Category Archives: Blogging

It’s my blogging birthday – 3 today!

HodgePodgeDays is three years old today. I remember sitting with my laptop one quiet evening three years ago. I had a head full of words and I just needed to write to get it all out of me. I set up HodgePodgeDays on WordPress, had no clue how anything worked or what to do or anything, but that was fine, it was about just getting those thoughts and feelings out of my head and if anyone else looked at it, then wow, what a bonus!

A lot has happened in those three years. I’ve physically recovered from my spinal surgeries as much as I ever will, but I’m left with neurological issues and chronic pain. I’ve come a long way from the spiralling mental health problems which came as a result of being laid up for so long. My baby has grown into a boy, a beautiful boy who I fall in love with afresh each morning.

My blog is my job now, I can’t work in a desk bound 9-5 anymore, so this *waves hand around my blog* has to earn me an income, enough to feed and clothe my family, pay some bills and have enough left for the occasional gin. It doesn’t, it doesn’t yet, but I live in hope.

But I wouldn’t be here without you.  Thank you. Thank you for every encouraging comment, every social share, every like. The people who read my blog, who have read my blog from the start, who have seen me stumble my way from there to here, you have been some of the best friends I’ve made. We’ve laughed and cried together. Drank gin, wine, cocktails and warm orange squash together. We’ve applauded our victories and commiserated our failures.

It’s not been the easiest three years of my life, but I’m glad to have my memories here to remind me of how far I’ve come and what I have endured.  I’m equally pleased that I have almost weekly, sometimes daily photos of my son and the things we have done to remind us of our adventures together. 

The last three years have been the best of days and the worst of days, but to me they’ll always be Hodge Podge Days. Thank you xx

blogging birthday

How to set up a Redirect on your WordPress Blog

It’s good practice when you’ve got a blog to schedule in a bit of maintenance on a regular basis. One of the things I like to do is to remove old giveaway posts, mainly because I didn’t like the thought of someone clicking through thinking there is a live giveaway but its closing date was months ago. I had been either re-working them into more content based blog posts, or if that wasn’t possible I was deleting them altogether, which is in hindsight a stupid thing to do.

I decided it was time I figured out how to redirect my old giveaway blog posts to my giveaway page, so anyone clicking through could see what giveaways were live on my blog right now, rather than being disappointed and just leaving my blog entirely.

I am often daunted by a page of boxes to check and things to code, but trust me, this is really easy and will make a difference to your blog. Setting up a redirect in WordPress is remarkably easy and all it takes is a plugin.

Choose a redirect plugin

I went for the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin. It had good reviews and seemed to do everything I needed it to do, so I installed it.

redirect plugin

Once you install it you can take a look at the settings page, but it all looks a bit scary with too many questions I didn’t entirely understand (I always fear that I’ll tick the wrong box and delete everything I’ve ever done) and there is a better way. I wanted the plugin to redirect old giveaway blog posts to my giveaways page, which was a simple enough task. 

  1. Find the blog post you want to redirect and go to “Edit”.
  2. Scroll down to “Quick Page/Post Redirect” which for me was immediately below my blog post.
  3. In the “Redirect / Destination URL” box type or paste in the URL you want to redirect to.
  4. Select the “Type of Redirect” (more of which later). I always choose 301 Permanent.
  5. Tick the box with says “Make Redirect Active” and the click on “Update” in the Publish box and it’s done. (Go on, check it).

redirect plugin

Or for Quick Redirects, once you’ve installed the redirect plugin the option to do Quick Redirects will be in your dashboard sidebar. This is useful when you know the URL but you’ve maybe deleted the old blog post. Redirecting is simple –

  1. Put the URL you want to Redirect in the “Request URL” box
  2. Put the URL of where you want to Redirect it to in the “Destination URL” box
  3. Click “Add new Redirects” and you’re done. Easy yes?

If you need to edit the Redirect at any time you can do so if you scroll down a little further and click on the editing pencil icon.

redirect plugin

SEO

Is there any benefit to redirecting your blog posts instead of deleting them?

Yes, without a redirect, deleted pages just ‘drop’ out of the Google index and you lose any value you’ve built up in them. If you redirect, you retain that value AND effectively pass it on to the new target page. By setting up a redirect you’ve not only avoided losing the SEO value of your old post, but you’ve also assigned it elsewhere. From an SEO perspective it makes so much sense to redirect.

Which Redirect should I use?

