Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hosting Your microISV Blog

When I planned the launch of my new Software Marketing Blog, one of my major goals was to minimize the technical overhead that I would have to deal with. So I spoke with a couple of successful tech bloggers who had a lot of experience with creating and maintaining blogs.

If I had only listened to Andrei Belogortseff, I might have chosen to host a WordPress Blog.

"My main reasons for choosing WordPress were simplicity, extensibility, and performance," Andrei explained. Andrei runs WinAbility Software, a Utah-based microISV that develops and markets Windows utilities and security software. And he uses WordPress for his main website as well as his blog. With the addition of a handful of WordPress plug-ins, WordPress delivers the power and flexibility that Andrei needs to manage all of his online content.

Blogger and WordPress

Rosemary West is the Educational Software Cooperative's (ESC's) webmaster. ESC's blog is hosted on Google's Blogger system. In recent months, Rosemary moved several of her personal blogs from a WordPress environment to Blogger.

"If you host a WordPress blog or any content management software on your own site, you need to constantly pay attention to security issues," Rosemary explains. "If you haven't done any customizing on your site it's not so bad because you can just accept the constant stream of security updates and be done with it.

"But if you have customized your site as most of us are likely to do, it's a real pain upgrading without breaking your blog. So the tendency is to let it slide, and that's what I did. My blog got hacked and I didn't know it for a long time. The bad guys are clever."

I post a lot on ESC's and ASP's blogs, so I'm familiar with both the Blogger and the WordPress GUIs. From a poster's perspective, they're pretty much the same, so that wasn't a factor in my decision. I chose to host my new Software Marketing Blog on Blogger's site because I believe that hosting my own blog would require the ongoing management of some technical issues.

Before I started my marketing company in the mid-1980s, I had spent more than 15 years doing application software development work for two huge insurance companies here in Connecticut. I had gotten my fill of technical challenges, and to this day, I prefer to concentrate on business and marketing issues, and minimize the technical overhead that I have to wrestle with.

There are no hosting charges on Blogger. I'm able to use my own domain name - www.software-marketing-blog.com. My favicon (versus Blogger's favicon) appears on every page. And because Blogger is owned by Google, my postings get indexed within seconds of my posting a new article.

"Moving from WordPress to Blogger was less about the brands involved and more about changing the way the blog is hosted," Rosemary points out. "WordPress also offers hosted blogs as Blogger does, but in my opinion the features offered in the free version of WordPress's hosting are not as good as Blogger's."

Your can read more of Rosemary's ideas about setting up a blog on her Romantic Marriage blog.

Blogger Gadgets

For some bloggers, it's the extras that determine their choice of WordPress or Blogger.

Rosemary uses Blogger's Subscription Links, Follow by Email, Blog Archive, and Popular Posts gadgets. "The one I use most often is the HTML/Javascript widget," she explains, "a box that lets me include any HTML or Javascript routines I like. This gives me a lot of power to add functionality and customize the look of my blog.

"For example, I wrote a script that delivers a daily tip which is displayed at the top of the blog. On the side is a box that shows my most recent Twitter posts. I wasn't satisfied with Blogger's widgets for adding a blogroll and link list, so I made my own. There are lots of free, third-party widgets that you can customize and add to your blog this way. I also use this widget for my AdSense ads and links to books on Amazon."

WordPress Gadgets

Andrei points out that there are an amazing number of blog themes and plugins that are available for WordPress, allowing you to tailor your blog's appearance and functionality. "The All in One SEO Pack helps you optimize your WordPress pages and posts for the search engines," Andrei tells us. "Exec-PHP executes the PHP code in the posts, pages, and text widgets."

Andrei also recommends:

  • Google XML Sitemaps, the automatic sitemap generator.
  • HiFi, which makes it easy to add statements to the header and footer of WordPress pages and posts, without modifying the theme files.
  • Redirection, a useful plugin for migrating old web pages to WordPress. It redirects the old URLs to the new WordPress pages, while maintaining the statistics of their use.
  • Sniplets, a plugin that lets you define reusable strings of information that can be embedded within your WordPress posts and pages. If you need to update the information, you update the sniplet, and each of your pages gets updated automatically.
  • W3 Total Cache, a WordPress performance plugin.
  • WordPress BlockYou, which keeps the bad guys out by blocking selected IP addresses from accessing your WordPress blog or website.

The bottom line

"Blogs work when they are based on candor, urgency, timeliness, pithiness, controversy, and utility," Seth Godin tells us in his book Small is the New Big. "If you can't be at least four of the six things listed above, please don't bother."

One way to meet Godin's standard and concentrate on your blog's content is to minimize the time that you'll spend worrying about technical considerations. WordPress and Blogger both offer ways to simplify the technical overhead.

You can host your blog yourself, or host it on WordPress' or Blogger's sites. Unless you need to create a blog that looks unusual, or a blog that has some extremely unusual functionality, then I'd recommend that you minimize the technical complexities by hosting on the WordPress or Blogger site. Spend your effort on turning your blog into a money-making machine.

For many software developers, the technical challenges are a lot more fun than solving marketing puzzles. But conquering the marketing challenges often delivers significantly increased software sales. I recommend that you concentrate on content, and sell more software.

Would you like more ideas about setting up a microISV blog? Check out the feature-length posting "How to Plan a Blog that Thrives for Years" that I wrote for the Association of Software Professionals' (ASP's) blog.

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