The blogging toolbox: Where do you blog and how do you talk to your visitors?
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: May 20, 2008
|When I first started blogging, I did what most newbies do. I started at Blogger, the popular platform Google offers for free. Blogger had been started by a small group of developers. Then Google bought the group and the rest is blogging history. |
Where do you blog?
Blogger is easily the most user-friendly platform you can choose. For one thing, you don't have to download or install anything. You can compose pages in a WYSIWYG editor (what you see is what you get). Your blog is also free and you can place third party ads and make money when visitors click. Blogger has a Help Group that is like a 24/7 support service. Any questions you have can usually be answered by searching the group discussions. If that doesn't work, you can bet a forum member will answer you. A member named Webado has helped me at the Google Webmaster Tools forum with many questions, and some of mine were probably not so bright in the beginning. Speaking of those webmaster tools, you should use them. Doing so will definitely help your potential visitors find you. Blogger is a free training ground with unlimited possibilities, especially if you utilize Google Webmaster Tools to optimize your site. And those are just a few of the features.
|But once you master a simple platform, you may want to take a look at other options. In the book What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging and Podcasting (Kaplan; Ted Demopoulos), Tom Gray of Gray eMarketing Solutions said, "Blogger is 'blogging for beginners.'" Gray and other experts usually recommend a switch if you're looking for a permanent solution. Demopoulos' book is an excellent collection of articles with great advice from Web experts.|
I learned to blog in WordPress by doing a couple of freelance columns. Most freelancers, if the pay is right, love a blogging account. It's quick, easy and fun. The money is as reliable as the company you choose to work with. In my case, it's worked out well. I logged onto the client's site to do my WP blogging, but you also have the option of downloading and installing WP on your own site. You can do the latter for free and you can also monetize. But there's no support other than WP help groups and you have to know about plugins and scripts which I do not. You can access a freebie version of WP but there are limitations on what you can do. WP also has a WYSIWYG editor.
TypePad and Moveable Type, are other options. I've blogged in TypePad and the WYSIWYG editor is user-friendly. At TP you get a free trial period, then you pay a small fee. With Moveable Type, you have to download it and blog on your own site.
I recently started my dream blog at Squarespace. I discovered this platform through a book, Start Your Own Blogging Business (Entrepreneur Press; J. S. McDougall). I love blogging there and I pay a reasonable fee for the privilege. There is a free trial period. I mapped my domain name, The US Report, purchased at Nettica, in minutes and within days, my posts were showing up in top search results. I like the choice of templates (customizable), the ease in editing, and the detailed traffic statistics. Support is basic-it's done by ticket which is basically an e-mail setup-but there's a good manual online and I've found most of what I needed there.
Talking to your visitors
Often, people comment to let me know they love or hate what I wrote. I always try to answer a comment, and I try hard to refrain from getting angry at those who disagree. I routinely delete comments that express hatred based on any grounds and I routinely delete comments one blogger (see 'Blogger Talk' below) calls 'spamments' whereby a visitor pops up a link to a purely commercial site that wants to sell my visitors something but offer them no content related to my post. Otherwise, I tread lightly and I always thank those who take time to say something.
I often remind myself a blog should be a conversation, and sometimes those conversations get really intriguing. I posted a story about the recall of a food supplement, and I was amazed at responses from visitors, including attorneys commenting on lawsuits sure to come. This was a story mainstream media didn't really cover much, so I guess my column gave people a place to learn more and talk. Some of those who used the product explained how sick they became, and while I have no way of proving or disproving those claims, I was glad people found some comfort and ideas about what to do. One of my favorite topics is animal advocacy-shelters and rescue programs for both domestic and wild animals.
I enjoy blogging and have seen both my sites draw more readers. Using this media has also led editors to me-I have essays coming out in three different books simply because I blog. I've tapped into material that has resulted in freelance sales, and my ads earn a modest amount of revenue as well. Above all, I blog because I can say something quickly that might help the community. That's really the main motivation-it's a lot of hard work, around 20 hours a week, and I don't think I'd just do it for money. To be honest, freelancing is a lot of hard work and I don't think I'd just do that purely for money either. I don't even tally the hours I spend on the latter-my heart probably wouldn't withstand the shock.
