Setting up Joomla! as a blog

1/15/2011 6:04:27 PM
Joomla! was not built to be a blog in its basic form, unlike WordPress. However, Joomla! has a built-in layout function called Blog layout that can be used for sections and categories. RSS Feeds are also built in, but we need to put an extra component in place to get a commenting system.

First things first, let's set up the basic structure of your Joomla! based blog.

How to structure your blog section

The first thing you need to do is to come up with a section name for your blog.

You already have an extended keywords list, so it should not be difficult to set up a blog. In my example site I have set up a Section called Garden Pools Blog and the Alias I want to use is garden-pools.

This alias is going to be included in the SEF URL and contains some of the keywords I want to target with the blog.

Once that is ready, you need to create the main categories, which of course will be the main topics of your blog section.

Choosing your blog categories

Again you need to find the right keywords to put into your category names. The best thing you can do now is to focus on the topic you want to blog about. It is really essential that you think about these categories and name them the right way, or you will get into trouble later on.

In my category for this blog I have used the category name Water Gardens, depending on my choice of URL construction in the sh404SEF component. It is possible that I may not use the same category name for the main topics of my site.

If I were to use the same category name they both would get the URL http://www.cblandscapegardening/water-gardens/, leaving one of the categories not reachable. One workaround would be to change the alias of one of the categories, but that would still leave a duplicate title on your site which you would need to change. Google would show it as a possible duplicate title in its webmaster content analysis. You can prevent this by choosing your categories wisely.

Therefore, it is important to think about these URL structures, when you start naming and creating the blog categories.

Stay focused and limit yourself

If you start naming the categories make sure you stay on the same blog topic and keep the terms as relevant as possible. Don't create too many categories as you are going to create a separate menu for the blog. Too many categories will fill your menu with a long list of topics, and the visitors will not be able to choose from this long list. It is also not a pretty sight to have such a long list in your sidebar.

Limiting yourself to a smaller section of categories, which you want to connect your articles to, will help you to stay more relevant to the topic of your choice.

Creating a blog menu

Once you have set up your categories, it's time to create your blog menu.

Start with creating a new menu and call it whatever you want to, give it a title like The Garden Blog as in my example site. To set this feature go to your administrator panel and choose Menus | Main Menu from the menu bar at the top. After that choose New.

Make it short and to the point so that it is really easy to find it on your site. Go to the Extensions menu, choose Module Manager, and Publish the module in the location you want it to show on your site.

The first thing you should do is create a link to the section in which you are going to put your blog posts, and change the Parameters(Basic) to match the layout you want:

  • #Leading is set to 1, which means one full length article to start with

  • #Intro is set the 6, so you have the introduction text (that is the text before the "read more" link) from six articles, getting a total of seven on the blog page

  • Columns is set to 1 to get a complete overview of the articles in a listing that is not broken into two columns after the first Intro article

  • #Links this is the number of links with the title of older articles that don't show on the blog page anymore

After setting the Parameters(Basic) you need to set the Parameters(Advanced) as well:

  • Change the Category Order to Order and the Primary Order to Most recent first.

  • Make sure you have the Show a Feed Link set to Yes—only for this menu item. This option is set so that we can get a full RSS Feed over all the blog categories

For a blog, you need to change some of the settings in the Parameters(Component):

  • For a blog you need to Show the Author Name, the Created Date and Time, the Show Navigation, and the Read more... Link

  • The Article Rating/Voting depends on you, for me its set to off, as I don't like the dotted rating icons

The commenting system will give your visitors the ability to share their thoughts about your article, rather than just rate them, unlike the rating system.

Why use a Full Text instead of Intro Text feed

For each feed item show is the last option you need to know in the Parameters(Component). It is for you to set whether you want your RSS feed to include articles as Full Text or just the Intro Text. If you go for Intro Text, only the beginning of your article will be shown in the RSS Feed, with a link to the complete article. Full Text will show the complete article in your RSS Feed.

The choice between these two is a difficult one. With an Intro Text feed you will achieve two things:

  • More page visits on your site, as people need to go to your article page to read the complete article

  • If your feed is scraped and is shown on a different web site than yours, visitors to that site will need to go to your site as well, so you still get the page views

If you choose Full Text, the scrapers will love you, but also your RSS Feed readers!

Google and other search engines know that the scraped content comes from your site, so you don't have to worry about it.

However, your subscribers, subscribe to your feed because they want to read your articles in a simple and easy way. For most of them it means reading in their preferred feed reader, along with other RSS Feeds of their interest.

What would you do if you had the choice between a click through to the web site or reading the full feed in you reader? In my opinion the best way to go is to use a Full Text feed, as it will give you more readers in the long run.

Separator and blog categories

To separate blog categories from the complete overview, place a separator just below the section link. Simply choose the option Separator in the new menu item and give it a title. I just named it "Blog categories". Now start adding the menu links to the different categories using the Category Blog Layout option.

Make sure you change the menu parameters to match the ones you set previously in the section links. That way you will ensure a standard layout for every category in your blog section.

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