that caught my eye!

~Guest Room Redo

~Microwave Cart to Lemonade Stand

~Turkey Apple Avocado Sandwich

~How to Organize Your Blog

~Sea Glass Monogram Tutorial

*Please, if you haven't already, take a few moments to visit a few of the other links from the party if you linked up this weekend. I love hosting, and I love commenting on posts...but it's no fun for anyone if we just have stale links sitting around. Get out there and find some fun reads! {wink}

Did I feature you today? If the answer is "yes," feel free to grab this button for your sidebar!
Featured At Serenity Now

Enjoy your day off tomorrow (if you have one). T always works Memorial Day, so the girls and I plan on hanging out, maybe hitting the pool, and perhaps crashing a barbecue. Enjoy your day!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Highlighted Weekend Links-- Share Your Best Post!

Happy Saturday! I hope you're enjoying your weekend. Please pop in to link up YOUR best post of the week at my Weekend Bloggy Reading party. Open for new links until Sunday at 10 pm (ET).

*Don't forget that if you join the party and add a link back or my party button within your post, you'll get an extra automatic entry in this weekend's Tres Magnifique GIVEAWAY.*

All kinds of posts are welcome: We have recipes, home remedies, room makeovers, crafts, fashion advice, book reviews, and more! The code for the button is near the end of this post.

Mercy, there are a lot of fabulous posts this weekend! If you haven't yet, please be sure to visit some of the other links from the party and say a quick howdy to those who have taken the time to visit you. That's how a good blog party works--lots of participation. Otherwise we just have a bunch of stagnant links, and that's no fun for anyone! I'd also really appreciate it if you'd take the time to link back to me within your post(s)...I like to return the favor by Featuring the bloggers who follow through with good old fashioned blogging etiquette!

Keep reading to see just a few of the posts that caught my eye so far:

~Ruffled Shower Curtain

~Crayon Teachers Gifts

~Slammin' Salmon

~A Trip to Italy in Photos

~DIY Checkbook Covers

~Almond Danish Swirls

So, what did you have up your sleeve this week? Come by and share it with us here! Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers' work too. Here's the button in case you'd rather use that than a link back.
Weekend Bloggy Reading

I'm working at commenting as well as balancing my family and fun time this weekend...thanks for your patience!

If I've featured you, feel free to snag this button for your blog:
Featured At Serenity Now

I'll be back tomorrow with more Highlights!

Friday, May 27, 2011

::Weekend Bloggy Reading:: Link Up!

Welcome to Weekend Bloggy Reading. I hope you'll link up your best post of the week today, and maybe leave me some comment love!

All kinds of posts are welcome--recipes, crafts, funny stories, home decor, etc.; but please do not link to Etsy shops, businesses, items for sale, etc. (I have a Sponsors section, if you'd like to Advertise with me.)

Here are a few of my faves from this week:
sources listed below

~I wanted to save Jen's tutorial for a J Crew Inspired Threaded Necklace for Christmas gift ideas.

~How sweet is this Fairy Garden Party?

~Malia's Lemon Velvet Cake looks sublime!

~Mama Kat's Top 10 List of Summer Don'ts had me laughing out loud. 

~And me? This week featured:
  • My kids are Swingers
  • Commenting 101: Why you need to use your email account with Blogger!
  • My Summer Reading List
  • Current GIVEAWAYClick over and enter to Win a set of Vintage European Skeleton Keys from Tres Magnifique!
  • Earn an extra entry in this week's Giveaway by linking up to this party and including a link back or my party button within your post
Time to link up your best post of the week (please take the time to include a link-back or my party button and visit some of the other participants!)

Here's the button code if you'd prefer to use that rather than a link-back:
Weekend Bloggy Reading

Party is open until 10 pm (ET) on Sunday night.

Remember that blog parties work best when bloggers participate, so if you have a chance to visit a few of the other links, you might find a new friend or two!

Today is Natalie's last day of preschool. We're going out to dinner for a belated "graduation" celebration, but I'm not sure I'm ready for summer yet! The girls have been at each other's throats all week...and now 3 more months of it? No plans as of yet for Memorial Day. T always works, so the girls and I usually hang out.

What are you up to this weekend?

Hope to be back this weekend with some highlights from Weekend Bloggy Reading!

