Category Archives: Tech Tips

Deja Vu: #TechTip Rehash of Featured Images

Deja Vu: #TechTip Rehash of Featured Images

I wanted to pull out some information from one of my previous #TechTip posts and share it all by itself so that it stands out. I keep seeing blog posts in my feed that either have no image (which doesn’t stand out) or has some random image, like a picture of a share button, as the advertised image (which means no feature image was chosen).

Why Is This A Problem? If you shared an advertisement for a product on all of your social media, wouldn’t you want a picture of the product prominently displayed? You’re missing an opportunity!

How To Choose a Featured Image:

  1. Start a blog post. Title it. Write it.
  2. Before you click publish or schedule the post, look to the left side at your options.
  3. Click “Feature Image.”
  4. Click “Set Feature Image.”
  5. You can either use a picture you’ve already saved to your WordPress media, or you can find something new and upload it.

For my #TechTip posts, I always use the meme my lovely husband made. That is the image that shows up in any previews — on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, in the WordPress reader, etc.

The featured image will also appear at the top of your post when readers access your blog on a computer, so make sure you don’t put the same image first thing in your post as you’re writing it — readers will see the same image twice. Here’s what I mean:

screen shot double image

Here’s what my post looks like when it’s shared on social media (by me or anyone else!):

screen shot vanessa

My featured image — the one I chose — is prominently displayed and looks appealing!

tech tips from gtl

#TechTip #WordPress : #Widgets & Blogrolls

#TechTip #WordPress : #Widgets & Blogrolls

Welcome back! This is my 4th installment of #TechTip Thursdays, and I’m so glad that many have you have found my advice useful. I am not strictly a technophile, so I do my best to explain things without using too much jargon. Which leads me to today’s topic: widgets.

Problem: You have no idea what a widget is or how to use them.

When I first heard the word “widget,” I was like, “Nope, not for me.” Mainly, it was because I didn’t know what a widget is! Wikipedia defines a Widget as “a small application with limited functionality that can be installed and executed within a web page by an end user.” Okay, that’s not too scary, but how do you install a widget? What is its function? Who is the end user?

The end users are the people who visit your blog and click buttons. That’s about the long and short of it.

The function of a Widget is often to get people to do or see something: follow your blog, sign up for e-mail notifications, showcase which bloggers you follow, or let people know which social media you’re on. There are a lot of widgets, and they can get complicated, especially when people get fancy and using coding. I am not a coder. The only coding I do is to make hyperlinks on Goodreads, so this #TechTip is only about the widgets WordPress offers to you.

Where to Find the Widgets:

  1. Sign in to your WordPress account
  2. Click “My Site” in the upper right
  3. Scroll all the way to the bottom to “WP Admin” and click
  4. Hold your mouse over “Appearance”
  5. Click “Widgets” from the list that appears
  6. The left side of the page tells you what widgets are available. If you are not familiar with one, you probably don’t want it anyway. Look around and see what’s there.

Which Widgets Should You Choose? This all depends on what you want your readers to see. For me, the important things I want readers to see are the follow my blog button, my social media icons, a button to get my posts by email, a blogroll, a search box, and the categories I use to distinguish the types of posts I create (I have book reviews, meet the writer features, book blog tours, tech tips, and misc.).

There are some widgets I know people have that I don’t find terribly useful as a reader. Examples: a Goodreads update, a Twitter feed, “Topics” (that block of words that represent tags you’ve used, and the more often you use a tag, the bigger the word), or a list of comments other people have made on your blog.

Screenshot 2016-08-10 at 9.31.46 PM.png

I’m not going to click your most popular topic and hope it suits me wonderfully.

In terms of you include feeds of your social media — like Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook — I’ll follow you if that’s what I want. If I’m following you on social media, I don’t need your feed reiterated on the side of your blog. The “Topics” thing never helped me because I don’t go to blogs looking for one tag. As for other people’s comments? Without context, they mean nothing, so I don’t even read them.

Whichever widgets you choose, you can drag and drop them to the “Default Sidebar” category. This puts the widget on the side of your blog. If you’re on your computer, you can see my widgets over on the right.

Screenshot 2016-08-10 at 8.36.59 PM.png

My widgets look like this.

