Which is the best blog to use? I have been blogging for three years now, and although my IT skills are fairly basic, I manage to navigate the blogging world quite well. So, if you are thinking of starting or switching your own blog, which is the best platform to use?
I began blogging with a WordPress site. It was beyond my abilities to set up, so I had help. I knew what I wanted though – a website where people could access links easily. I wanted to write articles, rather than simply a weekly blog. I was therefore advised to use WordPress, and to find a format that allowed me to add pages. Pages are the links that are static – they appear on your blog when someone clicks on it. They are different to posts. Posts are added in chronological order, so follow, one after the other. If, therefore, I post a brilliant article about self-publishing, after a few weeks it is buried below all the posts I have added since. Pages, however, sit there, in the same place, allowing for easy access. People can find them when they click on the menu.
WordPress offer a variety of themes. I wanted a free one, and one that displayed lots of pages on the home screen. I found one with that option, rearranged a few things and changed the photos, then I was ready. Everything is changed via the Dashboard, which is found by clicking the WP Admin option in the menu. I can then add posts, or pages, very easily. I wanted a website address, so pay an annual fee for the domain name anneethompson.com. Everything else was free. I spent, and earned, nothing. It was lots of fun.
The thing I especially like about WordPress is that people can sign up to follow my blog. When they choose this option, they submit their email details, and then everything I post is emailed to them automatically by WordPress. It helps me to have some idea of how many people actually read my blog. Some are clearly people who sign up simply because they hope I will follow them in return. They opt out again after a few weeks. A few followers are linked to me – family, or people who knew me years ago, or friends. Most of my followers are complete strangers. It is always exciting when a new follower signs up, and it is very motivating.
WordPress show you how many people have read posts each week. They only show ‘visitors’, so followers of my blog don’t show up (they are in a separate list). Nor do my own views, when I click on my site to check it. The stats show me what has been read, in which countries, and the link that was used to access it. So, if I put a link onto Twitter, I can see whether that has been effective or not.
After two and a half years, I was unable to add any new photographs. WordPress informed me I had used my media allocation. I could delete photos, but they were then deleted from the whole site, so if people clicked on past posts or pages, there were gaps. To add more data, I had to pay for a premium theme. This allowed me more data capacity, and also meant I could opt in to have adverts added to my posts. I am paid for this service. Each month, depending on how many people have viewed my posts, I receive credit into a paypal account. It does not include the posts emailed out to followers (so I am assuming they escape the adverts). I wasn’t sure how much I would receive. For the first month, in which it had 5,000 views of posts, I received 13p! Am thinking that unless I have a post that ‘goes viral’, I am not going to paying for dinner any time soon, especially as they only pay out when you are owed at least £100.
I knew of other bloggers, who seemed to have more views than me. They used Blogspot, so I decided to start another blog there too. Setting up was very easy, and I managed to do it, without help, in a few minutes. I didn’t find a pages option, so everything I write appears chronologically, as posts. Like WordPress, you can add ‘tags’ or ‘labels’ – key words which help to direct people to your blog. A little like Hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. When people do a search using key words, the computer finds those hashtags and directs them to your writing.
I began to post all the same posts and articles on the Blogspot blog, as it’s read by a different audience. There is no option for people to follow my blog, so reaching readers seems to be less predictable. One interesting feature is that many more people seem to read Blogspot. Which makes me suspicious. Are there really more views, or are the stats unreliable? I can post the same post, at the same time, on both blogs, and put links onto Google Plus and Twitter. Within minutes – literally minutes, 20 people will have viewed the Blogspot post. By the end of the day, I will have maybe 30 viewers on WordPress (because followers don’t show on stats) and over a hundred on Blogspot. It starts almost immediately. I can post something, refresh the page and already, bam, 9 views. Apparently.
There are three possible for reasons for this. Possibly, Blogspot is a bigger company, with more bloggers, so when something is posted, there are more people surfing for blogs to read, hence the higher number of viewers. Possibly the stats are recording something different, so they show the people who glimpsed my Twitter link or saw the title of my post, even though they did not actually click on it and read it. Or, possibly the stats are inflated, Blogspot know that bloggers want to have readers, so they increase the numbers of views. Certainly I find that if I view my own site, it increases my stats (even though I have my settings so my own views shouldn’t be recorded). If you have info, let me know. I will continue to copy my WordPress posts onto to Blogspot, simply because it takes seconds, and possibly increases my readership. But my main blog, the one I care about and trust, is the WordPress one.
The main issue with a blog seems to be getting traffic to your site. You might write something fabulous, witty, insightful, but if no one reads it, what’s the point? To begin with, I told everyone who I knew about my blog, hoping they would log on when they got home and read something. I became very boring, conversations were geared to when I could mention what I’d written. My friends were understanding, acquaintances started to avoid me. The thing is, my blog really mattered to me. It was where I was investing my time and energy. But for other people, it was insignificant, and by the time they had opportunity to have a look, they had forgotten.
I realised that the best source of traffic is via social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc, all give a platform to advertise what you’ve written, and an easy place to add links so people can be directed straight to your blog. The trouble with social media, is that it can be very time-consuming. I am an author, I write books. Spending hours (literally) every day, on social media, is not what I choose to invest time in. For it to be effective, you need to interact with others, it’s not just about posting your own stuff. You have to read what others have written, follow other blogs, comment and share. This can become very superficial – I know that some people will comment on posts I have shared on Twitter, and retweet them, even though they have not actually followed the link and read them! If you look at Twitter, some people follow tens of thousands of people. They cannot possibly be interested in that many people. It becomes a game, and you need to choose whether or not you want to play it. It is a little like book reviews on places like Amazon – sometimes they are more a reflection of how much time someone spends on social media, rather than the quality of writing. There is nothing wrong with that (even presidents can find it fulfilling apparently) but be realistic about what social media is, and what it isn’t. Then decide how you want to find your audience.
Sometimes, I read other blogs, and they are badly written and boring. At the bottom, they have been ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ by hundreds of people. Other blogs are clever and interesting, and will have 4 ‘likes’. I think you need to decide what is important. Receiving feedback is lovely, but sometimes it’s delayed, and sometimes it’s private. I receive emails from people who tell me something made them laugh, or meet a friend who tells me they took an article to a hospice and all the patients chuckled at it, or I hear that an article was helpful for someone. That is very precious, and motivates me to continue. But, to be honest, my blog is not going to be paying for dinner any time soon. Or even a cup of tea.
Thank you for reading, hope it was helpful. You can follow my blog at: anneethompson.com – oh, and if you feel like sharing a link, that would be wonderful!