Thursday, May 31, 2012

Choosing the Best Photo for Your Blog Party "Thumbnail"

Hello, hello! Today brings post #9 in my How to Blog Party series, which is written for new and experienced bloggers...lots of tips and tricks for joining and hosting a blog/link party. You can click here to start at the beginning of the series and see a round-up of all the posts so far. I promise that how-tos and suggestions for hosting a link party will begin soon! Last week, we talked about why linking back the right way is important.

This week's topic is: Choosing the Best Thumbnail Photo

Blog parties are visual events...many times a good thumbnail photo and description are the difference between whether or not your blog post gets hits or not. 

As discussed in post #5, link parties are a blogger's opportunity for free advertising. Consider your thumbnail photo a commercial for your post. Choose a photo that sums up the project or post...don't leave your readers guessing.

We'll use my post about my DIY Monogrammed Garden Flag as an example. When I photographed the tutorial, I kept in mind that I'd probably link the post up to a couple of my favorite blog parties, and I "staged" the beauty shot:

I could have just placed the flag on the ground or on a table, but I thought that it would be best for an "in use" shot to show readers exactly what the craft was. I moved the flower pot on the right closer to the shot for some extra greenery. The hydrangea on the left was actually in a small plastic pot across the yard, waiting to be planted, but the pink looked so nice, I decided to stick it in too.

Much better than, say, this one of just the supplies:

The above photo doesn't really tell a story, does it? It's just some pretty fabric and ribbon...nothing to really entice potential readers to click over. It was necessary to the tutorial, but not my best choice for a blog party thumbnail.

There are all sorts of great tutorials on the web for improving your blog photography skills. I rounded up some of them in Blogging Myths post entitled "Any Old Photo Will Do". I also have links to some great ones on my Blogging Resources Page.

Good photos make good thumbnails!!

(Believe me, I struggle with this myself)

How do I make sure my thumbnail shows up at the blog party?

Here are some more tips for great thumbnails:

1. Choose a simple, concise description so that readers know what you've linked up.

Descriptions are captions under the thumbnail photo that tell the reader what exactly your project is.

Which of these descriptions would you want to click on?

A) Serenity Now
B) Amanda T.
C) This recipe will blow your mind
D) Chocolate Cake- great for potlucks
E) Chocolate Cake Recipe

Please tell me you chose D or E. Some readers will click on quirky titles, but they are the exception to the rule. Most visitors are busy. They want to know what your post is about before they take the time to click over!


This one should be common sense, but the number of "inspiration photos" used as thumbnails is quickly rising. We chatted about this in post #5-- this comes across as misleading to both readers and hostesses. We want to see your work and your photos. Using someone else's project/photo to bring traffic to yourself through a link party is wrong.

It's disappointing to see a photo of a beautifully styled bedroom and a description of "Bedroom Makeover" and click over to see that the blogger is using photos from other websites/magazines/blogs as an inspiration post. Inspiration and round-up posts are awesome, but they do not belong at blog parties meant for showing off your own work!

3. Quality photos count!
Thumbnails or not...large (!), clear photos are the ones that will be featured. I can't tell you how many posts I pass by for Features because they are too small (I can't tell what's going on!), too blurry, too busy, or too dark.

Features reflect the party hostess too...she's going to pick the posts with the best photos!

4. Choose the "crop" option when linking up, but use it wisely.

We'll go through the steps of exactly how to link up a post another time, but when you do link up, be sure to choose the "Crop" option for your photo. This gives you the power and control over how the end result looks.

But cropper beware!

If you go blindly cropping in a mad rush to add your link to the party, you'll end up with an odd thumbnail (note the dotted crop lines):

Versus this:

Careful cropping is especially important for parties that have very small thumnails:

The photo is tiny, but it still gives readers a pretty good idea as to what the project is.

I hope these tips were helpful!

Next week, we'll talk about how to add your link to a blog party (permalinks vs. homepage).

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, I'd love for you to click the "Pin It" button to add this post to Pinterest, or +1 me for Google+. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rubbermaid Giveaway Winner!

We have a winner from last week's Rubbermaid Review and Giveaway!

The winner of the Clean and Dry Plunger is entry #48, hendy

Please send me an email by Friday at 5 pm (ET) to claim your prize! amandaserenitynow(at)gmail(dot)com. 

