Guest Aidan Hijleh serves up some blog platform advice today.
The business benefits of operating a blog are very compelling. It is a tool that is allowing companies of all sizes across multiple sectors to accommodate needs that range from engaging customers to driving in an even bigger audience from the search engines. However, for those on the outside looking in, getting started can be confusing, and it is largely because there are so many options to keep in mind. ‘
When it comes to blogging, one of the toughest decisions a business will ever have to make is what platform to go with. You have several to choose from, with options ranging from free to premium. It can be a frustrating experience no matter what, but the following factors will help you choose the blog platform that best supports the needs of your business.
Open or Closed
Blog platforms generally fall into two categories: free or paid. The paid kind are pretty much self-explanatory in the sense that you obviously have to pay something to use them. The free ones typically have a more interesting and mystical aura to them. This is because many of the free blogging platforms are open-source software, which in most cases, means you are allowed to modify the source code and customize them to meet your specific needs.
Does you business demand the utmost flexibility in terms of design and customization possibilities? If so, then an open-source platform like WordPress might be the answer. Are you more concerned about ease of use, stability, and ongoing support? If the answer is yes, then you might benefit more from a commercial platform such as ExpressionEngine. Understanding the ins and outs of open vs. closed software often goes a long way in this important decision.
Hosted or Self-Hosted
Another factor that can aid in your decision is the hosting aspect. Even the WordPress software, which is free no matter what, forces you to choose in this regard. With this platform, you have the option to host a blog with the organization on WordPress.com, or on your own server (or your web hosting company’s) by grabbing the software from WordPress.org and installing it yourself. I recommended self-hosted for two reasons:
1. It’s better for your image. When you host a free blog on WordPress.com, you get a web address something along the lines of “mybusinessblog.wordpress.com”. Taking the self-hosted route allows you to use your own chosen domain like “mybusinessblog.com”, which just looks more professional. The domain issue is a seemingly small deal that can make a huge difference.
2. It’s more flexible. Being able to tap into the core of the WordPress platform is a luxury that is only available to those running the self-hosted version of the software. Otherwise, you are stuck with a basic set of features and very little power in the way of customization.
Most blog software offers the same set of basic features. This includes stuff like the ability to edit posts from your web browser, add images to your posts, allow readers to post comments, and so forth. What you should worry about are the specific features your business needs to make the most of this blogging thing. Here are some examples:
- Pages. Necessary for essentials like your “About Us” or “Company Overview” sections.
- Multi-user support. Accommodates blogs that require multiple authors or administrators.
- Spam control. Prevents or reduces spammers from abusing your comments section.
- Social integration. Makes it convenient to share your posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Features dictate what you can do with your blog, so identify your needs, and set your focus on options that will satisfy them.
Last but not least is the management interface, one of the most overlooked aspects of blogging. Whether it’s called a control panel of dashboard, most software offers some sort of interface that allows you to handle all the administrative tasks. Some interfaces cater to novices, others are specially made for tech savvy users who are familiar with the finer aspects of system administration in web the environment.
I highly recommend learning as much as you can about the management console before committing to any blogging platform. If your administrators are not comfortable with the interface, then chances are, that software is not right for your business.
It Pays to Be Choosy
The blog platform for your business is something you want to give careful consideration to. It is not uncommon for organizations to upgrade to different software, but I don’t recommend making a habit out of it. Choose right the first time, and that will be something you rarely have to do — if at all.
Aidan Hijleh is a freelance copywriter and serves as the Non-Profit Partnership Liaison for Benchmark Email. Aidan advocates free email marketing services to assist with the flourishing of grassroots organizations.