There is also the “First Supplementary Widget Area” and the “Second Supplementary Widget Area.” Whatever widgets you drag and drop into these two will appear at the bottom of your blog post.

Screenshot 2016-08-10 at 8.39.09 PM.png

Available widgets on the left, default sidebar near the middle, the the supplementary widgets listed.

Which Widgets Should You Choose? This is totally up to you and what you what to include for your readers. Here are some of mine:

To Archive or Search:

I’ve seen many people include an archive, which lists the months and years during which they’ve published blog posts. I used to have such a list, but I don’t like it anymore. After 3+ years of blogging, it’s too long and takes up too much space. Besides, how often do readers think, “Ah, I really want something from June 2012”? But how will readers find my old posts? I opted for a “search” widget instead. It’s the first thing in my “Default Sidebar” list and is a basic search box. Type in a key word or author’s name — something relatively close to my post — and you’ll find it.

Follow Me in Various Ways:

Next, I chose the “Follow Blog” button, which lets readers sign up to get Grab the Lapels in their e-mail. Under that is the “Follow Button.” This is important for my fellow WordPress users who want to get more from Grab the Lapels in their reader feed.

Next, I’ve got the social media icons. The theme I chose for my blog (that colorful painted-looking background) makes the icons small. I’ll deal with it, because I love the background. WordPress prompts you to easily set up your social media if you choose that widget.

Categories for Easy Navigation:

If readers are coming for one thing, they can click a category and skip everything else. Some readers come to Grab the Lapels just for the #TechTips. They don’t want book reviews, and that’s fine — they can click the Tech Tip category. I wish people would use categories more with the reader in mind. For instance, if you like to do Top-Ten Tuesday or Salon Sunday or Bookish And Not So Bookish Thoughts, you could have a category for each of those. Book reviews would be its own category, making it easier for readers to navigate your site if they don’t want to read lists, thoughts, recipes, see vacation photos, or whatever else you’ve included on your blog that doesn’t fit the theme (such as being primarily a book review blogger but including pictures of your kids).

Giving a Shout Out to Bloggy Buddies:

After the follow buttons, I have what is called a blogroll. This allows you to share which blogs you follow. You can split them into categories or just have one big blogroll. I have “Bookish Blogs” (book reviewers, writers, people who interview writers, etc.) and “Bravely Blogging.”

I change my blogroll a lot to keep it up-to-date. An outdated blogroll is useless to your readers and suggests you don’t really follow those blogs (if a blog you follow hasn’t been updated since 2011, you would know that).

I also change my blogroll to reflect bloggers I respect and whom I feel respect the blogging community — they follow you back, and they comment on your posts. If someone sort of disappears on me, I take their name off the blogroll. For me, the “Bravely Blogging” category includes folks who don’t write about books and typically don’t follow me back, but I’m interested in their content. Here’s a simple image to show you how to add/delete blogs on a blogroll:

Screenshot 2016-08-10 at 8.48.56 PM.png

Hover your mouse over “Links.” It’s just above “Appearance, where you checked out widgets.”

“All links” takes you to all of the blog links you’ve added. “Add New” is where you go to add a new blog to the blogroll, and “Link Categories” is where you can create categories (give them a name and description). Not everyone uses “Link Categories,” and it’s not necessary!

When you add a new blog, include the name of the blog, the URL (I always go to the blog’s home page and copy/paste), choose a category (if you’re doing that), and click “Add Link” over on the right. There is an option to keep a link private; I’m not sure why you would want to do that. There’s also an option to describe what the blog is about. I don’t do that, as it’s extra work and I feel readers should just take a chance and click the link!

The Order of Widgets: The order in which your widgets appear is actually pretty important. You want the most necessary stuff up top of your blog page and the extra stuff near the bottom. You also want the widgets to look aesthetically pleasing. There were two widgets I had next to each other, but when I looked at my site, they looked awful together — cramped and hard to separate. Play around with the order of your widgets, and always double check by opening a new tab to look at your site as readers would see it. Do you like the appearance? If you don’t, go back to the widget page and drag and drop the widgets within the “Default Sidebar” list. If you feel like a certain widget just doesn’t look right on the side of your page, drag and drop it to one of those “Supplementary” lists to include it at the bottom of blog posts.