Thanks again to Rubbermaid for hosting such a handy Giveaway!

*Did you miss this morning's post? Click over to check out my Summer DIY and Craft To-Do List

Summer DIY and Craft To-Do List 2012

Happy Tuesday! Did you enjoy your Memorial Day? We mixed some relaxation with some work around the house, and it felt good to get things done. This is our first week of summer vacation, so I thought today might be a good time to share some goals I have for projects around this house. Summer Home Goals, if you will. These are piggy-backing off of my 2012 Home Goals post....

1. Continue Operation Update Family Room!
I'm pleased to report that I am making progress in this room. Y'all have seen the lamp makeover I completed, as well as the update with the new coffee table. What I haven't posted about yet is a really great furniture rehab project I finished up a month or so ago with some help. It really makes a difference in the room, and it encouraged me to keep going.

Next up? A gallery wall. I am dying to try some of the fab frames from Cut It Out, but haven't placed an order yet. I also need to haul out my slipcover and finally figure out how to get it on the sofa without making a mess of things.

2. Work on our curb appeal!
I'm too embarrassed to show a photo of the state of our front flower bed, but let's just say that I think jungle animals may be residing in there. I'm planning on ripping out all of the daffodil bulbs and transplanting them because they are the worst offenders. When the flowers fade, we're left with tufts of daffodil stems wilting in mounds all over the beds. It is not attractive. And the weeds don't help.

The main deterrent in this project has been that I am not a particular fan of heat. Or dirt. Or sweating. I'm planning on setting my alarm and getting outside early, before the heat hits us.

3. Paint Dining room and stencil a wall.
I was a fan of the red walls 6 or 7 years ago when my brother helped me paint, but it's time for a change.

I'm going for a soft gray with a stenciled wall behind the mirror and sideboard (which also needs to be painted). I think a stenciled wall will add some much-needed pattern to the room. This summer seems like the perfect time to tackle this area, when I can bribe one of my friends to help.

4. Continue decluttering and organizing. 

I went on a purging rampage over Spring Break, and took care of the living room, family room, and kitchen. Somehow, paperwork and toys seem to take over in this house, and it's time to make the rounds again. The upstairs is also high on my priority list. The girls' room looks like a band of wild monkeys ransacked the place (again!), and the spare room is basically just a storage spot these days.

5. Try a few new crafts.
I want to make a camera strap, try my hand at a DIY photo canvas, sew some pillows, and some other odds and ends.

Above all else, I want to make sure this summer is spent enjoying my children. Keeping the house picked up and organized is an important part of staying home with them, but the other items on my list can wait if they have to. I've been thinking a lot about the blog lately, the projects I work on, and how I spend my time. I suppose that's an entirely different kind of post for a different day.

What are your goals for your home this summer?

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, I'd love for you to click your "Pin It" button to add this post to Pinterest, or even a +1 for Google+. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Favorite Travel Souvenir

Summer time means vacation time for many of us. My little family of four is not always lucky enough to travel often together as a family because of T's work schedule, but I've enjoyed many memorable trips in my lifetime. My friend Kate from Centsational Girl asked bloggers to share their favorite Travel Souvenirs, and today I'll show you mine!

When I was 15, my parents took my siblings and I on a trip to Europe for several weeks. It has been, to date, one of the most wonderful vacations I've ever been on. I don't have any digital photos of the trip, save this very blurry one. My mom, dad, me, sis, and front of the castle Vianden in Luxembourg. (Don't you love my Nike swoosh and cheerleader bangs?!)

There was something magical about that trip that sparked in me a real love of other countries, cultures, and histories. In Europe, there seems to be a castle on every corner, and my dad had a blast showing off sites he visited as a boy when his own family was stationed overseas with the US Air Force. 

Somewhere along the line in Germany, I noticed that many of the little boutiques and shops were selling the most beautiful little painted pewter keepsakes. They were small, light-weight and flat, mostly depicting traditional German homes, villages, and pastimes. My favorite was a castle with fairy tale characters. Many of the shops carried the castle, but each one was completely different because they were all painstakingly hand-painted.

My parents took one look at the hefty price tag and told me "no," but being quite a gifted whiner/cajoler, I pleaded for the better part of a week until my dad relented and I got to choose a castle to bring home with me.

