This Blog Is Written By The Content Authority

Navigation
CATEGORY: Blogging

TCA Presents The Best Business Blogs

One absolute truth of the blogging business is that you have to constantly improve your blog. Fortunately, the Internet can provide you with a wide variety of sources to look through for inspiration. While we’ve been spending a great deal of time talking about how to follow the best practices available, it might be an even better idea to take a moment to take a look at what those practices looks like in action. Below are twenty of the best business blogs available online. While the content of each blog is different, I think you’ll notice a few unifying themes as to how each works. Presented in no particular are order are twenty of the best business blogs available in 2013.

1.  Business Insider

Business Insider Screenshot

Business Insider usually ranks among the best blogs on the ‘net, and for good reason – it combines stories that readers actually want with information that users need. The site itself is easy to navigate and use, something to which any blogger can inspire.

2. Zero Hedge

Zero Hedge Screenshot

Zero Hedge is not exactly the most positive business blog out there, but the information on the site is usually right on the money. The clean and simple layout is a great example of what we’ve talked about over the last few weeks – there’s plenty to catch the eye, but nothing there that can distract users from the actual content.

3. Digital Inspiration

Digital Inspiration Screenshot

Digital Inspiration is a great example of a site that has an unrelated URL, but still has a great blog. This site has absolutely wonderful content for those who need help getting a business running online, but it’s hard to find – so the author has made a real push to connect his site with other sites in the industry. Follow his example, and you should be able to do the same.

4. SEO.com

SEO Dot Com Screenshot

 

I’m a big fan of SEO.com’s content, but the best lessons to take from this site have to do with layout. Everything’s very easy to access and every image catches the eye. This site is also a great example of how to integrate a blog with a parent site.

5. Business 2 Community

Business 2 Community Screenshot

Business2Community is a great resource for businesses and for anyone who spends time trying to boost a site’s search rank. There’s nothing particularly special about this design, and that’s why it works – you don’t always have to be unique to be one of the best business blogs on the Internet.

6. TechCrunch

Tech Crunch Screenshot

TechCrunch is regularly cited as the best business site on the web. Not only does it have a great amount of useful content, but it’s incredibly well-suited to take advantage of today’s browsing market. The site is well-branded and users can share anything with a single click.

7. Calculated Risk

Calculated Risk Screenshot

Calculated Risk is a great example of a longer-form blog. It eschews shorter article titles for full articles available on the main page – a superb way to catch a reader and keep him or her on the page.

8. Money Q&A

Money Q&A Screenshot

Money Q&A is a great site that provides useful information while still helping its owners to promote their own products. This is a great example of a site that uses content not just as an end, but as a means for further business promotion.

9. Social Media Examiner

Social Media Examiner Screenshot

Social Media Examiner is a great site for anyone who is looking to navigate the rough terrain of social media. The site itself is one of the best business sites because of how it successfully occupies an important niche on the Internet – everyone seems to be looking to social marketing, and this is one site that has the basics covered.

10. Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land Screenshot

I spend a lot of time on Search Engine Land. It’s got a great deal of information on SEO and other Internet news, and it delivers it in a voice that even a novice can understand. Take note of the prominence of social media sharing buttons – it’s a great example of a trend that you need to follow.

11. Search Engine Journal

Search Engine Journal Screenshot

Search Engine Journal is another great Internet news site. If you need help figuring out how to work with content or are confused about SEO in general, it’s a great place to start. The design is a little busy, but it helps to promote various aspects of the site’s business.

12. The LinkedIn Blog

The LinkedIn Blog Screenshot

LinkedIn is one of the most important social media sites in the world, and its blog has great tips for how to maximize your use of the site. Like every other site on this list, this great business blog also has a layout that you can learn from.

13. Quick Sprout

Quick Sprout Screenshot

There’s nothing really complex about Quicksprout’s layout, and that what makes it one of the best business blogs to follow. You can get all of the information that you need quickly and easily – and that’s the way to keep readers coming back.

14. The Next Web

The Next Web Screenshot

The Next Web is an awesome tech and business site with a lot of great lessons for new and experienced people in the business world. The layout is a wonderful lesson in how to catch the eye of readers by using appropriately sized images and fonts.

15. Copyblogger

Copyblogger Screenshot

Copyblogger is a fantastic site for those looking to learn how to write better web copy. It’s among the best business blogs in terms of layout, as well – it’s quite simple and easy to use, and everything you need is available from a single page. It’s hard to beat that.

16. Blogger Buzz

Blogger Buzz Screenshot

I’m always an advocate of looking to successful companies for guidance, and Google’s Blogger Buzz website is a great example of doing just that. There’s nothing particularly fancy or overwhelming on this blog, but every piece of content serves a purpose.

17. Seth’s Blog

Seth's Blog Screenshot

A great example of a “guru” style of blog, Seth’s Blog is brief, witty and sometimes even a bit off-putting – but it always works. Take a look at how Seth structures his content and you’ll see just how personal and esoteric you can get while still staying on point.

18. Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan Blog Screenshot

If you’re going to take anything from Brogan’s blog, it should be how effectively he markets his products. His content and marketing is weaved together into a blog that’s enjoyable for users to read, but still serves a purpose for his business.

19. Quora

Quora Screenshot

Quora is a spectacular site with a ton of content, all presented in a unique question-and-answer format. While I’m not a huge fan of some of the design choices – having to log in to view the site, in particular – the design itself is clean, easy to read and presented authoritatively.

20. Successful-Blog

Successful Blog Screenshot

If I was ranking these, I’d certainly put Liz Strauss’ blog closer to the top. It’s not only user friendly, but it has incredible content. It’s that perfect mix of having the information that readers actually need mixed with providing images and content that keep users coming back. If you’re a personal blogger, you really can’t do better than imitating this blog.

 

These are just some of the best business blogs out there. If you can follow their examples, you can learn quite a bit about blogging. The best way to learn is always to follow in the footsteps of those who have already been successful – after all, you don’t need to blaze a trail if someone else has already done so before you.

 

If you know of any other great business sites to add to the list or have a story about how these sites have helped out, let us know!

Optimizing Your Small Business Marketing Blog For Success

The best blogs are those that work within the framework of an overall industry. If you run an entertainment blog, for example, you want to make sure that everything about your blog is tailored for the world of entertainment. Things are no different for owners of a small business – except, perhaps, for the fact that a good small business marketing blog can make or break the business behind it. We’ve already had several weeks’ worth of discussion about how anyone can set up a blog, but this week is going to be a bit different. Instead of speaking in generics, we’re going to go over the steps again from the perspective of an individual who is setting up a new small business marketing blog. Everything we’ve discussed already still applies, of course, but there are subtle tweaks to some of the steps that we have used that can really help a small business break out of the pack and establish a dominant blog.

Domain Names, Titles and Hosting

Domain Names, Titles and HostingIn previous posts, we’ve discussed the importance of naming your blog from a branding standpoint. If you’re in the business of creating a brand new blog or business, you absolutely have to go for a name that’s going to stand out while still being relevant to your blog’s content. If you’re working on marketing for a small business, though, you’ve already got an existing brand – the name of that business. As such, a great deal of your work has already been done for you. You need to make sure, for example, that your website’s title (and thus domain name) tie back to the original business. If your business already has a hosting solution and domain name, it’s usually wise to have a subdomain for your blog. Great (and easy to remember) choices include www.yoursite.com/blog or www.blog.yoursite.com – both are easy to remember and keep your business’ name at the forefront of the reader’s mind.

If you’re starting from scratch, always make sure that you go for a paid hosting option. I’ve recommend hosts like BlueHost in the past, and I stand by that recommendation for small businesses – not only does such a service give you a better sense of legitimacy in the online world, but the higher level of customer service and dependability is going to reduce your downtime and give you access to a more regular client flow. As a new or established business, you want to make sure that you give potential customers or clients the best chance possible to read your blog on their own schedule – not on the maintenance schedule of a less expensive, but less reliable, entity.

Configuration and Plug-Ins

wordpressEverything we’ve mentioned so far still applies to a small business marketing blog. Setting up WordPress is still your best way to create a clean and useful site, and choosing a minimalist theme that doesn’t distract from your content is the best way to make sure that you can keep readers focused. A small business’ blog might differ from the traditional blog by its attachment to an already existing main page, though, and it is important to make sure that you have some kind of continuity of theme between the two pages of the site – transitions should feel seamless and should help to reinforce the connection between your blog page and the other pages that offer your products and services. This is a huge reason why I advocate simplicity in web design – keeping things simple allows you to make a more cohesive look without requiring you to spend too much time worrying about aesthetics.

If you remember back to our discussion about blog plug-ins, you’ve already been shown five very useful WordPress plug-ins for your blog. These represent the three kinds of utility you really want for your small business marketing blog – safety, sociability and SEO. These five plug-ins will help you to back up your data (a major relief if you lose anything), keep your customers engaged and allow you to better position your site on search engine rankings. The way you design and maintain your site is going to impact how easy it is for customers to find you – and thus dictate how useful your blog is to your business.

Planning and Marketing

Planning and MarketingAs the owner of a small business, you already know that planning is everything. Even more so than a typical blogger, you have to have a plan of action for your content. Always make sure that you know what’s going to go on for the next thirty days on your blog, including not only who is going to contribute content but exactly how that content is going to help you with your sales or service goals. Your content needs to not only be evergreen enough to help make sure that your search rankings are positively impacted but specific enough to help you accomplish certain seasonal goals.

