30 March 2009

Using Favicon for your Blog or Website (Part 1)

What is Favicon and how it can help you Blog?

A ‘favicon’ is the little graphic you sometimes see next to a website address in your browser. See example below:
When you have a site to your favorites folder, you will also notice the same little icon graphic displayed next to the bookmark. A favicon graphic can help make your web page stand out amongst all the over bookmarks fighting for attention…plus it also looks cool!

In this post we will discuss the opportunities on how to generate the Favicon, you would be able to use as your trademark later. The following post will present the opportunities of activating it in different blogging platforms (Blogger users should follow a different approach than WordPress users).

So, you would first need to have an icon which you would like to use, bearing the extension .ico format. If you search your hard disk, you might find some icons which are generic. I would suggest that you create one to represent your own unique identity. There is quite a number of free icon editor software which you can download from the net.

Before getting to the point of Favicon generation - conversion to the accepted format and size - you need to have a source image. Note that the image you plan to use should be royalty-free and not copyrighted (meaning, you cannot use Coca-Cola’s corporate logo as you favicon).

There are multiple utilities that will help you in the conversion process. Note that you can create icons in 2 sizes: 16x16 and 32x32. To satisfy the visibility in the bigger set of browsers, I would recommend using a 16x16 icon.

Freeware Favicon Creators

Imagicon is a graphics utility designed to convert multiple image files from BMP, JPG or PNG image formats into any of the following image formats (24-bit):

  • Windows or OS/2 Bitmap (BMP)
  • Independent JPEG Group (JPG)
  • Portable Network Graphics (PNG)
  • Windows Icon (ICO)
Software is absolutely free to download and use. Compatible with the following platforms: Windows 98/2000/ME/NT/XP/Vista.

Adsen FavIcon is a simple favion freeware creator that lets people make a fav icon for their website, which shows up in IE`s favorites. It can use either bmp or jpg files, and will convert them to ico format using the size and color quality you choose. Not only can you create fav icons, but it can also be used for creating icons for programs. Adsen FavIcon comes with notes on what settings to use for making fav icons and how to install them.

This software is freeware as well and supports most of the Windows OS platforms: Windows 95/98/2000/ME/NT/XP.

Png2ico - simple PNG to ICO converter with no graphic interface, easy to use. To create favicon.ico that contains your logo in the resolutions 16x16 and 32x32, you should use the following command line: png2ico favicon.ico logo16x16.png logo32x32.png.

Note that this is a console application without GUI. You may run it through console or Start/Run only. Double-clicking on the file will not execute it.

The software is freeware and supports the folloing platforms: Windows, Linux, Unix, GNU, etc.

Online Favicon Generators

If you do not wish to download any software, you may also try creating an icon online. Just enter the keywords “online icon generator” into your Google search bar, and you should be able to find several programs that you can try. These online software sites now make it incredibly easy for anyone to convert normal graphics into favicons. In most cases, you just browse to the file on your PC and click ‘generate icon’. After your favicon is created you can download it on your Hard Drive for future use.
Selected sites that can be used for online favicons and icons generation:


24 March 2009

Optimizing Images for Search Engines, Social Media, and your Readers

People do not just search for web pages; they also search for certain images. By optimizing your images, you can enhance the entirely new channel of the visitors to your site. Yes, it is true that the search engines are not smart enough to decrypt an image and tell exactly what it is, like human eye can. But you can assist search engine to figure out what keywords your images are related too. So, we will discuss in the article as how the images can be optimized for the best perception by the Search Engines, Social Media Sites, and People.

Image search, by one definition, is query results, accompanied by thumbnail graphics and supplanted by contextual information, that best match users’ search queries. Such information can be generated and submitted by the image creator, by site owner where the image resides, or by 3rd party reviewers.
Places where image search results appear, and are indexable into general search engines’ contextual results, include:

  • Major search engines - either within contextual search results or vertical image search
  • Photo sharing sites (Flickr, Webshots, PBase, Fotki, ShareAPick)
  • Social image sharing sites (MySpace, Facebook, Flyxia, YouSayToo)
The panel, consisting of both image search specialists and search engine product managers, concurred that image search is the fastest growing vertical in the search arena today. Statistics from Hitwise show it to achieve 90% growth year after year, with over 360,000,000 searches per month across the top search engines: Google, Yahoo!, Ask, MSN, and AOL. All in the "Big 5" have a search vertical dedicated specifically to image results, with 3 of them (Google, Yahoo!, MSN) integrating images into some contextual search results.

