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How to blog on a (very small) budget (Part 1)

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blog-on-a-budgetIt seems that “saving money” is the gossip subject of recent times. All over the world, the news tells us of recession, companies going into administration and massive cuts in jobs. Most of us are tightening the belt and keeping a close eye on our wallets, saving money and reducing spending wherever possible. And a great deal more people it seems are looking to the internet in the hope of earning an extra income.

While there are literally hundreds of sites and blogs dedicated to the subject of making money online, it seems there very few which explain how to save money online. Established bloggers and webmasters may well understand the concept of sites draining our pockets while new webpreneurs may feel overwhelmed by just how much money can be spent on creating, hosting and marketing a new venture.

In this short series of articles, I’ll explain how I have learned to build a successful blog on a very small, meager budget in the hope that my advices will be of benefit to you too! In this first installment, we’ll look at in detail at cheap (or free) web hosting and how to get the best price for your chosen domain name.

Overview

I first began blogging when I was a student at university. Back then I was a single parent and money was very tight, so when you bear in mind that my motivation was purely personal back then, I’m sure you’ll understand how saving money online was an important aspect of my ventures!

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The blogs I built back then did not stand the test of time, though the lessons I learned have served me well in my current projects and I can honestly say I’ve saved hundreds of dollars from having blogged to a budget from the start! My main site, Blogger Buster has grown to become one of the most popular niche meta-blogs on the net. I have barely any outgoing expenses from my site and have not spend a dime in advertising ehich effectively ensures any earnings are purely my own.

Provided you are able to put a lot of tie and effort into your blogging ventures, you should be able to develop your own successful and professional blog by spending only a few dollars a year, not the hundreds accumulated over the months from hosting, advertising and marketing which you could spend to achieve similar results.

Perhaps not all of my ideas will be appropriate for your own needs, especially if you have already established your site. Instead, you should take the advice most suitable for your own requirements, which I hope will help you save money over the long term.

Choosing a blog host

When you want to save money, choosing a blog host is probably the most important aspect of building a successful blog. For many bloggers, the costs of monthly or yearly hosting is something which must be built into our budgets. So first let me explain my preferred solution: one which is (almost) entirely free!

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Blogger.com

My preferred solution is to use Blogger.com for blog hosting. This is for two major reasons

  1. It is completely FREE
  2. It’s been the most reliable blog host I’ve ever encountered!

When using Blogger to host your blog, you will discover no restrictions on the amount of content (posts and images) you can host, and no restrictions on bandwidth whatsoever. Hosting with Blogger is free as in FREE. You will never be charged for hosting, your posts are safe and always available to visitors. The only cost involved with hosting your blog on Blogger is if you decide to use a custom domain for your site. In this case, you can purchase your domain for only $10 a year (and often far less as I’ll explain later).

There is far more which can be achieved when using Blogger than you may first think. While many believe that Blogger is incapable of producing a professional styled template, many experienced Blogger users have discovered new and exciting ways to customize their template to produce even magazine style layouts.

The key to success with Blogger relies on time, effort and patience. If you are prepared to work hard to create your perfect design, you can certainly host a professional and stylish blog for free with this host. On the other hand, of you prefer the functionality of plugins, a wider variety of “ready-made” templates and easier methods of customization, then you may find hosting WordPress, Joomla or Expression Engine on a reliable budget host to be a preferred solution for you.

Purchasing hosting for your “self-hosted” blog

If you choose not to use Blogger then you will need to find a reliable but cheap hosting provider with whom to host your venture.

I’ve found the best way to find cheap and reliable hosting is to ask around. Visit forums, such as Web Hosting Talk, the Blogging Tips forums and Web Hosting Advice to learn about which hosts are recommended and how much you can expect to pay each month.

Often you will find that the “cheapest” and most popular web hosts are not so reliable or reasonable as they seem. I’ve personally used several “budget” hosts whose service has proved extremely unreliable. Budget hosts offer “shared” hosting solutions which can often see hundreds of sites hosted on a single server. While your contract may offer a certain amount of web space and bandwidth, you could often find your site inaccessible at busy times as the servers are overwhelmed by requests from the other sites hosted upon it.

Many webmasters find that small local hosting companies offer a much more reliable service. Though the cost of their basic hosting packages may be higher than that of large international companies, you will often find a much friendlier customer services department which is more than willing to offer help, resolve issues and offer upgrades at a reasonable price when needed.

You should also search online for any discounts or coupon codes offered by your choice of hosting company. Dreamhost for example offer a fabulous affiliate scheme which enables affiliates to offer hosting at up to 50% off the regular price (and joining their affiliate scheme could also help you earn money to contribute towards this lessened cost of hosting your site!). Simply Google the name of any hosting companies you are interested in to see if any discounts or additional services may be available and be sure to use these when purchasing your package!

Find cheaper hosting when you already have an established blog

If you have already established a blog, you may still be able to save money in the long term by changing your blog host or asking your existing host for a discount (just make sure you are not bound to a length of time by your contract!).