On the marketing side of things (likely the reason that your small business marketing blog exists), you’re going to spend time working on SEO. The way that you’ve designed your site so far, the plug-ins that you’ve chosen and the way that you create your content will help your site to rank higher than those of your competitors. SEO is a game that you have to stay ahead of, so make sure that you keep up with the latest techniques (something that’s quite easy to do if you frequent the TCA blog).

Running a small business marketing blog can be intense, but it doesn’t have to be frightening. Follow the advice above and you’ll be miles ahead of the rest. As long as you remember to put the blog to work for you in a way that’s efficient and makes sense, you’ll have no problem getting to the top of the heap. If you want to make that next great leap in efficacy, though, stay tuned for what’s coming up – we’ll be discussing the 20 best business blogs next week.

Our Series On Blogging

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in starting at the beginning with our special series on blogging. Follow the links below to get more detailed information and insight:

Are You Starting a Blog? Begin Here

How To Start a Blog — Domain Names, Content Creation and More

Essential Advice on Naming Your Blog

Hosting Your Blog — Make the Right Choice for Your Needs

How to Set Up Your Blog with WordPress

Don’t Panic When it Comes to Blog Configuration!

Are You Ready to Start Blogging?

Marketing Your Blog: A BASIC Guide

Advice on Making Money with Your Blog

 

Do you have any additional tips for optimizing a small business marketing blog? Join the conversation below.

Advice on Making Money With Your Blog

Now that you’ve got your blog up and running, you can turn your energy towards something a little more fun – making money with your blog. While it is absolutely great to have a blog that’s out there to help you express your feelings, it’s also helpful to be able to recoup the costs of running your blog. If you run a business online, you can also use that blog as a new revenue stream – a great way to bump up those profits and justify the time that you’ve spent working on this new project. There are many great ways that you can begin making money on your blog, but today we’re going to discuss the five best. These are five tried and true approaches to making money with your blog – the same methods used by the most successful blogs on the Internet.

 

Affiliate Advertising

Affiliate advertising is quite a bit less intimidating than it might sound. Put simply, this commonly used type of advertising is simply the process of joining a program (Amazon Affiliates is a good place to start) and placing the relevant ads on your blog. There are dozens of affiliate programs out there, so it is usually a wise idea to choose one that sells products that are relevant to your readers’ interests – a company that sells computer equipment, for example, might be a great fit for a programming blog. Affiliate advertising is not an instant payoff, though – your readers have to either click a link or buy a product for you to make money. The fact that these programs constitute a fairly hands-off revenue stream, though, always makes them worth using.

 

AdSense

Google LogoIf you’ve spent any time online, you’ve probably run into Google’s AdSense program. As a webmaster, all you have to do is join the program and make use of a simple code to put AdSense to work – Google and the users of AdWords will do the rest. AdSense is the most popular advertising network on the web, creating a series of contextual advertisements that rarely take away from the content of your page. The biggest issue with AdSense for a new blogger might be the payout terms – Google doesn’t pay out until you reach $100, so you might have to wait a good while for that payment if you’ve got a small audience.

 

Advertising

If you want the freedom to choose your own ads or you simply don’t feel like AdSense will make you enough money in the long run, you can attempt to find advertisers on your own. This is a fairly difficult process for a new blogger, but one that can pay off quite handsomely for the owner of a blog that is established in its field. In a perfect scenario, these advertisers will come to you to ask for ad space on your page – this gives you a bit of an advantage in negotiating price, but it also requires you to be passive in your approach. If you are new to the scene, though, you might want to do a bit of legwork yourself. Look for appropriate advertisers and ask if they’d like space on your page at a competitive rate, or find an advertising network (BuySellAds is a good choice) that can help to introduce you to advertisers looking for new outlets.

 

Product SalesProduct Sales

Your blog can be a spectacular platform for selling the things that you make. If you are a musician, for example, it only takes a moment to add a link to the iTunes or Amazon Music stores that can allow you to sell your latest single. Those who are better at crafts or design might want to feature their own merchandise from a site like etsy on the blog, giving you a great chance to increase your sales. One of my favorite types of product sales, though, is the eBook – you’re already spending a great deal of time generating content for your blog, so why not put some of that energy into making a long-form work? You can not only link your blog to your eBook sales page, but you can even use your blog as a space to post promotional chapters and previews. This can help you to generate great new content and earn income at the same time – a perfect method of making money with your blog.

 

Product Reviews and Paid Posts

There are businesses out there that desperately need their products reviewed, and your blog might provide a proper forum for such an activity. There are quite a few sites out there that will pay you for a sponsored review or post, some of which can provide you with a regular source of income. This method of making money can be tricky, though, as paid posts can alienate some readers. Only try this route if you have a good rapport with your readership and if paid reviews/posts make sense on your blog.

Once you’ve started making money with your blog, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. There are quite a few ways to turn your blog into a monetized venture, and only time will tell which works best for you. Once you’ve started the process, though, you will quickly find your blog’s income-generating properties indispensable. All that’s left for you to do is to learn how to put your blog to work in a way that works best for your needs – and next week, we’ll discuss how to do just that for small business owners.