The recommendations for the images optimization in relation to the main optimization focus are as follows.

Optimize your images for search engines:

  • Keywords in alt text, text around the image, image name, page title. Give meaningful names to your images. For example, GreenToyotaCamry.jpg is better than image1.jpg. Add long description tags to your images. For example: longdesc=”1998 green Toyota Camry driving down the highway”. In addition to a long description, an alt tag should be used as a short description. For example: alt=”Toyota Camry”
  • Preferred image formatting for photos is JPG, and for other graphic image types - GIF. Search engines are going to interpret a GIF as a standard graphic image with 256 colors, and JPGs as photos (because photos have millions of colors).
  • Separate SE accessible image folder.
  • Image freshness. If you’re targeting high popularity keywords, try experimenting with re-uploading your pix, since image freshness is a contextual clue for the search engines and might affect relevancy.
  • Enabled image search option at Google webmaster tool.
  • Reasonable image file size. But note that the bigger images usually have a higher priority than smaller images.
  • Limited number of images per page.
  • Popular and reliable photo sharing hosting.
Optimize your images for social media:

  • Use really great images to give your readers another reason to spread the word.
  • Image originality. There is a special advantage to taking original photos. You can brand them with your logo, URL, or trademark.
  • To get Digg thumbnailed submission stick to jpg format and make sure the images can be resized to 160Ч120 or 160Ч160 pixels (Unless you have an image that can be resized that way Digg will not offer the submitter a thumbnail to go with the post).
Optimize your images for people:

  • People pay more attention to a clear image where they can see details (choose high quality images).
  • Clean and clear faces in an image get more eye fixation. (Don’t use abstract images too often).
  • Keep them relevant: images are not the first thing a visitor sees on a web page but they can compel him to stay (according to the eye-tracking research web text is prior to images; when looking at a printed article people see images first; with web page they see text first - nevertheless images make the visitor stay and remember the page via relevant associations).
Gender specific:

  • Women are better at recognizing facial emotions than men.
  • Men seem to be more likely than women to first look at faces rather than other parts of a nude body.
  • Women are more interested in images with more than one person.


Sources and Additional Information:

19 March 2009

How to Fix Blogger Errors while Uploading New Templates

When you start your blogging adventure, you are so many things to learn, so at the first steps of your blogging career you just use basic templates available on the Blogger website. As time goes, you realize the limitations of the basic offerings and disadvantage that your site interface looks like thousand other basic blogs. There are some limited opportunities to tweak the HTML code of your template, but do you really want to mess with it? If you are not sure, just search online for “Blogger Free Templates” and you get many offerings to choose from. New template loading is easy and does not require any coding experience. If… everything goes smoothly. But if not, you are trapped. In this post, I will present the approach to resolve the typical templates loading errors to the Blogger interface.

Sample of these BX error codes are:

  • bx-bliced
  • bX-ev85ll
  • bX-39cc9q
  • bX-y6cz0v
  • bX-982020
There are the following steps recommended for the problem resolution:
  1. First of all, try to upload your new template in the Layout>Edit HTML section of your dashboard. Not all templates have been affected by this issue, so it is advisable to check before attempting to edit your template manually. If you do receive a bX-error code when trying to upload your template, you should proceed to step 2.
  2. If your new template is an XML file (with the .xml intension), browse to where this is located on your computer and right click the file. Choose to open with Notepad (or your favorite basic text editor). If your template is contained within a text file (for you to copy and paste into the template editor), simply open this with your text editor.
  3. Search for every instance of b:widget id= in your template, for example:
    • b:widget id=’Header1’
    • b:widget id=’Blog1’
    • b:widget id=’Label1’
    • b:widget id=’HTML1’
Replace each of these IDs with the next number up. For example, Header1 should become Header2; Blog1 should become Blog2, HTML3 should become HTML4 and so on.
  1. Once you have changed each and every instance of widget id to a different number, you should save the template under a slightly different file name (to be aware of your altered file). If this is an XML file, be sure to save with the XML extension.
  2. Now you have made these changes, attempt to upload your file again in the Layout>Edit HTML section of your Blogger dashboard. Now you should not receive the error code and will be able to upload your template.
Note. If after following these steps you are still unable to upload your revised template, it is worthwhile to close your browser and delete all temporary internet files and cookies. Then restart your browser and try to upload again. Clearing all of these temporary files from your browser will ensure you receive a fresh page when editing your template. The reason why the bx-XXXX error occurs when you upload a template is because the Blogger developers changed the way template editor accepts certain third party code. They have seen a lot of data corruption due to ’bad templates’.