Your Opinions: If you have set up some widgets, which do you use? If you didn’t know what a widget was, but you knew blogs had stuff on the sides of their pages, which stuff do you find most useful? Media icons? Search boxes? Calendars? Most recent posts? Let me hear what you think! I don’t claim to know the best widgets for you and your blog. I can only say what works for me as a reader and try to mimic that on Grab the Lapels.

tech tips from gtl


#TechTip #WordPress : connecting #SocialMedia & sharing

#TechTip #WordPress : connecting #SocialMedia & sharing

The Problem: I keep talking about sharing blog posts on social media, but that’s a lot of work! You want your blog to do it automatically, but you’re not sure how to link up your social media to your WordPress site. And when people share your blog posts, you want to know!

Why Is This A Problem? Many bloggers share their social media links somewhere on their blog. Either they’re got Widgets sort of figured out (that’s a future post!) or they simply type out their links to social media on the “About Page,” which means readers have to do a bit of searching. Asking your readers to socialize with you is a good first move, but having them typed out or in a Widget, instead of linked, is not doing much work for you! When people share your blog posts, for example, on Twitter, they’re seeing something like this:

tweet screen shot

Notice how it says “via @wordpressdotcom.” When someone who follows your blog shares a post, you get no credit for it if your social media isn’t connected — and no notification — on Twitter. You want those notifications and credit so that people can click your handle and check out your Twitter account! (Be sure to put your blog URL in your Twitter profile!)

When I share a blog post on Twitter that gives me the generic @wordpressdotcom, I remove that part and try to find the blogger’s Twitter account (in a Widget, in the “about” section… by the way, if your readers are using their phones, they don’t see your widgets). But if it feels like work, I delete the Tweet and decide not to share — and that’s not what you want.

The Solution:

  1. Sign in to your WordPress account
  2. In the very upper left corner, click “My Site.”
  3. Scroll down to “Sharing.” It looks like this:

screen shot sharing

Now you’re in a place that looks like this:

screen shot connect.png

The three main social media platforms on which I focus are Twitter, Google +, and Facebook. You have to have an account to the social media you connect. You may notice that my Facebook is not connected, and I’ll get to that in a moment. You may not see all of the social media you use in the list above. WordPress is designed to be “just the basics,” and they’ve chosen these connections for that reason (and others). If you want to add, for example, Instagram, that’s a different #TechTip post.

Why Isn’t My Facebook Connected? When I had WordPress automatically share for me to Facebook, it did so in a sloppy fashion that irked me. Here is what a post shared by WordPress looked like:

screen shot long FB

Basically, you get the first chunk you wrote (this is supposed to be an interview, but the formatting is all gone!). Readers are told how many more words there are and see a URL. None of that is appealing, snappy, or necessary to me. It looks bloated. Instead, on the day a blog post goes live, I head over to and share my own post by clicking the Facebook icon. A box pops up asking me what I want to do. I quickly copy and paste a line I enjoyed from my post, or one I think will catch people’s attention, and I hit share to my Facebook page. There’s no notification or word count or URL in the way, either. Is this extra work? Yes — though it doesn’t take nearly as long as you’d think. Am I happy? Yes. Here is what my Facebook post for Anne of the Island looked like after I shared it yesterday:

screen shot anne.png

I put in a quote from the review that I found funny. There is no URL or extra words or an automatic generator telling readers how many more words there are, which isn’t necessary! Readers can click the picture to get to my blog.


For non-Facebook Social Media: How Do You Control What Readers See When Your Blog Shares Automatically?

This is half done already, if you’ve been following along with my #TechTips. Remember when I said about titles (and shortening the slug)? All the information you wrote in the title is what is shared on social media that isn’t Facebook. Don’t change a thing!

(As you’re writing a blog post, you can click “sharing” on the left and verify that what’s shared is the same as the title if you want reassured.)

There are two other things you can do: choose a “Featured Image” and a sneak-peek snippet.

Start a blog post. Title it. Write it. Etc.! Before you click publish or schedule the post, look to the left side at your options. Click “Feature Image.” Click “Set Feature Image.” You can either use a picture you’ve already saved to your WordPress media, or you can find something new and upload it. For my #TechTip posts, I always use the meme my lovely husband made. That is the image that shows up in any previews — on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, in the WordPress reader, etc. If you don’t choose one, your social medial will choose at random, which can be confusing if you’ve used multiple images in a post. Sometimes no image at all will be included, which looks boring.