 

Do you have any other ideas about making money with your blog? Let us know what you think by dropping us a line or leaving a comment below.

Marketing Your Blog: A BASIC Guide

We’ve hit the most exciting part of running a blog – it’s time to start blogging. As you create your first batches of content, it becomes time for you to figure out exactly how you’re going to get people to read it. If you’re like most bloggers, you probably have a friend or two who is interested in what you’re writing. While that’s fine for some, I truly believe that you can expand your readership to greater heights. That’s why we’re going to go ahead and talk about marketing your blog. Below is my BASIC guide to spinning up your inbound marketing plan as your start blogging.

Be Ready to Generate ContentBe Ready to Generate Content

When we talk about inbound marketing for your blog, we’re really talking about getting eyes on your site. Everything else on this list can help you to bring in visitors, but this is the part of the plan that keeps people coming back every time. We’ve talked a lot about how to put together your website, but this is what separates a blog from an advertisement – you have to have great content to keep moving forward. We’re going to talk a great deal about how to keep content evergreen, but just remember that you always have to keep your eye on this part of the equation.

Always Use RSS

If you’ve worked to create great content, your visitors are going to want to come back again. Unfortunately, most visitors will forget about a new website if they are not given the tools to make sure that they come back again. In today’s age of easy smartphone access, the best thing that you can give a reader is the ability to be reminded of the existence of new content. Setting up an RSS feed is relatively easy (WordPress, as always, has tutorials available), but it makes it easier for followers to remember that your website exists. Think of RSS as a simple way to keep your regular readers updated.

Social Media Matters

Social media is a huge deal. If you’re like most people, you have at least one social media account. And if you’ve got one account, I’d even wager that you’re a fan of a blog, business or website. The ability to connect your blog to social media is important not only because it helps readers feel like they are participating, but because it helps you turn each sharing visitor into an advertisement for your site. It is very easy to add the ability to share your blog on social media platforms (we’ve already discussed plug-ins for just that purpose), and preparing yourself for that aspect of your marketing plan is a great way to get ahead of the game.

Introduce SEO StrategiesIntroduce SEO Strategies

Search engine optimization is something that you are going to hear quite a bit about when it comes to attracting readers to your blog. While the term might sound scary, it’s really quite simple – it is the process of making your blog attractive to readers and webcrawlers so that it ranks higher on a user’s search. Today’s SEO is all about the things we’ve talked about so far – great content, usability and solid formatting. We’ll go in-depth about SEO later, but it’s important to consider what you’re going to do to attract new visitors to your blog. Start thinking about keywords early on, as well as the relationships that you can form to better position your blog.

Communicate with Readers

Communication is key to any strategy for marketing your blog. When you start the process of bringing visitors to your site, you want to make sure that you have a way to stay in contact with them. Something as simple as a comments section on your blog can help you to engage loyal visitors and bring in new readers, all with relatively little work on your part. Other forms of communication, like setting up a usable email address for the site or creating a newsletter, can help you with your overall numbers. These basic structures can help you to stay in contact with established readers while still helping you to build a search engine profile that attracts new visitors.

Those BASIC steps towards creating an inbound marketing plan are just that – the basics. We’re going to spend quite a bit of time tearing those steps down and learning how each one works to create a blog that will really stand out from the crowd. There’s a lot of work yet to be done, but that’s fine – blogging is more than worth the effort when you do it right. If you’ve got any tips or tricks for starting your blog or putting it on the path for success, I’d love to hear from you – after all, one of the most important ways to keep a blog successful is to keep learning.

 

What do you think about the BASIC plan for marketing your blog? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Are You Ready to Start Blogging?

We’ve spent a good bit of time discussing how to create a blog. By now, you know the importance of a good name, how to find a host and even how to optimize WordPress for blogging. Before we begin the fun stuff – figuring out how to get more eyes on your blog – it is important that we recap what we’ve done before before you actually start blogging. If nothing else, remember that blogging always relies on having a solid foundation. Working on the fundamentals is what will lead you to success every time.

Laying the FoundationLaying the Foundation

The foundational work of blogging is something that we have covered in-depth, but a refresher might be in order. Before you get down to work, take some time to:

  1. Come up with a great title
  2. Register your domain name
  3. Choose a host
  4. Install WordPress

Preparing the Space

We’ve already talked a fair bit about WordPress setup and configuration, but it’s still important to remember that this process is going to help to define your blog. Getting useful plug-ins is going to help to make your life as an editor and blogger easier, while also providing extra functionality to your users. Choosing between WordPress themes also can – and should – take a good bit of time, but it’s still an important part of the process. If books are judged by their covers, blogs are judged by their layout – so make sure that yours is as user-friendly as possible.

