12 Tools To Create Stunning Visuals For Your Blog

You’ve surely heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This cliche carries a lot of truth. We are all naturally drawn to visuals. They simply convey meaning quicker than words and are more memorable. That’s why your blog posts will have a bigger impact when accompanied by stunning pictures or graphics. Visuals grab your reader’s attention faster and invite them to stick around longer.

The best thing is you don’t even need to be a professional photographer or graphic designer to create striking images. There are free, easy-to-use online tools  that every blogger can leverage. Here’s our favorite tools to source, create, and edit images for your blog.

Where to source great images for your blog 

The first choice is using your own images. This adds a nice personal touch to your blog. But, often, you might not have something that fits the topic.  

That’s when some bloggers turn to Google search to find pictures. Adding anything you discover on Google to your blog is not a smart idea. You may be violating somebody else’s copyright and could get into legal trouble. 

Luckily, there are plenty of sites where you can find free, high-quality images that are cleared to use for your blog posts. 

1. Pexels 

Just enter a keyword into Pexel’s powerful search, and you’ll be presented with beautiful visuals. All photos and videos on Pexels are free for you to download, use, and even modify. You don’t have to give credit to the photographer, but it’s appreciated if you do.   

2. Unsplash

Similar to Pexels, Unsplash has its own license, allowing you to use every photo for free for commercial and private purposes. You just can’t compile the photos to start a competing service.

3. Burst 

Burst is a free stock photo platform, powered by e-commerce company Shopify. If you’re looking to monetize your blog, then their business idea section could provide some inspiration. 

4. Flaticon 

Icons are a great way to break up text and visualize concepts in your blog posts. On Flaticon, you’ll find over 3 million icons in different formats, free to use. They are conveniently organized into packs so you can pick your favorites from a group of icons in the same style.  

5. DrawKit

A viable alternative to pictures is illustrations. DrawKit provides beautiful hand-drawn illustrations, completely for free. They add new ones every week. 

How to create and edit images for your blog 

Sometimes, you want to add a personal twist to your visuals. While graphic design used to be reserved for people with Photoshop skills, anyone can now leverage a wide range of online tools to create beautiful images and infographics. Most are free to use and easy to get started with. 

Here are our favorites for creating and editing your visuals. 

6. Canva 

With Canva, you can create about anything – blog headers, Facebook posts, YouTube thumbnails, logos, business cards, posters, and much more. This go-to design tool is packed with templates that make it easy to get started, even if you lack inspiration. 

Once you’ve selected a template (or started from a blank page), you can add stock images, icons, and graphics to your design with easy drag-and-drop functionality. Almost everything is free to use except for some premium content. Once you’re done, you can export files directly to your computer or social media.

On top of that, their design school offers free tutorials that teach graphic design basics, designing with Canva, growing your community with social media marketing, and branding your business. 

7. PicMonkey

If you’re pushing the boundaries of Canva, then you should try PicMonkey. It’s various photo editing features extend beyond Canva’s capabilities. The filters, photo effects, and touch up tools allow you to create wow-worthy images. With thousands of templates and 6000+ graphics and icons, there are no limits to your creativity. 

Feel free to try out all features, but if you want to download your final design, you’ll have to join a paid plan. The basic option currently starts at $7.99 per month. 

8. Snappa

Snappa is another free tool to create engaging visuals. With over 3 million high-resolution stock photos, 200+ fonts, and 100,000+ vectors and shapes, you’re spoiled for choice when creating your design. 

You can share your creations directly on social media from within Snappa and even pre-schedule posts when you connect a Buffer account. 

9. Removebg

This simple tool has one job only: remove the background from your image. Maybe you want to transport yourself to a sandy beach or show your product in a different setting. Removebg makes it possible. You can try it out as often as you want and only need to pay if you download the image. 

10. Piktochart

With Piktochart, you can easily create social media graphics or presentations. But the tool is best known for making infographics accessible to non-designers. If you have data to present, then visualizing it with charts and graphs will tell a more compelling story. You can use Piktochart for free if you don’t mind having their watermark on your graphics. 

11. Easelly

Easelly is another great infographic maker. Just choose a ready-made template and start customizing it with your information. You can download your graphic for free, without any watermark or Easelly branding. 

12. Squoosh

Once you’ve created your beautiful visuals, it’s time to add them to your blog posts. Before uploading them, we recommend that you reduce the size of the images with a tool like Squoosh. It compresses pictures without compromising on quality, avoiding that your page load speed is negatively impacted. 

Visuals are a great way to get your message across 

We’d recommend including at least one image or graphic in every blog post. With the tools we’ve highlighted, you won’t have to spend hours searching and editing to produce a striking visual. Once you’ve got the hang of the tools, you’ll have images ready in no time. 