The featured image will also appear at the top of your post when readers access your blog on a computer, so make sure you don’t put the same image first thing in your post as you’re writing it — readers will see the same image twice. Here’s what I mean:

screen shot double image.png

Readers will think they’re seeing double.

For this reason, I now choose the #TechTip meme as my featured image and I include it at the bottom of my post as well.

The second thing you can do is, again, on the left side of the screen while you are writing a blog post, choose “More Options.” Under the box that says “slug” (you should know it by now!) is one that says “excerpt.” Copy in a line or two from your blog post so that readers get an idea of what it’s about — or add something new and gushy that didn’t have a place in the post itself about the great book you read. Whatever you write will appear in people’s WordPress reader feed and on social media like Google+. This info doesn’t make it to Twitter — but we already talked about making a great Tweet in the titles #TechTip! Here’s what a post looks like that WordPress shared for me to Google+ (it looks the same on Facebook).

screen shot vanessa

My excerpt is at the top, my title is under the photo, and my featured image is prominently displayed!

Whew! You’re Overwhelmed!

So sorry! It’s a lot of information, but once you start using it, it’s very speedy. Before I click to schedule a blog post, I skim down every category on the left side of the screen, which is like ticking boxes, to make sure I’ve got it all. Takes about 30 seconds total once you start practicing.

Next Week: I’ll go over how to tidy up your widgets to make them more useful (and what the heck is a widget?).

tech tips from gtl

#WordPress #TechTips : titles #socialmedia #hashtags

#WordPress #TechTips : titles #socialmedia #hashtags

The Problem: Your title isn’t doing enough work to promote your blog post.

Why is This a Problem? Readers don’t know what your post is about and pass over it, or you don’t reach out to new readers who are interested in specific subjects, or you’re not tapping into a key reader who could share your post for you.

The Solution: Hashtags and usernames. Is the book you’re reviewing about a serial killer and it kept you turning the pages because you couldn’t wait to find out what happened? Brainstorm some key terms that would describe the novel, like suspense, thriller, murder, serial killer, or detective. Next, you can test these terms out as hashtags on Twitter. Go to Twitter and type in the search box, for example, #suspense. A result appears, so click on it! Quickly skim to see how often people are using this hashtag. Turns out, #suspense is used every few hours, meaning it’s a fairly popular hashtag for readers. Repeat for your other key terms. If you don’t find a popular hashtag, you can still turn any word or phrase into a hashtag, but it won’t connect you to anyone else.

Now, let’s say you read You Know My Name by Kristen Orlando, published by Swoon Reads. I can easily search this author on Twitter, and the publisher, too! If either or both are on Twitter, include their handles in your title. Don’t for get the @ sign! That way, when your WordPress account publishes your post and sends out that first burst of publicity on social media, Kristen Orlando and Swoon Reads will get a notification — and are highly likely to share your review or contact you!

I did this very thing on my review of Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper, who both wrote on my review and agreed to let me interview her! Now I have someone else sharing the good news about Grab the Lapels (the author), a happy author (because someone read and reviewed her book), and new material for my readers (the future interview). What if your review is negative? My review of Marla Cooper’s book wasn’t terribly positive, but I am fair and provide reasons for my criticisms, which (respectable) authors appreciate.

The Bonus: Every time someone else shares your review on Twitter, the hashtags and usernames remain (unless the reader chooses to remove them, which I’ve found they almost never do). Thus, the author gets pinged more times by various people, gets more interested in the post, and is likely to share it or check it out. Same goes for the publisher if you tag them!

Also, most readers who like or re-Tweet my book reviews are people I don’t know, but when I click on their profiles, they’re typically interested in a subject that has something to do with one of the hashtags I’ve included. Earning new readers who aren’t on WordPress is a concern I know many of you have mentioned!

Any social media that uses the @ sign to tag people will tag people for you when you share! All hashtags become clickable links!