Creating a Plan of Action

If you have ever followed a great blog, you have noticed a certain type of flow in the content. Things might seem random at first, but those who look for patterns will see that everything really follows a pattern. The best blogs out there are planned down to the minutest of details, as this gives the individual running the blog a chance to really optimize his or her content and create a reader experience that far surpasses his or her competition. Your job as a blogger is to create a plan of action before you actually start blogging. For most, this comes in the form of a content calendar – a simple tool that tells you what you will post on each date. Others might want to set up schedules for other bloggers or create an overarching sort of theme for their blogs – whatever you choose, though, try to remember the importance of planning.

Bringing in the Readers

Bringing in the ReadersAll the planning in the world will bring you only to a spectacularly blank page, so you have to finish out the process by providing something that your readers are actually going to want – useful, evergreen content. I truly consider this to be the fun part of blogging, no matter if you are running your blog for personal or business reasons. Creating content allows you to engage with people who might live on the other side of the world, giving you a chance to connect with others that you might never meet. Creating great content also gives you a chance to really stretch your creative muscles. No matter if you are creating simple copy to inform others about your business or you a crafting a long-term story, you are going to engage in a marvelously creative process.

Great content alone is not enough. You also have to find a way to bring in new readers – and this is where inbound marketing becomes a necessity. We are going to spend a great deal of time talking about SEO and other forms of inbound marketing, because that’s how you get eyes on your blog. Growing your readership through careful inbound marketing is as much a part of the blogging process as crafting content, and it is certainly the process by which all of your other work is given a chance to really shine.

You have all the tools that you need to start blogging. Now all you have to do is use them. We are going to focus on how to grow your blog readership over the next few weeks, no matter if you are solo blogger working to expand his or her audience or a business looking to bring in new traffic. Running a successful blog can be a terrifically rewarding experience, and I’m going to make sure that you have the tools that you need to embrace that success.

 

Do you have any additional ideas related to getting your blog off to a great start? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Don’t Panic When it Comes to Blog Configuration!

Now that you know how to get your WordPress site installed, we can move on to blog configuration. While the term might conjure frightening images, it is far easier than you might imagine. WordPress takes care of most of the heavy lifting, leaving you to decide which plug-ins are best to use and to decide upon the right theme for your site.

Setting Up Your WordPress Site

WordPress makes the setup process fairly easy, so don’t panic! Setting up your blog can be done in a few simple steps, most of which can be completed in just seconds. You will start by going to the Settings Tab on your dashboard:

WPSettingsTab

You will then be able to get your blog going by taking care of a few basic pieces of business. You can start by entering your blog’s title and tagline – we’ve discussed titling, but your tagline is a great place to add a keyword or to simply explain what your site is about. This is also the place where you can set up your WordPress URL – the web address at which others can access your WordPress site. You can then move on to setting up your email notifications, your time and date settings, and spend some time working with language settings and even your blog picture. What is important here, though, is that you feel comfortable with how your blog is formatted.

WPSettingsPage

The Best Blogging Plug-Ins

While WordPress itself provides a number of very useful features, there is always room for a bit more. This is where WordPress plug-ins come into play – these simple pieces of code allow you to expand the functionality of WordPress while still taking advantage of all that the platform has to offer. Below are six of the best plug-ins that are available:

  • WP Complete Backup – This plug-in makes it easier to restore your blog if something goes wrong with your site or with WordPress.
  • AKismet – A great plug-in for catching spam in your blog’s comments. Great for SEO reasons, as it helps to eliminate toxic comments.
  • Broken Link Checker – Like the name suggests, it monitors and fixes broken links. Invaluable for SEO.
  • Shareaholic – A great plug-in that allows you to give your readers a chance to share your content on some of the most popular social media platforms out there.
  • Editorial Calendar – A must-have plug-in for those blogs with multiple authors, it helps with scheduling as well as publishing articles.

Theming Your Blog

Theming Your BlogOne of the best parts about using WordPress is the availability of themes – different looks for your WordPress site. Having a unique style can help to set your blog apart from the crowd, but having a style that conforms to the industry standards might help your blog to look a bit more professional. In either case, it is important to have a theme that allows readers easy access to your content.

It is also important to note that themes come in two flavors – paid and free. We could spend quite a bit of time discussing the two, but it’s quicker to break things down to the major difference between the two: functionality. Paid themes cost money, but they tend to allow you to do more with your site. Free themes are usually quite useful, but do not allow you to really dig in and customize your site.

If you decide to pay for your WordPress theme, it is hard to go wrong with the Genesis Framework. The clean, easy-to-modify design gives you everything that you need to customize your blog while still allowing even a novice to get things running smoothly. The best part about using Genesis, though, is your ability to switch things up on the fly – Genesis comes with a number of “child themes” that allow you to customize the basic framework without requiring you to start from scratch.