There’s another reason to use visuals on your blog. This strategy can help you rank better in Google search results when you optimize your images for SEO

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to include alt tags on your images for accessibility and SEO best practices.

5 Essential Steps To Grow Your Blog Audience

As a blogger, there is nothing better than having a community of like-minded individuals around you. Reaching other people with your writing means that you can help them with your expertise and knowledge. And in turn, you will learn from them and get fresh inspiration for your content.

For that to happen, you have to market your blog. It’s a big part of being a blogger. However, many ignore blog promotion because they want to focus on writing only. The caveat is that excellent writing alone doesn’t draw in an audience automatically. Ultimately, building your following is entirely in your hands.  

To be fair, growing your traffic beyond your friends and family does take some time and work. Luckily, you won’t have to guess what to do. Most writers who’ve built a large audience have followed a few best practices, which we want to share with you today. 

5 steps to growing your blog audience 

There are many different avenues you can take to build your audience. But, you certainly don’t have to attempt to master every one of them at once. Starting with one or two methods can already pay off. Before you jump in, let’s discuss one important principle first. 

1. Focus on what really matters

If there’s one principle that every blogger should internalize, it would be to focus on what you can control. You can control your attitude. You can follow your passion. And you can continue to show up and publish your blog posts even if just a handful of people are reading them. The right attitude is especially important when self-doubt inevitably creeps in. Always remember the reason why you started to blog

What you can’t always control are the results. So, how do you get more followers then? The fascinating thing is that when you respect the process and commit to the long game, the results will follow. By honing your writing, publishing consistently, and promoting your blog, you’ll eventually attract the people who are on the same wavelength as you. 

With the right mindset internalized, you’re ready to dive into the details of building a blog audience. 

2. Network with others 

At first, it might seem like blogging is a lone adventure – an author writing and publishing from the solitude of his or her home office. The truth is, blogging really comes to life through social interactions. Often, a whole community of bloggers and readers forms around a certain niche. 

To grow your following, you need to connect with others in your field. It’s as easy as starting conversations with fellow bloggers on your favourite social networks and leaving helpful comments on their blogs. 

When talking regularly to bloggers, the topic of guest posting might also come up. It basically means that you write a post that will be published on another blog. By exposing your name and your writing to a new audience, you’re likely to gain more followers. Especially when you promote the post as it was your own. To secure a guest blogging opportunity, highlight how your contribution will benefit the blog’s owner and his or her readers.

3. Get organic traffic 

People search for keywords in your niche every day on Google and other search engines. When one of your blog posts shows up in the search results, and someone clicks on it, you’ve received organic traffic. 

So, how do you get your blog to top search engine rankings consistently? The answer is search engine optimization (SEO). It’s an ever-evolving and complex discipline, but there are certain fundamentals that every blogger can apply. Check out our 7 fundamental SEO best practices for bloggers

Although you can start implementing these principles right away, there likely won’t be any quick results. SEO is a long-term strategy. It takes time for your site to build the authority to rank in a top position. 

4. Be active on social media 

Social media is an excellent way to distribute your content. Make sure to share every new blog post with your network on your preferred social channels, like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. When you accompany the link to your blog post with an enticing description of what your audience can get out of it, they’ll be much more likely to click.

Once someone is reading your post, you can also make it easier for them to share it with their network. Simply add social sharing buttons or “Click to Tweet” boxes to your blog posts. 

Another way to leverage social media to grow your following is to join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn with your target audience. Help out whenever you can by answering questions and adding comments. When you link to blog posts that are relevant for the discussion, you’re likely to gain some new followers. 

5. Grow your email list 

While social media helps to reach your audience, you’re still at the mercy of algorithms that determine if someone sees your post or not. One surefire way to get your content to your followers is to build an email list. It’s as simple as adding a sign-up box to your blog. Email service providers like ConvertKit or Mailchimp let you even get started for free. Now, you decide when you want to get in touch with your audience. 

But how do you get people to join your email list? Incentivize them with a lead magnet. This could be a free guide, template, or checklist that addresses one of the most pressing problems your audience is grappling with. When someone joins, greet them with a short welcome email sequence. In two or three emails, you can introduce yourself, share your most popular articles, and even ask some questions to get to know your new subscriber better. 

Promoting your blog is time well spent

Promoting your blog is just as important as writing your blog posts. Think about it. You’re already putting time and effort into producing quality content. By making sure that your writing is seen by the right people, you’re getting the most out of your work. 

However, if you’re already struggling to find time to write, it can seem impossible to dedicate even more time to blog marketing. In this case, take a look at our 7 practical tips for busy bloggers. These best practices will help you fit blogging into your time-strapped life. 