The Redirect Plugin gives you four redirect options to choose from, which should you go for?

301 Permanent 
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect which passes between 90-99% of link juice to the redirected page. A 301 redirect is generally considered the best option when putting redirects on a website.

302 Temporary
A 302 redirect is a temporary redirect. It passes absolutely no link juice to the redirected page and isn’t recommended for use.

307 Temporary
A 307 redirect is the successor of the 302 redirect. Again it doesn’t pass any of your hard won link juice on to the redirected page and should only really be used if content is really being moved only temporarily.

Meta Redirect
When I mentioned Meta Redirects to my friend who is an SEO expert he told me not to go near it with a bargepole. “It’ll make your blog look spammy to Google” he said and they will be slower and you will have seen websites with a five-second countdown with the text “If you are not redirected in five seconds, click here, that’s a Meta Redirect. They are not recommended as an SEO tactic due to poor usability and the loss of link juice passed on to the redirected post.

Any questions?

If you’re in the habit of tidying up and deleting old blog posts, then it’s definitely worth looking into installing and using a redirect plugin on your WordPress blog. I went for the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin and I really rate it. It’s simple to use for quick redirects and it’s quick. The redirects I’ve sent up load incredibly quickly, and I’m cross with myself for deleting so many posts when I could have easily just redirected them and kept all the lovely SEO link juice for myself. 

If you’ve got any questions feel free to comment here or Tweet me. Always happy to help!

redirect plugin

My #BlogOnMSI 2016 Ice Breaker

It really doesn’t seem a year since the last Blog On at MSI (or #BlogOnMSI if you’re keen on hashtags) in Manchester. But I’m really looking forward to it, it’s a long day and I go home and sleep for a week afterwards, but where else do you get to catch up with all of your mates, learn a bit about blogging and take home so many goodie bags you need a wheely case to get home?

I’m helping Laura out in my own tiny way at #BlogOnMSI, I’ll be manning (personing, womaning?) the sign in desk. Do bear with me if I don’t recognise you straight away, I have short term memory problems due to my medication. Sorry, where am I again? Who are you? What am I doing here?

here are my #BlogOnMSI ice breaker answers….

Share a recent picture of you (if you are an anonymous blog, a drawing is fine)

#BlogOnMSI
If you had to describe yourself in three words…….

A bit snuffly. 

I’ve got a cold 🙁

How long have you been blogging and what made you start?

Since June 2013. I was recovering from a couple of spinal surgeries and was bedridden, bored stiff and lonely. Blogging gave me something to do and someone to speak to.

What was your favourite TV program as a child?

Blackadder. I was a precocious child and started watching it when I was 8.

Something interesting you might not know about me is . . .

I am a judge at the International Cheese Awards (the largest dairy event in the UK).

What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten?

Dried beetles. It was a bush tucker trial thing. They’re a bit scratchy when you swallow them.

What was your biggest fashion faux pas?

Every. Single. Day. 

I don’t really do fashion, I do comfort, so every day is probably a faux pas day!

What are you pet peeves?

Auto DMs. People who faff and dawdle. People who repeat themselves. Auto DMs.

Who would be your 3 perfect dinner party guests (dead or alive) and why?

Keith Floyd – He’d cook and he’d be an amazing host.

Hugh Jackman – because Hugh Jackman.

My Grandad. I never met him, would be nice to have a meal with him and get to know him a bit.

If they made a movie of your life, what would it be about and which actor would play the part of you?

Wow. Literally no one would pay to see that film. “The blogger in the striped pyjamas” starring Kathy Burke. 

If you could live in any sitcom, which one would it be?

Early Doors. One of the most underrated sitcoms ever. And it’s in a pub. 

Name a famous person you have met

Jarvis Cocker and all of Radiohead and James.

Which social media platform best describes your personality and why?

Twitter. Short and occasionally witty.

What picture do you have on lock screen on your phone / computer?

#BlogOnMSI

This one, the small boy being totes adorbs last year.

How many pairs of shoes do you own?

Millions. How many do I wear? About three pairs.

What period of time from the past would you most like to have lived?

I would have like to have lived in no period at all in the past. I would’ve been some kind of servant or manual labourer and that sounds like too much hard work. If you could guarantee I’d go back as some kind of tea drinking lady with a full household of servants, probably the 1930s.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Scandinavia. I’ve been to Sweden and Norway and I’d like to explore a bit more.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Twitter. I spend far too long talking to the little people who live in my phone. But they’re so interesting and kind.