You can spot all kinds of characters: Merlin, Sleeping Beauty, the Pied Piper, Puss in Boots, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, the Queen from Snow White, the Princess and the Frog, Cinderella, the Musicians of Bremen (a folktale), and a dragon. 

I also bought a Hard Rock Cafe shirt in Austria, pomme frites in Belgium, and candy in Iceland. Funny how none of those items lasted, but I still cherish the pewter castle.

As a grown woman, I don't display it in the main living area of our home, but it has a special place in my oldest's room. Now that she shares a room with her sister, we'll find a new home for it. 

Choosing the castle was a good lesson to me in choosing things that have meaning and will last. When we travel now, I look for an item or two that I can display in my home or something that is special to me. Christmas tree ornaments from the Bahamas, NYC, and the Caribbean, a bead for my Pandora bracelet from Disney World...

What's your favorite travel souvenir?

*Did you miss my Disney Autograph Album tutorial yesterday? I'd love for you to check it out!

Linking to Centsational Girl

Monday, May 28, 2012

DIY Disney Autograph Album (Disney Craft)

With the exception of their homemade Minnie Mouse T-shirts, my girls were most excited when I showed them the Disney Autograph Albums I made and explained what they were for. I was inspired by a desire to make my own, save some money, and also these cute autograph albums from Random Thoughts of a SUPERMOM. I wanted ours to have a princess/girly theme, and here's what we came up with:


-Small sketchbook or notebook (found ours at WalMart)
-Retractable Sharpie pens (makes it easier for the characters in costumes to sign!)
-Glue Stick
-2 to 3 sheets of scrapbook paper in coordinating colors and patterns
-Ruler/pencil or Paper trimmer
-Embellishments (optional)
-Silhouette SD or CAMEO (optional), OR craft alphabet stickers

These sketch pad-type books are really the best because the paper is thick, and the Sharpie doesn't bleed through as much. You may want to go in later and add photos!


1. Choose a background paper, measure the front of your album, and cut/paste to fit.

2. Carefully smooth your paper onto the front of the album.

3. With your glue stick, add a small block of coordinating paper somewhere on the front of the album.

4. Continue to add another layer or two of coordinating paper.

5. I used my Silhouette machine to cut a monogrammed frame, Mickey silhouette, and "Autograph" letters in a Disney font. I added them to the album with a fun Disney sticker.

6. To make things stand out a bit more, I used a black pen to trace around the letters and add some dots to the shapes. I also added a cute little castle "brad" that I spotted in a local scrapbooking store in the Disney section.

The only thing left to do was glue some ric-rac to the top border and tie a ribbon from the album binder to the Sharpie:

Each girl has her own "mongrammed" album, but for some reason, Natalie's was the only one to be photographed. You'll have to take my word for it that Michaela Byrd's was even cuter. Their first character encounter was, oddly enough, with the evil stepsisters and wicked stepmother from Cinderella!

You better believe they got autographs!

Because they take after their mama, my girls are not particular fans of the heat or sweating. They were not willing to stand in long lines to meet characters, but they did enjoy getting some characters and princesses to sign their books at the dining experiences we signed up for.

I promise...trip recaps, a review of our accommodations, and a funny video of how we surprised them with the trip will come soon! I'm trying not to over-load you guys with Disney stuff.

What have you created lately?

If you enjoyed this post, I'll hope you'll click your "Pin It" button to add this post to Pinterest; or maybe even a +1 for Google+. 

Happy Memorial Day!

As we enjoy our free time today: our hamburgers, lemonade, and slip 'n slides, let's also remember those brave men and women who fought so hard so that we could enjoy this day. They paid the ultimate price... for us!

Happy Memorial Day, and God Bless America!

Back later this morning with a fun craft. Be sure to check in!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

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.

I like to Feature bloggers who not only have great projects, but who also take the time to  link back to me within their post(s). I add many of these Features to my Pinterest page as well as Facebook, so there's some extra incentive to add a link back to this party.

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

*Pinterest users, please Pin from the original sources listed below so that each blogger gets credit for his/her own work!*

~DIY Custom-Fitted Rug via Decorate with a Little Bit

~Rustic Industrial Bathroom Vanity via Domestic Imperfection

~Pineapple Sangria via Moments with the Montanos

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Highlighted Weekend Links-- Share Your Best Post!

Happy Saturday! Please pop in to link up YOUR best post of the week at my Weekend Bloggy Reading link party. Don't forget the Rubbermaid Giveaway!