The Caution: Don’t describe your blog post in the title. Readers unfamiliar with your blog don’t know if that’s the title of the book, some musing you’ve had, if you’re sharing a short story you wrote, or what. Apprehension makes it so easy to pass on your post. When I review a book, I include the title and the hashtags #BookReview and #ReadWomen. These always work for me. Then, I include any others that are fitting, such as #LGBT or #journalism or #nonfiction. Since I am doing the 20 Books of Summer Challenge, I always use #20BooksofSummer to link me to other folks doing the challenge, which has helped me make new bloggy friends this summer! Here’s a recent title for a book review:

Terror in Taffeta #bookreview #mystery #wedding #20BooksofSummer #ReadWomen @kindacozy

Author interviews require different hashtags. Here was the title of my recent author interview (a series I call “Meet the Writer”) with an author who was visiting Grab the Lapels as part of a book blog tour:

Meet the Writer: Laura Ellen Scott #blogtour #HistoricalFiction #AuthorInterview @LauraEllenScott

The Reminder: This all works fine and dandy if you remember to make use of what you learned about changing the slug!

Next Week: I’ll talk about hooking your social media up to WordPress to automatically post in places like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Google+ for you, and how to make those posts give readers a taste of what you’ve written in words and just the right image.

tech tips from gtl

Like I said, Short ‘n’ Sweet! #WordPress #TechTips : slugs

Like I said, Short ‘n’ Sweet! #WordPress #TechTips : slugs

The Problem: you put in a long title, detailed title for your new blog post, which creates a really long URL.

Example: In 2014, I coordinated a book tour for author Heather Fowler, who tends to create really long book titles! I ended up with a long URL due to what I named the blog post.

Blog post title: Elegantly Naked in My Sexy Mental Illness


Why Is This A Problem? People like to add in quotes or thoughts or tag authors or publishers or friends when they share blog posts on social media. No big deal on Facebook, but with the 140 character limit of Twitter, your long URL is taking up all the space! And, it just looks unwieldy.

The Solution: change the slug.

Example: Heather Fowler had me coordinate another book tour in 2016. Again, she chose a really long book title!

Blog post title: Beautiful Ape Girl Baby book blog tour


Notice: my blog post title is more detailed (I included that the post was for a book blog tour), but the URL is much shorter.

The How-To:

When you start a new blog post, name it whatever you want. Then, on the left, scroll down to “more options.” Click it, and under “slug,” delete what’s typed there and add in anything you want — but choose something short! I like to use one word.

WordPress automatically formats the URL to be:

  1. the name of your blog (for example, or if you don’t own your domain name)
  2. + the date your post is published (year/month/day)
  3. + the slug.

If you don’t change the slug, WordPress uses the whole title of the post.

But What If I Accidentally Use the Same Slug Twice?

It doesn’t matter: WordPresss always adds the date, giving you an original URL!

Next Thursday: I’ll discuss maximizing your reach by being selective about what you title a blog post. Cheers!

tech tips from gtl

#WordPress #TechTips : short, easy ways to maximize what you’ve got!

#WordPress #TechTips : short, easy ways to maximize what you’ve got!

tech tips from gtl.png

There are tech things I do on my blog that I think are quite simple…yet I don’t see other bloggers doing the same things. It got me thinking!

I put out my feelers on Twitter and learned that people would really like some quick, easy tech tips for their WordPress blogs. It can be a challenge to find what you’re looking for, and blogging takes a lot of time as it is!

Each Thursday, I will post a short, simple tech tip to help you navigate your WordPress account and make it easier to hook up with non-WordPress blogs. If you have suggestions for topics that you would like me to discuss, please let me know in the comments.

Why do I think I should be the person to give tech tips? 10 years of being married to an IT person has taught me that most of what people know about computers isn’t learned in school, a textbook, or on-the-job experience: it’s knowing how to find the answers you seek by asking the right questions. I’ve gotten pretty good at this, but it can still take hours to search through discussion boards and find relevant, up-to-date information! I’ve done the legwork, now you share the benefits.

So please join me next Thursday for my first tip! Either “follow” Grab the Lapels (if you’re a WordPress user) or subscribe by email. Both options are clickable buttons on the right side of my page near the top. I’ll share my posts on Twitter, too, but keep in mind that Twitter is flooded with info, and Tweets can get lost — you could miss out!