How to put a text widget in your blog’s header

In an earlier post, How to customize your blog with widgets, leanpearl asked: “How do I put text widget in my header? I wanna use it for social networking sites’ icons.”

I thought I use my response to that question as a separate post so it wouldn’t get lost as we progress.

Here is my response:

That’s a very interesting question. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have an expert answer to that.

But here are some thoughts and observations:

1. The widgets in a WP blog are dependent on (a) the plugins installed and active in a site, and (b) the structure of the blog theme, ie, whether the theme had been coded to allow widgets in the header, sidebar or footer.

2. As we all know, most WP themes display widgets in the sidebar, and some themes also display widgets in the footer. I have checked the more than 70 themes in WordPress.com, and I have not found a theme with the options you have in mind.

That said, you may wish to check your theme options including its Custom Header, if any.

For example, this theme I am currently using has several options to customize its header. I can insert a standard 468×60 banner to the right of my site name (which obviously I did not do). The banner can be replaced with other displays like SNS icons using HTML, or anything within the TOS of WordPress.com.

In short, the key to customizing your header is to look for a theme that gives you that option – to change the image, to change the color, to change the text or to insert other objects.

Hope this helps.

This is me, of course. Others may have differing views or ways of customizing a blog header.

Let us hear from you.

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How to correctly show off your WP blog stats

When a WP blog shows off on its sidebar the following:

Blog Stats
• 3,000 visits

or worse,

Blog Stats
• 3,000 hits

without any additional information, I start asking: “What exactly does that mean?”

If a blog stats are presented in this fashion, the numbers look like a block of meaningless information.

Blog Stats widget dialog box

I know this may be hard to swallow, but that is the truth.

Let me just backtrack a little bit and elaborate before someone starts calling me names.

1. Currently, there is no method which can claim to produce web statistics with 100% accuracy. And the resulting numbers are dependent on what methodology is applied to generate those numbers. The fact that even Google has to explain the terms used in its analytics and how the Google numbers are calculated shows the difficulty in coming up with commonly accepted standards. You may wish to check out this page as an additional background.

2. Without being critical, WordPress.com in its Support page provided not enough information as to what the Blog Stats numbers are. Perhaps, to others the numbers need no explanation? Or perhaps there is another related Support page which I missed? I certainly don’t have the answer to that.

3. Again, without being critical, the same WordPress.com Support page says that we, the bloggers, can choose which word to use in describing the numbers. The two popular words, according to WP, are: “hits” (which is the default label in the Blog Stats widget dialog box), and “views”, the label “views” being more consistent with the label “Total Views”, used in the Blog Stats Dashboard | Summary Table.

4. The use of “hits” was okay, and even a buzzword, many many years ago. Is it still okay to use “hits” these days without defining what you mean by “hits”?

5. In technical terms, “hits” is not “visits” nor “views”. “Hits” are the number of files served when a web page (no distinction here between WP “post” and “page”) is requested from a server. A graphic, an icon, a banner and all sorts of files that make up a page are, technically, “hits”. For example, when you opened this page, the server’s log should have recorded at least 40 “hits” just on the bullets, icons and images alone displayed on this page.

Given this background, where does that leave us if we want to show off our WP blogs stats?

You may have other ideas, but right now I can think of only two things we can do to correctly show off our WP blog stats:

1. Stick to using “Views” to label those numbers. I will not use labels like “hits” or “visits” if I were you. In the absence of additional information from WP, these labels may be inaccurate information. You may be describing the numbers something that they are not. In the Blog Stats dashboard, the numbers are labeled “views”, remember?

2. Disclose the period covered by the stats. Again, the numbers are pretty much meaningless unless the period to which they relate is described. Here is an example to show how futile and frustrating it is to read blog stats crafted using the Blog Stats widget:

Blog Stats
• 3,000 views

If you are the owner of this blog and you know that your blog stats are for 12 months, no problem. You know what your stats stand for. But if you are a visitor of this blog and you don’t have that same information, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? What do these 3,000 views represent? Are these yesterday’s views? Or perhaps, last week’s? Or last month’s? Or, last 12 months’? And how do I compare the “popularity” of this blog with another blog with only 1,500 views but I know that this other blog has been online for only 2 months?

Any suggested wordings?

By the way, I am not fond of showing off my site’s stats whether here at WP or in my company’s websites. We also do not display in my company’s websites any stats counter or meter. But if I were to show off my blog stats on the sidebar, I would probably disclose the numbers this way:

Blog Stats
• xxxxx page views from (date blog or the Blog Stats started) to date

or something like:

How popular is my blog?
• xxxxx pages had been viewed by my friends from (date blog or the Blog Stats started) to date. Oh yes, they are very pleased too!

A little bit long, you think? But no one will argue the suggested wordings are not misleading. And they are easy to understand.

Again, in a worst-case scenario too, you can present a screenshot of your blog stats dashboard plus some other information about your blog to prove that the blog stats you are claiming are factual. That is, if someone starts questioning your numbers and you need to show proof. About your friends being very pleased? I am sure your friends would be happy to come to your rescue and say they are pleased with your blog!

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End Notes: The WP Blog Stats inside my blog’s dashboard is an excellent tracking and management tool. With the Blog Stats, I learn a lot about my blog. But when used as a widget and without additional information about the numbers displayed on the sidebar, the stats are meaningless. Did I step on sensitive toes with this post? I hope not. But if I did, that’s a risk I take.
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Use the Text widget to promote your posts inside your WP blog

text-widgetAfter seven weeks, I have written more than 20 articles including How to customize your blog with widgets. When I had only 15 or less articles, I did not have any problem listing all my articles on the sidebar using the Recent Posts widget since the widget allows 15 for linking.

But what if you have articles much older than post number 15 which you want to promote and get the most out of those posts? How do you promote them?

I am not sure about others, but I have looked at widgets like Top Rated or Top Posts, and they may not be the answer to my quest. After all, if the posts we want to promote are already top rated or most visited, there is really no point highlighting them for our visitors to notice, is there?

The other approach is to configure your blog Settings > Reading to whatever number of posts you want displayed on your main page. The default is 10 posts. The downside of this method (aside from it being an indirect method) is that your visitors would have to scroll all the way down and may not even notice the article you want them to see. And worst, what if the post you want to show is, for example, post number 75?

Activate the Tag Cloud widget? Again, this is very indirect, and does not immediately display the results you want.

Why not simply be straightforward? As they say, be bold. Stake your claim.

Use the Text widget.

All you really need is insert your promotion text and a little knowledge of HTML coding to direct your visitors straight to your target posts. The top sidebar of this blog is created using the Text widget. See also Personal and more… in my personal website for another demo.

In the hands of an HTML writer, the Text widget is the easiest and most effective method. With the Text widget, you also have better control on how to display your promotion messages.

To me, the Text widget is a powerful tool. Are you going to leave it idle?

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