What is your favourite tipple?

I will pretty much drink anything, but I like a nice G&T.

If you had a magic lamp and a Genie, what would be your three wishes

  1. For my son to grow up happy and healthy.
  2. To have a fully operational spine again.
  3. World peace.

So that’s me. Any questions? Go on, don’t be shy.

How to add a StumbleUpon Sharing Button to your WordPress blog

Do you have a StumbleUpon Sharing Button on your blog? If not, you probably need one. It’s a great way for your readers to share your content and share the love.

A couple of years ago when I was setting up my blog I added the usual sharing buttons which would appear at the bottom of each blog post. Back then StumbleUpon was one of the standard buttons and I added it to the others not really knowing what it was. Of course these days blog posts are being Stumbled all over the place, and it’s a great way to pick up traffic.

Imagine my horror (not really horror, I might’ve tutted) when friend and blogger, Colette from We’re going on an adventure pointed out that my StumbleUpon sharing button wasn’t there and she had to manually Stumble my post.

My first port of call was to Google it. It appeared I was not alone in wondering what had happened to the StumbleUpon sharing button. It seems that the button used http which causes mixed-content warnings and sometimes fails completely on https sites. WordPress.com does not support http anymore and as StumbleUpon won’t move to https WordPress just did away with the button.

I knew it couldn’t be that hard to make a StumbleUpon button, so I figured it out so you don’t have to.

How to add a StumbleUpon Sharing Button to your WordPress blog

  1. Go into your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Go to Settings – Sharing.
  3. Scroll down  and click on  “Add a new service”.
  4. In the Service Name box type “StumbleUpon”.
  5. In the Sharing URL box type – http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=%post_url%&title=%post_title%
  6. In the Icon URL box add the following code – https://hodgepodgedays.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/tiny-stumble.png
  7. Click on “Create Share Button”, the button should appear, then you just drag it down to the “Enabled Services” section.

Your StumbleUpon sharing button should now be working perfectly.

The icon URL will depend on what you which icon you want to use. I just used the standard StumbleUpon icon and resized it to 16px by 16px, uploaded it to my media library and used the URL from that (which I posted above, you’re free to use my URL or upload and use your own).

StumbleUpon Sharing Button

Click on “Add new service”

StumbleUpon Sharing Button

Fill this out, use the information I gave you above

StumbleUpon Sharing Button

Look at my beautiful StumbleUpon sharing button!

Got it? Clear as mud? It’s easy, seriously if I can figure it out you’ll be fine. Feel free to ask me if you get stuck (you won’t).

Now go forth and Stumble, hopefully starting with this blog post (hint).

How to add a StumbleUpon Sharing Button to your WordPress blog

Click here for more blogging tutorials.

Blogging Basics: What is an Alt Tag?

I realise that I may be teaching my (blogging) granny to suck eggs here, but a couple of friends have recently been asking me how to improve their SEO, and I thought it was worth putting a blog post together about Alt Tags and how they work.

An Alt Tag is an alternative title for an image you will use in your blog post. Your alt tag will not be visible to your blog readers, but search engines who “read” your page will pick it up as a keyword and  it all helps your blog post rank a bit higher in the search engines. An alt tag will not throw your blog post to the top of the search engine rankings, but it will help to improve your SEO just enough to make it worth doing.

The only people who may be aware of your alt tag would be visually impaired people, alt tags were orginally meant to provide a text description of pictures, so people with screen-reader software would get a spoken-word description rather than it just read “IMAGE 123” for example, so ideally your alt tags should  still accurately describe the image for visually impaired people.

We all like to add images to our blog posts, it makes them prettier and it breaks up the text a bit to make it easier to read. I use WordPress to blog, so I can only really tell you how to add an alt tag in WordPress, but I can’t imagine it would be that hard to do on a different platform.

To add an Alt Tag to your image on WordPress you can do it one of two ways…

  • Go to “Add Media” and upload your image.
  • Select the image and the “Attachment Details” menu should appear on the right hand side of your screen. You should see a box called “Alt Text”. This is where you put your keyword. I am using my recipe for Lebkuchen Cake as an example, my chosen keyword for that blog post was “Lebkucken Cake”, so my alt tag for that image was “Lebkuchen Cake”.
  • Enter your chosen keyword into the “Alt Text” box and click on “Insert into post”. You have added an alt tag to your post. 

alt tag

Or….

