Before you actually install any blogging software on a server, it’s important to consider a few key areas that relate to your blog’s presence on the web. While some of the following topics may seem rudimentary, giving them due respect may save a lot of headache in the future.
In this post, I’m going to cover the three most critical steps any future blogger needs to take before they even think about platform, hosting or SEO. By taking the time to make sense of what needs to happen at this stage of blogging strategy, a content developer can focus on more important areas down the road, such as author cultivation, article generation and publicity.
How Does the Blog Relate To Other Web Properties?
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been blogging since 2006. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed a lot of success and well as endured many failures. What I’m attempting to convey here is that I’ve manged to accumulate years of experience and with that experience, I’m willing to let you in on some simple techniques (or bits of awareness) that will pave the way for some of the success that I’m able to look back upon.
The first and foremost area any future blogger needs to consider is where their blog will exist online. Back in 2006, I decided it would be best to install WordPress software on a private hosting account I had set up through a hosting company. While this type of configuration is still widely available, many other options have presented themselves through the years.
Today, bloggers can work with, not only self hosted solutions, but with hosted ones as well. For instance, WordPress offers a hosted blogging platform as does Blogger. Squarespace, Tumblr and Medium are others, just to name a few. The choice you make today, as to what configuration you choose, will impact your writing career for a long time to come. I’ve followed many folks who began with a hosted blogging solution, only to decide, later on, that they had grown to such a point that they would need to move to a self hosted one. You can imagine to trouble that could cause – from manual labor to SEO impact.
I think the primary takeaway from this is that you need to consider where you’re blog will be set up and where it will reside. Think hard about the commitment that you’ll put into your content, because if you feel that you’ll create an audience large enough in the future, you may want to skip the hosted blogging options and jump straight to installing software on your own server.
More along the lines of organization and keeping things straight in your head, it’s important to consider what relationship your blog will have with your other presences online. Today, an ever growing number of people own and operate websites and use social media. If you were to install and begin to develop content on a blog, how would you organize it with your other web properties? Would you incorporate your existing social media into the blog or would you keep things separate? Would you create more “social” web assets that you link to exclusively from the blog as opposed to using more formal ones that you link to from your existing website? Or would you continue to use personal social media accounts to further promote what you intend on doing? All these questions might seem trivial, but trust me, it’s one of the areas that frustrates fresh bloggers every day.
The next question you need to ask yourself relates to what types of social media you will include on your blog. It’s quite simple to include your latest tweets from Twitter, recent posts from Facebook, along with some videos from Youtube. If you decide to do this, which accounts will you use. Visitors will surely visit those accounts from your blog, so it’s a good idea to parse out these ideas very early in the game.
Lastly, it’s critical that you decipher where you’ll install your blogging software (if you do decide to install it) in relation to any existing website. I can remember back to 2006 where I set up my very first WordPress install – I uploaded the software to the root directory of my hosting plan, much like the website you’re on right now. If you’re not sure of what I’m referring to, think about URL paths of some blogs you’ve visited in the past. They can vary greatly. Here’s an example of how I had the choice of setting up IndustryDev:
The first example above shows WordPress being installed in the root directory. The second example shows WordPress being set up in a sub-directory and the third shows it being set up in a sub-domain. I’ll discuss these three options below.
When installing blogging software, you have a few options related to where you’d like to put the files. Each has their own pros and cons.
In the first example above, as I’ve already mentioned, the blogging software files would reside in the root directory of your domain. This is a popular choice of configuration for those who are sure their website will never expand. By expand, I’m referring to, say, including ecommerce software or a photo gallery. The blog files have already claimed the highest position in the directory hierarchy. Now, I understand that it’s rather simple to form new sub-directories to install outside galleries and web stores, but according to my organizationally conservative mind, that idea isn’t optimal. I am particularly against mixing and matching directories and files from, and inside of, different pieces of software.
If you think your blog may expand into the areas I just mentioned above, it may be beneficial to install it in a sub-directory. If you did this, you can cleanly expand into various areas by simply creating more sub-directories:
I’ve done this in the past and it works well. The only thing you’d need to concern yourself with is which area of the website your visitors will be directed to once they land on the root domain. For example, if someone visited:
I could easily redirect them to any one of the sub-directories above by including a short snippet of code in the website’s .htaccess file. This is called a 301 redirect and is extremely common online. The only issue with this solution, for some, is that if you ever decide to remove all sub-directories from your domain besides your blog, you’d be left with your blog using the “blog” sub-directory. And that can get annoying to look at and in some circles, can be perceived as unprofessional.
