Setting up systems that automatically control certain aspects of your blog can be a great timesaver down the line, even though the initial time (and possibly monetary) investment may be difficult to swallow.
The great thing about many self-host blog platforms (WordPress and Movable Type in particular) is that they offer a great range of customisation options.
It’s possible to change a lot more than the basic layout if you know what you’re doing (or can hire/coerce someone who does).
Here are a few ideas for automating tasks so that you don’t have to spend time thinking about them and can focus on content creation:
Ensuring that advertising slots are displayed in the correct place is simple if you have a good grasp of the design template your blog is using, but it’s also possible to use a plugin to handle the moving or rotating of adverts, or to only display them on certain types/ages of posts.
Many people use a related posts plugin to automatically display links to similar articles based upon keywords.
This doesn’t stop you from manually linking to related content, but it does mean you can encourage readers to click through to other entries without any real effort on your part, other than accurately and consistently tagging posts.
Most blog platforms allow you to include additional fields (WordPress calls them “Custom Fields”). With some nifty programming (or installation of existing plugins) these can allow you a great deal of publishing flexibility.
Instead of having to hard code repetitive content into the post itself, using these custom fields allows the blog software to insert new content.
Link List Posts
It’s possible to tie up your Google Reader account to automatically publish a list of links from your new shared items. If you do this sort of thing regularly and you get a lot of links via RSS feeds it can be a great way of sharing them without additional work on your part.
Front Page Updates
Some blog templates have quite a distinct front page, often used as a showcase for the rest of the blog (I’m thinking of Brian Gardner’s Revolution themes, for example).
It can be good to include static text blocks as well as dynamically generating the latest headlines, but at first glance the only way of changing this is to edit the home.php (WordPress) template.
In fact, there are plugins (Get-a-Post for example) that allow you to specify where on the front page static text (or HTML) blocks should go, and then insert the content of a page or post.
These are just a few ideas that immediately sprang to mind. The fact is, if there’s something you are doing repetitively on your blog (apart from creating original content, that is) then there’s a good chance that task can be automated.
It may take a while to find the right plugin or to hone the design so that it does what you want, but imagine what it could do for your productivity if you were able to save even five or ten minutes per post and improve the visitor experience.
What things have you automated on your blog?