All kinds of posts are welcome here: We have recipes, home remedies, room makeovers, crafts, tips and tricks, fashion advice, book reviews, and more! The code for the button is near the end of this post, or you can add a text link back to me within your post.

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

***PLEASE, If you are a Pinterest user, Pin from the original source so that each blogger gets credit for his/her work.***

~Screen Porch Makeover via It All Started with Paint

~Rustic Chalkboard via It's Just Me

~Hallway Makeover via Just So Lovely

~Marinated Chickpea Salad via Peas and Crayons

Friday, May 25, 2012

::Weekend Bloggy Reading:: Link Up!

Welcome to my Weekend Bloggy Reading link party. I hope you'll link up your best post of the week today, and maybe leave me some comment love. Please be sure to read my guidelines before you add a link. Don't forget to enter this week's Rubbermaid Giveaway!

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:
Craft Garden Home Decor Tutorial Features Serenity Now blog

sources listed below

~Wood Pallet Family Tree via Delightful Deets

~Raised Garden Beds via Infarrantly Creative

~Pool Noodle Summer Wreath via Fox Hollow Cottage

~Vintage Camera Silhouette Signs via Sweet Little Gals

~And Me? This week featured:

    Time to link up your best post of the week!

    Thursday, May 24, 2012

    Rubbermaid Review and Giveaway

    -Update: Giveaway Closed-

    One of the coolest things about blogging is that I sometimes get the opportunity to test products out and then tell you guys about it. I get particularly excited about items that make my life as a stay-at-home mom easier, and today's Rubbermaid product review fits the bill. Even better, Rubbermaid is offering a Giveaway for one of keep reading!

    If you've been a reader for long, you know that we live in a 1970s Colonial in Virginia. Older homes are pretty solid, but you can definitely run into problems as the years pass. One issue we've had is with the plumbing...we once went 9 days without water while repairmen diagnosed our issue and built a new pipe from the house to the sewer. 9 days! At one point, I had to drive to the gas station to use the restroom. {Shudder}

    Something we as homeowners and parents hate to think about is when the pipes inevitably clog and (blech) the toilet backs up. Whether you have a mischievous toddler who enjoys tossing various household items into your toilet or your pipes have just had it, no one enjoys hefting one of those grimey old plungers and going to work. 

    When a Rubbermaid rep contacted me to see if I would be interested in trying out the new Clean and Dry Plunger, I was in. The site notes that this product will help keep your bathroom "cleaner and more sanitary."
    I was skeptical when I read about the special NeverWet™ nanotech coating on the head and pole:
    •  The coating repels water and minimizes the spread of germs. 
    • Water beads up and rolls off instantly (like car wax)
    • Doesn't drip on your floors after use
    • Maintains coating for thousands of use

    The package arrived, and of course I pulled it right out and stuck it in the (clean!) toilet just to see how this magic-like coating really worked. It was hard to get a photo with clear water, but this photo from Rubbermaid is pretty much exactly what the water did...ZERO drips on my bathroom floor!

    It was also small enough to fit on its own scrap of drawer liner in our tiny downstairs bath cabinet:
    Rubbermaid Clean and Dry Plunger Serenity Now blog, Giveaway

    A few other things to note- Always hold the plunger by the handle, as the coating is affected by the natural oils in your skin. You'll find a few notes on care and storage here. You can also view a quick Rubbermaid video of the coating in action. The Clean and Dry Plunger retail for $12.99 and are available for purchase at Wal-Mart, Target, Meijer, The Home Depot, and

    Rubbermaid is giving away 1 Clean and Dry Plunger here!

    Here's how you can enter (separate comments for each entry please)*

    1. (mandatory for entry) Leave me a comment and let me know why you'd like to try out the Clean and Dry Plunger.
    -For extra entries-
    2. "Like" Rubbermaid on Facebook
    3. Tweet the Following: @rubbermaid is hosting a #Giveaway via @SerenityNowGirl! Stop by and enter to win!
    4. Facebook this Giveaway with a link to this post.
    5. "Like" Serenity Now on Facebook (or let me know if you already do)
    6. Join my Weekend Bloggy Reading link party this weekend and include a link back within your post for an extra, automatic entry!

    My Weekend Bloggy Reading link party will open tomorrow morning at 8 am ET. Bring your best post of the week to share!