 

Working from home? 5 Tips To Stay Positive and Productive 

In 2020, many of us have found ourselves suddenly working from home. While this might be a dream come true for some, others miss the office and face new challenges trying to get their work done.

Although you’re saving time not commuting to the office, working from home doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting more done. In fact, it can make it harder to be productive. And with fewer opportunities to socialize in person, you might even notice a feeling of loneliness creeping in. 

In this challenging time, we can all benefit from some support to navigate this unknown territory. 

Here are our five suggestions to help you be productive and stay positive while working at home.  

1. Find a dedicated place to work

We’ve all probably done this at some point: In the morning, we start checking our emails in bed, then we move with our laptop to the kitchen table, and finally, we end up on the couch. This game of musical chairs provides some variety but doesn’t necessarily promote deep concentration. You’ll likely find yourself distracted by the things around you, such as the dirty dishes in the sink or the book you were reading the night before. 

Our advice is: Find one spot at home that you can dedicate to work. Obviously not every home offers an entire room for an office, but a separate area already helps. You can isolate your office space using plants or room dividers. Having a dedicated space also makes it easier to separate work and family life. Once your workday is over, you can leave your “office” and enjoy your free time, which ties into our next suggestion.

2. Establish boundaries and routines 

When working from home, the border between your job and family life tends to vanish. One reason is that your usual commute to the office doesn’t operate as a buffer anymore. It becomes all too common to keep glancing at the open laptop placed on the couch table when you actually want to play a board game with your kids. We often underestimate how simple daily routines like changing into our work clothes influence our headspace and help us transition into the different roles we play. 

Our suggestion is to re-establish these boundaries between work and family life. One way to do that is to start each day like you were going to the office. Take a shower, have a proper breakfast, and wear something that wouldn’t cause you to panic if a spontaneous video call were to happen. This morning routine will get you in the right mindset to tackle your priorities for the day. Once you start working, you should also have a clear plan for when to stop. 

Establishing routines is even more important when you have kids at home. They benefit most from a structured day with dedicated times for quiet play, watching TV, and meals. As a result, your little ones will be less inclined to interrupt you in a conference call when they know that they’ll have your undivided attention during playtime. 

3. Don’t forget to take breaks

Taking regular breaks isn’t a new concept, and you’ve hopefully been doing it already in the office. The difference at home is that your favourite coworker doesn’t stop by your desk to take you for a coffee. It’s much easier to forget that you should look up from your laptop once in a while. 

What you can do is set a timer on your phone for one hour. After working in a concentrated state for so long, you should take at least a five to ten-minute break. But, don’t keep sitting and get sucked into browsing the internet. Stand up from your desk, walk around, and get some fresh air. 

Extra tip: To avoid the afternoon slump right after lunch, take a 20-min power nap on your couch to gather new energy for the rest of the day. Make sure to set your alarm, so you don’t drift off into a deep sleep, though. 

4. Schedule time to socialize

When working from home for an extended period, many office dwellers start to miss the informal water cooler chats and coffee breaks with their coworkers. The isolation at home and lack of personal interactions can make you feel lonely, and that can even hurt your performance. 

The good news is that video calls not only work for project updates and weekly meetings. You can actively schedule time in your calendar just to catch up and talk non-work topics. Why not take it one step further and organize a pizza lunch for the whole team? Everyone orders pizza to their home and eats together in a video conference. 

5. Manage expectations 

Staying productive at home is harder for some than for others. You might have to take care of your kids or manage other personal responsibilities, which can impact your availability. As your boss and coworkers can’t easily see what you’re up to, they might start to make their own assumptions.

To not let any resentment creep in, it’s crucial to manage everyone’s expectations right from the start. Communicate openly when you’ll be available for meetings or chats. With the uncertainty about your whereabouts removed, your team will be more at ease. 

What happens when you share your experience?

Maintaining your social connections is probably the most important thing you can do to stay positive while working at home. As much as possible, leverage digital tools to keep up the communication and stay connected. Often, it already helps to hear from other people who are in the same boat and struggle with the same challenges. 

Why not write about your experiences on a blog? By sharing your journey, you can make a difference to someone looking for the answers you already have. Your writing could inspire, educate, and even change someone’s life.

Not convinced yet? Here are five more reasons to start a blog this year.

Why And When To Use A Domain Redirect For Your Blog

A redirect forwards one domain name to another domain name. For example, when you type wikipedia.com into your browser, the installed redirect automatically makes your browser go to wikipedia.org instead. Or try amazon.blog. It will forward you to blog.aboutamazon.com

But, why does it make sense to buy a domain name and then redirect it to another website? That’s what we’ll explain in this blog post. You will also learn what type of redirect to use. Let’s get to it!

Why and when should you redirect?

