The importance of planning
The importance of planning can never be emphasised more. Like going to war, you will need to strategize, you will need to know where your enemies’ weaker points are, you will need to know when to strike.
The Internet and the World Wide Web is a ferocious battlefield.
Let’s try this. Say you want to set up blog on golf. You are passionate about golf and you play golf 8 times a day and complete 18 holes in 10 minutes. So, eagerly, you set you your golf blog and you name your blog “Golf Blog”
Now. Search Google for “Golf Blog”.
You have 97 MILLION other competing sites!
Imagine there is a battlefield of 97 million tribes, and the top 10 tribes will share 80% of the food (approx 80% of searchers don’t go beyond the first page). Would you want to join that war and think you can win? I’m not saying you can’t… but even if you do, its going to cost you A LOT of effort.
So my advice is, for a start, compete in smaller battlefields first. Build your army, train your soldiers, gather your resources and ammunition, before you even consider stepping in the big battlefield.
So, how do you find smaller battlefields, you’d ask?
The answer is one word: Niche.
Selecting a niche topic for your blog
There are many ways to select niche topics. Many Internet marketers use keyword research tools like WordTracker or Overture Inventory.
However, my personal experience with these research tools is that while they are useful in spinning out ideas, some of the terms that are found can prove to be really hard to blog about.
Remember that blogging is very different from Internet marketing. Blogging requires you to have a constant flow of new entries. Internet marketers build websites that are by and large static in nature. As a result, you will want to target a broader niche that what the Internet marketers would target.
So for example, an Internet marketer may use WordTracker and come up with the niche of “Golf Putting for Tall People”. You might just want to target something like “Golf Putting Tips”
Comparatively, Googling “Golf Putting Tips” gives you over 1 million competitors. That is a good niche for a blog.
Remember that if you are serious about your blog (and I’m talking SERIOUS blogging), your blogs will eventually grow into a whole LOT bigger than a lot of the websites put together by Internet marketers, so it is easier too, to target a broader niche. As you build your blog and create new posts, the more powerful it becomes. It is like recruiting and training more soldiers for battle. Every single word is a new solider, every new post is new general ready to help you in your mission in conquest.
The more content on your site, the better it is (if you tweak your blog right!)… and you will find out a lot more about this in the blog promotion part of the course… later
For a blog, what is most important is that you need to be able to write content on the subject! Therefore, the main topic of your blog needs to be something you can really relate to. Go for a broad keyword if you need to. In fact, I would rather you post everyday on a “Golf Blog”, than to post once in two weeks in “Golf Putting Tips”.
Quality content is your ARMY!
Of course, you are the king … or queen. Haha!
The second step
The second step after you have elected your generals are is to buy your canons, guns, aeroplanes, B-52 bombers, rail guns, hand grenades…
Okay okay, enough of war talk. The second step is to identify your categories you want to start with.
Why is this important? Because we tend to stray off easily! Let’s go back to the golf putting tips example. Some categories you might want to think about are: Golf Clubs, Golf Putting Posture, Golf Putting Books, Training Aids… (I’m not too familiar with golf). You should have at least 5 to a maximum of 10 of these categories to start with.
These categories will help you to limit what you write. If not, it will be easy to stray off… one post might say you went to Scotland to golf, and then the next would be about all the castles, and then the next you will talk about the beautiful princess you saw there… and… you see how easily it flows out of hand?
Settling on your categories first help to keep your blog focused on the topic. I’m not saying that you will forever be writing on these topics – you can add more categories later, after you have built your initial categories.
The other concern about categories is that a reorganization of categories (when you realise your blog is in a mess) is crazy. I mean… you should NEVER ever end up in that state of having a messy blog!
Got it? Good. So you are now settled with the topic and scope of your blog.
The Blogging Platforms
The topic and scope is critical… because it affects the marketability aspect of your blog. However, apart from that, there is also one other thing you must think about.
That is – which blogging platform are you going to use?
There are are hundreds of different blogging platforms out there in the market – just to name a few, you have: Blogger. WordPress. TypePad. pMachine. B2evolution. Movable Type. bBlog. MySpace. Live Journal. Dead Journal. Nucleus. Textpattern. Friendster. Multiply. Geeklog. Greymatter. Radio UserLand. Serendipity. SIPS. Xoops. Joomla. Drupal. ExpressionEngine. Xanga. Windows Live Spaces. Blogware. Diaryland.
Now, is that enough? NO! Its not! This is practically overload!