    Here's the button code for the party if you want to get a head start! 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

    *Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received. Giveaway valued at $12.99. Open to US and Canadian Residents only. I received this product to review, but was not compensated by Rubbermaid. All opinions expressed are my own.*

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    Why Linking Back (the Right Way) is Important

    Hi, bloggers. Today brings post #8 in my How to Blog Party series, which is written for new and experienced bloggers...lots of tips and tricks for joining and hosting a blog/link party. You can click here to start at the beginning of the series and see a round-up of all the posts so far. Last week, we talked about how to add a button to your blog post as a form of linking back.

    This week's topic is: What's the Best Way to "Link Back" and Why Should I Do It?

    Forgive the length of this post, but I really wanted to share with you all the reasons why linking back is so important. Other bloggers like to talk about it behind-the-scenes, but it's not often tackled head-on in a post. I'm not writing this to shake my finger at anyone or to come across as a cranky hostess, but I have been frustrated over the past year or so with link parties and have thought about ways we can improve things.

    I've seen bloggers fret and complain about "who makes these blogger etiquette rules anyways?!" The honest truth is while there are no hard and fast rules to the blogosphere, there are basic guidelines. We observe guidelines because they make the blogosphere a nicer place to be. Bloggers who have been around for some time care about setting standards. It's no different for any other aspect of life...the "pioneers" forge the way for the rest of us!

    Today we'll explore why taking the time to add a link back directly to your blog party posts is important.

    I realize that this is a pretty hot topic and can stir up some conflicting opinions. I write this post from the point of view of someone who joins various link parties weekly and hosts one weekly. After several years of experience and lots and lots of discussion with bloggers far more successful than I am, I felt like it was time to write this.

    If you sit and think about many of these points, a lot of it is just common sense. Please, if you regularly join link parties, continue reading with an open mind....

    What is the best form of linking back to a blog party?

    Simply put, the absolute best way to link back to a blog party is to insert a text link directly into the post you are adding to the blog party. We talked about how to add a text link back to your posts earlier in the series, and I mentioned that it's easiest to just quickly add them to the end of the post you'll be linking up.

    This is pretty much guaranteed to endear you to blog party hostesses everywhere.

    Can you pick out the correct text link back?

    A) Linking here
    B) Linking to these parties
    C) Linking to Serenity Now

    If you picked C, you were correct. A is okay, but really...if you're going to link to someone, why not just include the blog name and give that person credit? We'll get to the futility of link party pages later in the post.

    In their most basic form, blog parties are a form of Quid Pro Quo. "I scratch your back, you scratch mine." I'm hosting your link about a DIY Toilet Paper Caddy from here to eternity, sending future readers your way each time they click on your thumbnail. In return, I ask you to place a simple "I'm linking to Serenity Now" text link or something like that at the bottom of the post you are sharing. I send readers your way, you send some my way so they can find similar posts from the party.

    Why is a text link back in my post so important? Why can't I just direct readers to my "link party page" on my blog?

    Text links added directly to your blog party post are better for both the hostess and the blogger linking up:

    1. SEO
    I am not very knowledgeable on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but I did some research online after some of the (much, much bigger) bloggers noted that this is an important factor in link parties and link backs.

    I'll share some links to online articles about SEO at the end of this post. Basically, what I've learned from articles and more experienced bloggers is that Search Engines look to see who you are linking directly to (ie. all those thumbnails on my site for my weekly party). When the Search Engine sees that a large percentage of those specific posts do not contain a link back to my site (within the post URL!), it can be bad.  For me and you! If you're confused, Google "do follow links."

    From what I understand, SEO is why text links are better than including a blog button in your post. I try to include a direct link to the party's specific URL when I can, but from what I understand, a text link to the hosting blog's homepage will also suffice.

    If SEO isn't enough to make you want to link back within your post, then consider #2 on the list.

    2. Etiquette
    Several years ago, when I started blogging, link parties were a new thing and there weren't a lot of them. It was just expected that if you joined one, you read the hostess' guidelines and linked back out of respect for her and the work she did to put the party together.

    Somewhere along the line, parties began to pop up everywhere and bloggers started linking their posts up to any party they might come across without linking back. You'd see the same craft post at 15 different blog parties, but no mention of those parties from the blogger. She was getting tons of traffic from these parties and growing her blog, but neglected to give credit to the sources of that traffic. Everyone seems to be in such a rush to be the next famous blogger that they aren't stopping to take a breath and remember their fellow bloggers.