There are several reasons for businesses to use redirects. Here are the four most common ones and their benefits. 

Rebranding

Imagine you established your website a few years ago. Since then, your audience has grown and your focus shifted. Your old domain name doesn’t suit the new direction of your business anymore. That’s when companies decide to rebrand. They choose a more memorable, brandable domain name and redirect their old domain to the new one. When done correctly, you won’t lose out on SEO and page authority. In fact, your traffic might even go up if your new brand turns out to be more marketable.

Link shortening 

Established businesses often launch their blogs within their existing websites. Unfortunately, this can result in very long domains, like https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/. To make it easier for visitors to find the site, Amazon has shortened the link to Aws.blog, which then redirects to the original domain. 

Shorter domain names are generally easier to remember and type out. Check out our five tips for selecting the best domain name for your blog. 

Brand protection

Businesses in competitive landscapes benefit from purchasing more than one domain to protect their brand. Owning any other TLD versions of their domain name prevents others from registering domains that are too similar and might mislead visitors. The different domain names simply have to be redirected to the main site. For example, Nike.blog redirects to https://www.nike.com, and Calvinklein.blog redirects to https://www.calvinklein.com/

Preparing for a launch

Redirects don’t always have to be permanent. Suppose you are launching a new website but are not quite ready to reveal it yet. The domain name  of the new site could temporarily link to another website you own so that the link doesn’t appear broken for early visitors. 

How to redirect the right way

There are multiple ways for website owners to do this, but one way is preferable for both users and SEO – the 301 redirect

A 301 redirect tells browsers as well as search engines that a page has moved permanently. The search engine bots understand that the page has changed location and that the content can now be found at the new domain. The main advantage is that the 301 redirect will pass most of the site’s ranking power to the new domain. 

However, it will  take a little  time for search engines to discover the 301, recognize it, and credit the new domain with the rankings and trust of its predecessor.

Conclusion

Redirects are a useful tool to improve the experience of your users. They can purposefully guide your visitors to the right page, increasing your traffic. If you are looking for more guidance on redirects and how to manage a portfolio with multiple domains, then your domain registrar can be a good source of information. 

5 Tips For Selecting The Best Domain Name For Your Blog

Your domain name is your identity on the internet and creates the crucial first impression of your brand. Ideally, it should not only suit your blog but also be easy to remember and promote. That’s why choosing a great name from the get-go is so important. 

Recently, we’ve written about choosing top-level domains and which one might be right for you. But, that’s only a small part of your domain name. There’s more to it, and we want to help you make the right choice. This article will explain your options and leave you five essential tips for choosing the right domain name.  

5 Tips for choosing the right domain name 

Now that you have a general direction, you’ll need to know what distinguishes a great domain name from one that’s easily forgotten, constantly misspelled, and hard to promote. When you keep these five essential tips in mind when choosing your domain name, you should be good to go.

1. Keep it short 

Ideally, you want to keep your domain name under 15 characters, which should be easy given your options of extensions nowadays. Shorter domain names have many benefits. They are easier to remember, and visitors are less likely to make errors when typing them. Also, they won’t get shortened in social media and search results. 

Want to test if your domain name is too long? Use it in an email address: yourname@yourdomainnameistoolong.blog. 

Most businesses use their domain name for their business’s email addresses. If this feels cumbersome to type out, you might want to rethink it.

2. Make it easy to pronounce and spell

Have you heard of processing fluency? It’s a cognitive bias in which your opinion of something is influenced by how easy it is for your brain to understand and process it. That’s why you can increase the chances of your domain name creating a positive impression by making it easy to pronounce and spell.

Avoid numbers, hyphens, and potential misspellings as those can be misunderstood. Your domain should be easy to share in speaking and in writing. To check if that’s true, try the podcast test. 

If someone were to hear your domain name on a podcast, could they instantly type it out and find it? Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.blog might be catchy but trying to get to the right URL in your web browser is a different story. 

3. Make it brandable and unique 

Of course, you want your domain name to stand out among the crowd. That’s not an easy feat, though. For example, a domain name like personalcomputers.com might tell visitors what the site is about, but it’s not as unique and brandable as something more generic. 

Choosing a name that’s unique and less specific can help when you want to expand in the future to other products, services or topics. Apple came up with their brand name and domain because of a recent visit to an apple farm and because the name sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating”. Another example, you probably have heard of is Amazon. They could technically operate in any field and the name itself doesn’t restrict it to a certain niche.

The domain name does not always need to be too specific to your niche but it should be brandable and unique. Can you tell a story around why you chose the name you are using? 

4. Get creative 

It happens to many bloggers: You have great ideas but soon realize that all your dream domain names are already taken or too expensive. Now, it’s time to flex your creative muscles. You could choose a different TLD or try something that is not as literal. 

