Yesterday, I started a series on blogging for novelists. Judging by the comments, looks like I hit a nerve!
In the coming days, I’ll be giving you one tip per day on blogging. Today’s tip is about hosting your blog. A blog has to live somewhere on the web. You have two choices:
1) Use a free blogging site. (This is dead easy.)
2) Put the blog on your own web site. (This takes work.)
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of those two options.
You can easily set up a blog at blogspot.com or wordpress.com or one of the other free blogging sites. But here’s the problem. If you do that, then everyone who visits your blog will be reading pages on Blogspot’s web site or WordPress’s web site. Which means they won’t be visiting YOUR web site.
“What’s wrong with that?”–you may be asking. That depends on what your goals are.
If you just want a little notoriety or you just want to express yourself, then there’s nothing wrong with that. Use a free blogging service and save yourself the trouble.
But if you want to build traffic to YOUR web site, then it’s far better to host your blog on your own web site. That’s what I’ve done here. Look at the top bar of your browser. It starts out “http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com” which is MY web site. This blog gets about 500 page views per day. That means that this web site gets an extra 500 page views per day that it would not get if my blog were hosted on a free blogging site.
That is an enormous advantage to me. Why? Because higher traffic to my site translates into better rankings for my site on the various search engines. (There are a variety of technical reasons for this.) That translates into more traffic to my site from people who are searching for stuff on writing. And that translates into money. (I won’t tell you how much money, but I will say that it’s worth my time.)
I can give you some hard numbers though on traffic to this site. I launched this blog in mid-April of 2007. In the first 11 days of April, my site was averaging about 687 page views per day. Not bad at all. But not great. In the last 16 days of April, the site averaged 1416 page views per day. So my traffic doubled practically overnight after launching this blog. It has continued to grow and in the first 14 days of 2008, it has averaged 3398 page views per day. Some of that traffic is due to blog readers, but much of it is due to the search engines bringing me more people, because of the increased relevancy of this site, due to all the extra traffic and the increased content here.
Just as a simple example, search for the phrase “fiction writing blog.” This blog currently ranks #4 for that search phrase on Google, #4 on Yahoo, and #1 on MSN. That brings people to my site, where they subscribe to my e-zine and sometimes buy my products. I’ve not spent hundreds of hours or thousands of dollars to make that happen. It happened by itself. All I did was blog on fiction writing and the search engines noticed. There are a number of other search phrases for which they rank me #1, #2, or #3. Part of the reason for those high rankings is this blog.
Your next question may well be, “OK, if I want to blog, I should put it on my web site. How do I do that?”
The answer is that you’ll have to work just a little harder than if you used a free blogging site. But that effort will pay off forever, so it’s well worth it. You’ll need to upload the blogging software to your site and hook it up to a database. This is not particularly hard. Some web sites make this a 5 minute operation. The software I use, which I got on www.WordPress.org, gives you step by step instructions in how to do it. Millions of people have done this, so it’s not a terrible ordeal.
You may be the ultimate non-techie and you may find it too daunting. No problem. Any competent webmaster can set you up with a blog hosted on your site in an hour. That shouldn’t cost you much. If you don’t have a web site, then you can create a new site that is NOTHING BUT your blog. Thiat is an entirely reasonable thing to do. For example, my friend Chip MacGregor has a site that is just a blog. He blogs every few days on the publishing industry, especially as it relates to agents. Chip is a top-notch agent and is well qualified to talk about all that.
That leads us to the next subject, something which a number of you posted comments on today: What will you blog about? That is actually a branding question, so tomorrow we’ll talk about “Branding Your Blog.” I’ll address many of the issues you all raised in today’s comments. See ya then!
dotservant.com website hosting says
Bloggers should consider getting their own domain name if they are serious about building the blog, your own domain name is the identity that gives you the flexibility of moving from one web host to another without loosing the identity, as well as the freedom of making changes to the blog theme etc.