    Give credit where credit is due, and be consistent. It is really frustrating when someone links to one of my parties and has linked back to all of the larger blogs she partied with, but left out the small ones. Small blogs deserve that link back just as much as the large ones. (And a small blog may be more likely to see your link and feature it!)

    3. Link Party Pages don't really help anyone
    Sure, link party pages are great if a reader wants to browse and find a fun new site to follow. It's a nice service to provide for visitors, but it doesn't help blog party hostesses. My Analytics have never shown me any noticeable traffic that corresponded from a blogger's link party page/sidebar to my blog party.

    I've noticed bloggers saying, "But the party link/button on my sidebar or link party page is there forever. I'm directing my readers to you that way."

    If you pause to think about the work that would go into it for the reader, it really doesn't make sense:
    -You write a really cool post about Chocolate Cake and link it to my party. You have my party button on your Link Party page, but you don't add a text link back to me within your post.
    -Suzy Reader loves your post about Chocolate Cake and wants to know where to find other cool posts like this one because she sees your "Linking to These Parties" link at the bottom of your post.
    -So you get an extra click on your site when Suzy Reader clicks over to your Link Party Page.
    -She sees about 85 blog party buttons, all piled together in one big jumble.
    -The probability that Suzy Reader will see my blog party button, click on it, go to my blog, and then browse pages of my blog to find the party you linked Chocolate Cake up to is very very small.
    -And again, don't forget the SEO!!

    4. What have you got to lose?
    Yes, it does take time to add a text link at the bottom of your posts when you link them up. But responsible linking can also earn you Features. You're much more likely to get extra traffic from a blog party feature, as opposed to just adding your link and then moving on to the next party.

    If you are too busy to edit your post and add a quick link back, then you might need to consider if you are linking to too many parties. Anything worth doing well will take time, so why not go the extra step and be rewarded for it?

    5. Hostesses can't be hypocrites!
    Hostesses who ask readers to link back should follow their own rules. I often have bloggers who host their own parties (and have much bigger sites than me) link up. With no link back. Yet they require the same thing from their readers. That's unfair and (in my honest opinion) pretty disrespectful, particularly when you are knowingly adding your post to a party with set guidelines for link backs.

    In that same thread, hostesses who ask for link backs should encourage the practice by offering an incentive like a Feature on the blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or even Twitter!

    Why do party hostesses care so much about me adding a link back into my post? What's the big deal?

    It's not a big deal when it happens a few times. But when you spend hours hosting a party each week, it's frustrating when it continues to happen on a large scale. It's not the end of the world and hostesses don't think about it all day, but it sure can put a hiccup in the way your party grows.

    It is a lot of work to put together a link party, whether you host it weekly, monthly, or even just occasionally. As we launch into the how-tos of hosting over the next few weeks, you will see that hosting a blog party is so, so much more than just pasting some code in your blog's html and watching the links pile up.

    As stated above, a blogger puts her site's SEO on the line when she hosts a party. When numerous participants neglect to link back to her site within the post(s) they add to her party, it can be damaging. People who are serious about growing their blog, their party, and their readership care about things like this. You can't grow a party easily when half of the participants don't bother to let their readers know where they're linking up!

    Many hostesses are invested financially in their blog parties. It costs money to use a linking service (like inlinkz). Even if it's not a lot of money, I have to pull from money I've earned writing articles or finding sponsorships to pay for the service. To help promote both of us!

    Some hostesses are so frustrated with the lack of follow-through that they've edited their party codes to only accept posts that can detect a link back embedded within the post. Others (myself included) add a note to their parties alerting readers that they only feature posts with a link back in the post.

    I can't tell you how many awesome posts I pass by every week because I don't see a link back within the post. I know it can be easy to forget when you're in a hurry, but some bloggers link up week after week...with no link back. I hate passing those posts by for a Feature, but I also want to be fair to the readers and bloggers who take the time to read and follow my guidelines. I know many other hostesses feel the same way.

    To sum up, I know some of you will continue to keep your link backs on your link party pages. Or not link back at all. Is it the end of the world? Absolutely not? Is it the end for party hostesses everywhere? No!

    But it certainly would make the blogosphere a better place if we all considered those around us, reading guidelines before linking up, and offering credit to the blogs hosting our links and sending traffic our way.

