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Blogging with WordPress

I only entered the blogosphere in late 2005 after realizing that I was missing out on an important part of the whole “online communication” genre. As I had been busy managing forums, web sites, and writing articles, I soon realized that I could firm up my two niches – aviation and article writing – by blogging on these topics regularly. With that in mind, I soon launched a pair of blogs and I am very happy with my decision. I selected WordPress as I believe that they offer one of the best blogging communities out there. Are you a blogger? If not, why not?

My decision to go with WordPress and not with one of the other big blogging entities such as Blogger, had everything to do with my having complete control over the site. Since I host with Powweb, I discovered that my web hosting company offers over thirty different software downloads for its members. WordPress and a few other blogging entities are represented, but I selected WordPress due to the recommendation of a friend.

Within two or three minutes of my download, I had WordPress up and running. In less than thirty minutes, I had the layout I wanted, although I kept the traditional template in place as I knew I wanted to work on my content first and on the design later. Next, I updated the links on my two related sites to reflect a “Blog” tab. In addition, I picked a few places within each site to announce the new blogs and I emailed everyone on my members list to inform them of my entrance into the world of blogs.

If you select WordPress as your blogging platform, you will soon discover that Version 2.0 was recently released. Because I am new to blogging, I haven’t yet updated from my downloaded version, 1.5. I want to first make certain that WordPress has worked out any kinks that may be in the updated version. In addition, not all the plug-ins you can use [there are plenty of them] with 1.5 are compatible with 2.0 just yet. Most are, but some still are not.

Beyond the update issues, I enjoy using the administrative “dashboard” which allows me to create each blog. Because I include pictures with one of my blogs, Jet Movements, I also have to make certain that the HTML I use to put each picture in its place [alignment] is exact. WordPress allows for you to do that.

In addition, I like the fact that WordPress allows administrators to schedule their entries. You can blog today, but schedule your submission to appear online at an appointed time several days away. Since much of my writing inspiration comes in bunches, I often will tackle several days worth of entries at once and spread them out over the coming week. If I want to later change the timing of an entry or squeeze in a separate one, I can do that too.

WordPress is current with today’s web standards and looks much cleaner and professional than some of its competitors. You can change the template over to one that is in the WordPress arsenal or design a template yourself and upload it to your site instead.

Yes, WordPress is designed to be set up through your own web host, but if you do not have a web site, you can get a free account through Web Press and they will host it for you.

Although WordPress is an “open source” community, meaning it is derived from and driven by volunteers, they have an active forum and many helpful links to assist you with building and maintaining your own blog.

Obviously, I am a very satisfied WordPress customer. You can be a satisfied blogger too whether you select WordPress through your web host or host your blog directly with them.

 

Get Started With Your First Blog

There is no question that blogging is one of the best ways to get keyword rich content on your site, get your message on the search engines and get traffic to your website. But how do you get started blogging?

When you consider starting a blog there are many options. A great way to get started blogging quickly (and for free) is to use an online ‘standalone’ service like WordPress or Google’s Blogger. These are free, highly customizable tools that support both new and more advanced bloggers. The negative is that you can’t use your website’s domain name. For instance, if using Blogger, you blog address would be something like ‘yourblog.blogspot.com.’ While you can link to this from your current website, search engines won’t know give you ‘credit’ for the extra content since it is a different domain. With creative cross linking however, you can still benefit from the increased exposure you can get from a blog.

These free services provide powerful software tool that balance value, quality, and ease of use. While some people prefer to use more basic blog services, they too can truly benefit from the ‘built-in’ benefits of WordPress or Blogger along with its existing large community of users.

One of the most notable benefits of these services is the ease of use, and advanced functionality of the service compared to some blog software applications. Neither Blogger nor WordPress require you to know any ‘coding’ and allow you to built and post to your blog with easy to use icons similar to what one would see in a word processing program. Having the ability to utilize a program like this allows people to create blogs that are as high tech, and complete as full blown websites.

If you are occasionally ‘offline’ you can benefit from WordPress’s ability to import posts. This means you can put your blog together while you are not connected to the internet and then import it later. If you already use another blogging service such you can also import your posts directly into Blogger or WordPress.

Another benefit of these services is their large widget or element and theme libraries that allow you to instantly add useful features, and professional looking styles to your blog. A very simple drag and drop interface allows you to add features such as an RSS feed with a few clicks.

Another option to consider would be blogging software that you can directly integrate into your website. Some hosting provides such as GoDaddy allow you to use your existing domain name for you blog. The benefit is that the content of your blog becomes part of what search engines see for your domain. In these cases you are more likely to pay a monthly add-on fee to your hosting provider. As an alternative, Google’s Blogger allows you to publish to a FTP site, which means you can blog from your own domain. You lose some of the flexibility of the ‘out of the box’ service, but with a little effort you can have a customized template and pretty easy posting capability that resides within your domain.

