Blog software for publisher and author sites


At its most basic, getting started with blogging is as easy as going to the home page of any of the major blog applications and signing up.

We look at the popular blogging applications, consider their advantages and disadvantages, and show how to use them to create stand-alone blogs or add them as part of your website.

Introduction


Wordpress and Blogger

Blogs and blog software are a powerful addition to any publisher’s or author’s online marketing. There are three ways to use blog software.

  • You can set up a blog and operate it as a stand-alone blog site
  • You can add a blog to a new or existing website
  • You can use blog software to create both a blog and a publisher or author website

How to add a blog to your existing website


A blog isn’t just for bloggers. It can be a good addition to an existing or new website, providing an easy way to generate and share new content and gather an audience.

There are several ways to add a blog to an existing website but it depends on how your website was made. If you used an outside developer, you should discuss options and costs with them first.

Adding a blog can be easy but it can also get fairly involved, especially if you want one that looks like it’s part of your website while having all the ease-of-use and tools you ideally need. And unless it is easy to use, you or your team won’t use it.

Briefly, the options tend to fall into one of the following:

1. Add a blog section to your website using the same system that’s been used to build it

If it was built originally with a content management system (CMS), this approach might work. However, not all CMSs give you the tools you need to easily add and market your blog posts. If it’s not easy to use, you might still be be better to look at one of the alternatives below.

2. Add a special blog program to your website and ‘skin’ it to look like your website

‘Skinning’ means that, even though it’s a separate program, it looks like it’s part of your website. A self-hosted Wordpress site (see below) is commonly used for this approach.

3. Link to a separate blog from your website

This is the simplest option. You can set up your blog using one of the free systems like Blogger or Wordpress and link to it from your website’s menu. It’s not as elegant – you end up with two sites to manage and your visitors leave your website to visit your blog. But it works, it’s simple and quick to set up, it gives you an excellent blogging platform, and you can do it for free.

Regardless of which way you choose to go, you should first set up a free blog and play with it so you understand how blogs work and what tools they provide to support the blogger. You’ll be in a much stronger position to discuss options and pick your best route.

You’ll have a chance shortly to do just that when you create a blog using WordPress.

Which blog software?


Let’s look at the three most popular blog applications.

  • WordPress
  • Blogger
  • Tumblr

WordPress


wordpress.com (hosted) or wordpress.org (self-hosted)

WordPress is the most widely-used blogging software and it powers both very large and very small blogs. It’s generally the best option for publishers and authors who want to do serious marketing because it provides a lot more flexibility than other systems (it can be extended to do anything you’d want to do with a website), while staying true to the simplicity of great blogging software.

Read more about WordPress

One of the biggest advantages of WordPress over a lot of other blog software is that it can be used to create a normal website that doesn’t look like a blog.

  • You can set it up to have a proper home page instead of the blog-style layout that just shows a changing list of articles, latest at the top.
  • Like a normal website, you can create multiple sections with a menu system to navigate around the site.
  • It’s an excellent content management system — and one of the easiest to use

There are two ways to use WordPress.

  • Hosted. A ‘hosted service’ is an online application where you don’t have to worry about installing and running your own software. The technical stuff is looked after for you. WordPress.com is a free online service for creating and hosting WordPress blogs. 
  • Self-hosted. ‘Self-hosted’ means you install the free WordPress software on your own web server — usually rented from your ISP or a web hosting site — and run it yourself. The self-hosted option offers a lot more capability — including access to thousands of ‘plug-in’ programs that greatly extend its functionality — but it needs some technical expertise.

So which option is best for you?

The hosted version is easiest and cheapest, but it restricts your ability to install the themes and plugins that extend what WordPress can do. For most blogs and simple websites, this is seldom a problem. And because they operate like the independent ‘self-hosted’ version of WordPress, they can be switched over to a self-hosted version later if you need the extra features. So if your needs are modest and technical resources limited, you might start with a hosted blog.

On the other hand, if you have access to some technical expertise, you’ll find that running your own self-hosted version makes WordPress a much more powerful tool. You can do a lot with WordPress with only moderate technical skills so it’s a popular choice with both web developers and tech-savvy (or determined) users.

Either way, the easiest way to use or try out WordPress is to open a free account on WordPress.com. We’ll do that shortly.

TIP: You can download the WordPress software from WordPress.org but most people take a much easier route to self-hosting. They use the ‘one-click install‘ offered by many website hosting services such as HostGator, Bluehost, and DreamHost.

Here’s a short video from HostGator that shows you how it’s done.

Blogger


blogger.com

This is Google’s free blogging service and one of the oldest blog networks, hosting millions of blogs. It’s straightforward, easy to use, free, and hosted by Google so you never have to install or update software, or pay hosting or storage charges.

Read more about Blogger

To start a Blogger blog, just go to its home page at blogger.com, sign up and after completing a few simple steps, you’ll be blogging in minutes.

You can tell a Blogger blog by the blogspot.com address. It’s also possible, for a small charge, to have your own web address instead of the blogspot.com one.

The disadvantage of Blogger compared to WordPress is that it’s really a ‘one trick pony’ — great for blogging but with limited options to expand its use.

Tumblr


tumblr.com

In spite of stiff competition from blogging heavyweights WordPress and Blogger, Tumblr has managed to carve out a big piece of the  ‘blogosphere’ and now powers about 100 million blogs. Tumblr blogs are short-form blogs, quick to post to, typically containing image- and video-rich multimedia content, and very easy to share.

Read more about Tumblr

You can think of Tumblr as midway between a traditional blogging platform like Wordpress or Blogger with its longer posts; and the ‘microblogging’ platform Twitter with its quick-fire, 140-character ‘Tweets’. And like Twitter, it lets you ‘follow’ other bloggers, and build a network of followers to your blog.

Tumblr is popular with younger users (half of the visitors to Tumblr blogs are under 25), and in more visual sectors like fashion and design.

While most publishers and authors are likely to find the traditional blog platforms more suitable, if your market shares the characteristics of Tumblr’s users, you might want to consider it.

Resources


WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: A Definitive Guide For 2013. This straightforward article will give you a good idea of how these two options for WordPress work, and which might suit you best.

Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.

 

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