(This Code is for blogs featured today!):
Featured At Serenity Now

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tres Magnifique :: Giveaway

Have you ever shopped a yard sale, estate sale, or flea market in your hometown and wondered about the history behind the pieces you bring home? You might come across a retro lamp or a vintage metal locker basket...but imagine stumbling upon a package of skeleton keys and knowing there's a possibility that your purchase may have once unlocked a centuries old wardrobe or chest that held a wedding trousseau. Or maybe they opened a door in one of the many majestic castles that dot the European landscape.

One of my sponsors is hosting a Giveaway today that offers you a bit of mysterious history--it's up to you to imagine the possibilities!

Tres Magnifique is an Etsy shop featuring items specially selected from European flea markets!

Mom in High Heels (MIHH--her real name is hard to pronounce!), who has a blog of the same name and lives in Germany, opened Tres Magnifique in 2009. The shop is named for a French cafe she enjoyed during her college years, and most of her pieces are finds from her flea market shopping trips in France and Germany! As a blogger, MIHH sees the home decor trends around the blogosphere and shops for similar items, as well as pieces she'd want to see displayed in her own home.

MIHH is able to keep her shop prices low because antiques are so plentiful in Europe , ranging in time periods from "modern to ridiculously old." Most items are shipped within 48-72 hours of the purchase date.

I'm a huge fan of her Depression style glass dishes. Check out the intricate designs!

MIHH prefers the stylish vintage book bundles, which would make the perfect addition to an any-time-of-year vignette. Each is topped with a vintage European skeleton key and a reproduction French postcard. Lovely!

She also added some of her own creations to Tres Magnifique...check out the detail work on those goose eggs!

This week, the Tres Magnifique shop is hosting a Giveaway for one Serenity Now reader!

You can win your own set of vintage European skeleton keys!
They range in size from 3" to 4 1/2" in height, and have not been polished in order to retain their natural aged look!

Here's how you can enter (Please leave a separate comment for each entry):

1. (mandatory to enter) Visit Tres Magnifique and leave me a comment with the name of your favorite item.

For extra entries:
2. Facebook this Giveaway with a link to this post
3. Tweet the Following (copy and paste): Win a set of {Vintage European Skeleton Keys} via @SerenityNowGirl! Great for crafts & decor. http://bit.ly/exGRtA
4. Join my Weekend Bloggy Reading party this weekend and link back to me or include my party button within your post for an automatic entry!

Giveaway open until 10 pm (ET) on Sunday night. (open to US residents only)

I hope you'll come back tomorrow to link up YOUR best post of the week to Weekend Bloggy Reading. Recipes, crafts, home decor, book reviews, funny stories, you name it. Come prepared to showcase your blog and find some great weekend reads.
Weekend Bloggy Reading

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Summer Reading List

Natalie's preschool graduation ceremony is today, which means that summer is just around the corner! T works a lot, so we don't go on family vacations (like, ever). But that doesn't mean I can't occasionally carve out a few blissful minutes for myself here and there. I'm hoping T won't object to me heading down the block to lounge poolside with a good book once in awhile.

What's on my list to read this summer?

  • Mary Kay Andrews' Summer Rental

reviewed Andrews' work before, and I'll plan on dishing with you all once Summer Rental hits the shelves in June.

If you haven't read anything by MKA before, I highly recommend her books. She combines colorful characters and a delightful sense of humor, with a love of design, thrifting, and junking to weave stories that will leave you wanting more. My faves are Hissy Fit and The Fixer Upper. Get yourself to the bookstore if you haven't read them yet! (She also has a blog!)

  • Karen Ehman's A Life That Says Welcome

The tagline for this book is "Simple Ways to Open Your Heart and Home to Others." It sounds like a great follow up to Sandy Coughlin's The Reluctant Entertainer, which I finished over the winter. It's been a long road for me to learn not to compare my home to those of my friends and to remember that hospitality is not about me--it's about my guests. I am still working on my attitude! I've had this book in my stash for awhile, and I'm determined to read it!

  • Liz Curtis Higgs' Mine is the Night

I love historical fiction, and this is a sequel to Here Burns My Candle, an exciting retelling of the Biblical story of Ruth...set in 18th century Scotland. I sometimes feel like Christian fiction is too wishy washy, with the same characters and the same plot resolutions, but Higgs is a talented writer who gives her characters flaws.
  • The pile of magazines sitting next to my big blue chair
This includes my issues of Southern Living, Better Homes and Gardens, and Family Circle. I love magazines, but I rarely make time to read them, and it's even more seldom that I take a moment or two to rip out my favorite pages to file for later. This task alone could keep me busy this summer.