If your image is already inserted into the post and you want to add, change, check or update your alt tag, it’s pretty easy.

  • Make sure you’re in the “Visual” view (rather than the text view) and find the image you want to edit or check.
  • Click on the image and a small toolbar will appear with alignment options and a pencil icon, click on the pencil icon and it will take you into “Image Details”. This is where you can add or edit your alt tag.
  • Insert your chosen alt tag and click on “Update”. Remember to make it the same as your chosen keyword for your blog post.

alt tag

You will need to alt tag every image you use in your blog post, but it’s really very simple and can make a difference to your SEO.

There are also title tags (eg title=”lebkuchen cake”) which do the same thing, but this is the pop-up caption that appears on-screen when you point to the image with your cursor. Another place for SEO keywords and again, keep it relevant because there’s even more chance a human will point to your picture and see this caption pop up.

It’s also worth noting that the WordPress template you use will need to pull the alt text from the image library into the page code. If the template’s not got anything in it about alt text, then  it won’t get put into the HTML when the post is published, so you’ll have to add the alt tags in the second way I showed you. However, most of the most common WordPress templates have this built in as standard, but it’s worth checking on all the same.

So in a nutshell (or 699 words) that’s all you need to know about alt tags and what they do. Any questions?

With thanks to Bobble Bardsley for teaching me the finer points of SEO and helping plug the gaps in my knowledge.

Getting to know me… Blog On 2014

Well hello there…if you’re reading this, then like me you’re probably getting mentally psyched up and all excited for Blog On 2014. I can’t wait!

Lovely Laura has put together a list of questions so people can get to know a little bit about each other before we meet. So, here I am, have a read and feel free to ask me anything, and I mean anything.  I am an open book. There’s a little bit more about me on my about me page if you’re interested.

Name – Jane, but close friends call me Jay. I’m also known as DG because of my other, non-blogging Twitter account, DG has just stuck.

Blog urlhttps://hodgepodgedays.co.uk/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/HodgePodgeDays

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Hodgepodgedays

Instagram – http://instagram.com/hodgepodgedays

Location – Didsbury in South Manchester

Bra size – (only kidding) More than a handful, less that a bucketful.

Kids – One small boy aged 3 and a half. Part tyrant, part angel.

Favourite food? Pretty much anything with noodles, my favourite meal is bean curd massaman curry with noodles. I also live on scrambled eggs. Bring me eggs and I’m yours forever.

Tea or coffee?  Coffee, hot, strong with not too much milk please.

Cat or Dog? A doggie please. I love a faithful mutt at my feet.

Left handed or right handed? I’m right handed but I use my left hand to carry my wedding ring and to feed myself popcorn while I’m typing this.

What came first the chicken or the egg?  Erm I dunno. Dinosaurs?

Dietary requirements? Moderately picky vegetarian. Can’t eat mushrooms and I have an aversion to bananas, yoghurt and anything strawberry, apart from actual fresh strawberries.

Special talents?  Balloon modelling – giraffes and sausage dogs a speciality.

Describe Yourself In Seven Words – Funny, weird, introspective…? I got stuck, so I did what I always do and I asked Twitter, this is what they came up with…

Getting to know me... Blog On 2014

What Is The Best And Worst Thing About Blogging?  – The best thing is finding and having a voice as well as making lots of lovely friends and getting to go on exciting adventures. The worst thing is writers block and when something technical goes wrong with my blog and I get all baffled.

What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done? Oh no, I’m too sober to say, but involves a queue for the bathroom and a sneeze.

What would your superhero name and power be? Snooze-button Woman. I have the ability to sleep through alarm clocks, screaming children, hurricanes and I’m liable to nod off anytime, anyplace, anywhere. I enjoy a kip!

What will you be wearing at Blog On 2014? Not a clue. Though I’m hoping it’ll be reasonably clean and stain free. A fashionista I ain’t. I do have purple hair though if that helps?

What’s your favourite blog post you have written this year so far? Crikey, I’ve got a few, but I liked this one and so did lots of other people………. 15 ways you know you’re a parent

If you choke a smurf what colour does it turn? Purple.

Would you like some cake? What kind? Yes please, coffee and walnut if you’ve got it, or a giant and I mean giant Tunnocks Teacake please.

Well, that’s me, any questions raise your hand. Look forward to meeting you at Blog On 2014.