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When I first sat down to start this blog, I didn't know anything about blogging. I just wanted a vehicle to interact with other bloggers about books that I had read or wanted to read. But I also knew that there were other things I wanted to share on this blog. So I made a list on a scrap of paper that went something like this:
These were subjects that I cared about and thought it might be fun to write about, share or experience. Some were things I cared more about. Others were things Andy felt stronger about. They were a way to categorize our overall interests. In making that list I created the labels that I would use for the base of our blog. This accidental decision led to a structure that was easy for readers to work with and one that helped me to follow a framework and analyze the direction our thoughts were trending.
Over time, I have added a few more labels to capture some other topics that weren't originally part of the plan - such as On Blogging. A flexible structure keeps things from crumbling, after all. It also allows for creative freedom rather than rigid work.
The labels that I set in place became the impetus for creating the posts I wanted to write and have helped me to stay on track with my desire for this blog's overall purpose. Having a manageable set of 10-15 labels makes it easy for me to work within but it also makes it easy for visitors to find their way to the topics that interest them most. There are no guessing games or never-ending lists of labels to peruse through and interpret. They see what we offer, click on the label and check out what they want.
You can be creative with your labels and still have them work in an effective way. No one says you have to be plain vanilla like me. You can be witty if you like. I enjoy labels that crack me up. They make me want to read the posts within them. But I do feel that too many labels is counterproductive. We hear time and again that blog visitors are skimmers. Blog readers have patience and I firmly believe that a lengthy post is not a deterrent. But turning a visitor into a reader is a different matter.
I have limited time to explore the blogosphere. I want to know what your blog is all about as quickly as possible. I want a snapshot of your personality, your purpose. It helps me to see if you are a place that I want to come back to and spend more time with later. Labels help to accomplish this goal. But if there are 50 different labels to sift through in a cloud my mind turns blurry and off I go to somewhere that doesn't make me work so hard to find my way.
You can make hundreds of labels that can be useful to you behind the scenes or for your own entertainment. The beauty is that you can pick and choose the ones that get displayed publicly. I've got tons of them living behind the scenes. They help me quickly pull up an archived series or set of thoughts on a specific topic. Depending on the blog platform that you use, they could be called labels, categories, tags, etc. There are ways to keep some behind the scenes and others out front and center by modifying the settings of your tabs, widgets, sidebar, plug-ins or what have you.
Think about your blog's purpose; your goals. Use those basic ideas to set your overall labels. And let them guide you to inspiration, evaluation and clarity. Let them turn visitors into readers. And enjoy the relationships that brings.