BlogCatalog is the community I'm most active in, and a few of the bloggers there kindly agreed to share tips with our Web Savvy readers.
Dr. Stevenson (Rob) is a professor of mass communications who enjoys research, writing, and blogging, but his primary love is raising his two boys.
I use WordPress.com (not WordPress.org). WordPress.com is more user friendly than WordPress.org for folks like me who are new to blogging, but WordPress.com does not permit importing plug-ins nor does it allow ads.
I began my blog on March 5, 2008, and today I have over 63,000 hits. Very few of my comments are angry, but I have had a few. I have no problem posting a comment that vehemently disagrees with me, but I won't post a "shock" comment that has no value for my viewers.
I blog about three hours per day, and I am meeting my readership goals.
The blogger who prefers to use the pen name, Ender, is a knowledgeable presence on the Blog Catalog Discussion Board. Ender says, "I never know what to say for a bio."
I use Movable Type which I installed in my webspace. Since at the time I knew nothing about CGI scripts and I was learning how my new host handled ChMod and the like, it was something of a hassle. However, I'm a 'net geek and despite the fact that I was about to scream at the end of five days of errors, I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn bits and pieces of Perl and how my site was set up.
I've gotten one or two angry comments - they've all been posted so far. The only comments I've ever deleted have been outright spamments. I try to answer opposing or angry comments as rationally as I can. Usually, I just need to explain my position a bit more (like when I posted a rather disturbing image of my father a couple of years ago) or, in some cases, agree to disagree with the commenter. You can't win every heart and mind.
[On the amount of time spent blogging]: That's a tough one…because it varies so much. I try to blog at least 2-3 times a week, and I prefer to have something up at least 5 times a week. But I don't freak out over it, either. If I've got nothing to say, I don't sweat it.
[On meeting goals for building a readership]: Well, I don't have any real goals for readership. I want people to read Red Monkey blog and enjoy it. I like it when they comment - but I can't always take the time to answer and I'm never sure whether to email them back or comment back on the blog. I do a little of both. I'm not an SEO [search engine optimization] specialist and I find that kind of obsession over statistics and tweaks annoying. But then, my blog is not a business. I suppose SEO bothers me because I do work in the web industry and I hear enough of it professionally that I don't want to fuss over it on my site. I'm comfortable with who I am - and who my blog has grown into.
Ruddlesdin is a self styled Professional blogger and blog consultant. He describes himself as a father of 4 and football mad.
I use Blogger, Wordpress.com, Wordpress.org, Typepad, Joomla.org for blogging mostly just because I like to learn about each one so I can help others.
Never had an angry comment on anything I write, but then again none of it is the sort of stuff that would attract an angry comment. If I was to get one I would reply and leave the comment there. Everyone has their own point of view and is welcome to share it.
I don't do a lot of blogging, but I do spend a lot of time helping others to blog. I usually meet their goals.
Thorson is a professional writer, compulsive thrifter, and is probably that woman you saw chuckling to herself in the grocery store.
I use Blogger, though originally I did everything on a .Mac blog done through iWeb. I prefer Blogger because it's so simple, it allows me to spend more time on the content-and less time "angsting" about why things aren't uploading properly, why the software is changing everything including my text into .PNG files the search engines can't see, and a number of other issues. So it's been a lesson-learned. I blog to share writing, so it's refreshing to have things be easy.
I have only had a few angry comments, and unless they're openly abusive, I do let them stand. I have also gently tried to quell the anger with a bit of humor. And that seems to diffuse things fairly well. I think what angry commentators don't realize is that their anger only really reflects poorly on them. Particularly within a light-hearted post not designed to offend.
I have two blogs-one I post twice a week, and one I post at whim, but this usually ends up being about three times a week-perhaps two hours or more per post. My initial goals for readership were to communicate to more than my two best friends and a couple of relatives. Now my thrifting blog has a readership of around 300-400 a day, and the humor blog is quietly growing. Having had few expectations it's easy to be nothing other than pleasantly surprised.
www.Wordpress.com (free platform)
www.Wordpress.org (download and install on your site)
We've covered topics related to blogging in prior columns. Check out our past Web Savvy features, and follow the links here at The Writer.
-May 20, 2008
In our next Web Savvy, we take a look at website statistics-how do you track visitor numbers and what can you do to improve each visitor's experience?