I'm sure there are quite a few more I could add to my list because I'm a very fast reader (finished the latest Sookie Stackhouse in a day), but my literary goals are to go through those magazines and read a few of my top picks.

{What's on your summer reading list?}

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Commenting 101: Emails and Commenting (How To)

Welcome back to my Commenting 101 blogging series! If you'd like to start from the beginning, please click here.

Today's topic focuses on another important aspect of communication within the blogosphere: Commenting and Emails

We've already discussed one of the ways to grow a network of readers and blogging friends: make it easy for them to communicate with you!

1. Have all of your comments emailed to you.

  • Why? 
It's always nice to have a back-up (especially in instances like last week, when Blogger deleted my Giveaway post. I had all of the existing comments saved in my email box).

It's also a good reminder to visit the blogs of people whose profiles/names keep popping up in your Comments section. You won't have to keep clicking on your blog to see if new comments have arrived. They'll be in your inbox!

Most of all, it makes it very very easy for you to reply to questions or thank someone for stopping by your blog, the way we talked about in Session #6.
  • How do I set Blogger up to email me my comments?
    Log into your Blogger Dashboard and click on the "Settings" tab. Then click on the subheading "Comments"

    Next, you'll scroll to the very bottom of the page, where you'll see a box marked "Comment Notification Email."

    You'll want to enter the email address you'll use to read and reply to comments. Then hit "Save Settings."

    From now on, Blogger will email all of your blog's comments to you. This means you'll see all the spam messages come to your inbox too, but Blogger will filter them into their Spam file so you can delete them later. They should not appear on your blog. (Note: Deleting them in your email inbox does not delete them from your Spam File. For instructions on how to do that, read Session #8)

    I use my personal email address because I know I'll check it most often, but you may want to set up your own separate account with your blog address. Then your readers will know it's you when they see "CuteCraftyBlog@gmail.com" responding to their comments.

    • Remember that if your blog is small and you're looking to grow your readership, a personal visit and a comment on the blogs of your readers is always best. But when your blog has grown so much that you can't make it around to visit 30 commenters each day, sending a nice "thank you" or responding to questions via email is so helpful!

    2. Please (!!) add your email address to your Blogger profile:
    • I'll be frank. When you have a bunch of comments in your inbox and know you only have the time to personally respond to a few, the "noreply-comment@blogger.com" comments are the first to get set aside.

    • What is a "noreply-comment@blogger.com"?

    When you don't have an email address associated with your Blogger account, it shows up like those pictured above.

    • What's the big deal with "noreply" comments? 
    Bloggers who don't add their email addresses to their accounts make it difficult for other bloggers to interact with them. 

    If I want to respond to a comment that came through a "noreply" address, I have to open the email again, click on the blogger's name, access their profile, find their blog, go to their blog, scroll through, and leave a comment there. That's an awful lot of steps for bloggers who receive too many comments to reply to individually each day. You can see why these would be the first to be read and set aside.

    It's even more difficult when a blogger doesn't have their blog linked to their profile or they have their profile set to private. I can't contact you if you don't meet me halfway!

    • You're more likely to get a response from bloggers if you have an email account associated with your Blogger account.

    • How do I add my email address to my Blogger Profile?
    Log in to your Blogger Dashboard and click on "Edit Profile" on the left side of the screen:

      Once you're on the editing page, be sure to check the boxes that say "Share my Profile" and "Show Email Address" and enter your email address in the space provided. Save the changes at the bottom of the page before exiting.

      By following a few simple steps, you will make yourself more credible in the blogging community, and you'll be able to further engage your readers and the bloggers whose sites you regularly comment on.

      I'll be back next week with a wrap up of the series and some links to other resources. Then I'll have a whole new series to start for you!

      {Have you added your email to your Blogger profile yet?}

      Blessings Unlimited Giveaway Winner

      I am so, so happy that I saved all of the emailed comments from the Blessings Unlimited Giveaway because one of the deleted ones ended up winning!

      The winner of the Serenity Pillow Cover from my shop is #14, Dominique from Craft Couture. Dominique, please send me an email (amandaserenitynow{at}gmail{dot}com) by Thursday at 5 pm!

      If you have been crushing on the Pillow covers, don't forget that you can purchase the Peacefulness Pillow Cover for just $9.00 this month. Be sure to click on the "Online Special" link on the shop's sidebar!

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