Blog 101 : getting started

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Sometimes you get asked the same question over and over again. Starting blogging has been one of those questions for me recently, so I thought over the weekends, when there isn’t much eBay news, we’d take a look at getting started on a blog of your own.

blog 101 One of the reasons blogging has taken the internet by storm is that it’s so easy to get started. All you need is a bit of software, plus something to say. I’ll assume for the moment you can supply the something to say yourself; if not, you might want to reconsider whether a blog is what you really want.

Today I’m going to consider two of the biggest blog management systems, Blogger’s Blogspot and WordPress. Not because they’re the biggest, but because they represent the main choice you have to make: quick and easy and absolutely free, versus good.

Blogspot

Blogger is one of the longest established blogging services there is. They’re currently owned by Google, and Blogspot is their free hosting service. Getting started with Blogspot is incredibly simple: a few clicks, select the name of your blog, pick from one of a dozen or so free styles, and you can start posting. It costs nothing and you don’t need to sign up for any web hosting: you can literally have a blog up and running in a couple of minutes.

Blogspot is amazingly easy to use, but it has two huge disadvantages. Firstly, the commenting system is a nightmare. Click on the “leave a comment” system on any Blogger blog and you’re taken off the blog you’re on, and onto a Blogger branded page. The original post you’re commenting on has disappeared, and you have a tiny little window to type into. It’s not pretty, and you can’t *make* it pretty.

Perhaps even more importantly, with Blogspot, I’m always aware that my content is at the mercy of Google. I don’t know that they’ve ever lost content, but if I’ve put effort into writing the words, I want to know they’re safe. That means keeping them on my server, and backing them up on my PC, neither of which Blogger wants to let me do.

WordPress

WordPress, on the other hand, takes a little more effort to get started. You need to download the software from their website, and upload it to your own web host. Then you need to install it. If you’ve done this kind of thing before, perhaps with forum software, it’s not difficult, but for the resolutely non-techy, it can be daunting. (WordPress do offer a hosted service too, but I am assuming for most of our readers, this will of no use as you are not allowed to post any commercial content.)

Is it worth the effort? Absolutely. Blogspot does exactly what it says on the tin: it takes your posts, and it publishes them. But if you want to go beyond that, I cannot recommend WordPress highly enough. Want comments that live on your blog? WordPress does that. Want to back up your blog on your own computer? WP can do that. Want polls in your posts? Built-in “about me” or other static pages? built-in stats? clickable smilies? galleries of pictures in your posts? WordPress can do all of that, and much, much more.

So which to choose?

For me, the choice is pretty straightforward. If

  • you’re new to this whole blogging malarky and don’t know if you’re really going to stick with it
  • you’re terrified of anything technical
  • you’re really, really skint and can’t afford even the cheapest web hosting

and your blog is only going to be about you talking – perhaps a “new products and special offers” section on your website, or just a personal diary where you don’t even want any interaction – then Blogspot will do.

But if

  • you want real interaction with your readers by way of commenting and more
  • you want more than just a list of posts
  • you want to own and keep your own words

then for me, WordPress is the only way to go.

How about you? If you have a blog, what does it run on? Are you happy with that? Leave us a comment – and a link.

8 Responses

  1. Hello
    I don’t think you are comparing the right softwares, if you are comparing blogger vs wordpress, you should compare it against the wordpress hosted solution (www.wordpress.com )

    I am using wordpress.com and found it A LOT better for google, as the tags generated by wordpress.com are picked up by google so quickly

    If you want traffic quickly, go for wordpress.com but if you want adsense and good control over the HTML then go for blogspot

  2. Thierry, as I’ve said above, wordpress.com is absolutely useless to anyone who wants to include commercial content; that will include most of our readers. I’ll be looking at SEO techniques for WordPress at a later date maybe, but as a general point, Google picks up *blogs* quickly. It likes blogs: lots of words and regularly updated content. And WP code is not bad straight out of the box anyway.

    The intention was not to compare the two services, but to outline two different approaches to getting started blogging. I’m sorry if it was not useful for you.

  3. Don’t know how I missed this post, but I just wanted to say “thank you” for taking the time and trouble to write it. It’s very useful.

    I am one of those who wants to write a blog, but I want it to have a purpose rather than just be a rant page. It’s not having too little to say for thats the problem, it’s having too much to say! As anyone who knows me will vouch for!

  4. Oooh – I missed this post too – good job I saw your comment, Jade ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hmmmm I hear what you say, Sue. However blogspot has been doing just what I want it to for my blog atm, which is basically to promote my website. I found it really easy to set up & get going, and it is straightforward for my little brain to get to grips with.

    I found it hard to know what to say to start with – I never know what to write in email newsletters, either (other than ‘come buy my stuff’, which seems a little on the unsubtle side…).

    I am getting more into it now though, and hope to focus on more interesting content such as step by step projects & the like in future (and if I could teach the cat to operate my camera, I could even include a video or two as well ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Real people might actually want to read it then, as well as google ๐Ÿ˜†

    https://foilplay.blogspot.com/

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