Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why a Blog??

Julie Semones
Web, Blog and Banner Designer
Computer Tech for the Royal Blog Tour

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the above question many times. I hope that in this article, I’ll be able to answer the question, and give you more information than you’ve ever wanted to know about blogs…no geek speak*, all simple English!

Is a blog better than a website? Is a blog better than Facebook? Is a blog better than Twitter? Personally speaking I would have to say yes to all three. While a blog can use a domain name and become your website, you are more apt to update it daily; with a website you’d probably do the initial design, add a few items and forget it. Facebook is definitely a networking outlet. For myself, I have found many old friends and new customers; however, I don’t advertise of a lot my business this way. Twitter is VERY limiting, since you can only enter 140 characters. I mean, seriously, how much can you really say with 140 characters?

Which blog is better to use? I am not going to say that one is better than the other; they all have their own pros and cons. The top three blog programs are, Google’s Blogger, Wordpress (free or self hosted version), and Typepad (free or paid version). On all three, you can have your own domain name for your blog address. Blogger unfortunately, is a little more difficult to change, you need to be able to have access to your CNAME** through a hosting company; and so far, I have not been able to find one that can do that. I know they are out there, I’ve just not seen them. Wordpress can be free when hosted through a web hosting company if it is provided software. You can also get a free blog through Wordpress, but your blog address would appear like: . You can add a domain name to your free Wordpress account, but it will cost you around $25 per year to do that. Typepad is the third of the blogging programs. Unfortunately, this is the blogging outlet that I don’t know much about. I know they have different pricing structures, and depending on those prices, the software will allow you to either have just a basic blog, or you can design one yourself to fit your needs.

Blogger has a pretty decent template selection. The most customizable template is Minima. If you search the net, you will find that there are tutorials that will allow you to change your 2 column blog to 3 columns, giving you 2 sidebars and the main section for posting. (The blog that gives the tutorial is

Wordpress, whether it is the free version or the self hosted version, allows you to download new templates through their website Uploading the templates and installing them is very easy. In the free version of Wordpress, the dashboard will give you statistics of your blog, and the ability to approve/disapprove/mark as spam comments that are left. There are charges for upgrading specific elements of this Wordpress, such as custom CSS***, adding more space to your blog, (you can add an addition 5Gig to 25Gig of space), removal of advertising, and the ability to have videos on your blog. Each of the upgrades is charged yearly via PayPal.

Self Hosted Wordpress is much more customizable. You can change your CSS, giving you custom colors, header, and more. You can have new templates designed for you and uploaded through the dashboard. There are add-ons that can be added to give you more options to add to your blog.

Let’s look at the gadgets/widgets that are used within the blog software. Blogger has a lot of different gadgets that are basics such as “HTML/Java“, “Followers“, “Search Box“, “Text“, “Picture“, “Slideshow“, and more…there are other more popular gadgets, such as “Recent Comments“, “Blogger Play“ (real-time slideshows), “YouTube gadget“, or a “Count Down“ to your special event. To use any of these gadgets, you simply need to click the “Add a Gadget“ button and a separate window will open, displaying the different Gadgets. When you find one you like, click the + sign next to the title, then another window will open; you can then add text or whatever needs to be done to make the gadget work on your blog. Click the save button, and you’re done.

In Wordpress (any version), if you click on the “dashboard“, then “appearance“, you’ll see your widget section. If you click that button, you will see the available widgets. Self Hosted Wordpress blogs will have fewer widgets downloaded; however, you can find and install widgets from the website.

Again, Typepad is foreign to me, so I won’t comment here on what is or isn’t available. Information about Typepad will be in another article written by one of our Computer Techs familiar with this program.

Once you’ve determined which blogging software you’re going to use, you need to figure out if you are going to use just the “canned” templates that come with the blog you’ve chosen, or if you are going to seek out someone to design it for you. There are many designers out there, and most offer very reasonable rates. Several also offer a discount to Stampin’ Up! Demonstrators, so be sure to ask! As a web/blog/banner designer myself, I am one of those who offer a full range of blog services.

After you decide on the design of your blog, you need to decide what you’re going to put into your blog. For most of us, we’re using it in addition to our DBWS. You will want to include information for your customers, such as upcoming specials, current catalogs/minis, or class schedules. Many demonstrators will use their blog to showcase cards they’ve made in challenges, or they’ll use the blog for a blog tour, such as the Royal Blog Tour that just took place. We use blogs as a tool to draw more people to the world of card making/scrapbooking. Potential customers can found through your blog if you advertise correctly. There are many ways of doing that, but the easiest is to add a link to the signature in your email. Think of the number of people you send emails to on a daily basis. The emails you send COULD be going to perspective customers or even recruits. And don’t forget to clearly show your contact information on your blog. You can draw people to your blog in a variety of ways, but if they can’t find your contact information, it will all be for nothing!

In the end, how you start a blog, what design you choose, and how you maintain your blog is totally up to you. Just remember, for a blog to work and work well, you should try to upload/post something new every day. Add a counter to you blog so you can see how many visitors you are getting. Be sure to send notes to the people who have left comments on your blog. Again, you never know if that person commenting is a perspective customer or not.

I hope this article has helped sort out the blog world for you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me ( Better yet, ask your questions on the SU Blog Tour Group message board, and then everyone can benefit from the answers!
*Note from Lucia: These geeks don’t even know when they’re speaking geek! LOL! I asked Julie for definitions of some the words in this article. Here is her response:
“I said no Geek Speak, but here goes” J

**A CNAME record or Canonical Name record is a type of resource record in the Domain Name System (DNS) that specifies that the domain name is an alias of another, canonical domain name.

***CSS is cascading style sheet

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