Free themes are a bit trickier to navigate, simply because of the glut of free products on the market. I personally don’t think you can go wrong with something clean and simple, so I like to recommend Bliss for most personal bloggers. The theme’s design features great potential for integration with social media, and it is one of the few free themes that works particularly well for tablets and smartphones, as well as for traditional monitor browsing. Minimalist designs like Bliss help to direct readers to the content without causing sensory overload – a plus for any blogger who is interested in putting content first.

Blog configuration really isn’t a difficult process. It may seem overly technical, but anyone can do it. Once you have your blog configured, you can move on to the best part of blogging – providing content. We’ll discuss how to start blogging next week, with an eye on generating useful content for your readers, so get ready to get your blog started!

 

Do you have any additional thoughts to share about blog configuration? We invite you to share them by leaving a comment below.

How to Set Up Your Blog with WordPress

Now that you’ve named your website, found a great domain name and chosen a host, we can start to lay the foundation for your eventual blog content. There are several options for content management out there, but it is my heartfelt suggestion that you choose to blog with WordPress. Not only is the program far easier to use than most, but the level of support out there is fantastic. Using WordPress will allow you to build a useful and efficient blog site without causing you undue stress, which should in turn allow you to focus more on your content.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a very useful content management system. Content management systems exist to give you the opportunity to take control of how your content is presented and displayed. If your hosted space is the home of your website, WordPress is the program that actually puts everything together. WordPress has become the go-to program for content management due not only to the fact that the basic program itself is free and easy to use, but also due to the nearly limitless customization options available

Hosting and WordPress

wordpressThe great news is that most web hosts – including my favorite hosting site, Bluehost – support WordPress. If you are unsure as to whether your chosen host will support WordPress, you can simply check for these two factors:

  • MySQL v. 5.01.15 or better
  • PHP v. 5.2.4 or better.

Should your host provide those basic server requirements (and really, most of the big names do), you can move forward with the process.

Step One: Download WordPress

Downloading WordPress is incredibly simple. Visit the application’s main site to download the program, which should be in the form of a .zip file. As a note, you should make sure to always download WordPress from their official site – it is the best way to make sure that your download is safe.

Step Two: Setting Up WordPress with Your Host

WordPress has become such a widely-used platform that the majority of major hosts have tools available to set it up directly from the hosting administration panel. The process of setting up the program does differ from host to host, but we’ll keep it simple here by sticking to a cPanel installation. About sixty percent of all hosts use cPanel, including my oft-recommend Bluehost, so this should cover most readers – if you need more information, you can always take a quick look at WordPress’ own installation guide.

Starting your install is as simple as logging in to your hosting account and going directly to the Software/Services portion of your cPanel page. WordPress should be available, along with several other options.

Once you click on the icon, you will be given the option to install WordPress. Click on that button, and continue.

All that’s left to do is to add a bit of information. Skip the first step (it will ask you if you want to install a previous version of WordPress) and move right on to the next bit – entering your blog name, user name and password. Once you’ve finished this, you can move on to agreeing to the software license and actually installing the program – it should take less than a minute.

The installation process really isn’t that difficult, and it is something that can be done by a user of any skill level. While the instructions above are for Bluehost, the install process on any other major host is remarkably similar. Installing WordPress is usually as easy as entering a bit of information and waiting.

Step Three: Manage and Create

You can finally begin the process of site creation by accessing your WordPress admin page (www.yoursite.com/wp-admin/).

The easy-to-use administrative page will allow you to create, post and link new content. The “Posts” section is where you can create traditional blog posts, while each subsequent tab will give you a chance to add content, customize your website and deal with various other settings (which we will discuss next week).

There is certainly more to talk about when it comes to WordPress, and we will get into the real business of configuring your blog next week. Take some time to play around with your WordPress setting and get used to the interface – you will be spending a fair bit of with it in the future. You can also take some time to look back on the process so far. You’ve found a hosting solution, named your blog and made your plans. You’re almost ready for the biggest step of all – configuring and rolling out your blog.

 

What are your thoughts when it comes to starting a blog with WordPress? Do you have any additional tips or hints? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Hosting Your Blog – Make the Right Choice for Your Needs

You already know the basics of setting up your blog. You even have a great name picked out. Now it’s time to get down to business – it’s time to get that blog up and running. At this point, we need to start talking about hosting your blog, which is essentially the process of finding a home for it on the web. Separate from finding a domain name (the blog’s web address), this is the part of the process that will help you to determine the first steps of how your blog is going to be accessed.

Free vs Paid: The Eternal Debate

Free vs PaidThere are thousands of articles out there about hosting your blog, but most of them tend to tip-toe around this part. Maybe it’s because it’s not polite to discuss money so bluntly, but the first question about blog hosting you need to ask yourself is this – how much money do you think your blog is going to make you?