What many businesses are doing these days is installing their blogging software on sub-domains. This has become increasingly popular from an organizational standpoint as well as a protectionist one. There are many search engine penalties floating around out there and, according to some folks, keeping any new piece of web real estate separate from any existing one is a good idea. It would be a shame if your current website was, unknowingly, under a penalty from one of the big search engines and you set up a new blog under the penalized domain. That blog would have little chance of ever gaining any traction.
The downside of this solution is that, since sub-domains are considered totally separate websites from each other, any new blog or other piece of software wouldn’t benefit from the existing reputation of a healthy website. The longevity of what’s been previously set up can help tremendously in regards to search engine attention.
Whose Blog Is It Anyway?
In this section, I’m going to focus on larger blogs that are operated by multiple personalities. For an idea of the types of blogs I’m referring to, please take a look at Smashing Magazine, Web Designer Depot and Hongkiat. Each one of these blogs was initially launched by one individual, but has grown into an endeavor managed and contributed to by a wide variety of individuals. When web properties evolve into larger entities, such as the examples above have, a hierarchy needs to be established. A chain of command, if you will.
If you’ve ever operated a WordPress blog, you may have encountered the “Users” section in the administration area. In this area, each user account is listed. And for each user account, a role is granted. Currently, there are five roles to choose from when assigning one to a user. The roles are administrator, editor, author, contributor and subscriber. Just as a note, I didn’t list those roles in any particular order.
When managing a multi-contributor or multi-user blog, you need to be careful in assigning roles to individuals, both inside the administration area as well as in the general sense of the word. Basically, each player needs to know what they do and who they report to.
Let me give you an example of what I’m referring to. For IndustryDev, I have one administrator account and it belongs to me. This is the broadest and most powerful role someone can have granted to them and by having access to it, whoever is logged in can add or edit any post they would like, as well as alter the look and functionality of the entire website. Needless to say, the administrator role is reserved for very few people. And those people would need to have quite a large stake in this website.
All other roles below administrator utilize select permissions, from adding and editing posts, granting various authority to others and that sort of thing. These roles, based on their structure, would be appropriate for editor, contributors and so forth.
When managing a multi-user blog, there needs to be a “go to” person. In this case of IndustryDev, that person is me. If I decided to add contributors in the future, they would have their own contributor accounts, with lesser capabilities. All contributions would also be edited and posted by me. The reason for this is simple – to keep the tone and continuity between posts in line with the vision of the entire site. No matter how straightforward a contributor’s intent, there always needs to be a role where someone oversees all content that’s published. In the print world, this position is called, “Editor in Chief.”
Now, in the future, if this website became large enough to sustain tens of contributors, I would certain expand roles to include a few more content editors. I simply wouldn’t have enough time to edit everything myself. If this were to occur, I would train the editors so they understood in what direction I’d like the site to point.
What Type Of Content Will You Publish?
Many, if not all, multi-user blogs, as well as some single-user blogs have some sort of set of “rules” that govern what the content that’s posted should look like. These rules are an overarching “idea” that will keep the content that’s published in line with where the blog is supposed to be headed.
While smaller blogs may communicate these rules of blogging to their contributors and editors, it’s helpful to post an “Editorial Guidelines” page on the blog itself. While covering editorial guidelines in depth is out of the reach of this post, I will link to a few sources from outside website that offer a clear picture of what this topic relates to.
If interested, please take a look at the sites above. They’re very thorough.
Regarding blogging guidelines and editorial guidelines, I’ll list a few of the primary topics covered below. This will give you an idea of what’s contained in the posts above.
Post Originality – Covers how original each post should be and how much material from previous or outside posts may be included in the current one.
Audience – Describes who the target audience is and how each post an effect the market at large.
Type of Content – Talks about what type of content the blog likes to publish. For example, IndustryDev enjoys posting content that’s related to tutorials, informative posts as well as interviews and inspirational types of articles.
Formatting – Covers the specific formatting requirements for each post, including word and character count, reading level, headings, capitalization and links.
Media – Describes what type of media is allowed and encouraged in posts, along with usage restrictions and formatting requirements. Also includes the use of screenshots.
Promotion – Talks about permissible promotional efforts, along with common channels used to bring awareness to each post and the website in general.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless when creating guidelines for a blog, but they do a great job of streamlining operations and keeping new contributors and editors informed of what the managers and owners would like to see published and how each item is promoted.
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