Thursday, 13 February 2014

Making Sense of this Blog Writing Thing Part One - Choosing a Platform

                              Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Let me be clear. There is a mountain of information out there for anyone starting a blog. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here. Anything I've got to say on the subject has been covered by others. So why write another article on the subject? Simple. Clarity. In my journey to become a blog writer I had to rifle through hundreds of web pages, and conduct countless searches on Google to find what I was looking for. Some sites were very good, others not so much. Very few of them were what I would term comprehensive. That's the challenge I've set for myself here.

What do I need to include to give anyone starting a blog a firm foundation going forward? So my goal is to produce the most comprehensive set of articles I can. These posts will get you started, they won't provide great depth on any one subject, but will give you a good overview of blogging as a whole. Hopefully from here you'll have a good idea of what you need to do next, and I will include links to as many resources as possible. Good luck!


Blogging Platforms

Probably the most common blogging platforms are Wordpress.org, Wordpress.com, and Blogger. There are others out there which you're welcome to explore, such as Tumblr and blog.com, but these are the ones I'll cover here.

What I found really confusing when starting out was why there was a Wordpress.org and a Wordpress.com? What the heck? They both have similar logos, they must be the same thing right? No. They're not. They are both based on the same software, but beyond that they diverge.

Wordpress.com will actually host your site for you and it's completely free. It has a lot of themes you can choose from, but you cannot add your own. You're also limited in the ability to customize your site, and you can't add plugins of your own. Although there are quite a few available.

Also, because your site will be hosted by Wordpress.com, you won't be able to choose your own site name. Instead you will have to choose a name that includes Wordpress.com. For example, my own Wordpress.com's address is allancalder.wordpress.com. Is this a limitation? I think it depends on what you intend to do with the site, and where you're at with your blogging journey.

Wordpress.org on the other hand is much more customizable. There are countless themes and plugins available. You can also modify the code yourself to create a site that truly is whatever you want it to be, and you can upload everything to your own domain. This of course will cost money. You will have to find your own web hosting and pay annual fees for your exclusive domain.

Most of the advice you will receive on the subject will suggest that it's vital to run out and find your own web hosting and purchase your own domain name. So Wordpress.org is clearly the best choice right? Not so fast! It really depends on how far along your blogging journey you are.

If you are creating a blog for an established business then Wordpress.org is probably for you. There are obvious advantages to having your business name as the URL for your blog. It's professional, it's clean, and it will be easier for your customers to remember. But what about the newbie?

If you are creating a blog for a brand new business, or you just want to create a blog to share your opinions and interests why would you rush into a paid service? Take advantage of the free services available to you. You can always transfer your blog down the road if your business (or blog) takes off. Yes, the URL will change, but if your careful with the transition you can make this relatively seamless for your followers. Don't rush out and waste your money!

So what about Blogger? This is also a free service with similar limitations to Wordpress.com. You can't customize the code and you are limited to plugins and themes provided by Google. Yes, Blogger is owned by Google. You also end up with a long URL that ends with blogspot.com. Once again, if you are looking to create  a professional site for an established business this is probably not the route for you.

However, if you're just starting out or you simply want to create a blog to explore your creative side, Blogger is a great option. It's easy to use, and you can be up and running in no time. It's also easy to monetize your blog using Google AdSense or an Amazon Associates plugin to make a little extra money. To be clear other blogging platforms will also allow you to monetize your blog. This isn't something exclusively available on the Blogger platform, but it is seamlessly integrated with it because  Blogger and AdSense are both owned by Google.

Other blog services you might want to consider:

SquareSpace
TypePad
Tumblr
Blog.com

These all have their advantages, but as this post is primarily concerned with the Newbie I've kept the discussion to the most popular, and in my opinion, simplest to use services. There really are a lot of choices and it's up to you to decide what's right for you! In the next part of this series of articles I'll take a look at the use of RSS feeds to help increase traffic to your site. Good luck in your blogging adventure! If you have any questions please leave a comment.