Suppose you want to start a blog around pasta recipes and you notice that the domain pastarecipes.com is too expensive. You could try pastarecipes.blog or pastarecipes.cooking or go for something less specific like manjia.blog (“manjia” is Italian for “eat”). 

It’s easy to feel like everything is taken already but sometimes you just need to get a little creative. 

5. Watch out for registered trademarks

This is a critical last step before you register your new domain name. Do some research around your options to find out if they are already copyrighted, trademarked, or used by another business that could be confused with yours. A quick internet search usually does the trick. Spending this time upfront can prevent any costly and time-consuming legal entanglements.

Secure your dream domain name fast 

Found a great domain name, and it’s available? Congrats! Then, you should act fast before someone else takes it. If you change your mind later and you want a different name after all, you can always let the purchased domain name expire. The benefits of acting fast and making the purchase usually outweigh the risks. 

You might also want to consider purchasing various versions of your domain name (for example, different TLDs or country specific domains) to prevent someone else from registering something similar. This will increase the chances that your visitors land on the right site. 

7 SEO Best Practices That Every Blogger Should Follow

Have you thought about how your audience will discover your blog? Sharing links to your recent blog posts via social media or emailing your followers is certainly one way, but your reach will be limited. On the other hand, many people search for topics in your niche every day on Google and other search engines. What if your blog would show up as one of the first search results, and people just had to click on it?

If you want to make it to the top position, then you can’t get around search engine optimization (SEO). It’s an ever-evolving discipline, but there are fundamentals that every blogger should apply. And that’s exactly what this blog post is about. Before we show you the seven fundamental SEO best practices, we have to clear up a pervasive misconception. 

Will your top-level domain affect SEO?

Let’s get this out of the way first. Many still believe that the .com TLD has the best chances of topping search engine rankings. And we can’t blame them since .com sites are usually the ones showing up in the first few positions. However, this is mostly the case because as much as 48% of websites worldwide end with .com. 

Because of this misconception, bloggers might shy away from using new gTLDs like .blog. The truth is, though, that all TLDs are treated equally by search engines. Google has made this crystal clear. Every TLD can rank in the top position if SEO practices are adopted. Let us help you get closer to your dream search engine ranking. 

7 fundamental SEO best practices for bloggers

SEO is a complex topic with many nuances. As a blogger, you probably don’t want to become an SEO expert. You’d rather focus on your writing. So, to make SEO easy for you, we’ve distilled the seven most important best practices that you can start implementing on your blog immediately. 

1. Create quality evergreen content

One of the most important rules in blogging will help with your SEO, too: focussing on quality. Search engines tend to reward long-form, in-depth articles while shallow, short content stuffed with keywords will lose over time. So, how long should your blog post be ideally? Sources suggest that a word count of around 1,760 is best for SEO

Another crucial SEO tip is to write your blog posts with the aim of staying relevant and valuable over a long time (with some minor updates). That’s called evergreen content and will help you score a steady stream of visitors. This is how you build your site’s authority over time.

2. Focus every blog post around 1-2 long-tail keywords 

Keywords are what people search for in search engines. SEO specialists distinguish between short-tail keywords like “blog post” and long-tail keywords like “how to optimize a blog post for SEO.” When people search for the latter, they are looking for a specific solution. There’s more intent. 

We’d recommend focusing each blog post around one or two long-tail keywords. They are usually less competitive, so it’s easier to rank better. There are plenty of tools available to research the best long-tail keywords for your blog posts. You could try Google’s Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest for free, or a paid more advanced tool like ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer

3. Include your keywords strategically in your blog posts

Once you’ve chosen your keywords, make sure to include them in the right areas of your blog post to increase your chances of ranking high on the search engine results page (SERP). These are the four main places:

  • Title tag: This is the first thing that search engines use to determine the relevancy of your content. Include your keyword in the first 60 characters of your title, so it doesn’t get cut off in the search results.
  • Headlines, subheads, and body copy: Be sure to include your keywords in a natural, reader-friendly way. You don’t want to get penalized for keyword stuffing. 
  • Meta description: This is what appears right under your title on the SERP and is crucial for generating click-throughs. 150-160 characters is the ideal length. 
  • URL: Every blog post you publish lives on its own unique URL. It’s a good idea to include your keyword here, too. 

4. Optimize your images

Your blog posts are likely not all text. Pictures and infographics not only add to your readers’ experience, but they also help with SEO. Make sure to give them a relevant title, file name and alt text. The image alt text tells search engines what your images are showing and should include your keywords. It’s also what appears on the screen when the image can’t load, giving your readers the necessary context.  