Gerhi Janse van Vuuren says
It seems as if your posting schedule and my reading schedule nicely overlaps. I read the blog ever my lunchtime which should be just after midnight your time.
WordPress is quite easy to set up. If you can programme a VCR you can do it. But you can get a WordPress service to do it for you. Quite a few web hosters will also do it for you or have it already installed on their server and just copies it over for your site.
One question for you Randy. Your blog and site match in design. Obviously its not a standard WordPress theme. Who made up your template for the WordPress side of your site?
Ok, I think I just answered my own question. Is it…rumpelstilskin…arteculationdesigns?
Thanks for covering blogging. Seems I’m usually late in reading your posts lately and so haven’t been able to comment, though I do get them read.
I have two small blogs right now that I use: one is on myspace where I post anything that comes to mind and the other is on my site and hasn’t been cultivated much because I haven’t yet decided what to theme it on as my writing is still being worked on and because I need desperately to rebuild my website before bringing traffic to it. So this topic is of great interest to me too.
I did want to mention a few downsides of blogging on your own site just so those not used to ‘owning’ your own site will know what to expect. One is about the hosting. I haven’t used a free site in years but from what I remember, free sites are limited on what you can do on them, which could make it impossible to add in applications such as blog and message board programs. The best way is to go with paid hosting. Then you have to pay to register your domain name to point to it. Third is that bringing in a lot of traffic to your site runs up your bandwith, which I’m sure Randy can agree with. Hosting allows a certain amount of bandwith to be used that is covered in the cost but if you exceed that amount for a month they most often will shut your site down, either until the beginning of the next month or until you pay extra to cover it. And lastly, which is what I really hate, is that the higher you get in the search engines, the more spammers you get hitting your site. Trust me, they love to post their ads, many obscene, on message boards, guest books and blogs. So, this means making sure to have secure scripts running and know how to set preferences to keep their posts from showing until approved. The net is a great place but….
I guess I can say that my site blog and website both are in limbo until I figure out the themes. As I’m not published yet and still greatly learning the trade I’m not sure what I could contribute that isn’t better said somewhere else. And so they lay in limbo until I figure that out.
Randy, I eagerly await your blog every single day. I can hardly wait for my first break in the mornings so I can get to it. (That means either you have a great blog or I have a pathetically empty life! I’m pretty sure it’s the former.)
My biggest problem is that I just don’t know what my brand is. I don’t know what to focus on because I am so excited and passionate about so many things! Politics, religion, history, science, nature studies, teaching kids, writing, literature, autism, disabilities, dogs, motorcycles, ministry, music. . .I guess it’s a good thing I teach in a one-room school grades K-11! I simply don’t know how to narrow this all down. I have prayed and prayed about it without any answers yet. Even when looking at my blogs I don’t see a central theme. (I don’t know that you’d have an answer for this, I am just venting. Maybe my narrow focus is “Jack of all trades master of none?”) This has been a problem most of my life and is why I am spread so thin. My mother kept this mantra in my ears: “If you don’t use your gifts, God will take them and give them to someone else.” SO, I guess I internalized that and have always tried to pursue all areas of my life with all the gusto I could. Oh gee, do I sound pathetically insecure or what? Don’t answer that. 😉
Carrie Stuart Parks says
I blog right now on Amazon where it appears on the sites that sell my books (same blog appears on each of the three books.) My books are on how to draw, so I blog with drawing tips, and I include a link to my web page. Should I also have a blog on my web page?
Heather Goodman says
I recently made the move from having a blogger site to a web/blogsite, and I have to say, I like having the two married.
They’re much happier, too.
Sidenote: I’ve been on your newsletter list for a while and noticed the other day that I haven’t received one in a few months. I check Spam daily, so it hasn’t gotten caught up in that. Would you suggest signing up again?
I have a blogging question that maybe you could address in this series: how do you provoke comments? Or does it matter? I post and post and post and yet all I get is one or two comments, if any. Then I read a friend’s blog which covers similar topics to mine and every single one of her posts generates at least a dozen comments.
