FAQ: Starting a blog at WordPress.com

General

Britain Going Blog Crazy - Metro Article, by Annie Mole

Q: I want to start a blog for a particular population segment, and I’d like to get sponsors for the blog eventually. My question is this. If I start with a WordPress.com hosted blog just to get some content out there with a readership so that I can then approach sponsors, can I later convert it to a self-hosted blog? Or would it be better just to start as self-hosted? My hope is to start up without the initial cost coming out of my pocket. — Mary

A: It’s not hard to move a site from WordPress.com to your own hosted WordPress blog. WordPress has a built-in tool for exporting and importing. On WordPress.com you can use your own domain name (www.MyGreatSite.com) for a yearly fee, and you can change your site design/layout for a fee. Both are less expensive than the cost of hosting a blog yourself.

I recommend that you upgrade to using your own domain name at the very start. Then, if you eventually move to a self-hosted blog (or if you switch to any other hosted service) and you migrate your existing posts and pages to the new space, the posts will have the same URLs (web addresses, like http://www.bigbigdesign.com/2010/02/faq-how-should-i-start-my-blog/). This is important because Google and other search engines will have indexed the content of your site using those URLs; if the page address were to change, then the value of those indexed pages would be lost. Eventually the search engines would find the pages again, but your site rank would drop in the meantime, and your traffic with it. Using your own domain name helps you retain your site’s value. The cost for using your own domain name for your WordPress.com is about $10/year, a worthwhile investment. You’ll also have to pay a yearly fee to register the domain name.

The design of the blog may not be a big deal when you’re just getting used to blogging — or indeed ever. The blog content you write is the important part.

Two key things you cannot do with WordPress.com are run Google Analytics and run your own ads. The concern about not having Google Analytics is that on WordPress.com your traffics statistics will be limited to those WordPress.com provides for you. These show you the basic number of hits and visitors per day. If your prospective sponsors wanted to know more than your raw traffic counts, you’d have some challenges.

WordPress.com says that in the future you’ll be able to show your own ads on your blog. If that happens, then using the hosted WordPress.com will become much more appealing.

Photo credit: “Britain Going Blog Crazy – Metro Article” by Annie Mole on Flickr

The ultimate guide to bad web design

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Funny and painfully true: twenty-eight tips for “How to Make the Worst Website

Creating a terrible website seems to be a common goal on the
internet. I’ve seen it accomplished many times, so I thought I’d make
it easier for everyone and post the ultimate guide.

From the time a visitor enters your site to the time they exit,
there are plenty of effective techniques to annoy them. So in this
article, I will identify 28 points to remember during a website
development and how to execute them properly. Feel free to bookmark
this and use it as a reference when you’re in the mood to frustrate
visitors.

I can add a few tips:

29. Don’t provide any way for site visitors to contact you. Why should you bog yourself down with what they think?

30. List every page in the main menu. Long menus are exciting and give the site visitor many options — probably too many options to choose from. Give them the challenge of searching through everything you could think of! It’s like a word search puzzle on-screen.

(Link thanks to Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals.)

Taking great product and tutorial photos

General

Sample closeup photo with interesting background, from Photojojo
On the web, great photos make the difference between making a sale and losing it to another site. Photojojo offers excellent tips on taking good, clear, and engaging photos for online sales and online tutorials:

 

How to Shoot

  • Use a tripod even if you think you have enough light. When you’re taking photos of small objects, a little camera shake can end up blurring major details.
  • For small items, get in as close as you can. Make the viewer feel like they could reach out and touch it. Use the macro setting on your camera.

I’ve known about the lighting issues, but I need to use my tripods more often. If you’re looking for a good, highly portable tripod, check out the UltraPods (sold by my friend Keith Jackson’s company, Industrial Revolution). Perfect for tabletop use, or to get a nice timed photo while you’re out hiking.

(Photojojo link via Lifehacker.)

Intro to LinkedIn presentation

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Excerpt of a screenshot of Cynthia's LinkedIn network statistics

Last week I gave a talk to a group from National City Bank about LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals. Everyone who attended the talk seemed to have heard of LinkedIn and to have received invitations to join; some people told me they received a couple new invitations every week. Yet the majority of the group weren’t sure what the site was about or how to handle invitations, much less how to get any benefit from the site.

I don’t think these people are alone. Although LinkedIn is easy to join and to use, the concept of it escapes a lot of people at first.

I used to think of LinkedIn as an address book on steroids, with the key advantage being that everyone is responsible for keeping their own contact information up-to-date. It would be a great tool even if there were all it did.

But it’s much more powerful. That’s what my talk was about.

You can download my speaker’s notes for the presentation here: Intro to LinkedIn by Cynthia Closkey. (You’re free to extend this presentation and adapt it, but please link back to me or credit me when you do.)

I’ll elaborate on the key topics from this presentation here on the blog over the next few days.

I’m indebted to Zale Tabakman and his presentation "Seven Ways to Generate Business with LinkedIn" for a number of the ideas in this presentation. His approach differs slightly from mine; he’s been quite successful, so you’ll want to see how he uses LinkedIn as well. I cribbed a few more ideas from Guy Kawasaki’s blog post "Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn," another excellent resource.

Update your site or blog with ScribeFire

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Another reason to use Firefox as your web browser: The extension ScribeFire make it easy to add posts to blogs while web browsing. No need to open a separate window or tab and flip back and forth; the editor pops up in a lower panel in your browser window and offers a nice set of tools for creating posts with links, images, everything you need. If you use a blog as your business website, this also means you can use ScribeFire to post content to your site like recent press. It’s fast and fluid.

ScribeFire is an extension for the Mozilla Firefox Web browser that integrates with your browser to let you easily post to your blog: you can drag and drop formatted text from pages you are browsing, take notes, and post to your blog.

Details and links to download are at the ScribeFire website. If you don’t have Firefox yet, get it at the Mozilla website. There are so many extensions to Firefox that I feel I have no chance of keeping up. The main way I find out about useful tools is through recommendations. ScribeFire was no exception: I heard about it from Brad King at the Digital Democracy SPJ conference a couple of weekends back.