5. Start link building 

When other sites link to your blog, it’s a clear indication for search engines that you have a quality, authoritative site. In turn, you will start ranking higher. So, how do you receive more inbound links? Basically, by creating valuable content that others want to share. You can also reach out to other bloggers proactively and ask for guest blogging opportunities.

Besides inbound links, you should also include some outbound links to other sites in every blog post. And don’t forget to add internal links within your blog so that readers can discover other valuable content on your site. 

6. Make your blog fast and mobile-friendly

More and more people are browsing on their smartphones or tablets. Search engines know that, of course, and reward websites that are mobile-friendly and load fast. To check if your blog meets these criteria, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and a website speed test like Pingdom

How exactly do you improve your blog’s mobile-friendliness and speed? First, by using a responsive design that ensures that your site automatically adapts to smaller screen sizes. Second, by reducing the size of your images which could impact load speed. Squoosh is a handy tool for that. 

7. Upload an XML sitemap

This one is a little technical, but can give you a simple SEO win. An XML sitemap is a file on your website that lists all important URLs, telling search engines proactively what pages you want them to notice. A simple plugin like Google XML Sitemaps for WordPress will help search engines to better understand and index your site. 

Conclusion

What if you’ve implemented all best practices, and your blog is still not showing up on the first page of Google? SEO does take time and you have to be patient. There are no shortcuts to the number one spot unfortunately. As you keep following these tips, you will attract more visitors and slowly build the authority of your site. And even when you prioritize SEO, don’t forget to always write for humans first and search engines second. 

How To Choose The Best Blogging Platform For Your Needs

There’s a lot to figure out when you start a blog. You have to pick a niche, come up with great ideas for blog posts, and find time to write. But, before you can even publish your first blog post, you need one essential thing: your blogging platform. It’s your number one tool and a basic necessity for every blogger. 

If you’ve googled blogging platforms, then you’ve been bombarded with a multitude of options. This can be overwhelming. Especially when you aren’t really sure about what you need and what the difference between a hosted and self-hosted platform is. 

That’s where we come in! We are here to lift the fog and help you choose the right blogging platform for your needs. 

What to consider when choosing a blogging platform

We’ve compiled six simple questions that you should ask yourself before committing to any blogging platform. Your answers will help to point you in the right direction. 

1. What is the purpose of your blog?

Will your blog be a fun hobby, or are you planning to monetize it? Maybe you want to use it to boost your career or establish yourself as an expert in your niche. Your goals will dictate the functionalities that you need to look out for when choosing your blogging platform. 

2. Who is your target audience?

You probably have at least a rough idea for whom you are writing your blog. Certain audiences might be drawn to particular blog formats and platforms. A little research into your audience’s preferences will help you to show up in the right places. 

3. What key features will you need?

Generally, we recommend choosing a blogging platform that can grow with you. You might want to start simple, but your needs can change in the future. Your blogging platform should be flexible enough so that you can add more features as your blog grows. For example, you might decide at some point to run ads or sell products. If your current blogging platform doesn’t offer this functionality, it can be challenging to switch. That’s why it’s important to think early on about any special integrations you might need. 

4. How technical are you?

Have you built a website before? If so, you will likely be more comfortable with a blogging platform that requires some technical skills to get set up. But, if you can’t afford to climb up a steep learning curve right now, we’d recommend choosing a platform that is easy to use and doesn’t require any coding skills to get started. Also, think about the level of support you might need. 

5. What is your budget?

If you want to dip your toes into the water first before fully committing to a blogging budget, then getting started on a platform that offers a free plan like WordPress.com, Tumblr, or Blogger might be the right choice. However, you will have to live with limited functionality. By investing a little, you can get a custom domain, more control, better designs, and access to different levels of support. 

6. Do you have a design in mind?

Maybe you already have a clear vision of how your blog should look like. Then you should select a blogging platform that gives you the option to customize the design fully. If you are willing to spend some money on your blog, then you will gain more flexibility with regard to the design options. 

What are the options?

There are three main categories when it comes to blogging platforms: hosted, self-hosted, and social. Let’s look at the pros and cons as well as examples of each option. 

Hosted blogging platforms 

If you are looking for a simple, done-for-you blogging service, then hosted blogging platforms are for you. They are easy and often free to get started. That makes hosted platforms ideal for novice bloggers who want to experiment with a niche, but can’t commit a budget to blogging, yet. Also hobby bloggers benefit from the free services. 

Pros

  • It’s very user-friendly for beginners. 
  • You can get started for free. 
  • You don’t need any technical skills.
  • You don’t have to maintain the site as everything is done for you. 

