In our last post we talked about the galaxy of free things you can do to drive valuable visitors to your website, and the importance of social media and relationship building. One crazy easy way to drive site traffic is through the magic of blogging. But how do you even get started? And why should you care about a blog in the first place?
Choosing your blog: the basics
Choosing the right blog platform is like choosing a car, only without a sales manager eager to meet their targets for the month. They come in various shapes, sizes, and colours and all have different benefits. At a glance, the big hitters can be summarised as follows:
It sounds simple, right? Just close your eyes, pick one, and start writing: what could be easier? Except that as a casual blogger you're going to have different wants than the serious business blogger, and that's barely even the start of it. If you want the best blog you need to consider your options more carefully.
What budget do you have for your blog? You can set up a blog for free in minutes on Wordpress.com, Blogger, Tumblr or Medium, but if you want a more premium service you should consider Wordpress.org, the platform's software for self-hosting. While the Wordpress.org software is free to use, a custom domain name and web hosting are required and will come at a small cost – though it's Crazy Easy to get started quickly and affordably for as little as $99/yr with our Online Startup Package.
Why would you pay for hosting and a domain with Wordpress.org when you can get a blog for free? The benefits! Wordpress.org has the added benefits of allowing plugins, full theme support, and the added bonus of allowing monetisation: the latter is a big plus if you're a serious business blogger and want to make any kind of a living from it.
Other sites have various benefits that are also worth considering. Want an active, engaged and progressive community? Tumblr is a good choice – plus with its like, reblog and follow buttons it has advantages over more stand-alone platforms like Wordpress.
The beauty of choosing Medium over Tumblr is the emphasis on content over style. While Tumblr is especially favoured for multimedia content, and themes can be easily changed, Medium keeps you to the standard template with a user base favouring long form content and more in depth discussion. An added advantage of Medium is the site's daily emails, along with its Staff Picks and Top Stories categories – giving good content great exposure to a growing and loyal user base.
If you have an existing Google account, it's incredibly easy to get started using Blogger – as a Google product, you don't even need to sign up again or login with Twitter. Because it's a Google product, you'll find it integrates easily with Google Analytics and Blogger makes it incredibly simple to add ready-made widgets to your blog sidebar: a benefit that is not something you get with Tumblr or Medium.
Wordpress.com's biggest benefits are that it is free to use, has no maintenance requirements (unlike Wordpress.org) and if you find yourself growing more confident with blogging and want something with more power, it's a cinch to move to Wordpress.org. For more info, check out our post Everything you need to know about Wordpress but were too afraid to ask.
Why bother blogging?
The discussion of the pros and cons of one blogging platform over another may leave you wondering, why should you even bother blogging? What are the benefits? The list of good reasons can get quite expansive, but the top 5:
- An alternative to email.
A blog can be more agile than traditional emails, with news, offers and promotions able to be shared quickly and effectively. If you find your emails aren't engaging your readers, a blog can help shake things up.
- Build your network.
Blogging can help you to expand your site's influence by connecting to other people, be them bloggers, customers or other stakeholders. Networking is an important part of business, and forming genuine, personal relationships can be invaluable. By giving a human connection to your business you can help other people to connect with you, often proving to be a point of difference with competitors.
- Become a better communicator.
It seems obvious, doesn't it? Writing regularly improves your written skills, and in turn can help you to improve your website content, write better customer emails and even your inter-personal communications. You win, your customers win, and your website visitors win – everyone enjoys reading good content.
- Make your site SEO-worthy.
We covered in The Crazy Easy guide to getting traffic how on-page optimisation can help you boost your site traffic, and blogging is a great way to drive traffic to your website. Google and other search engines appreciate sites that are frequently updated with relevant and interesting content – so give yourself a competitive advantage with regular blog posts, linking to appropriate parts of your site and other content.
- Show your authority.
You know you're hot stuff, and that your website is the place to go. But how do you make sure others get the message? Online advertising? Word of mouth? Or you could demonstrate your skills and knowledge with some well-researched and well-written blog posts. Put your money where your mouth is, or in this case put your words where your blog is, and show the world you're the best at what you do.
Blogging doesn't have to be difficult or expensive: whether you're wild about Wordpress or barmy for Blogger, get started today and start enjoying the benefits.