You’re a writer now! Congrats! Now, you need a place to hold your genius, your thought leadership, your ramblings, your content, whatever it is. There are a slew of options out in the wild. I am not going to dive into any major feature comparison here, as many others have done that already. Just google “wordpress vs medium” and you’ll find it pretty quickly.
I will highlight what I like about a few platforms I use below. If you’re already a blogger, what platform do you use? Why?
WordPress is really popular. 43% of all websites are built on WordPress! 43% of the internet runs on WordPress. WordPress is not only a blogging platform: it’s a website platform, a content management system, an e-commerce solution, and more. WordPress’ staggering market share highlights its usability and extensibility.
This blog, that you’re reading right now, is on WordPress. WordPress is pretty solid for blogging. I’ve used WordPress off and on for other sites and blogs as well.
WordPress is my go-to for anything new because I know I can customize it as much as I need to when I need to. There are countless designs provided by the community in WordPress so you can get a custom design pretty quickly, especially without writing a lick of code. With the paid versions you can customize almost everything into whatever you want! The customizations are mostly done through their interface, it’s all done through clicks. There are some options to drop code here or there, but for the most part, it’s not needed.
There’s a vibrant community behind WordPress. Developers are creating new features and designs on WordPress all the time. You can host it yourself, on another cloud, or on WordPress.com. It’s kinda crazy how big the community is behind it, it’s a very flexible and very well-supported platform!
Ads can run rampant on WordPress. WordPress has its own ad engine, which you can disable. With it enabled, you can specify where the ads go on your blog. If you’re paying for a Business version or better, you can disable their ads and add your own ads, say from Google AdSense.
You can get started for free pretty quickly by going to WordPress.com. There’s a small fee to add your own domain to your site, so you can get your own URL like davidlozzi.com, instead of davidlozzi.wordpress.com.
This little guy snuck up and won its way into my heart pretty quickly. Being a big fan of WordPress for so many years, Medium was something new and exciting. As you can see, I’m still using WordPress here, but I have used Medium for some other writings. I will head to Medium to start a blog if customizations aren’t important. They do have some basic customization options, but not nearly as robust as WordPress.
Getting started is really easy here too: head to Medium.com and create an account. That’s it, your user name is a blog on their site, for example, all of my writings on Medium are under my username: https://medium.com/@davidlozzi. You can then create publications on their site, publications being collections of blog posts. My other blog, Growing a Little Older, where I share about faith and family, is on Medium, and I contribute to Slalom’s Technology Blog, which is on Medium as well.
If all you want is a place to share random thoughts, Medium will get you there the fastest with little to no thinking about your overall design. If those random thoughts mature into something, you can then create a publication and associate your random thoughts to it, and then you’ll have a blog!
As for ads, I haven’t seen any on their site. Instead, you can publish your content behind a paywall. This allows your readers to say “hey, I think this is good content and I want to read it”. They pay a flat fee per month, and some of their fees go to you.
GitPages – GitHub Pages
If you want something that you control, from top to bottom, check out GitPages. This is the wild wild west of blogging. There is no content management system behind it, no editor, no database, just an empty folder that you can put anything you want into. GitPages converts a GitHub repo into a web site. And that’s about it!
There is a steep learning curve getting started with GitPages in comparison to the other two above. If you’re a developer, and familiar with GitHub, you already know most of it. If you don’t know what GitHub is, maybe stay away from this one. There are some tips and tricks for working with GitPages as well. I’ll be sharing my experience with GitPages soon.
I am using GitPages to host a basic website, the Ultimate Star Wars Timeline, and I used it during the Advent of Code in 2020 to host my challenges. Neither of these is a blog, as I mentioned you can put anything you want into GitHub Pages. Regarding blogging, GitHub recommends Jekyll to get started with blogging on GitPages. I haven’t used this yet, but do want to try it out. Have you used Jekyll?
Go to GitPages to see what it takes to get started.
Publish it on someone else’s blog
If you don’t want to go through the work of creating a new blog, see if you can publish your post on someone else’s blog! I’ve done that a couple of times on this blog. Especially if I’m pushing someone to write, I will always offer this blog to host their content. If they ever want to create their own blog later, they can have their content back.
Depending on where you work, you may be able to write for your company’s blog as well. I have written for Slalom’s Technology Blog a few times, and many of my colleagues have written across Slalom’s other blogs.
Check out your favorite news or product site. Some of them may accept external writers. You can also write in long-form on Reddit, Facebook, and other networks.
A quick note on the big players: Social Networking
Both WordPress and Medium have their own little social network within themselves. As you write posts other authors and users of that system can find your content within that blog’s ecosystem. People are able to follow your blogs/publications and they’ll receive notifications when you share a new post. GitPages doesn’t offer this, exactly. You can follow “authors” (traditionally developers) and their code repos in GitHub, but this is really targeted to fellow developers. If you’re looking to amass a following, GitPages might not be ideal unless you’re going to manage your own communication channels like Twitter, Insta, email, etc.
Now that you have a blog, how do you get visitors? This may depend on the content and what you’re “why” is. In my last post, we discussed some basics of SEO for your posts, make sure to check that out. Beyond Google-friendly writing, leverage your social networks. If you’re writing professional-based content, definitely share it on LinkedIn. Use Twitter, Facebook, etc. to share your posts.
Do not, I repeat, do not spam forums, communities, chat rooms, etc. Don’t go to Reddit and share your post everywhere. Self-promotion or self-advertising is actually a violation of many forums’ rules. Think about it, when was the last time you liked to see someone else’s self-promotion? In social networks, that tends to be okay, but in forums and groups, it’s frowned upon. Most of my traffic comes from searches. I have many followers across the networks, and when I write a new post, I’ll get a little spike in traffic, however, the bulk of my visitors come from search.
I don’t have a huge social following online. If you have 100k+ followers, sharing a tweet would handle much of your traffic. As for me, I rely more on Google to drive traffic to my site. I share on social media but don’t see too much traffic from there. Online branding, social media presence, and going viral are topics that I’m still learning about. A lot of it feels like pure luck, but I digress.
Google, Bing, and other search engines have webmaster tools. If you own a blog, you’re a webmaster. These tools will walk you through how to get your site into their engines effectively, and provide some insights into how your site is ranking, errors on pages, etc. Search for their tool on their site, i.e. on google, search for “google webmaster tools”.
Now that you have your blog, keep writing! It might take a while to see a high visitor count or the good ad revenue that you’d like to see. Stick with it. Focus on your “why”, let that drive your motivation. If your “why” is to make money, celebrate the small wins early, it may take some time before you start to see real money from it. As for me, my “why” is to help others and share what I know. If one person reads my content, I’m happy (but it feels great seeing hundreds of people!)
I hope you enjoyed this little mini-series on blogging. If you decide to start a blog, let me know below! I’d love to check it out and share it as well!
‘Til next time,