Cons

  • Customization is very limited. 
  • You have to pay for more advanced features.
  • You don’t own your site, and the platform could suspend your account if it believes that you are violating their terms and conditions. 
  • You will likely have the branding of the blogging platform on your site unless you upgrade your plan.
  • Your blog will have a subdomain, for example, https://yourblog.wordpress.com or https://yourblog.blogspot.com unless you pay for your own domain name. 
  • Monetization is typically not possible on a free platform. 

Popular hosted blogging platforms include:

Worth noting: In addition, with many hosting companies, like GoDaddy, you can also find hosted blogging platform options.

Self-hosted blogging platforms 

The main difference to hosted blogging platforms is that you have to secure your own hosting first before you can get started. Signing up with a hosting provider like Bluehost allows you to choose a custom domain and TLD like .blog.  

Self-hosted blogging platforms are great for bloggers who want full control over their blog, its features, and the design. They provide ample amounts of freedom and allow you to monetize their site. 

Pros

  • You have more freedom to build exactly the blog you want. 
  • You can choose from lots of themes and plugins. 
  • You can add features like a forum, galleries, and contact forms. 
  • There are plenty of monetization options (e.g., an online store, paid membership, ads).
  • It’s search engine friendly.  

Cons

  • Requires more technical knowledge.
  • You need to buy a domain name and hosting service first. 
  • You have to maintain your blog, including tasks like backups and security.
  • The learning curve is usually much steeper. 

Popular self-hosted blogging platforms include:

Social blogging platforms 

Social blogging platforms work like social networking sites. You just have to create an account and can start writing and publishing immediately. They are viable options for seasoned bloggers who want to extend their reach. Also new bloggers who want to get started quickly can benefit from the existing audience.

Pros

  • It’s free. 
  • It’s ready – no need to install or set up anything.
  • You can take advantage of a ready-made audience and online community.
  • You can focus solely on writing, as there is no need to design a website.

Cons

  • It’s very hard to monetize. 
  • It will be more difficult to stand out from the crowd because you can’t change the design. 
  • You don’t own your audience or your content.
  • You can’t use your own domain name. 

Popular social blogging platforms

Which blogging platform will you choose?

We’ve realized that this is a decision where many new bloggers get stuck. There’s no definite right or wrong when it comes to selecting a blogging platform. Only your unique requirements will determine which platform is right for you. We’d recommend that you take some time to look into the different options and then make a decision to move forward. This is the crucial first step to getting your blog into the world. 

If you have questions, feel free to reach out to us. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

ICANN 67 – Cancun…what now?

This week, many members of the domain community would be focused on prepping for a slightly unusual Spring Break trip: ICANN 67 in sunny Cancún, Mexico (March 7th – 12th). We would be spending a little extra time with loved ones knowing we’d be away for a week. Some would even hit the tanning beds to avoid being scorched by the southern sun, while others might brush up on their Spanish and double-check their passports.

Alas, this is not the case. Instead the community is heads down, ploughing through another typical week in front of our computers. What happened? Due to public health concerns around COVID-19 (Coronavirus), ICANN made the difficult – and polemic – decision to cancel the in-person meeting. Instead, ICANN 67 will be the community’s first fully remote ICANN meeting.

With this growing global health threat – which some say is on the verge of becoming a pandemic – we are all relieved the international domain community puts the well-being of its constituents first in times like these. As important these industry events are to the health of the internet, people’s physical health is much more important. Face-to-face meetings have many benefits in business, but if we can’t get by using remote technology in times like these, then we’re probably in the wrong industry.

As we wait to see if any other events will be cancelled we will continue to plan ahead and remain optimistic that the healthcare community will continue its tireless work to contain, control, treat the infected, and hopefully eliminate COVID-19. In the meantime, we will be present and participating in the remote sessions, as the community works hard to put together an adapted schedule and agenda to adjust to the changes. We’re hopeful that we can continue to make progress on the many ongoing efforts within the ICANN community, even if we’re doing it from conference rooms across the world.

6 Reasons Why You Should Start Blogging This Year

“Should I start a blog?” If this question is on your mind at the moment, then you are in the right place. At the beginning of the year, many people are thinking about their personal and professional goals. Some of you may be thinking of how blogging can help with these goals. Naturally, you might be skeptical about investing a significant amount of time into this new venture. Is it worth your time, considering that there are already over 500 million blogs out there? 

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Blogging is relevant more than ever, and it’s not too late to start a blog. 77% of all internet users read blogs regularly, and they are considered a trustworthy source of information online. Also, the blogging community is still growing, with 31.7 million bloggers expected to be active in 2020 in the U.S. alone. 

The question is: Will you be one of them? There are many reasons why this creative medium could be right for you. In this first part of our `Better Blogging` series, we’ll start with the top six reasons why you might want to start sharing your story.  

