Monday, August 31, 2015

Blog or Website—Which One Does a Writer Really Need? Blogging for Writers, Part One

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

The reason we do social media is to connect with our audience. And one of the best ways to deepen that connection is by hanging out with them on a blog. Because of that, I’m going to spend the next few weeks on blogging issues.

The first issue I want to talk about is the difference between a blog and a website. It’s important to know the terminology and be able to evaluate exactly what you need for your circumstances. Just like social media, blogging is not a one size fits all proposition.

Let me start this discussion by stating—for the record—I’m not against websites. They’re a great thing, but they are a luxury, especially at the beginning of your career. If you already have one, great. Just make sure your site also has the option of blogging on it.

BUT, if you don’t have a site, or you’re thinking of upgrading to a website, these are some things to think about.

So, blog or website—which should a writer have? Today I thought I’d give you an easy way to decide which you should have and begin the evaluation process for your specific situation.

As many of you know, social media and blogging aren’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Far from it! But the almost endless array of choices can leave anyone feeling uncertain what’s needed.

Before we get into the choices and how to decide, let’s make certain we’re all clear on the definitions.

A Blog
The word itself is a relatively new invention. Its usage began in the early 80s and comes from the words Web and LogBlog—and was originally envisioned as a sort of online journal. Occasionally I still run across someone who doesn’t realize blogs haven’t been online diaries for many years.

Having a blog used to be thought of as the amateur way to have an online presence. Again, this hasn’t been the case for quite a number of years. Many well-respected sites are in actuality, blogs.

Enough history, here is an up-to-date definition of a blog:
An online site, with regular, frequent updates that encourage interaction through comments and sharing. It can be a single-page site or a multi-page site. But its primary purpose is interaction.

A Website
In contrast, a website is much more of a static site, where much of the information remains the same. It doesn’t usually have a place for interaction—although there is almost always a contact form somewhere so visitors can interact if necessary. It's almost like a yellow pages ad or a billboard.

A website can also be a singe-page or a multi-page site. But more generally it has several pages. Often times, one of the pages is a blog. Websites are most often built by website designers or those willing to learn HTML code. Even though a lot of folks use a template to build a website, they are almost always customized and use a lot more code specific design.

As you can see by the definitions, blogs and websites do tend to overlap in their intent. But, and this is VITALLY important to understand, they are not the same in the way they’re developed.

Take WordPress products for example. WordPress has a lot of great options, for blogs and for websites. But, blogs are built on the WordPress.com site, and websites are built on the WordPress.org site. Why two different sites? Because websites and blogs are very different in the way they’re constructed.

Think of WordPress like a car company—say Volkswagen. Even though the VW Bug and the Jetta are both built by Volkswagen, they are very different cars. A mechanic doesn’t fix them with the same parts or even necessarily the same tools. It’s the same for WordPress Blogs (the free version .com) and WordPress Websites (the paid version .org). Even more than that, just because someone has their own WordPress website doesn’t mean they know how to help you with WordPress blog. Be very careful here, the plug-ins are not always the same!

Generically speaking, a blog isn’t better than a website and visa versa. But specifically, there are times when one choice is better than another.

When to Build only a Blog
I recommend new writers always start with a blog and here are some reasons why:
When is it time to build only a blog?
  • They’re easy to work with. By that I mean, it’s easy to learn the basics if you stick with a reputable platform. I recommend Blogger, WordPress, or TypePad.
  • They’re free. Blogger is completely free. WordPress.com is free, but also has some upgrades available for purchase. And TypePad has a small monthly fee, depending on which version you choose. It may surprise you to know that my favorite, hands down, is Blogger. Blogger offers more options for personalization and it has the added benefit of being owned by Google, so you get good search engine results if your site is well done.
  • They can be tweaked and changed as your career grows and focuses. Just because you begin writing devotions, doesn’t mean you won’t one day end up writing fiction. It helps if you don’t have to start over and build a whole new product.

When to Build a Website (with a blog in it)
I recommend an author with multiple books, and the means to pay someone to keep it up, invest in a website…with a blog. Now don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of writers who’ve built their own websites. Some of them like to tinker with code (not many) others just want to save money. Personally, my passion is writing, NOT website building.

Here are the reasons to build a website:
When is it time to build a website with a blog?
  • You are more than one person, commercially speaking. For example, my friend and critique partner Vonda Skelton, is an author, a motivational speaker, an actress, and a womens ministry leader. She needs a website to have multiple pages under each of the four categories.
  • You’re ready to have someone else run that part of your business and can afford to pay for it. Make sure you have someone who comes highly recommended and who has time to make changes you need in a reasonable time-frame.
  • You have multiple books and need more room to promote/engage your readers. 

All of that said, even the biggest and best websites can benefit from having a blog somewhere within the site. In today’s publishing climate readers like to engage with authors. At this point, a blog is still the best way to do it.

Now it’s your turn. I’m going to cover a lot of blogging issues in the next few weeks and I want to make sure I get to the things that you want to know about. Please leave some things you’d like to see covered in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

TWEETABLES
#Blog or #Website - it's not a one-size-fits-all proposition for writers - @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

#Blog or #Website? The choice must fit a writer's personal situation - @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Blogging For Writers: If you want to catch up, here are posts in this series, along with the direct links:


If you've missed the previous posts in the series on Social Media Basics for Writers, here they are:

23 comments:

  1. I have always wondered about website vs blog; thanks for the clarification and advice! I stated a blog a little over a year ago and ended up using Weebly. I tinkered with Blogger but found it frustrating. Weebly offers both a free version and a paid version. Just putting that out there as another option. As always, thanks for sharing your knowledge!