    Next week, we'll talk about choosing a photo for your link up thumbnail.

    Here are a few articles on SEO I found: SEO TipsyThe Blog OptimizerPhoenix RealmShout Me Loud

    If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, I'd love for you to click the "Pin It" button to add this post to Pinterest, or +1 me for Google+. 

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    Summer Reading List 2012

    Do you have a list of books or magazines to read over the next few months? Today's post brings my 2012 Summer Reading List. I rounded up some titles that the girls and I will be checking out this summer. While I don't have a lot of time to read, I read quickly when I make the time...Maybe we can compare notes?
    Summer Reading List Ideas from Serenity Now

    To me, one of the ultimate guilty pleasures is to sit by the pool or on the beach with a good read. And actually read it. The girls are old enough to occupy themselves for small stretches, so my dream of relaxing poolside may come true for short periods of time this summer!

    Here's what I'm looking forward to diving into (no affiliate links here...a few of these authors have great sites):

    1. Spring FeverMary Kay Andrews
    Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews (Summer Reading at Serenity Now)
    This one comes out on June 5, and I'm going to TRY to save it for our beach trip in July. If you have never read anything by MKA, you should know that she is hilarious. I am never able to put her books down. She writes plucky, likeable heroines, and I love the style and love of junking that she infuses into each novel. Start with Hissy Fit if you are a new MKA reader! (It's still my fave)

    2. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling
    Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (Summer Reading at Serenity Now)
    In one brief title phrase, Kaling shows us that she's going to bring the laughs. Really, what woman out there hasn't wondered the exact same thing about her friends?! If you don't know who Mindy Kaling is, she writes for The Office on NBC, and she also plays Kelly Kapoor--one of the most hilarious characters on the show. This should be a good read.

    3. Game of Thrones- George R. R. Martin
    Game of Thrones by George R R Martin (Summer Reading at Serenity Now)
    So I'm not really into hobbits and warlocks and dirty people, etc. But I do like princesses, and I saw a commercial for the HBO show, and there was definitely a princess. Or someone who maybe looked like a princess. Also, my brother-in-law thinks I might enjoy it, so I'm going to give it a shot. It can't be any worse than reading Moo Baa La La La to Natalie 17 times a day for 6 months straight.

    4. Continue the Stephanie Plum series- Janet Evanovich
    Hot Six by Janet Evanovich (Summer Reading at Serenity Now)
    I'm getting ready to start Hot Six. I request these from our local library, so sometimes I have to wait awhile in between books until the next one comes my way. They are pure fluffy, fun reading. I. like. Joe Morelli. (Hubba hubba) They were set in the early 90s, I believe, so I always have to change Stephanie's outfits around in my head....Spandex biker shorts and Doc Martens? No! Skinny jeans and riding boots? Yes!

    I'm sure there will be Bible study group from MOPS will most likely be doing a fun book study on motherhood and friendships. I have another great group of friends who wants to do a chick-lit style book club this summer.

    For my girls?

    1. Continue the Junie B. Jones series- Barbara Park
    Junie B. is kind of bratty, but Natalie and Michaela Byrd get the biggest kicks out of her antics.

    2. Henry and Beezus- Beverly Cleary
    Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary (Summer Reading at Serenity Now)
    We borrowed this one on CD from the library, but haven't listened to it yet. Books on CD make car rides more enjoyable for everyone! If your kids (particularly boys) haven't read any of the Henry Huggins books, they must! These are classics. My girls love listening and learning about how kids in the "olden days" (the 1950s) lived. Cleary wrote the books because the boys in her library couldn't find any realistic books about "boys like us." She later wrote the Ramona books (equally adorable), which were made into what appeared to be a horrible movie.

    3. Anything Fancy Nancy- Jane O'Connor
    These are some of Michaela Byrd's favorite books. The girls got a whole bunch of the soft covers for Christmas, and we have yet to read through them all.

    4. Any storybook they pull off the shelf at the library

    We go to the library several Saturdays a month, and the girls seem to enjoy tearing through the children's section in a mad dash to select a book before the other one does. We end up with some odd choices, but at least we're reading, right?

    So...what's on your Summer Reading List? Do you make time for reading?

    If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, I'd love for you to click your "Pin It" button or maybe even a +1 for Google+. 

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...