Maybe I shouldn’t care, but without any feedback it just feels like I’m shouting into the wind. With only a dozen and a half visitors a day my blog is really small potatoes, so do I just work on generating more traffic instead? Mind you, I don’t have time to run around commenting on other people’s blogs a lot just to get more traffic for myself.
I’m interested to hear what you think.
Robert Treskillard says
I have my blog/website hosted on http://www.webhost4life.com, which charges about $5/month (not including the domain name, which you can get for around $10-$15/year). I have used them for years for other websites, and they are very professional and stable, and offer good support.
When the time came for me to setup a blog, I checked, and they had WordPress installable using a plug-in. A plug-in allows you to install the software yourself without knowing much. BUT … that doesn’t mean that it is simple, so only go this route alone if you are comfortable.
For me, I was looking to setup *multiple* blogs, so I opted for a different set of blogging software called b2evolution which allowed that (they also had a plug-in for it). Its not quite as fancy as WordPress, but the option of setting up multiple blogs allowed me and my daughter, who is also writing a novel, to share the same website. WordPress doesn’t allow this on your own site unless you pay money to but a multi-user version.
B2evolution’s blogging editor takes much more getting used to than WordPress, so I would suggest WordPress unless you have other constraints like I had.
One option would be to ask (before you sign up) the technicians there at WebHost4Life (or at any hosting service) if they would install the software for you, and I am guessing that they would. After that, the blogging administration software would allow you to configure it.
One thing I like about having my own domain is the ability to add other pages outside of the blog, and this can help in branding yourself. For instance, take a look at our “splash” page and how it brands us at:
Branding on a website/blog is not only about what you write, but also about the design of the user interface. There is a lot you can do there.
Helen Ginger says
Thanks for posting on blogging. I’m looking forward to reading your upcoming posts. I use a free site, but think it’s a good idea to post on your own domain. I didn’t start that way because I thought it’d be too difficult to set up comments and screening. I’m going to look into WordPress and also check to see in DreamHost (my host) has something already available. If I move it, I assume that means I’ll have to abandon the title of my blog and come up with a new name. So, I guess the sooner I make the move, the better.
I’d like to know the answer to Lara’s question as well. I feel I’ve got the makings of a brand (Writer…Interrupted) and attract a certain reader, but my readership is very small (so is my niche.) When I compare my 30 hits a day and few comments to some other blogs I read that get 50 plus comments and hundreds of hits, I ask myself, what am I not doing right?
I know I need to offer my readership something, I’m just not sure what it is they want or whether I’m reaching the right people.
I just thought of a question. I get dozens of google hits (I check who visits through sitemeter) and a lot of times my blog comes up pretty high in google. I’d like to know how I can gain readership from these hits. Also, I know people subscribe to my feed, I just don’t know how many because they don’t always click over to my blog. Is there a way for me to find out who or how many are reading my blog through an rss feed, or bloglines type of account?
Would you advise starting with a website or a blog? I have neither. Will a blog on a free blog site be picked up by a search engine, or only a website? Sorry, but I know NOTHING about the internet — only how to ask a question.
I think it depends what you want to use your site and your blog for. As a publisher, I have a website that is used to convey information, market products and make sales. There are lots of people who regularly check it. I also run a wordpress blog, seperate to my site. On the blog I talk about publishing, the industry, books and related stuff. There are links from the blog to the site but I think of them as two seperate things – and it gives potential customers two ways to find out about and engage with Vignette Press.
I guess it comes down to figuring out what works best or is most manageable to you!
Robert Treskillard says
Randy, I took the Simpleology course on blogging, but I must say that what you have said here is so much more helpful! Part of it is what you say is specific to fiction writing, and I can’t expect Simpleology to make a course specific to that topic. Maybe we’ll see one from you? That would be great.
If you are a good blogger they wont even contemplate hosting their blog for free. Having your own domain and hosting has been great for me and you have much more freedom with templates etc!