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    1. Amanda, weebly is a reputable site, but in the past I've found that plugging in some of the gadgets/widgets needed in the blog sidebar take a little tweaking and some creative work-around. But the sites built there are very professional looking and easy to navigate for the reader. Thanks so much for chiming in! Blessings, E

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  2. Thank you, Edie! I'll be following this closely. I'm always looking for social media advice. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! Blessings!

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    1. Erin, thank you for following and especially for taking time to comment! Blessings, E

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  3. Wonderful timing--for me--of this post. I'm seriously looking into having a website designed that would incorporate my long-time Blogger post, but the designer would use WordPress(org). Though many websites are built using WP my question is this: while the direction seems to go that it's best not to rely on the free sites (like Blogger), isn't it chancy to rely on WP(org) as well, in case WP fades away into the proverbial sunset? I'm confused.

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    1. Elaine, if you pay to park your site somewhere, it's not in danger of disappearing. The issue we all have to be aware of is if our web designer disappears. Often designers incorporate their own style into a site and it can be difficult to find a new designer of the one who built the site retires or moves into another line of business. Difficult, though not usually impossible, although there have been instances where it was necessary to start from scratch on a site.

      All this to say, you're good with WordPress.org as long as you're paying for hosting. Paying for hosting is like making a house payment - you own the property and it can't be taken from you without legal ramifications. Using a free site, like Blogger, is more like renting, in that the address belongs to Blogger. BUT even with that THE BLOG AUTHOR OWNS ALL THE WRITTEN AND IMAGE CONTENT.

      I hope this does't confuse you. If you need clarification, you can ask more here, or shoot me an email. Blessings, E

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    2. Edie, thanks! Yes, what you've explained makes a lot of sense and soothes the wee bit of jangled nerves I have.

      One other question that I'd appreciate clarification: if post website launch (designed by designer and hosted by other), if I want to add updates (blog posts or publishing news) is this something I can do myself and how easy is it?

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    3. Elaine, it depends on how the designer has set it up. If you request that they make it where you can manage a lot of it yourself, you should be fine. That's why choosing a good reputable web-designer is so crucial.

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  4. God sure is good!

    This posting comes at the perfect time for me. I am being called to write and I believe that a blog is where God wants me to start. It also happens that I am starting the final class for my Associates degree tonight and it happens to be Web Page Development and Design.

    I know that we are going to have to build a completely functional website and suspect that this will not be able to be a blog. If it has to be a website, my question is, should I use this class as an opportunity to build my platform by including a blog, or should I do that assignment separate and use something like Blogger?

    Your suggestions are appreciated. I will be sure to read upcoming posts as well. It is no accident that I stumbled across your blog. I have been reading it daily for about a week now and have been truly blessed by it. Thank you!

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    1. Michol, since this is your degree plan, I'd design a site and incorporate a blog page within it. If you want to go ahead and get started with the blog, you could use Blogger and just link to it through one of the website tabs. Either way is a viable option. Great questions! If you have any others, you can share them here or you're welcome to email me - ediegmelson@gmail.com. Blessings, E

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    2. Edie, my degree is actually in something else but Web Page Development is a required class. Regardless of what I end up doing, I am sure that the information learned will be helpful- both personally and professionally. Thanks!

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  5. Hi Edie - I've been debating about whether or not it was time to get a website. The one thing that stops me is the time/money factor. Thank you for clarifying the benefits of blogs and websites. I'm going to stick with my blog for now.

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    1. I'm glad the info has helped! Blessings, E

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  6. Hi Edie, I've decided I want to blog, but I'm unsure of the mechanics. I'm happy to pay for the reasons you describe, but can't decide who. It looks like Wordpress.org is the best bet for beginners like me, but the step-by-step how to guides also talk about hosting with one - what looks like an affiliate site - recommending Bluehost. The Wordpress/Bluehost combination will cost around $200, so any words of wisdom/reassurance would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks

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    1. Nancy, Blogger is completely free. I don't host this site anywhere but here and pay exactly zero for everything you see on this blog. My advice? Experiment with Blogger for free, then move to a paid site once you are familiar with what you want and need. Blessings, E

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  7. Thank you Edie. Looking forward to reading more as I'm considering moving from one to the other.

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    1. Marilyn, thank you for stopping by! Blessings, E

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  8. Edie, I tried to post this once, and it seems to have gotten lost. I hit Preview and it said "publishing." Then my message disappeared.

    Here's what I wrote:
    You can build a static site on the free Wordpress.com. You can set a static page as home page rather than the blog page. I have done this for my music club: https://pmgmartin.wordpress.com/.

    Wordpress.org is for people who set up their own hosting account. You can have a blog there, too. Again, the blog page can be home page, or a static page can be home. I have a Wordpress.org type site: http://emilyakin.com. The home page is static. The blog page is Blog4Writers on the menu.

    So, you can have both a blog and static pages on either Wordpress option. It's just that Wordpress.com is free (unless you choose to get your own domain name and pay them for hosting). With Wordpress.org, you have to pay for your hosting separately and download the Wordpress software from Wordpress.org to install on your hosting account.

    I have a post on my blog that gets into detail about Wordpress sites/blogs. See it here: http://emilyakin.com/3-ways-new-wordpress-site/

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    1. Emily, this is valuable info. Thank you for sharing it! Folks, this is good info, I recommend you visit her site for more info. Blessings, E

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  9. Many thanks, Emily. It's starting to make sense :-)

    Nancy



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  10. Okay...I confess...I started reading this series at number four *as I'm sure you realized when you read my comment ~ blush* Thank you for explaining the difference between blog and website...both are rather intimidating, but when I grow up, I shall determine to not be so afraid. God bless.

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    1. Rene Diana, there is NO reason to blush. This is a long series, and I never assume you all have time to read every post! We all have to guard our time. Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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