Blogging Tools & Resources


There are many blogging services out there where you can setup a free account and start blogging immediately. Likewise, there is free blogging software that you can download and install in a variety of web hosting environments. Let's take a look at some of the more popular services and software available to bloggers.

Blogger


Figure 1Blogger is a very popular free blogging service launched by Pyra Labs in 1999 and later purchased by Google in 2003. The content on Blogger is hosted on Google servers and the addresses of the blogs they host are parked on the blogspot.com domain name. When you create a Blogger account and choose a name for your blog it will be accessible at blogname.blogspot.com. If you happen to have your own domain name, you can also configure your DNS and Blogger account to use it.

Wordpress


Blogging Service

Figure 2At Wordpress.com you can also create your own free blog parked on the wordpress.com domain. Much like Blogger and other blogging services, your blog will be accessible at a domain like blogname.wordpress.com.

The blogs on Wordpress are powered by the very popular Wordpress blogging software, but on their blogging service site you'll be unable to utilize the full potential of their software compared to hosting the software on your own server.

Blogging Software

Wordpress.org is home to the very popular open source CMS, which is used to power millions of blogs around the world. The first version of Wordpress was originally released by Matt Mullenweg in May 2003. Wordpress is written in the PHP scripting language and the MySQL database so you'll need your own web hosting account and a little technical skill to install and configure it.

You can either manually install Wordpress or use one of the auto-installers out there. Many web hosts have their own auto-installers to get you up and running quickly.

Additional features and functionality can be added to Wordpress through its support for plugins and themes. Wordpress has a massive community that creates both custom plugins and attractive webpage themes. Some of the more popular plugins include:

Movable Type


Figure 3First released in October 2001 by Six Apart, the Movable Type blogging platform is another popular resource for bloggers. In December 2007, the platform was re-licensed as a free blogging platform under the GPL.

Movable Type is powered by PHP/Perl, the Smarty template engine and there is support for a number of database solutions. Much like Wordpress, there is also support for plugins created and managed by a community of Movable Type developers and users.

TypePad


Figure 4TypePad is another creation of Six Apart based on the Movable Type platform and was launched in October 2003 as a paid blogging service (ie - it's not free). TypePad is used by big media companies like ABC, MSNBC, CBC, BBC and Sky News.

Tumblr


Figure 5Tumblr is another free blogging service that was founded by David Karp in 2007 with Marco Arment as its lead developer. Much like other platforms Tumblr supports photos and embedded media files like MP3 and video. Blogs created with Tumblr are sometimes referred to as Tumbleblogs and users can easily follow and subscribe to the blogs on Tumblr.

Posterous


Figure 6Posterous is a simple blogging platform that was founded in May 2009 by Y Combinator. Posterous allows Auto-Posting to various popular sites like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Posting on Posterous is easy through its rich text editor and you can even submit posts by email. After you sign up with Posterous you'll get your own personalized email address with which you can send photos, MP3 and video that Posterous will submit to your blog. Posterous also allows you to configure your blog to use your own domain name.

Getting Noticed


Once you have a blog setup and ready to go, you just need content and of course, visitors. Some of the most important things you can do to grow your blog is 1) write quality content; 2) optimize your blog and content for search engines; and 3) make use of the free marketing outlets available.

To start out, you can notify search engines that you've just started a blog which may speed up the process of getting your blog indexed on search engines so people can find you in searches. Check out Google Webmaster Central, Yahoo! Site Explorer and Bing Webmasters. On top of notifying search engines, you should also submit a sitemap as it will help search engines better discover your blog posts, pages and other content. Please see Intro to SEO to learn more about search engines and optimizing your blog to have the best possible results on search engines.

Apart from writing quality content, here are a few more pointers:
  • Social Bookmarking Sites
    Use sites like Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Digg and Stumbleupon to get your content out there. However, be careful to utilize such sites with netiquette in mind or you're sure to receive negative responses.
  • Blog Commenting
    The comment systems of many blogs allow you to specify your name, website and of course your comment. Your name will often be linked to your blog, which can attract other people to your blog. Comment on blogs with a similar genre as your blog and ensure you're leaving meaningful, helpful comments.

RSS Feeds


Figure 7The most popular means of syndicating content is called RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication. An RSS feed is an XML document that contains a list of the titles, links and descriptions of the most recently published posts on a blog or website. These feeds are useful because they allow readers to subscribe and be notified whenever a new post is published.

Virtually all blogging services and software support RSS and there are many resources by which users can subscribe to them, such as Google Reader, My Yahoo!, Netvibes and so on. RSS feeds play a vital role in keeping users updated on the latest content on a website and have become expected by users.

For webmasters, there are services like Google FeedBurner and FeedBlitz which can completely handle retrieving your RSS feeds and distributing them to users through traditional News Readers or via periodic News Letter emails.

Plagiarism / Copyright Infringement


As you begin writing your blog posts be careful to only write original work and when you use material from others only do so when it's appropriate and permitted by those people. Use quotes, citations and properly attribute others. Don't copy material from other sites or try to pass their work off as your own work. Such practices are theft and no different than stealing someone's wallet.

Beyond the moral implications, various forms of punishment can arise from stealing intellectual property related to the DMCA; your blog/domain name being disabled or terminated; or even law suits.

Now you might be wondering what if someone steals your content? Well, there are a number of things you can do to help protect your copyrighted content. Start by adding a copyright notice in the footer of your blog or even in your posts themselves. If someone does steal your content, you can start by contacting the blog owner directly and kindly ask them to remove the content. If that doesn't work, you can try sending a DMCA take down letter. You can also try notifying the blogging service, web hosting company or ISP the blog is using.

Here are a few more resources that will help you protect your content:
  • Copyscape
    By simply providing a link to your content, this service will search for copies of it around the Web and display a list of links to the duplicates.
  • Google Alerts
    With this service can you insert unique phrases into your blog posts and be notified if Google discovers the phrase on another website (likely a copy).
  • FairShare
    FairShare will monitor your RSS feeds and notify you when others copy your work, among other useful things.

Earning Revenue with a Blog


Figure 8With an ever increasing number of advertising networks even the smallest of blogs have a chance to earn some cash blogging. Some of the bigger blogs out there are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and more. The more visitors and pageviews your blog receives the more revenue you can earn by displaying advertisements on it.

Most bloggers start out by using the Google AdSense network and as they improve their blog and attract more and more visitors they move on to better, higher paying networks. Some of the networks you should investigate and keep an eye on include: Google AdSense; Chitika; ValueClick; Yahoo! Publishing Network; MSN adCenter; CPX Interactive; Infolinks and Kontera.

Generally, you'll be paid by CPC (Cost Per Click); CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions) or a combination of the two. Below you'll find an explanation of each.
  • CPC
    With "cost per click" you'll only earn money when visitors click on ads. You won't be paid simply for displaying and showing visitors the ads. The advertising network receives a percentage and you receive a percentage. You can earn anywhere from $0.05 to $2.00 in some cases per click.
  • CPM
    With "cost per 1,000 impressions" you'll receive a fixed amount every 1,000 times an ad is displayed. You won't, however, be paid for clicks in most cases. CPM rates can run from a few cents to a few dollars, where $1.00 to $1.50 is typical.

Conclusion


Blogging has emerged as one of the most powerful tools on Internet, enabling people from all around the world to have a voice and a presence on the web. Some blogs are even monitored by governments, mainstream media and other corporate giants on a daily basis and you'll be hard pressed to find a news/media company that doesn't now have its own staff of full time bloggers. Without a doubt, blogs are a great resource and they're here to stay. I hope you've enjoyed this article and learned a lot about blogging!