Top Commentator and brave reader Lorna Doone asked me some questions recently about blogging. Although her questions cover the blogging basics, I must admit she asked me some really great questions. By no means is she computer illiterate (in fact, she’s quite tech savvy), but I realized that these questions she asked are things that I ASSumed you knew (my bad!!).
I was going to send her an email, then I realized that if she was asking, perhaps a few others might want in on the action as well. If you like this post, I might make a habit out of this!
What the heck are tags?
Tags are basically keywords, and Technorati is the only site that pays attention to the fact that you add them to your posts. When you search for a blog on Technorati, you can search by regular keywords AND by tags. When you put up a post, you add just a few tags (keywords) that you think are the most relevant and most common to the content in the article.
So if you did a keyword search on SEO, you will pull up EVERY post that mentions SEO. But if you did a tag search on SEO, you would only pull up the posts specifically ‘tagged’ “SEO”, which would narrow your search results to the posts that authors have written more specifically about “SEO” rather than mentioning it in passing (like I just did).
For the complete lowdown on tags - and it’s way more than I could ever *yawn* write on the subject, A Consuming Experience wrote an, um, “Consuming” post on everything you could ever want to know about Technorati Tags.
What’s the difference between Technorati and FeedBurner?
They are related, but do two totally different things. Your blog automatically produces a feed - which enables feed readers everywhere to pull, or “syndicate” your content to wherever it is that your blog readers want to read your posts. Different blogging platforms have different feed formats, which raises compatibility issues. Additionally, some blogs generate several different feeds just from one blog - I know, confusing.
All you need to know about this is that FeedBurner takes care of all of this, so you don’t have to. It is super-simple to set up. Then they will also provide statistics on the number of people who are subscribed to your feed, how many items are clicked, and several other things.
Technorati, on the other hand, is basically a blog search engine. Technorati pulls the feeds of millions of blogs into one place so that people can search them, organize them, read them, etc. They also track who links to who. Because they were the first to do this for blogs, they became the industry leader in knowing which blogs were the most popular based on who got the most links. This is where your Technorati rank comes in - the more links from the more blogs, the lower (and better) your rank. The way that they track all of this is with the feeds that FeedBurner (and a few others) provide.
Why would someone want to set up a web site vs. a blog?
Well, a blog is a web site - the difference being primarily that blogs display posts in reverse chronological order. Some blogs platforms ONLY show posts, whereas others (like WordPress), also have pages. You would want to set up pages for anything that you want people to access on a regular basis, such as an About or Contact page. I use pages frequently for things such as advertising info, email subscription confirmation pages, landing pages, and to highlight areas of the site that I want to drive traffic to, for example, this Top Articles page.
I originally set up this site as a site, with an added blog. Once I realized I could manage almost everything within WordPress, I pretty much gave up on the rest of the site. But there are a few times I want pages completely outside of the blog:
Ecommerce - you don’t want a sidebar stuffed with links and widgets distracting potential customers from buying a product. If you are selling products, you want the entire focus to be on that product, and you want to control that page much more closely than you would in a blog post that is intended to drive interactivity with the rest of the site.
Lead generation - same as above. If you are trying to build a mailing list, you want the ONLY option on that page to be one thing -> grab the email address. You want to control these pages even more than a product page. A product page might still have site navigation or product reviews.
Sites like Entrepreneur.com aren’t blogs, but they are still run on what’s called a Content Management System (CMS). With THAT much content, they really need something more powerful than a blog, but they both work on the same premise - content is stored in a database and pulled up into pages by the CMS. Their site is kind of like a blog on steroids.
Um… what is PHP? Will I need a professional to set up a WordPress Blog, or will pure tenacity and strength of will get me there?
Lorna, I didn’t know PHP when I started and I STILL really don’t know it. Many hosting companies offer one-click installation of WordPress (and after much trial and error, Blue Host is my absolute favorite).
I will say that you do need to know (or learn) some html. The extent of my web development skills is putting a table together in DreamWeaver in WYSIWYG mode (and I can’t even get that right sometimes!!).
To customize your blog, yeah, you will want to dig around in that PHP code. But pure tenacity and strength totally can get you there - I basically just stared at that damn code for a long time until I understood the concept of it. PHP does use some natural language, and with what little I understood of HTML, I was able to change font colors, fonts, and manipulate at least a little bit of where things appeared on the page.