Search around for competitive monthly prices and compare your existing hosting with what else is on offer. Hosting providers who offer a more personal approach could be persuaded to reduce their hosting costs if you email or telephone to explain why you are considering leaving; ensure you have details of competitive hosting plans to hand to strengthen your case. While this approach may not be as effective as bartering for goods in a shop face to face, it’s certainly worth a try and if successful this could save you a lot of money each year.

It is also possible to migrate your existing blog from WordPress to Blogger using BlogSync via Zeaster’s site. This tool is not yet as reliable as importing from Blogger to WordPress, though we can hope soon Blogger will improve the new Export/Import feature to accommodate blogs from other hosts and platforms.

Cheap Domains

domain-namesWhether you choose to host your blog on Blogger or purchase a hosting account for your blog platform, you’ll likely need your own domain name.

Many hosting packages offer a free domain name as part of a package deal, but if this isn’t the case you should be able to purchase a domain name for a maximum of $10 a year (and often far less!).

By far the cheapest domain name provider I know of is GoDaddy. The default price for dot.com domain names is $9.99 per year which surprisingly includes some free basic hosting and one domain based email address in the bargain. But if you search online for GoDaddy discount codes, you may even be able to purchase a domain for as little as $1.99!

Dot.info domains can be purchased for very low fees (often $0.99) though you should be aware that this price reflects the poor reputation of dot.info domains in general (many spam sites use this extension, and it is often inferred that sites on these domains rank less in search engine results because if this reputation).

You may also get a reduction in the cost of your domain name if you secure the domain for two or more years, rather than just the one.

If you choose a location based domain (eg: dot.co.uk or dot.co.nz for example) you may find it more economical to purchase a domain from a domain reseller based in your home country. However, do shop around and use a currency converter to ensure you get the best proce for your domain, especially if you plan on purchasing the domain for several years instead of just the one!

Here are a few more things to consider when purchasing your domain name to ensure you buy a true bargain rather than an unusable domain:

  • Ensure that you can modify the DNS settings without further charge. Some domain sellers charge (a lot) extra for the ability to alter DNS settings and you would need to modify these settings if you plan on associating your domain name with a different hosting provider.
  • Make sure that your domain is set to automatically renew. Otherwise if you forget to renew on the date your purchased domain registration ends, someone else could purchase your domain name (including the associated PageRank and “brand identity”) right under your nose!
  • Be sure to set up and make use of any freebies offered when you purchase a domain name. Many companies offer some free hosting, an email address or other software which could be useful to you as a blogger.

Conclusions

Web hosting and domain names can be the two greatest expenses of a successful blog. In this article I’ve offered advice based on my own experiences of how you could save money by finding cheap (or free) hosting for your blog and being savvy when it comes to purchasing your domain names.

In the next part of this series, I’ll expand upon these notions and offer some advice regarding image, script and application hosting which can help reduce bandwidth and hosting charges and even eradicate these altogether!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this series so far. Please feel free to add your comments and your own suggestions by leaving your message below.

Image credits

Empty wallet byJeff Keen; Thrifty buttons by Normanack; Hosting servers by Johnnie W@lker;  Domain names by
A. www.viajar24h.com. All via Flickr Creative Commons.

Amanda is a freelance blogger and web/blog designer. She writes about Blogger at www.BloggerBuster.com and maintains several other blogs on various subjects.

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Blogging

How About Helping Versus Pitching Top Bloggers?

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I often get pitched guest post ideas from bloggers I do not know. Although I appreciate the offer I never take up these folks on their offer because I do not know them, their brand or anything they do. No way do I have the time to actually research the individual; I am a busy bee. Another email bites the dust. I either ignore the email or note guest posting closed long ago on my blog, then include a link to one of my eBooks, like this branding eBook.

Who guest posts on my blog?  People who generously helped me, asked for nothing, expected nothing and relaxed. Relaxing is key. Bloggers who help me from a chill vibe often befriend me if they practice writing to hone their blogging skills. From there, opportunities multiply fast.  Sweet backlinks on top blogs often flow your way. Traffic and profits increases slowly, steadily expand over time. Blogging buddies supply you with blog post ideas through their questions and problems.  Everything grows because you helped top bloggers versus pitching them aka asking them for help. Even if you pitch a valuable guest post idea, the guest post idea serves no value unless you publish the guest post on a trusted, authority blog boasting a huge, loyal readership. Pitches seem worthless until content and links actually appear on top blogs, going live and public, for the world to see.

I often advise helping bloggers freely for months before considering any ask or pitch. Most times, blogging buddies invite you to guest post on their blogs. Blogging success flows to generous people because you get what you give. This is one of the advantages of blogging. Give freely, relax, trust in the process and receive easily.  Place your needs to the side. Take care of your fellow blogger. Help them out via a retweet, Facebook Share or perhaps by promoting the blogger on your blog. Nobody needs to struggle blogging. Nobody needs to spend 4 hours daily sending blind pitches to blogging strangers. How about this? Spend those 4 hours patiently, persistently and generously helping people in your blogging niche. Help fellow bloggers to earn their trust. Assist fellow bloggers to befriend fellow bloggers. The split second you earn the trust of any blogger, you plant seeds for a beautiful, thriving, warm friendship. Gaining the trust of fellow bloggers inspires traffic and profits to flow to you. Forget the concept of pitching. I pitched 2 people during my 6 years of running Blogging From Paradise. One blogger pitch served as an experiment with an established, pro blogger and the other pitch served as the direct way to guest post for a 2 million member blogging community.