Now, with these advices, I know exactly what to do, when error pops-up. Before, if that happened, I just switched back, choosing the basic template from Blogger database, ensured that the basic template works, and than tried again to load a new template. In most cases, that worked, but sometimes I needed to repeat the procedure twice. Now I can understand, why the problem could be resolved by these actions.

16 March 2009

Free E-cards System Embedded in your Blog

Competition for the readers’ hearts and minds in the world of blogging is quite severe. Every blog owner asks himself multiple questions on how he can differentiate his site from other and gain competitive advantage over the rivals. There is no single way to become a winner, each one choose the trail that fit the site owner personality, expertise, site character and content.

KangarooCards free services might be a great assistance for some sites to provide additional incentives to their visitors.

At KangarooCards it is possible to add a free e-card design and delivery system to any website. You need to set up your own e-card account at KangarooCards.net, install the provided unique scrip, and your visitors will be able to send e-cards from your website all around the world. Because it is fully customizable you can integrate it perfectly into your website.

Main Features:

  • Good integration into your website.
  • Add your own e-cards.
  • Add cards from our public e-card database (25000 e-cards).
  • Services are free of charge. You can use this system on your own website and send as many cards as you like to as many people as you want without any costs at all.
See an example of the KangarooCards system use - make your own sample card.
I created the card through this guest link - click to enlarge:

Developers website: http://www.kangaroocards.net/

13 March 2009

Discover what your readers are interested in with Skribit

Winning blog content is “the must” in order to attract visitors to your blog and create favorable conditions for its monetization. However, getting ideas for your blog articles is not easy. Sometimes, you have a temporary mental block, restricting your ability to deliver interesting and fresh content, your readers are expecting from you. Let your visitors assist you in making your topics choices and decision making. Free service from Skribit will provide technical abilities and user interface for collecting opinions in convenience of your own blog.

You just add a small widget that sticks to your blog sidebar with title “What Topic Do You Want Covered?” And your blog or website visitors can easily type in the topics they want you to blog about and present on your pages.

List of suggested topics is already displayed in the blog sidebar. Here is how Skribit look on a sidebar of a blog - from Problogger Blog (click to enlarge):

Paul Stamatiou created the service as a tool to help cure blogger’s block (writer’s block for bloggers) a little over a year ago, and already it boasts more than 4,000 blogs using it and gets about 4 million hits per month. “For me it is a backup plan when I really can’t think of something to write. If I notice something that has received a lot of votes in a very short amount of time, I’ll take that as a note that my readers really want to read about it and I’ll change my plans and blog about it,” Paul said. “Then there are the times that, for a few weeks, I won’t have any clue about what to write, so I’ll just rely on it.”

Besides getting newer topics to blog on, you can also get sense of what your blog visitors expect from you and your blog.

Sign in to the site and start using it in a matter of minutes: Skribit Homepage.

08 March 2009

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents

I am happy to present a blogging tutorial prepared by "Reporters without Borders" in March 2008, giving basic information on how to establish your blog and how to bypass the censorship restrictions in certain countries.

Blog eBook Guide This publication is dedicated to all bloggers who operate in the countries, where Freedom of Speech is not considered as a common practice. Being born and raised in the former Soviet Union, I know exactly what that means.
Wish everyone Good Luck! Be smart and strong in your struggle. Truth is sharp weapon, and your governments are afraid that you word will be spread around!

03 March 2009

Blogger Help Video Tutorials on YouTube

If you are a Blogger user, as I am, you probably once a while visit Blogger’s Help Center to find some new tips and answers to your technical questions. Blogger specialists decided to go “with the flow” and help those users who prefer visual presentation to the written description. Google Blogger has setup a YouTube channel specifically to show users step by step how to use Blogger features. The channel lacks a big variety of the offered video tutorials. At the moment, there are just 9 clips available. Blogger experts claim that more videos will be added in the coming months so hopefully the inventory of tutorials will increase rapidly.

For your convenience, I am bringing to your attention several of the proposed clips:

Creating Blog on Blogger Platform

Creating Mobile Blog on Blogger Platform

Adding new Google Gadget to Blogger Blog

Creating Podcast on Blogger Blog Platform


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