As your needs become more advanced or if you are a more technical blogger you may also consider blogging software that can be directly integrated into your website. One to consider is bBlog. bBlog is an open source, PHP/MySQL application. If you don’t know what the last sentence means, then this isn’t for you. If you do know, then you may benefit from the expanded flexibility an integrated application could provide.

In the end, you have a wide, wide range of very inexpensive (or free) options to get started.

Get Your Business Noticed with Blogging

Blogging has become an incredible online marketing tool for businesses of all sizes. A business can save thousands of dollars in paid advertising expenses while gaining valuable exposure and traffic. Blogs are a user-friendly, customizable and flexible medium for effective positioning of your products in the market. Businesses using blogs to promote their business have a definite edge over their competitors and are seeing a number of advantages. To get that advantage, however, they do require careful planning and effective marketing.

Blog postings are appearing in search engine results faster than other website content. Post submitted through blogging tools like Blogger and WordPress are being fast tracked to search engine results. This means more backlinks for your business website and quicker, more up to date search engine placement for your business’ marketing message.

Blogs support and even encourage word of mouth viral marketing. According to a recent survey, there are currently 90 million blogs with 80,000 more being added each day and 30 percent of internet users are blog readers. The very nature of the blogging space with sites such as Technorati and Digg, quickly spread blog posts to the widest audience. Posts that become popular can quickly spread across hundreds or thousands of other blogs and social interaction sites.

Customer awareness and loyalty are enhanced. Having a open dialogue with your customers creates trust and loyalty among them. The ability to respond, almost in real time, to customer questions and comments makes them all the more willing to try your products and services.

Feedback can be instantaneous. Businesses can use blogs and their related comments for product research and to solicit reviews. This rapid feedback mechanism could allow a business to make product decisions based on almost real time observations of their customers’ thinking and behavioral patterns.

Businesses can gain a halo-effect because the ‘blogosphere’ has the reputation of being a place for reasonable, friendly, helpful and most importantly, personal interactions. Businesses that can embrace the culture of the environment can help assign the same characteristics to their products and services.

Notwithstanding the benefits, like any other business website, it is important that the content be well planned and thought out. Even with the informal nature of many blogs, it is important to remember that they still reflect on the business’ image, positively or negatively. The blog should reflect the values and objectives of the business as well as be reflective of the overall marketing efforts of the business.

Blogging is relatively straightforward, but to be done correctly does take effort and learning. There are several blogs dedicated to teaching people the do’s and don’ts of blogging. Be aware that blogs may have themes or be community based so make sure you aware of these before putting your business name out there. The easiest way, of course, to become familiar with the tone of the blog or social community is to spend time reading posts.

Like any website there are a number of things to keep in mind. Testing, testing and testing are important to make sure the blog meets business objectives. The tone of blogs may be more subtle to detect than standard websites, requiring frequent tweaks to get it right.

Be prepared in advance for a much higher level of content posting than normal with a more static website. Blogs, to be effective, need regular, even daily, infusions of fresh content to stay relevant and keep visitors’ attention.

As with a standard website, be aware of legal issues, disclaimers, notifications, copyright issues or other issues relevant to the business. The informal nature of blogs, as well as the higher volume of updates can create compliance issues if not carefully monitored.

Finally, once a business decides to invest in blogging, there are great ways to spread the word about the new blog. To get the best marketing results, it is essential to actively promote your business blogs through blog search sites and directories. Promotion and submissions should be consistent with your products, services or the theme of the blog to be most effective. Adding exclusive or member’s only information can also increase the likelihood that casual browsers will invest the time to follow the business’ postings.

Promotion of the blog can be almost automatic be creating and promoting Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds in conjunction with the blogs. Individuals and other, related, websites can view and display blog postings directly from their own websites or personal news readers. This allows the blog poster to essentially push posts to reader’s desktops instead of relying on them to visit the originating blog site.

Since search engine placement is essential for traffic volume the blog should make effective use of keyword phrases. Blogs are by definition very content heavy website, which afford amble opportunity to generate keyword rich copy. Keywords should be selected to ensure that relevant traffic is directed to the business blog.

In summary, a blog is a great way to promote a business. A number of advantages can be gained as long as the business plans well and takes the steps to properly promote its new blog.

Aubrey Jones is President and founder of Riverbank Consulting, Inc. Through Webs 4 Small Business he is able to bring SEO and other internet services to Small Business owners. He has been in the technology and internet industry for over 10 years building and managing large commercial internet services.

Tales From the Blogosphere

I entered the blogosphere fairly late in the game. More than three years after starting and managing several busy forums and web sites, I dabbled with blogging through regular entries to one of my aviation web sites. Within weeks I got tired of the discipline – not of writing – but of ftp’ing everything to the web. I gave up as I decided blogging wasn’t for me.

