Behind any successful blog is a host of effective technology. This technology is not only the engine behind what allows to blog to function, but it also allows visitors to read and comment, owners to share and discuss socially and search engines to crawl and return in search results. Without much of what goes on behind the scenes would be a lifeless website that would be difficult to find and enjoy.
In this post, I’m going to discuss how to go about choosing a platform for your blog, how to share your blog through social media, how to manage some of the housekeeping aspects of your blog and how to best optimize your blog for search engines. By the end of this post, you should have a clear picture of what you need to do to create a powerhouse that will operate smoothly and grow well into the future.
Choosing Your Blogging Platform
A few years ago, the debate between which blogging platform to use was mostly between self installed solutions. I believe WordPress, Joomla and Drupal were the primary players and for self hosted blogs, they still are. Today though, with the ever-increasing availability of cloud hosted blogging solutions, the debate is more popularly between self hosted and cloud based platforms. And among those, WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace and Tumblr are leading the pack. But because of the rapid growth, quality of, simplicity of and support for all the major systems, the lines are becoming blurred. I’d venture to say that, for beginning bloggers, whether or not you choose a solution that’s self hosted or cloud based, you’ll be getting a feature rich and community supported venue for writing and sharing thoughts and ideas. What you’d need to primarily concern yourself with is specific feature availability as well as look and feel.
When it comes to blogging, I have to confess that I’m quite partial. The very first platform I ever used was self hosted WordPress. That was way back in 2006 and through the years, I haven’t been let down by the evolution of all those lines of code I’ve come to love. If I discovered the amount of times my fingertips have touched a keyboard while logged into WordPress, I’m sure my head would spin. WordPress began as a lightweight piece of blogging software and has evolved into a full fledged content management system (CMS). And through my days, I’ve given other platforms a try, but nothing, in my opinion, has compared to the intuitiveness of what WordPress has had to offer.
I understand that everyone can’t simply take my word for what’s best, so I’m going to go over some of the primary areas what someone should look for when choosing what they’ll be configuring and writing on for the next few years. If you’re looking into choosing something, feel free to browse through the most critical areas below and learn about them at your leisure.
First, I’ll give a somewhat extensive list of available blogging platforms. Then, I’ll offer some areas you should consider when choosing between them.
List of Popular Blogging Platforms
WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad, Wix, Ghost, Squarespace, Weebly, Drupal and Joomla.
Aspects You Should Consider
Cost, popularity, self hosted or cloud based, community size, support, security, availability for own domain, technical ability required, complexity, plugin or extension availability, developer availability, theme availability, storage, user friendliness, updates and features.
I’d say the above lists cover a good portion of what you should be looking at when attempting to decide between solutions. There’s no shortage of information on each and every one of the pieces of software that I mentioned above, so if you’re interested, there’s no time better than the present to begin searching. I will give you a peek behind a curtain, though, and tell you that through the years, WordPress has adapted to what most other blogging platforms have offered. And because of this, today, WordPress owns the majority of market share in this space. If the future is any indication of what they’ve done in the past, things will only get more robust and their market share will continue to grow. Whichever you do decide to go with, be sure to locate and hire a developer who specializes specifically with what you’ve chosen. Each offering is complex in its own right, so specialization is key.
Integrating Social Media With Your Blog
One of the more heavily weighted aspects of blog promotion lies with the use of social media. This is especially true for new blogs that aren’t necessarily appearing in search results just yet. For more established blogs with a fair amount of search engine presence, social media can truly enhance the blogger’s message. Social media’s integration with blogs today is far different than it was just a few years ago. Today, it’s sometimes challenging for a visitor to make the distinction between an actual blog and a social media site. And if social media leads a visitor to make a conversion, whatever that may be, the blogger is utilizing the system correctly.
I’m going to list some ideas below that might help out with a blog going “social.” If you have additions to this list, please leave them in the comment section below.
Establish a Social Presence – In order to do this, you’ll need to first choose which social media services you’d like to interact with. Each one has a different target audience and not all might be a perfect fit for your blog. Do your research on which ones align best with your own audience. Examples of social media networks are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus+, Tumblr and Instagram. The benefits of utilizing one of these networks is having the ability to generate a following. Once a large enough group is listening to your message, you’ll have created an effective method for sharing posts that you write on your blog. And with the way social networks operate, those initial shares may be shared again down the line, creating sustainable traffic for your own website.
Social Share and Follow Buttons – If you’ve been using the internet for any length of time, you surely know what these buttons look like. They are usually colorful and ask that you push one or more of them to post a link to the blog post or page you’re reading on your social network page, thus bringing the post or page to your own followers, front and center. Using social buttons on your blog is an extremely simple and effective way to spread your message.
