New To Blogging? Choosing the Right Tools for the Job

by EnelleLamb

So you want to write a blog, but where do you start? Figure out blogging platforms, domain names, hosting companies, tools, software, and what to blog about!

Most people who get bitten by the blogging bug just grab onto the first blog host that comes along, throw a few posts up and figure they are on their way! For some, this method works well, and I must admit that I fell into this trap too. There are also those people who can't afford to have their own domain name and pay for hosting so this method works for them as well.

However, if you are anything like me, you will discover that there is a whole, other blogging world out there, and decide to stretch your wings a bit. I guess you could say that I fall into the category of not knowing exactly what I want to blog about! There are just so many topics and niches that I admit it's tough to figure out exactly where I fit!

So, I decided that I should have more than one blog. Now, I'm not perfect by any means. I don't always post faithfully, every day, but I do try and have good quality content that will stand the test of time. In other words...I'm lazy!

Hopefully, this article will help give you some tips about what to look for and save you a lot of time (and effort,) when it comes to finding what you want.

The definition of blogging

What exactly is a blog?

The term blogging has been defined as a text-based website that keeps a record, similar to a diary. Blogging started as a way to keep readers up to date on day to day activities and has morphed into a way to promote sales, readership, technology, and virtually everything, much like an online catalogue of events.

With today's changing technology, blogging has become a way of staying in touch, journaling (is that even a word?) and spreading news. Now, there are photo blogs, and even video blogs as well. Mobile devices like I-phones, I-pads and others have changed the definition of blogging entirely.

Another element that is changing the face of blogging, is the corporate blog. As more companies hire writers to create a positive buzz about their brand, many bloggers are arguing about whether these corporate blogs are really worthy of the name, or are simply a new way of company advertising.

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Is free the best way to go?

Choosing a free blogging site can be confusing and in some cases, overwhelming to the beginner because there are so many options. Depending on what your priorities are, you might find that a larger, more established site like Blogger.com/Blogspot.com is your best venue.However, there are several other sites like Google Sites, BlogHer, Tumblr, Blog-city, Windows, and Thoughts.com to name a few.

When I was just starting out, I decided to go with blogger.com (which kicked me into blogspot.com. I'm not sure if that is the Canadian version, or if they got so big they had to expand.) I found it rather limiting in the beginning as there weren't many backgrounds and every blog ended up looking much like its neighbours, however, the company has recently added a whole new set of backgrounds that are customizable so now everyone can have their own unique space.

Something to think about when choosing your blog host is reliability. Nobody likes 'down time', and if you are looking to use your blog to make money you need to have an established company with the resources to ensure your blog doesn't disappear overnight or suffer from surprise technical glitches.

However, reliability may not be something that you 'must have'. Your blog might be a place to just jot down your thoughts for the day and so doesn't warrant a vast array of technical selections. If this is the case, you might decide to go with one of the smaller, just-starting-out companies.

Blogging platforms

What is a blogging platform and is it really important?

The right blogging platform really is the most important aspect of blogging. Most bloggers look for a simple to use program, but don't really understand what they are utilizing is a blogging platform. I know I didn't. This 'platform' as it is called, is what makes your blog simple and easy to use and allows for changes in templates, colours and individual appearance. Everyone likes to show their individuality, so take the time to do some research to find the right platform for your needs.

Figure out exactly what you want to get out of your blogging experience. There are many customizable, automated platforms such as Wordpress, that allow for more advanced design changes, colours, fonts, positioning etc., however, if you are new to blogging, you might find that this is a bit overwhelming, or not something you are interested in. If you are a veteran user or knowledgeable about javascript or html then you might find automated, user-friendly platforms somewhat hum-drum and limiting.

My own experience has led me through many changes. Once I learned what I was doing, I started experimenting with different backgrounds, fonts, headers, widgets and applications. While I'm nowhere near the level of software designers or html/javascript users, I do have a certain level of comprehension when it comes to designing (within limits of course,) my personal blog space. I also have trouble making up my mind (something that drives my family and friends to distraction,) so I like being able to switch up the look of my blogs from time to time.

