Adjusting the Blogger Template

Blogging Jan 25, 2006

OK, I don’t want to get bogged down in blogging details. And I actually looked closely at moving to WordPress or even Ruby on Rails Typo, in order to sharpen my ROR skills. But even such a small step is not worth it at this point, because I have to start worrying about different servers and databases. Blogger is very competent, and it has the Microsoft Word plug-in.

But one concession I am making to tweaking my blog environment is I’m stripping out all the CSS styles to see what it looks like bare bones. I’ve kept the special blogger code, but that too I’m going to take a close look at. I haven’t done the Blogger template customization chore myself directly in any significant way. I have done a few light touches to help my people at Connors to understand the SEO issues. I would have liked to have added the previous/next arrows featured in MovableType/TypePad and WordPress. That’s one of the keys to efficient SEO. Blogger offers the 10 most recent posts, which approximates the same effect. But when you look at the Google PageRank algorithm, there are definite differences in how the PR juice gets distributed internally within the site. The prev/next arrows prevents topic dilution for that set of links, but the 10-recent links accomplishes much the same effect in net.

Blogger has an outage scheduled for 4:00 today (and it’s 3:55)—an unforeseen downside. But not a big deal, because I can save the HTML locally (which it technically already is, thanks to the FTP feature), and add the styles back in one at a time to understand what they’re doing.

OK, I’m not a big CSS guy. Over the years, I’ve tended to use table structure to enforce page layout. The common wisdom has gone against this in recent years. Bare bones CSS can be marked up with div tags, which then can be converted into columns with some very light touch CSS. There is an awful lot of CSS instructions between the style tags of a default template, and in putting them back in one at a time to see what they do, I see that the heavy lifting is done in one little spot…

@media all {
#content {
width:660px;
margin: 0 auto;
padding:0;
text-align:left;
}
#main {
width:410;
float:left;
}
#sidebar {
width:100%;
float:none;
}
}

And the blog magically acquires the 3-column look. Sheesh, it’s that easy! No wonder CSS is becoming so universally embraced. It’s hard to imagine going back to table code to accomplish the same thing. The next thing I’m going to do is alter the left over blogging code (after all the CSS was removed) to make a few of the basic SEO optimizations required to fix Blogger’s default templates. First and foremost, is the permalink anchor text. Most popular blogger templates ridiculously puts in the time of day that the post was made. Keep in mind, anchor text is enormously influential in search results. So, it should be nothing other than the same text that becomes the title tag, headline and file name of the permalink page. So, the line that reads…

…should be changed to…

Link to: <$BlogItemPermalinkUrl$>” title=”permanent link”><$BlogItemTitle$> permalink.

And the final step that should be done in fixing the default Blogger template (not customizing) to add a line to the Previous Posts section linking back to the top of the blog. Blogger has this odd habit of letting you navigate deeper into the past by following the “previous 10 posts” links, but not forward in time.

But now, I have a truly bare bones Blogger template. I’ve stripped it down to the essence, removing everything you might consider a Blogger “signature”. Not that I want to obliterate the fact that I’m using Blogger. But rather, I want to build it back up into the look that the MyLongTail site acquires so that the blogging section is indistinguishable from the rest of the site. The decisions I make regarding header graphics, column widths, etc. will be made now simultaneously to the Blogger template and whatever system I end up using for the main site.

One response
  1. Justin Goldberg

    Did you ever figure out a way to add the previous/next arrows? Or is it really not important?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *