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The term “blog” is actually a contraction of the term “Web log.” As for the uses, and this goes back to when I first got online, blogs were originally meant to post your daily thoughts, journals and other trivial musings.
The most important and valuable feature of a blog is conversation. Websites are mostly one-sided. People read it and that’s about it. But a blog invites comments, asks people to connect, lets you respond to them and builds a family of like-minded people.
Today, blogs are big business…from plain old marketing to actually creating them for niche markets (knitting, mini-bikes, radio-controlled models, etc.) and flipping them for profit. With the progress and proliferation of WordPress, blogs have become sophisticated to the point where you may feel need a college degree in order to understand them…especially with all the plugins that you have to work with these days.
However, just because there are lots of options and add-in, you needn’t be worried. Most of them are not needed; only a very few are vital for an attractive and compelling blog. The most important asset is you and the most important component of your blog is the content you write for it and post.
This is going to be a nuts and bolts tutorial to get you up and running with the blog of your choice.
While there exists a number of blogging platforms on the web, and while some have been around for a good while, there are four basic choices when it comes to blogs that have been around long enough and have gained sufficient support to become the standards. I call them the Big 4. They are:
- Self-hosted blog using a WordPress platform and theme
Some of the others are Blogagotchi.com, Livejournal.com, JournalHome.com, TheDiary.org, Mindsay.com, Blog.com, Diaryland.com,Blogdrive.com, and Xanga.com. I have not reviewed them here because I believe popular sites and platforms become popular for a reason.
Let’s begin with the pros and cons of the big 4 so you can then decide what platform you’re going to go with. For the record, I use both Blogger and WordPress depending on the situation. Most of my sites and blogs are WordPress (at the time I write this I have 11 of them) sites hosted at Hostgator using domain names I own.
Blogger used to be a standalone platform but it was purchased by Google some years ago and is now part of Google’s assortment of web-based services.
What I like about it – The version hosted on Blogger’s servers allows affiliate promotions (this is a marketing method that some bloggers use to generate income). Has very slight advantage over WordPress in Search Engine placement because it’s owned by Google, but the edge is very slight. Blogger is pretty simple to use and you can get it up and running in a very short time.
What I don’t like about it – It is not nearly as versatile as WordPress. Customizing options are very limited. Worst, the blog web address is clunky. I am a ham radio operator and one of my friends has a blog that actually supports his podcast. He hosts his blog on Blogger but the web address is www.soldersmoke.blogspot.com. The “.blogspot.com” is always there with Blogger blogs.
I need to be clear here. The term WordPress has three meanings and applications.
First there is WordPress.com (check out Wikipedia’s explanation here). WordPress.com is an Open Source software that hosts blogs on its site but it does have limitations:
- Monetization and Advertisements: WordPress.com does not allow you to include advertisements of any kind. However, this needs to be distinguished from a blog using a WordPress platform and theme that you host somewhere else. In that case, you can do what you want with it. It is when your blog is on WordPress.com that the no monetization rule applies.
- Customization: WordPress.com provides a limited amount of space and customization options (although enough for most beginner bloggers).
- Knowledge: WordPress.org (the platform for building a WordPress site somewhere else) requires more technical knowledge than it does on WordPress.com. But you are holding this book in your hands and I promise that using this e-book will solve that problem too.
- Future Requirements: If your blog becomes popular, switching to a WordPress.org platform requires moving your blog and obtaining a new domain name and URL address. Avoid this if you can. While it can be done, it is not easy and with a little foresight, will not be necessary.
What I like about it – Because it is WordPress it has a versatile platform with lots of features, plugins and support.
What I don’t like about it – Versions hosted on WordPress servers do NOT allow any kind of marketing. Most people don’t know that because they don’t read the Terms Of Service of WordPress blogs. Well, you can read them here:
In a nutshell, any promotion of any kind, or essentially using a WordPress.com blog for financial gain, will have your account shut down. So many marketers and bloggers have lost tons of money because they didn’t understand this. It’s not fun to have a top ranked WordPress blog get yanked out from under you. It happened to a very good friend of mine and it wasn’t pretty.
Okay, so forewarned is forearmed. If you are ever going to sell anything to anyone on your blog, forget about using a WordPress.com blog.
Then there is WordPress.org which is staffed and supported by lots of technical people who volunteer their time and talent to produce what has become the world’s most widely used blogging platform. WordPress.org does not host blogs, it provides the framework for you to build a blog but you never have to go there if you build a blog using your own domain name on a website hosting server like Hostgator. Every hosting server has WordPress as part of their assembly of free tools and you can install it easily.
HINT: I use Hostgator to host all my websites and like their service very much. I will show you how to get a domain hosting package at a very reasonable price and how to set up you blog with them. And I use WordPress for all my blogs so I can show you how to install it and set it up. I have two other free books which cover WordPress themes and plugins. See the last page of this book for download information.
Finally there is WordPress, a term that has come to signify the general platform and framework for blogs. WordPress techy people have developed hundreds, maybe thousands of THEMES. A theme is a framework, the bones of your blog. They have become incredibly customizable and get easier to use all the time. There are so many designs and layouts for blogs depending on the type of blog you want. Most are free. Premium themes have to be purchased and some are really terrific. I use free themes and will show you how to set your blog up using one of them.
One of the oldest blogging platforms is Typepad but it’s popularity has fallen off as more and more bloggers switch to WordPress. Back in the day it was a toss-up as to which was easier to use but the WordPress techies have really pulled ahead.
What I like about it – They provide lots of templates and good customer support
What I don’t like about it – They cost at least $8.95 a month for just one blog, $14.95 a month for unlimited. There are address issues again and the monthly cost is too high. You can get a web hosting account at HostGator for unlimited blogs or websites at $8.95 a month. If you’re doing just one blog, the cost is much less.
This is where you pay for a web hosting service and put up your own blog.
What I like about it – You own your own domain name like www.jackdunigan.com, have lots of bandwidth and complete flexibility to do what you want with your blog – advertise, sell products, promote yourself or others, post videos, use it as a platform for podcasting, whatever. It is by far the most versatile and powerful platform.
What I don’t like about it – There is a monthly cost although not much. It is slightly more complicated to set up (not really if you follow my guide and videos which are in this tutorial).
Anyway, there you have it…the pros and cons of each. So, if you’re going to use a WordPress blog to conduct business, you really should go with hosting it on your own server. That means an extra expense that you won’t have with Blogger unless you choose to host Blogger blogs on your own server. It is not necessary as you can do all the promotion you want with them.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s go over the structure of Blogger and WordPress blogging platforms in detail so you can make an informed decision about which one you want to go with. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to set up and use a Blogger blog hosted on their site and a WordPress blog hosted on your own site. We’ll cover everything from installation, setup to actually using the functionality of each.