Because each blogger is unique and has different needs, there is no such thing as a uniformly 'best' platform, which is why there are so many options available. However, this diversity can be a bit overwhelming and time consuming when you are searching for the 'right' one for you. Keep your priorities in mind when you are reading reviews. For example, if you are reading a review from an accomplished software designer who is complaining that the platform is too limiting, don't jump to the conclusion that this platform is not for you. Simply because it is too limiting to someone with technical knowledge does not make it wrong for a beginner.

Blogging Tips

Choosing the right tools for the job

Applications, backgrounds and animations, too much of a good thing?

There are a ton of 'tools' or applications for bloggers, however just because there are doesn't mean you should have all of them on your page. As with everything, you need to be selective if you want to stand out from the crowd. You need to learn what the applications, flashy backgrounds, or animations will do for you. Just because you can have it doesn't necessarily mean you need it!

There are so many to choose from that you might decide that you need one of everything! Not so. If you are blogging about sports, then a news capsule might not be right for you, however, sports highlights or videos might be something that will keep your readers interested and coming back.

Choose the options that you think would be useful. If you check traffic statistics to see how many people visit your blog, then a visitor counter would be an unnecessary addition. However, if you aren't into 'stats' then you might want to consider one. If your blog is text-based, then a flashy background might be more of a distraction for your readers. If you are more interested in photos then maybe a cool background would add rather than distract. You get what I am saying here?

Most bloggers like a bit of change, and I have to agree with wanting to stand out from the crowd. Try a few options and see how you like it, and how many other people do as well. Then do some fine tuning, a 'tweak' here, a 'tweak' there, until you get it the way you like.

Learn the software

When in doubt, read the directions!

Most blogging software is designed to be simple to use, but if you are new to the whole experience of blogging, even a simple-to-use-platform can seem overwhelming at first. The first thing you should do is read the 'how-to' section so you have an idea what everything does. Don't be like me and just rush into things. Take your time and learn the basics before you jump to the more advanced techniques. This way you won't end up frustrated when you try something and it doesn't work.

By taking your time and starting at the beginning instead of the middle (like me...) you will be able to retain more information and make you feel more positive about your whole blogging experience. (It took many repeat performances for me to figure out exactly what I needed to do!)

Once you get the ABC's of blogging it becomes a fun experience instead of a chore - and that is why we blog yes? I know I have enough chores at home that I need to do, I definitely don't want my blog to be one!

Updated: 12/04/2012, EnelleLamb
 
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EnelleLamb on 07/30/2012

I started on Blogger (as it is a free site,) and relatively easy to use for newbies, and "graduated" to WordPress when I had the capital to afford the domain name and hosting. As far as performance, I haven't noticed a difference either. WordPress does have more backgrounds and different configurations depending on which template you choose, with more options available than Blogger, however, unless you are more "tech' savvy, Blogger is a good choice to start with.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting :)

Tolovaj on 07/30/2012

Some good points here. I jumped into blogging scene to support my e-store and now I have about 12 active blogs, some doing great and some not.

One important fact I learned the hard way is the local effect. Because my landing site is in Slovenia, blogs positioned in Slovenia give me much more power than blogs from other countries, no matter if they have more related contend and more traffic.

I have blogs on wordpress and blogger too and wordpress had much better start, but now there is really no difference in performing.

EnelleLamb on 07/30/2012

I have both, and surprisingly, my Blogger site is doing fairly well, but I do understand what you mean :)
I had to thin mine out a bit as I was having trouble keeping up with everything too.

dustytoes on 07/29/2012

I have too many blogs now to keep up with as well as I should. WordPress is my favorite. It's very easy to use once you get the hang of it. I wish I had started there instead of with Blogger.

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