Where should I host my blog?

Wordpress Hosting

Picking which site to use when you are just starting a blog can be difficult when you have never blogged before. At the end of the day, the most important criteria in the beginning is ease of use. You want to be able to focus on the real task at hand: posting blogs.

Rather than talking about every blog site under the sun, lets focus on the top 2 most used blog sites: Word Press and Blogger. I should start by saying I have used both of these platforms and would recommend both. However, there are some subtle differences that will help you decide between the two.

If you consider yourself a "computer rookie" (great at checking email and surfing the net), I would definitely recommend Blogger. This platform is very basic, easy to navigate and provides plenty of flexibility for the "rookie". In addition, the themes, or format of the actual blog have a very useful right hand column. You have the ability to add 19 different "gadgets". This system of gadgets make it simple to add pictures, videos, RSS feed, subscription links, news reels, blog lists, polls, video bars, html, java scrip, Ad sense, and more. This area is like your own personal billboard, allowing you to add creativity, personality, and potentially monetize affiliates.

If you consider yourself more technical, and understand words like html coding, themes, widgets, plug-ins, and domain hosting you will likely be happier with WordPress. Many of the "Professional" bloggers use Word Press. Many people want to follow in the footsteps of the "successful" bloggers, and that is okay, just be ready to do a little extra learning and troubleshooting. Word Press will provide more depth, flexibility, customization, and have an overall cleaner look.

With Wordpress, you can have a free account hosted at Wordpress.com.  In that regard, it is very similar to Blogger. However, your advertising opportunities are very limited on Wordpress.com.  Also, your design options are somewhat restricted.

Luckily, (and more importantly) you can install a fully functioning version of  Wordpress on your own server.  Millions of people choose this method to create their blog.  It allows you limitless publishing capabilites.

The catch.  You need to get a host.  But don't worry, there's plenty of them out there.  Here's a list of the best blog hosts:

You really can't go wrong with any of these hosts.  Each one is a little different in terms of what they offer and how much they charge.  It changes quite often so it is a hard to keep up with the current offers!  So check out each one and pick the one that you think works best for you.

Either way you go, both Blogger and Word Press will allow you to get started blogging in 5 minutes. If you have never created a blog a few words of advice:

1) Check out other blogs in your niche, write down what you like

2) Stop putting it off, create your blog

3) Once you have created your blog, write your first blog post ASAP

Blogging is a great way to express your personality, share business ideas, develop a branded online presence. Take advantage of this free medium and you'll be surprised as just how fun and addicting blogging will become.

If you are thinking about hosting your blog with Word Press or Blogger, be sure to check out these two examples:

Word Press Blog: http://www.moneyballmarketing.com/

Blogger Blog: http://www.bkhorwitz.blogspot.com/

ShareThis

ShareThis LogoEveryone seems to be into the snazzy little sharing buttons lately.  It's one of the first addons people decided to put on their blogs after they are up and running. The theory is that adding these buttons will encourage people to bookmark and share your post with others if they think it is especially noteworthy.  Great concecept in theory.

In reality, the clicks on these buttons are fairly low.  However, every little bit of incremental traffic generated from them helps, right?  So why not.  Plus, you never know if a whale will bookmark you and bring a ton of traffic.

Anyway, the last thing you want to do is litter the bottom of your site with 100 little bookmark chicklets.  It looks bad and makes your site load slower.  So what's the alternative?  ShareThis

ShareThis is a bookmarking tool for your blog or website that also does a simple "Email This to a Friend" function.

Right out of the box, it comes with all the most popular social networking sites and bookmarking sites.  In about 5 minutes, you can have this configured and launched on your blog.  It also comes with a handy little plugin for Wordpress that makes the implementation slightly easier.  However, you don't need the plugin portion if you are compfortable with it on your own.

You are left with a clean, small button on the bottom of your posts that says ShareThis with a little icon.  That's it.  Nice and clean.  When clicked, it pops open to reveal your sharing options.

For you as the site owner, you can track the usage of these networking tools through the ShareThis website.  That way, you can see if people are actually using it!

How to Track Who's Linking to You

For most experienced bloggers, this is not news. However, for you beginners out there, this can be a very valuable skill/tool. Website StatsBlog pros usually spend up to an hour a day digging through their website analytics. I know, that sounds absolutely insane, but it's true. Pro bloggers are blogging for a living, so it is very important that they understand every heartbeat of their site.

One (of many) ways to track the success of your site is to see how many other sites are linking to you. Google and other search engines actually look at these links as implicit endorsements of your content. Them more links to your site there are, the more "important" search engines believe your site to be.

Naturally, you'll want to have as many high quality sites link to you as possible. When they do, a quick "thank you" note back is always appreciated. Also, linking back is encouraged if you find thier site valuable as well, however it is not required.

Also, when a site links to yours, one way to digitally thank them is to head over to their site, browse, and comment where appropriate.

So how do you know how many sites are linking back to you?

