Day 2 of my 30-day blog challenge, read day one: 30-day blog challenge
Tips on starting a free blog for your business
A friend of mine asked me Friday about what it costs to start a blog. The short answer is that it’s free, but not really.
I’ve previously tackled the question of “How long does it take to build a business?”, but if you’re starting out your blog by thinking about where you can save money and cut costs for your business, you should take a second to examine your goals.
Why do you need a blog?
Of course I think EVERY business should have a blog, but not just because I’m in the blog writing business! I believe that the best way to brand yourself is by creating your own content. If you’re a maker (painter, poet, photographer etc.) then the content you use to brand yourself will be self-made, but you should still have a blog.
Small business owners, anyone from a restaurant owner to a travel agent, should also blog. About what? Their industry. Be yourself and write (or podcast) about what you do. Your written words translate to your word-of-mouth reputation as search engines bring your thoughts to those searching for solutions for their needs.
Why is blogging ‘not really’ free?
Nothing is really free if you remember that time is money. Thinking of blog ideas, writing words and editing takes enough time–and that’s before you factor in finding an image and sharing your message socially. The bigger thing to consider is virtual real estate. You may not think it’s a big deal (and you may prefer the ease of avoiding technology) to just set up a Facebook Page or a Tumblr account. These free mediums exist, but you will always be subject to the platform developer’s whims and privacy settings. Think of it like putting up storefront on public property. You’re typically going to want control of your blog, and housing it on your own domain (with a hosting service) is what I do.
Domains and hosting explained
I bought my domain name (elleneldridge.com) from GoDaddy, but I use BlueHost for hosting service. Think of it like your house and the land it sits on. The domain will cost you anywhere from about $6 dollars to $18 or more, depending on the name you choose and where you purchase it. BlueHost sells domains as well as hosting with 24-hour support.
The freedom to change and customize my websites makes it worth it to me to spend money on the domain and the hosting service.
Best free blogging platforms
WordPress (what I use on this site) is free. You can sign up and immediately start blogging for free from WordPress.com OR you can download and install WordPress (as a content-management system) to run on your website (through BlueHost or another hosting service), which is what I do. After you install WordPress you can use a free theme or fully customize the code for your website (no small task).
The biggest advantage to WordPress is also its disadvantage: highly customizable with plugin and widget options that require a fairly steep learning curve.
Blogger is Google’s free blogging platform, and if you decide to start a free blog this would be my recommendation.
Just to be clear, though, I recommend hiring a web developer to install and customize a WordPress website tailored to the way you want to present your business online. I recommend doing this after completing a business plan and a marketing strategy, with attention paid to how you will use social media. These are services I will gladly speak to you about to help you conceptualize and bring your business to life on a strong foundation.
But, if you don’t have the desire, time or money and you just want to start writing, Blogger’s features make it hard to fail. One of the advantages to owning your own domain and paying a host is the use of Adsense, Google’s method of paying bloggers to show ads.
The reason I recommend Blogger is because of Google, one of the most popular search engines. When you blog via Blogger, you can easily reach Google Communities and make effective use of Google Plus. By the way, Google also own YouTube, which means that your videos are linked to your Google Plus Page and your Blogger account.
Editing your blog is crucial
Though one of the biggest problems for bloggers is a lack of follow-through and abandoned blogs, another problem is when your blog hurts you instead of helps you because it’s not professionally edited. When you spend all your time running your business and managing all the online aspects, including the blog, you have the potential to make errors.
Having a second pair of eyes to look over your work is always helpful, but a professional editor (like me) will spot things that the average person would miss. Things like awkward constructions (you know what you mean so it’s hard to know when something you wrote might confuse a reader). Sentence fragments. Grammar can be more than a headache; it can be a nightmare.
When you are ready to start a blog for your business, let me know by emailing Ellen [@] EllenEldridge.com. I will walk you through my recommendations and personalize the approach so ensure your needs. Every business is different. Your blog needs to represent you and your business brand. Let no one sell you something without fully understanding how it suits your business goals.