Determining how much money you think your blog will make is the driving force between choosing between free and paid hosting options. The cost of paid hosting might seem steep for a hobby blog, but the cost might seem more reasonable if that blog is helping you bring in revenue. We can actually simplify the free vs. paid debate very quickly by dividing things up:

Those who use free hosts should either…

  • Blog purely for personal reasons, with no goal of attracting more traffic
  • Be first-time bloggers unsure of whether or not they will continue
  • Have very limited funds for the blog, or
  • Should not be sure of their overall blog strategy.

Those Who Use Paid HostsThose who use paid hosts should…

Is it possible that you might fall into both categories? Of course. There are a number of great, professional blogs, such as author Neil Gaiman’s blog or Yale Stewart’s delightful JL8, that still use Tumblr. Likewise, there are plenty of individuals who use hosts like Hostgator or Webs even if they have no desire to grow a brand. If there is a hard and fast rule, though, it is this – if you are just trying to have fun, go with free hosting. If you want to make money, pay for a host.

What You Should Expect from a Hosting Company

What You Should Expect from a Hosting CompanyPaid hosting is the best option for the majority of the readers out there, and one that I endorse for those who are not just hobby blogging. Figuring out which hosting company to work with can get a little complicated, but you can use the following to guide you. A great host should fulfill the following:

  1. Be reliable

Reliability is what sets free and paid blog hosting platforms apart, and you need to make sure that your paid host is going to keep your website up and running as much as possible. I am almost always a fan of local hosting businesses, but working with the big names like Bluehost, HostGator or GoDaddy will provide you with the best infrastructure, creating the best space for your blog.

  1. Be economical

Choosing a paid hosting option does not mean that you have to overspend. Every blog host seems to run specials for the first year, but these can be safely ignored. Instead, look at what’s included in a typical yearly hosting package along with the cost. I was once suckered into using a hosting service that looked like it offered attractive pricing, but very little was included with that price.

  1. Have great customer service

Finally, check out customer service reviews of each host. Your blog will, at some point, have a problem. You need to work with the host that will be able to resolve it with the fewest issues.

If you choose paid hosting, I would definitely recommend going with Bluehost. The company is very straightforward with pricing, and they have great customer service. Once you get your blog hosted, we can move on to the next step – figuring out exactly how you are dealing with content management. Believe me when I tell you this: we are about to get to the really fun stuff!

 

What are your thoughts on blog hosting? Any tips that you can add to the conversation? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Essential Advice on Naming Your Blog

When you start a blog, you’ve got to start from the top. If you’ve been following along with our series so far, you already have a great roadmap for where you should be going.Naming Your Blog Blocks But like the journey of a thousand miles, this one starts with one step. Before you can get your blog up and running, you’ve got to start by naming your blog.

While it’s lovely to think that your blog is going to be judged solely by its content, reality dictates that your title is going to be just as important. The average Internet user takes less than a twentieth of a second to figure out whether or not the content is relevant to his or her needs – that’s just enough time for your title to be read. If you can’t master that first .2 seconds, you might as well hang up your blog. Fortunately, you can follow a few basic tips to get yourself on the right track.

 

What’s in a Name?

 

Before we get into the actual process of constructing a name, let’s take a moment to look at what the professionals have already done. Below is a chart of Technorati’s top five blogs.

Title
Address
Content

The Huffington Post
www.huffingtonpost.com
Politics
Buzzfeed
www.buzzfeed.com
Entertainment
Business Insider
www.businessinsider.com
Business
Mashable
www.mashable.com
Entertainment
The Verge
www.theverge.com
Entertainment

If we take a moment, we can learn quite a bit about blog naming from these five blogs. First and foremost, we can easily see that all five blogs share their names with their domain name – that means that customers don’t have to remember anything but the name of the blog to get to the site. We can also notice that the names are relatively short. While it might seem clever to name your blog after a famous quote, you should notice that the vast majority of the top 100 sites have a name that is two words or less – and even then, every blog in the top thirty matches its domain name with its title.

So we know that a name has to be short and sweet, and we know that it is going to match its domain name. What else can we glean from the list above? Pay attention to how those blogs are named – each one carefully matches its content. Huffington Post and Business Insider have serious, respectable names – perfectly fitting the political and business worlds. Buzzfeed, Mashable and The Verge, on the other hand, are quick, irreverent and catchy. This helps users to know that the site’s entertainment coverage is going to be slightly edgy and fun, just like the site’s name.

 

Do Your HomeworkDo Your Homework

 

Once you have the building blocks of what you should name your blog set, you have to figure out what you can name your blog. The top three blog hosts in the world currently report a combined total of about two-hundred and fifty MILLION blogs. That’s quite a few titles that are already in use, even taking into account that many of those blogs are in languages other than English. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of hope for left for those searching for a blog’s name.

Before you buy a domain name, do a quick search for the name you want. While the odds slightly favor those who are looking for a domain name that matches the name of a business, you might be surprised by the sheer number of empty websites out there. If your name is already taken, don’t despair – just get creative.