Create Shareable Video – Did you know that Youtube is the second large search engine on the planet? Have you ever watched a video that had over one million views? That’s right, shareable video is becoming so popular that individuals are now using it as a primary source of income. Wouldn’t it be nice if a large number of people watched a video you released and then were so interested in your message that they visited your blog? It’s happening all over today and harnessing the power of video is as effective as effective can be. Personally, when I look for a product to purchase online, I always visit Youtube to see if anyone has posted something that can offer a better perspective of that product. And the use of video doesn’t stop there. If you have a blog, you can also easily embed someone else’s related video into your own post to offer a greater understanding of what you’re trying to convey.
Social Proof, Badges and Boxes – People like things that other people already like. That’s just how we work. It’s as if someone else has already done our homework for us and can vouch for the party we’re interested in. One way to demonstrate to new visitors that our blogs are trustworthy and popular is to add a box to the sidebar showing off how many followers we have. You may have seen the Facebook “like” boxes that display friend’s faces. That’s a prime example of what I’m talking about here. Your blog would be fairly difficult to ignore if thousands of others have already said, “I like this.”
Comment Areas – User comments are extremely popular for readers of blogs to browse. It’s oftentimes the comments that attract someone to a blog as opposed to the post itself. I can remember a friend telling me, years ago, that she preferred to visit one of my blogs simply for the comments. I suppose they were entertaining.
While comments have traditionally been an “on site” source for going social, they’ve recently migrated off site as well. Through the use of plugins, it’s simple to integrate social commenting services, such as Disqus, Livefyre, Facebook Comments and IntenseDebate into our blogs. What these commenting systems do is, not only add a visitor’s comment to our blog post page, but also share it throughout their own network, bringing more visibility to that comment. You may have seen examples of these types of comment systems on news websites where there’s a lot of back and forth regarding a hot topic. Those comment exchanges would never have erupted the way they have without going social.
Measuring, Analytics and Security
With the operation of every blog, or website for that matter, comes a bit of back end responsibility. What I’m referring to here is the responsibility of measuring the success of your blog by viewing specific metrics that relate to previously decided on goals, confirming your blog is in good standing and functioning correctly through the eyes of search engines as well as securing your blog against internal and external threats. In order for your site to endure through the long haul, each and every one of these areas needs to be addressed and maintained.
Measurement and Good Standing
Two popular free services to monitor blog health, from the perspective of search engines, are Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Both of these tools are effective at alerting you of site errors, displaying various statistics regarding your website’s indexation levels and performance, show linking relationships both inside and outside your blog and allow you to set your web property to a specific configuration.
As they say, if it’s not worth measuring, it’s not worth doing. Luckily, there’s a plethora of website statistical and analytical tools available for us to measure the success of our blogs. Some are free and some aren’t. Much like the research you’ll have to perform in order to decide which blogging platform you’d like to use, you’ll have to research which analytics solution you’d like to take advantage of. What’s important is that you find the service pleasant to work with and that it effectively accomplishes what you need it to.
Some of the more popular website analytics tool available are Google Analytics, Clicky, Mint, KISSmetrics and Open Web Analytics. Obviously, there are many more services available, but what I’ve listed above should keep you busy and offer what you’re looking for.
The primary function of any analytics solution is to measure website traffic. Today’s services go much further than that though – they now offer insights into how effective your marketing efforts are, what websites link your yours, multiple ways of breaking down and analyzing data and more.
There are two critical areas you need to consider when launching anything of importance on the web. One of these areas is website backup and the other is website security. While your host might offer backup options, it’s a good idea to manage this aspect of your blog yourself, especially if it gains traction and becomes popular. Web hosts are notorious for falling short of expectations when it comes time to recover lost files. Be sure not to fall victim to this.
While there are many services that offer website backup, I find that CodeGuard works well, is easy to use and is extremely intuitive. It operates like many other backup services in that it can either take a snapshot of everything on your domain or just specific files. Other similar services include BitCalm and Revert.io. While I’ve never worked with these two, I can suggest you look into them.
When it comes to website security, content delivery networks (CDNs) are becoming extremely popular. Their configurations vary, but what’s becoming common is that a CDN operates as a sort of middle man, standing between your server and the outside world. All traffic passes through the network to get to your files, offering a layer of protection against threats. Some of the primary advantages of utilizing a CDN include load balancing, multiple data center content delivery and protection from DDoS attacks, bot access, remote file inclusion, sql injection, cross site scripting and more. Some even offer a firewall to limit access to your site from unwanted visitors.
Some of the more widely known CDNs are Incapsula, CloudFlare, Distil and MaxCDN. Remember, these services don’t just offer distributed content delivery – they offer website security as well, so some research is in order.
Optimizing Your Blog For Search (SEO)
In the final section of this article, I’d like to share some resources regarding search engine optimization with you. Luckily, I’ve already written some in-depth and insightful posts relating to this topic, so I can simply redirect you to them. But before I do that, I’d like to impress upon you the importance of delving into the world of SEO as it relates to your blog, because nothing is worse, blogging-wise, than spending a good amount of time and effort on content generation and receiving an underwhelming volume of traffic to it. Optimizing your blog for search is critical for acquiring the readership you deserve, so take the time to browse through the articles I link to below. You’ll likely pick up some good knowledge and hopefully implement what you’ve learned on your blog.
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