1. Express yourself

Blogging allows you to share your ideas, experiences, and expertise with the world. And the beauty is that you can tell your story just the way you want it to be told. It’s the perfect outlet for self-expression without limits for your creativity. Because your blog is entirely your own, you can communicate what you have to say in any form – not only writing. Artwork, photography, videos, music clips, and even a podcast can be part of your blog, too. 

2. Work on your self-development

Starting and growing a blog is a great challenge that will likely stretch your abilities and help you grow as a person. You’ll pick up some valuable web and marketing skills in addition to building the discipline to keep your blog going beyond that momentous first post. Besides, you’ll also develop your expertise in the field you’re writing about. Every time you work on a new post, you are forced to organize your thoughts and fill any gaps in your knowledge. Writing not only helps you to internalize what you’ve learned but also to refine your own ideas and opinions. 

3. Make the world a better place 

The most meaningful reason to blog is probably the ability to help others and have a positive impact on the world. By generously sharing your expertise and experiences, you can make a difference to the people who are looking for the answers that you already have. Your blog has the power to inspire, educate, and even change someone’s life. Showing others that there’s someone who is on the same journey as they are can provide a much-needed sense of belonging. And even though it may seem like everything has been said before, remember that your story and voice are unique. There’s an audience out there that will respond to the particular way you shed light on a certain topic or issue. 

4. Build authority 

A blog is a great platform to gain exposure in your industry by showcasing your knowledge and expertise. Think about it as a modern version of the printed business card. Regularly publishing relevant, informative content will eventually draw the attention of people in your profession and can earn you the status of an expert and thought-leader. When you strengthen your professional image with a blog, your career can get a powerful boost that opens up new opportunities.

5. Make new friends 

Blogging is much more than a solitary pursuit. It’s a way to connect with like-minded people from all over the world who are passionate about the same topic. You can build relationships with other bloggers in your field, have riveting discussions with your readers in the blog comments, and even organize meetups in real life. Your blog might open the door for new friendships, collaborations, and other opportunities. It’s a reassuring feeling to be part of this dynamic and supportive community. Often, we see people find a real sense of belonging here.  

6. Earn an income 

Becoming a self-employed blogger is still the number one reason for many to follow this road. And some bloggers have grown significant income streams from their blog. While blogging might only replace a full-time salary for some people, it can be an additional source of income for many. 

If you’re considering to monetize your blog, here are the most popular ways to make a profit:

  • Allow advertising on your site with banners or pay-per-click ads.
  • Include affiliate links to earn a commission for each sale that originated on your site.
  • Write sponsored posts reviewing a product or service in return for a fee.
  • Sell digital products such as ebooks and online courses.
  • Sell memberships to an inclusive area of your website.
  • Promote other offers, such as consulting and coaching.

Bonus: In all of these reasons to start a blog, it can’t be forgotten that blogging is the most important activity to create the strongest content marketing strategy to be found in organic online searches.

Will you start a blog this year?

It’s no secret that we at .blog are passionate about blogging. We believe that it’s much more than a rewarding hobby, which brings new opportunities and even unexpected benefits. Blogging is a way of owning your content and being heard, giving everyone a voice regardless of gender, income, politics, language, and location. No matter which of the six reasons becomes your cause, by starting a blog this year, you can play a part in realizing our vision of helping everyone to be heard. Together, we can make a difference.

Luckily, setting up a blog is easier than you might think. When you do get started, consider securing your .blog domain extension. It gives your online presence a quality home by making your URL memorable and relevant. And if you ever get stuck, you can rely on us for support, guidance, and fresh ideas. We are here with you for every step of this exciting journey. 

Happy blogging!

NamesCon is Almost Here!

Not only is it award season for the entertainment industry, it is also conference season for the domains industry with NamesCon, ICANN 67, and Cloudfest all lined up in the next few months.

This year NamesCon has decided to take the show out of the bright lights of Sin City and into the City of the Violet Crown, aka Austin, Texas.

Austin, the state capital, is a wonderful city full of energy, driven by 50K+ students at U of T…go Longhorns! In addition, it has USA’s only Formula 1 track, is the US capital of live music, has incredible weather (if you like the sun), and has become a hotbed of technology companies following the lead of Dell, and others in the tech space, who make their home there.

Oh, and we can’t forget the food – from Texas barbecue to fine dining, Austin has it covered, and then some. But topping all this are the people of Austin. Whether they are born there or not, Austinites are proud people and carry a southern charm with hospitality that stretches across the city from the moment you arrive until you depart.

Given this, it is not surprising Austin currently ranks as the best place to live in the US.

Like always, I am sure the wonderful people at NamesCon will put on a great show and having it in Austin will only help.

If you plan to be at NamesCon and would like to meet up to discuss .blog with us, please email welcome@my.blog and we’d be happy to set something up.