A couple of weeks ago I let you know that Google is going to discontinue the Google Friend Connect support for non-blogspot blogs. It is expected that it will be discontinued on all blogs not long after. So what alternatives are there to follow all your friends blogs in the most effective and fun way?
Many of you asked me to keep you updated and help you find new ways to keep tabs on your favorite blogs. Well I am hear to serve and share my experiences. I decided that I just have to much to tell you to cram it all into one post. So today I’ll focus on what a feed Reader is and how you can use it to follow your blogs. Come back in a few days for part two where I’ll explain all the neat tricks and fun ways you can use Google Reader to read blogs. And if I haven’t convinced you of the benefits of Google Reader by then, I’ll give you lots of alternatives in part three.
So todays topic is:
What is the best way to follow blogs?
First things first, let me recap this for you a bit, what am I talking about?
“What is Google Friend Connect and why should I mind that it is disappearing?”
I am talking about this cool thing almost everybody has on their blog:
The followers gadget. By clicking follow, your smiling face gets added to the list of followers and new posts of the blog in question get delivered to your Blogger dashboard.
And if you had it set up that way, they would be added to your dynamic Blogroll in your sidebar too.
I think a lot of us are going to miss the followers gadget, whether it is because it was such a handy way to add blogs to your reading list or because we all got a kick out of seeing that number go up, missed it will be.
As to why Google is doing this? We can only speculate but chances are it’s because it wasn’t used the way Google had hoped and they are now trying to get us all to use Google+.
So what are we to do then? Not to worry there are alternatives.
Okay for many of you this will be old stuff,but the comments and questions I got after my last post on this subject made me realize that so many new bloggers just don’t know this stuff. So hang in there while I explain the basics.
What the followers gadget does, and any other blog reading tool, is to catch the RSS feed your blog sends out.
“RSS feed?!, I don’t have a feed, I write posts.”
Yup, you write posts and every time you do your blog sends out a message to the world that there is something new to read at your place. You can compare your RSS feed with a press release that is send out to many different media outlets in the world. The message can be a short summary of the big news with an inviting headline to check in to hear more (that would be a truncated feed in blog terms) or it could be a complete countdown of the news that can then be republished by newspapers, radio stations or TV programs.
Blog readers or RSS feed readers are the collectors of news items that blogs send out and they serve them up to you in the style that you choose.
There are many different blog readers out there and they all have there own set of benefits and limitations.
Why is it so darn useful to use a reader?
Well if you want to keep up with your favorite blogs, and if you are anything like me, that is a long list, you could manually click over to them from a folder you keep on your desktop. You click the direct link and you hope they have updated since you last was there, and you hope the post is to your liking. And then you click on to the next one. And you’ll never get around to clicking on the last one, and you’ll be forever missing out the good posts, or hitting blogs that haven’t updated in a while and wasting precious reading time.
10 reasons why you should use a blog reader:
It is easy, often one click to add a new blog to your reading list
It is easy to organize your list of blogs in categories, so for instance you could do all your ‘garden blog’ reading in one go when you feel like it.
The reader tells you if and when a blog has a new post ready to read (no more clicking on blogs that haven’t been updated)
When you have read a post in the reader it will be marked read, if you can’t keep up you can mark the posts as read yourself.
You can see the title of the post so you’ll know if you want to read it beforehand. For instance I am usually not that interested in giveaways or product reviews (living in Europe makes them often not applicable to me) so I simply skip those posts and move on to the ones that get me excited.
Every reader has its own set of perks and handy tools that you can use to customize the reading to the way you prefer it.
You don’t actually have to do the reading of the blog in the reader, you just use the reader to keep everything in one place and to know when to visit a friend because she has news to share.
Speaking of sharing, you can often share posts that you really like with your FB or Twitter friends from within the reader.
Most readers make it easy to bookmark (or star) posts that you will want to come back too.
Most readers are internet services which means that you can access your reading list wherever you are and on your mobile device too (great for blog reading while sitting in the dentist waiting room).
“Okay you have convinced me, so what do I do next?”
Sign up with your reader of choice. For the sake simplicity I am going to explain Google Reader to you first.
Google Reader is the most used feed reader out there. And Google has just renewed its complete look and functionality so I guess we don’t have to be afraid that they will discontinue this one too. I love Google Reader so let me introduce it to you a bit more and maybe even convince some of you that said they didn’t like it , to give it another try.
Now if you are on blogger, or have a Gmail account or use Picasa webalbums (which all of us Blogger bloggers have) you have a Google account. You can find your reader under your account settings.
All of the Google applications you use, or you could use are gathered here in one place:
You can also go there via the short route which is clicking on it in the Google menu bar that is on top of every Google application.
Open Google Reader and you’ll see this screen.
The big red button is where you can add blogs manually (by copy pasting the blog address), but there are better ways to do that, more on that later.
Below you’ll see (once you have added some blogs) a list of the blogs you have subscribed too. In the middle in the big white empty spot you can read the blogs. The right column gives you suggestions based on your preferences, tips and tricks and a short history.
Now how do I add blogs to Google Reader?
There are many ways.
If you are already following a lot of blogs through the Followers widget you can import those into Google reader.
In your Blogger dashboard you’ll find a link on the right (next to the list of unread blog posts). Click it and poof you’ll be taken to Google reader and all your blogs will be listed and you’ll see your first unread post in your reading panel.
Other easy ways to add blogs to your reader (any reader in fact) is by using the RSS button. The original version is the orange button with the white crescents. But many people (like me) have customized them to match the look of their blog.
|Universal RSS Button||My customized RSS button||Centsational Girl’s RSS button||
You can also click on this Feedburner Chicklet.
Just click that and you’ll see a pop up screen asking you to which reader you want to add this blog.
You can see there are several options and Google Reader is one of them.
Okay. Now you can import the blogs you follow in the Google Reader and you’ll know how to add any blog to the Reader you want to receive updates from. Start playing and reading and familiarize yourself with the layout.
I’ll be back here soon to show you how to use Google Reader AND enjoy visiting blogs on their home site simultaneously, what extra benefits Google Reader has and some neat ways to customize the whole thing to your own special preferences.
And as promised if you still don’t like it, in the third episode of this impromptu series I’ll share a buck load of other options with you. I am sure there is a favorite way to follow blogs for all of you.
In the mean time if you have any questions, fire away. I’ll either answer them in the comments (too bad the treaded comment thing is not working on my site) or I’ll address them in the next post on the subject. So ask me…..