Fortunately, I didn’t stay away as I saw a challenge, and an opportunity, in front of me. Having blogged on other people’s sites, I felt that if I could blog there, I could blog anywhere, including on my own blogs. Taking a look at my options, I decided to download WordPress and I now run two blogs from two separate web sites.

I am thrilled with each blog’s success and have no plans of giving up on what I am doing. In fact, I am mulling over starting a couple of more blogs as I see the value of this type of medium online.

So, how are my site’s doing? Very well according to my sites’ statistics. No, there isn’t much activity as far as comments go, but my information is getting read and the blogs are bringing additional traffic to both sites. Let’s just say that the traffic increases alone have been enough to keep me going, but other factors weigh in including:

Blurbs – There are times when a full length article just doesn’t cut it, but a blurb [pithy paragraph] does. Blogs are great for showcasing tidbits of information and allowing bloggers to link to the full article if more information is desired.

Links – On my Jet Movements blog, I added over 200 aviation related links recently. Within days, traffic to my site increased and the first page rankings came back from Google. Less than six weeks after starting, the traffic to this particular blog has been great.

Showcase – My second blog, The Article Writer, has helped me communicate better to my customers. Now, my customers can read about my writing style, my comments on raising SEO, book reviews, and more. This blog has given a “human touch” to an otherwise good, but too-business-like web site.

Idea Farm – Some of my blogs have turned into articles as I have taken a short, concise work and expanded on what I wrote through an article. Saves me time, too, as all I have to do is add a couple of extra paragraphs and my article is usually done.

Yes, blogging is a great way to communicate for business folks as well as teens. Some have thought that blogging was a fad, but I must say that it isn’t and it is certainly here to stay. Have you started your blog yet?

Where Should You Host Your Blog?

Should you host your blog yourself or pay someone to host it? It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or a veteran this question always comes up when creating a new blog. Usually someone new to blogging would gravitate to hosting a blog themselves or get a free blog and as time goes by with experience they begin to ponder maybe paid blog hosting isn’t so bad after all. So what is better?

To answer this question, let’s first look at how a blog is created. Just like creating web pages, first, you need a software or script that will take your entries, format it and publish it to the web. The second component of a blog, is the web space, where the software should publish to, a home for the blog pages.

Knowing this information, let’s review the different ways to host a blog:

Full blog host.

This is where the blogging system or software is provided for you and your blog is also published to a web space provided by the host. Blogger, SquareSpace and Typepad fall into this category. It’s very much like creating a website with a site builder.

Hosted blog software but published elsewhere

This is where the blog software is provided for you but the blog pages are published to another website or web host altogether. By doing this, the software acts as a publishing system like FrontPage except it creates nicely formatted blogs. Blogger is probably the most well known for this. Yes Blogger can do both. Publish to their host or to yours. As a comparison, this is like using FrontPage to publish your website.

Blog software and blog are hosted on your web server

This is where you would install the blog script (software) on your web server – it can be any web hosting account. And when you publish, the blog itself resides on your web server also. To draw a parallel, this technique is like buying web hosting and then installing a content management system on it to help you build web pages.

If you’re new to building web pages or have built sites using site builders then you might want to go with a fully hosted blog. These hosts do all the nitty gritty for you and there’s very little technical stuff you need to know. If you can point and click, you can build a blog with a full blog host.

Having said that, just because you’re seasoned at building web pages doesn’t mean full blog hosts won’t work for you. In fact, if you have many blogs this becomes very appealing since you won’t have to worry about upgrading the blog script, people exploiting the script, making plug-ins work or what happens when your web host decides to disable part of your blog functions because there is a security hole. All you do is concentrate on blogging. After a while, blogging becomes more important than maintaining your blog and that’s the way it should be.

Next up, hosted software but blog is published to your website. This seems to be the best of both worlds. At time of writing, Blogger is one of the best ways to do this but because of its popularity often, you find the system too slow to publish or completely down just when you have a hot idea to share. The idea is good but you’ll also be depending on someone else’s availability to publish your blog. It’s much like using a friend’s computer to build your web pages and you know how that can go.

Finally, you have the option to use scripts. This is also a very popular method. The flexibility it allows is very liberating because you can mould the blog anyway you want. You can even get a programmer to create custom plug-ins or customize the whole blogging system the way you want it. In short, you can do pretty much anything you want.

The down side, you need at the very basic, some knowledge of HTML or publishing web pages. Also the burden of upgrading, troubleshooting and maintaining the script is on you. If you have one or two blogs it’s not so bad but once you start having more, it can be quite tedious. You also have to consider all the other responsibilities of maintaining the script as mentioned earlier.

Armed with this information, you should be able to figure out which one is for you. If you’re still undecided, think of how you would do it if you’re creating a regular website. Chances are your choice method for publishing a website is also the best method for you to create a blog.