Look at your site analytics. Hopefully, you have some sort of system set up to track your site usage. This allows you to see how many individuals are coming to your site, and how many pages they look at. It also allows you to see how they reached your site. If they clicked a link on a site to get to yours, it should show up in your analytics. If you don't have a stats package on your site, Google offers a good system, and it's free. Your web host probably offers pre-installed systems as well such as AWStats.

Technorati. After your site has been kicking around the web for a month or more, it will likely be crawled by Technorati.com, especially if it has been linked to by another blog. You can go there and do a search for your site. Technorati will then show you your "Authority" rank. That number represents the number of blogs that currently contain links back to your site. Technorati updates their numbers regularly so you can accurately track the links back.

Technorati also shows you a brief excerpt of each post where your site was linked. This allows you to quickly and easily browse the context in which your site is being talked about. You can also compare your rank to others blogging on the same topic.

Google Blog Search. Blogsearch also crawls blogs constantly, and will tell you how many sites link to your blog if you know how to ask. Simply log onto Google Blog Search (http://blogsearch.google.com) and do a search like this:

Type this into the search field

link:http://www.YOUR-BLOG-DOMAIN.com

By typing "link:" in front of your site address in the google search engine, Google will return all of the sites that link to that address.

What if your site doesn't show up at all in Technorati or Google?

Perhaps it is too soon. If you've only been blogging for a few days or weeks, your site may not have been ingested into the index just yet. Or, perhaps no on has linked to your site yet. You can speed your inclusion up a little bit if you can get an established site(s) to link to your blog. That will draw the search spiders into your site.

How Many Topics Should a Blog Cover?

Creepy typingOne of the mistakes people often make is trying to be all things to all people in their blog. Folks, there's a blog already out there on every topic you can imagine. From knitting blogs to squirrel awareness blogs to blogs about bubble gum. That's right, it's all been written about before. So how many topics should your blog cover? Well, if you're blogging for fun, cover as many as you want. Just do whatever makes you happy.

However, if you're blogging for fame and fortune, I would advise that you establish your "wheel house" and stick to it. In general, people start to return to blogs over and over because they know what it is going to be about. I know when I go to my favorite Yankees blog, there's not going to be something there about the Knicks. When I go to read a celebrity gossip blog, there isn't going to be in depth political coverage, etc.

So ask yourself, what made you want to start your blog in the first place? Whatever the answer is, that's what you should stick with.

Sure, there's room for branches out into other directions once in a while, but the reader should always be able to find their way back to your central theme. Also, it's kinda hard to keep all your "category buckets" fresh with new content. Once you have 20 different things to write about, eventually a category starts to get neglected.

Then again, you can throw all this out the window if you have multiple people writing for your blog. You can divide it up into sections or topics by author. Each author has a specialty of sorts, and sticks to that. I would avoid allowing all authors to write about all topics. You are likely to run into overlaps and conflicts. So just assign beats, and make sure everyone sticks to them.

There are some who disagree and think variety is better. I'm not against variety, but it can become a bit overwhelming. At the end of the day, I suppose the best advice would be to write about as many topics as you choose, as long as you can keep your site fresh and focused. If 25 topics is too much for you, no problem...scale it back.

Single topic blogs are also easier for start-ups. Establish your presence in a single topical space, then branch out after you get on your feet.

25 Most Valuable Blogs on the Internet

A site called 24/7 Wall St. put together a list of the 25 Most Valuable blogs on the Internet. The top 10 (of 25) include:

1) Gawker 2) MacRumors 3) Huffington Post 4) PerezHilton.com 5) TechCrunch 6) Ars Technica (tie) 6) Seeking Alpha (tie) 8) Drudge Report (tie) 8) Mashable (tie) 10) GigaOrn

Perez was valued at $48 million, and the Huffington Post at $70 million, just to name a few. At that point, I really would have to ask myself, why not sell those properties ASAP? I'd want to take my money and run!

You could live off of the cash and investments for the rest of your life and live luxuriously.

Then again, a site like Perez could probably bring in more than that for the owner over then next few years. And let's face it, no one else could over own that site but Perez himself.

Boost Your Site Traffic in 30 Days

I stumbled upon a an old post on ProBlogger about increasing your traffic in just 30 days. At first, I didn't notice the date it was published, but I really believed in what it was saying. Then I noticed the date, and it made me laugh because the tips still hold true today. Tip 3 was worth highlighting:

Finally, I made effective use of trackback links to popular sites. If I commented on a post on another site I would make sure that I set up the appropriate trackback for it. The results from this are varied depending on the site and post that you are linking to but since I liked to comment and interact with the wider blogosphere anyway, it was free traffic!

Even though this is from 2005, it is still true today. If you want to gain respect in the blogosphere, you have to earn it. Just writing your posts and sitting around waiting for the readers to flock in doesn't work. You need to proactively get out there and make your name known.

However, I caution you against belatedly plugging yourself where ever you go. Don't just comment on someone else's post because you are looking to get clicks back to your site. And don't make your comments into a big advertisement for yourself.

Instead, actually contribute something worthwhile to the conversation. That will gain you more blogging street cred