Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Get People to Read Your Blog!

The bottom line is, you are not going to have a successful blog unless you have readers. I know, I blog for the enjoyment of it, but there's no shame in being successful at what you love to do. There are two main steps to getting readers. Step one is to have a good blog that people want to read. I've covered that a little, but there is so much more to this step, as you can imagine. Then there's step two, the step that requires you to go out there and advertise your blog.

When I first started, I thought there wasn't too much I could do to advertise my blog aside from paying for an expensive ad campaign or manage to get lucky and have someone randomly stumble upon it. Now, there is an element of luck to getting readers, but not as much as you'd think. And you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars for an ad campaign that might not even yield results. However, you will need to keep at it with lots of hard work until you finally have a good foundation of readers.

Advertising your blog can be as simple as posting on a forum and providing a link somewhere in a signature or in your post, as long as you're not obnoxious about it. The bigger the forum community, the better. But, you want to be smart about what forums you go to. People who hate technology will not want to read your blog post about AT&T phones. Don't advertise your fashion blog in a car or motorcycle forum. That'll just be a waste of your time. However, forums that have multiple niches within it are perfect; websites like Gaia are ideal for just about anything you might have to offer.

Aside from forums, there are also link sharing websites like Reddit or Digg. While Reddit does tend to frown upon what they call "blogspam," there is a separate section of Reddit for blogs. Also, the smaller Reddit communities seem more open to blogs related to their areas of interest. Again, as long as you aren't obnoxious about the way you advertise your blog, you will get a decent flow of traffic by regularly sharing your blog posts. It is important, though, that what you share this way be 100% yours. If you are caught plagiarizing in these kinds of communities, it's a quick way to get your links deleted and banned from posting new ones. It's important to be original in general, but this is just incentive for those of you who are a little "relaxed" to copying other people's words.

Then at the end of the day, there's always the old-fashioned way of advertising: commenting. Lots and lots of commenting. A big part of blogging is the networking aspect, and you have to either join or create a community for your blog to be a part of. Otherwise it will wither away into nothingness.

There is another way to get your blog read call Search Engine Optimization (also known as SEO), but that is something I'll get into later. Everything here is just the tip of the iceberg!

Friday, April 22, 2011

More Domain Talk: Top Level Domains

Last time, I talked about what you should do before choosing a domain. Where to buy, what you might want to call it, etc. I only briefly touched on top level domains like .com or .net. However, most of my friends who are deciding on domains seem to have a lot of trouble with this particular issue, so it merits a closer look.

On the surface, there is no actual difference between the domain choices themselves. Changing a domain from .com to .net will not suddenly give your website a dramatic look, nor will it mess with your coding. It really is just a label in a grocery store. Taking a bag of Cheerios and dropping them in a box of Frosted Flakes will not suddenly turn those Cheerios into Frosted Flakes. Nor will pouring Pepsi in a Mr. Pibb bottle change it (although, why he hell would you pick Pepsi over Mr. Pibb, you sick fuck).

However, there are some restrictions in place, for obvious reasons. Over the internet, it's easy to fake just about anything. Which is great for people who know their stuff, but a little scary for people who don't. Without these kind of restrictions, there would be absolutely no guarantee that that .gov site is really a government website. And if you're registering for something online and give your private data out, well, suddenly that innocent act of reordering your drivers license online can become pretty scary. Plus, some countries want to ensure that their own top level domains are actually going to their citizens and not just a bunch of domain squatters. With that in mind, it's important to check and make sure there isn't some restriction on the site you want.

Finally, we get to the all important question. "What's better? .com, .net, .info, or .me?" Really, it's up to personal taste. It just sends different messages to different people. Com is short for commercial, so if you're a site that's looking to make money or showcasing a commercial product, go with that. Net is short for network, referring to the original use of .net, which was for network infrastructure. If you ask me, .net has a "geekier" and even an almost artsy feel to it, so if the commercial idea turns you off, it's definitely a good choice to go with. Info is a newer top level domain, and while it has no restrictions, it definitely sends off a different message. If you go with .info, you send out the message that your goal is purely to instruct and inform people, instead of entertaining or marketing. For example, this blog may go .info if I don't go with .com. And last but not least, there's .me. This did originally start out as a country domain, but of course they realized how globally this would appeal to everyone, and have made it available for unrestricted use. With that in mind, it's probably best to save .me for websites that are all about you as a person or your day to day life (which, as I said before, is a terrible idea for a blog).

Beyond those basic unrestricted choices, there are many others. Several country domains are unrestricted, so they're worth a look. In the end, you will just have to do the research yourself. But when you do, it's important to consider what the restrictions are, and what the original use for the domain was. That way, you can ensure you send out the right message to anyone before they click.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Domains, those little things

For some reason it's been ingrained in our heads that unless you have a domain, you aren't really serious about your blog. I'll admit it, I do think that way too. It's a tiny subconscious note-- whenever I see a site that has "freewebs" in the url, I shudder a bit.

So naturally, our next step is to buy a domain, right? Whether it's to show you're serious, solidify your relationship with your blog, or just because you have some money to spend and think it'll be a good investment, getting a domain ultimately will be a good thing for your blog. In all honesty, the only reason why you shouldn't get one is if you can't afford it.

Once you've made a decision to purchase a domain, you come across one big question: Where should you buy it from? You certainly have a large amount of options. But each domain seller has their own benefits. Here are some helpful tips:

If you use blogspot, I should point out that Google sells domains to all of their users for $10.00 a year. If you aren't really sure where to go for hosting or aren't really good at coding, this might be your best option. You simply give them an available domain, buy it, and Google automatically transfers everything to that domain for you.
If you are comfortable with exporting your blog and finding a host, I suggest going through the standard GoDaddy. I recently purchased a domain through GoDaddy, and while I feel that their site was a little intimidating to a first time purchaser, I do feel confident about what I bought from them. They also allow you to purchase webhosting from them, so you can get it all in one spot. Their prices range from $2-30, depending on what type of website you purchase. But I'll get into that later.
Register.com is newbie friendly, however their selection of types of websites (such as .ly, .asia) are limited to sites only available for US purchase.
Watch out! Some sellers sit on a good domain and sell for a high price. Do NOT pay this higher price, no matter how much you like that domain, you can come up with something better. It is NOT worth the $250 you'd have to pay for it.

Now, assuming you figured out where to buy from, here comes the all-important decision. What is going to be your new domain? Again, here are some helpful tips.

1. Clever names stick with your readers. My fellow blogger at Profuse.ly lives by this rule. With her and another blogger, we're starting a site called ReviewGur.us. See what I mean about clever names? You remember that site url pretty easily.
2. Have it actually relate to your website! Yes, a site called FrostedBunnies.com is cute and all, but unless you're a porn site, it's hard imagining how that actually relates to what you're writing. (God, now that I've written that site down as an example, I'm curious if it IS a porn site. o_o)
3. Short and sweet is great! Keep in mind that until people bookmark your site, they'll be typing in the entire thing. So if your domain is long and complicated, no one is going to remember it. And then no one will visit your site! That's no good, now!
4. If you are purchasing a url that's meant for residents of a certain country, be careful! Sometimes, you can't purchase these urls unless you live in the country. For example, .us. Your URL can NOT end with .us unless you actually live in the United States. However, Libya does allow you to purchase .ly without being a registered resident.

I know these tips weren't very long, but in the end of the day, the only thing that can make your domain good is YOU. You need to go out and research what you buy before you buy, and put a lot of thought into it! And before you know it, your site will pop up at the top of google searches and be a hit!

Hope this helped! Later, Suckers!