So what is the solution? My advice would be just to focus on three. Just three – and here are the three.
3. MovableType and TypePad
I’ll talk more about using each. Different platforms have their own advantages. But before that, note that there largely two types of blog platforms you can use. The first one type is the hosted type, and the other is the self-hosted version.
Hosted blogs means that webspace is provided for your blog. As a tradeoff, you normally do not get to use your own domain name. For example, a hosted blogger blog will end up with an address like http://myblogname.blogspot.com. Hosted blogs are normally easier to set up, and very often you can get going with a blog in less than 5 minutes.
On the other hand, self-hosted blogs may require a more complex installation. As a brilliant example , http://www.blogopreneur.com uses a non-hosted version of WordPress. That means I have went to WordPress.org, downloaded the software, uploaded and installed it on my server. In exchange, I get a very customizable blog, because I have full control over everything on my server.
Notice that I put MovableType / TypePad in my last entry. This is because they run on the same technology, and are both from the same company, SixApart. MovableType sounds like a self-hosted version of TypePad now, but as you will discover, they are different.
Blogger is a blogging engine owned by Google. While Blogger would be by far the more popular platform to use for starters (I started from Blogger!), I feel that there is limited extendibility and customization options.
Blogger provides options for your blog to be either hosted by them, or self-hosted. If you choose for blogger to host the blog for you, your blog address will be something like http://yourblogname.blogspot.com. On the other hand, you can also specify your FTP details in Blogger’s blog administration panel, and Blogger will take care of populating your server with the blog and updating it whenever you post a new post.
I have to first admit – I’m a WordPress fanatic and I love WordPress to the core! Ever since I switched from Blogger, I never looked back.
Anyway, WordPress also comes in two versions. The hosted version of WordPress can be found at WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version for half-geeks like me can be found at WordPress.org.
With a blog hosted on WordPress.com, you will get a blog address like http://yourblogname.wordpress.com. I personally feel (again) restricted by in ability to tweak the template (unless I pay a fee), and the webspace limit of 50MB. WordPress.com allows you to redirect your own domain to your WordPress.com blog (again, for a fee), solving a branding issue, but it still does not remove the restrictions.
Blogopreneur.com uses the version available at WordPress.org. The benefits of using a self-hosted WordPress blog is that you have full control over everything, and that includes the tweaking of the source code, adding plugins, and your webspace.
MovableType and TypePad
The MovableType and TypePad use the same core technology created by SixApart, both running on a server side programming language called Perl. MovableType is the self-hosted version, and TypePad provides a hosted version for a small fee.
TypePad is much like Blogger, except with more features – with a web administration panel, you can configure your blog layout and design, lists, and files without touching a single line of HTML code. TypePad currently provides 3 different pricing packages, ranging from $4.95 to $14.95, and the more advanced packages allow you to point your own domain to the blog hosted at TypePad.
MovableType is like a self-hosted version of TypePad, but essentially they are two different platforms altogether. With a single installation of MovableType, you can create multiple blogs. MovableType also allows you to work on the code behind your template, adding practically anything you want!
Which should you choose?
So, we’ve covered the different platforms. Which should you choose and why?
As far as professional blogging and blog marketing is concerned, I would strongly recommend that you host your blog under your own domain and webspace. There are many reasons for this, and here are just three which I find particularly significant.
The first reason for this is because of price. By using your own hosting and domain solutions, you are free to switch between web hosting companies, and not be tied to the pricing scheme provided by the blog provider. For example, the basic TypePad package is $4.95 a month with 100MB of space. If you host your blog with TypePad, there is practically nothing you can do if they ever decide to raise that to $20 a month! Of course, you might argue that this is not likely, but still it pays to be on the safe side.
The second concern is about branding. If you are going to spend time and effort marketing a particular URL, you wouldn’t want to be marketing someone else’s URL! Besides, it would be so much nicer and professional (and stylish!) to tell people that your blog is at “blogopreneur dot com” rather than “blogopreneur dot blogspot dot com”
Lastly, of course, is the concern about control. With your blog configured in your own host, you will be free to add any additional files you want, and tweak your templates as much as you want!
With that configuration in mind, you can either use:
1. Blogger.com with its advanced settings – to FTP to your site
For this course, we will focus on using the self-hosted version of WordPress, from WordPress.org. (Because I’m a WordPress fanatic! I told you didn’t I?)
Alright! That’s it for today!
That’s it for today – its been another looong session eh? In the next session we are going to dive right in and set up your WordPress blog!
You might also like