A good path to naming might be something like this:

  1. Decide on your content.
  2. Choose a name (short and relevant to your content).
  3. Check to see if the domain name is already taken.
    1. If it isn’t taken, relax.
    2. If it is taken, look for close alternatives – AllAboutDogs.com instead of DogFacts.com, for example. Make sure any choice sticks to rule 2, though.
  4. Buy the relevant domain name.

Always try to remember that process of naming your blog really is important. It is far better to come up with a name that works now than to change it in the future – especially if you manage to gather a following. Take a few deep breaths, jot down a few ideas and start searching to see if any of the relevant domain names are still open. If you do the legwork, you can come up with a great name that is not already taken. Once you’re done naming your blog, you’ll be ready for the next step – getting the blog hosted.

 

Do you have any other ideas about naming your blog? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or dropping us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

How to Start a Blog – Domain Names, Content Creation and More

Are you wondering how to start a blog? Well, it’s a lot like building a house. You have to build it from the ground up, following each step in turn. We’re going to discuss the basics of building that house today – clearing space, building a foundation, putting up the frame and working on the finishing touches on the space that will house your content.

 

Build a House

Finding a Place to Live: Domain Name 101

 

If you are starting a blog, you have to begin with a domain name. A domain name, for those who are unfamiliar with online jargon, is your website address – that lovely string of text up top that starts with http://. This is your storefront, your address and your front door all rolled into one. This is the address that brings people to your blog, so it has to make a great first impression.

Purchasing your domain name is the easy part – services like GoDaddy will usually sell you a domain name for a dollar a year. The hard part is figuring out the name that you want to use. If you read the last article in the series, you already know that you need a unique blog name to stay competitive. Your domain name needs to match that blog name as closely as possible – your would-be readers are going to assume that the two names are the same, and thus might forget any additional words added on to the title.

 

The Foundation: Hosting – Free or Paid?

 

If you’re just learning how to start a blog, It might surprise you to find out that getting a domain name is not all there is to creating a place for your site online. While that lovely .com (or .org, or .biz or…well, you get the point) address gives you a place to park your site, it does not actually host the bones of the website for you. Your next step is to find an appropriate hosting service for your site, which is going to require you to make your first major choice as a blogger – do you go with a free host, or put money down for a paid service? It might be easier to compare the two side by side when you want to make a choice.

Free
Paid

Example
Web Address
www.yoursite.tumblr.com
www.yoursite.com
Cost
Nothing
Around $4/mon. for the first year
Advertising
Ads placed on your site by the host
Ads that make you money on site
Level of Control
Site has to conform to host TOS
Site has to conform to host TOS, though less strict
Provided Tools
Host provides basic tools for free
Host provides cPanel
Support
Basic
Depends on choice of hosting service

As you can tell from the chart, the free option looks like a good choice for a beginner – it doesn’t cost anything, and it provides a lot of the basics. However, it’s a far less professional product. Everything from the on-site advertising to the URL screams “amateur,” which is not a great look for any site. You can split the difference, of course – you can always have a blog hosted by a free site like Tumblr, but have it redirected to your own URL. This is a great way to test the waters if you are unsure about a personal blog, but might still put you in hot water if you are expecting something that looks professional.

 

The Frame: Basic Setup

 

The Frame Basic Setup

There’s no doubt that there are a ton of hosting tools out there, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but one statistic really stands out for bloggers:

48% of the Top 100 blogs use WordPress.

That’s just shy of half, and those are people who know what they are doing. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel on this one, just go with what already works. We’ll discuss WordPress in depth later on, but the real point here is to remember to get your content management system set up as early on as possible. As a word to those of your who chose the free hosting option – you might be able to skip this step. One of the easiest parts about using a free host is its suite of easy-to-use tools. These tools aren’t always the best, but they will let you get your content up quickly. If you are still a bit nervous about posting your own content to the web, a free CMS can be your training wheels.

 

The Finishing Touches: Creating Content

 

Create Content

Content is key. Your blog needs it, and it needs it regularly. Fortunately, creating content is something that you can start doing even if you have never touched a computer before. You just have to make sure that the content is good.

Good content is…

  • Always relevant (evergreen)
  • Easy to read
  • Useful – either for expanding knowledge or entertainment
  • Original

We’ll talk about content more as we continue the series, but it is something you need to start thinking about today. Content is the soul of blogging, so go ahead and get your imagination moving. Your particular niche is full of potential topics, and you might be that breakout star who sees things with a unique perspective. Take some time to enjoy this part, because it really is quite fun. Your blog is going to be a great platform for your ideas, so get ready to embrace the steps necessary to make it shine.

 

Learning how to start a blog is easy with the right advice. What are your thoughts about the tips we’ve listed here? Do you have any other pieces of wisdom to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below.