My 13,500 plus backlinks on Blogging From Paradise flowed to me after I pitched only 2 souls. Imagine that for a second. Observe the raw power of making friends, helping people, expecting nothing and being generous. Capitalize on the passive element of befriending bloggers through generous service. Tonight I will spend 90 minutes walking around my neighborhood. During that hour and a half, my blogging buddies will promote my blog and spread my word. Ditto for my 8 hours of sleep tonight; my blogging buddies grow my traffic and profits around the clock, adding an immensely powerful, passive element to my blogging campaign.

Being generous has some serious perks.

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Should You Blog About Everything?

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blog about everything

Blog about everything? I know this idea may be on your mind. Newbie bloggers especially ponder the idea.

I know blogging about anything on your mind seems like a good idea to new or even struggling bloggers. Maybe you gain mojo because you post daily, blogging about anything popping up in your dome. But this is a bad idea. Nobody should blog about any and every topic for the clear reason that nobody follows a specific blogger based on the blogger’s random thoughts, save world famous celebrities who built up a big following through some other niche.

Imagine a movie star begins blogging. Movie stars boast tens of millions of fans around the globe. Anything the star does, people hang on their every word, right? Imagine the icon publishing posts on a wide range of topics interesting to them. People read because of the star, not because of the wide range of broad topics. But imagine being a new blogger with zero followers. No movie stars read this post. Readers head for the hills the moment you change topics because no jack of all trades bloggers build credibility. Who has the time, energy and focus to be an expert in 5, 10 or 20 niches? No one does.

Blog About Everything?

Humans specialize. Doctors and lawyers do one thing and do it well because where attention and energy goes, grows. Imagine if your doctor delivered mail and picked up garbage professionally, too, working 2 jobs in addition to their medical practice. Would you trust her doctor skills? No. Of course not. People trust specialists because specialists devote all professional time and energy to one venture. Generalists? Nobody trusts someone who tries to master 2 or 5 or 10 skills simultaneously because thousands of other people master 1 skill, in these areas. We follow specialists and trust specialists. Generalists fade away.

If you want to blog about everything just ponder the specialist versus generalist point. Blogging about everything is trying to be a generalist. Nobody trusts you. Even though blogging about everything seems easy, seamless and almost effortless, people stop following your blog on each topic change. Imagine blogging about puppies one day. People who love puppies find your post, read it, enjoy it and follow your blog. Tomorrow, you publish about Chinese food. Puppy readers – who followed you for puppy content – skip the post…..most stop following your blog because puppy fans want only puppy-themed content. You just lost readers, for good.

Change Topics Lose Readers

Visualize the following day; you publish about relationships. Everybody stops following your blog. Perhaps a few relationships-focused folks read the post. But you lose trust the moment you shift topics again. Ultimately, who builds a large, targeted, loyal following, blogging about relationships? Relationships bloggers who blog about relationships 100% of the time. Specialists devote all blogging energy to mastering one topic, spending thousands of hours covering the topic, become skilled and trusted in the niche, build credibility and become successful. All multi topic bloggers blogging about everything fade away and vanish.

The world makes room for specialists. Generalists? Nope.

Specialize

Pick one blogging topic. Blog about one thing. Focus on one discipline. Be a specialist, not a generalist, to be a leading blogger in your nice. Face your fear of releasing multiple passions to make room for a single passion. I know you fear letting go. I did too before creating Blogging From Paradise.

blog about everything

Google

Google loves specialists too. Google turns its cyber nose down at generalists. I scanned a popular blogging key phrase a few moments ago. Guess what? I rarely note SEO but tidying up one blog post with some details for optimizing helped me reach page one on the search engine. Why? I specialize in the blogging tips niche. Apparently. Google interpreted through its complex algorithms that I published thousands of valuable blog posts on a single topic 100% of the time, virtually. Google traffic rocks. Impress the search engine gods by gaining search trust. Specialize. Stick to one blogging topic. Never blog about everything.

Conclusion

Let go the urge to blog about anything that comes to mind. New bloggers need release this notion to build the foundation for a successful blogging career. Specialize by picking one niche you love blogging about. Be a specialist, not a generalist, to succeed with your blogging campaign.

eBook

Do you want to be a pro blogger who circles the globe? Buy my eBook:

How to Retire to a Life of Island Hopping through Smart Blogging

 

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Avoid this Blogging Wake Up Call to Enjoy the Journey

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Blogging need not be a lesson in harsh wake up calls. You can and will largely enjoy the journey by knowing this: success finds generous bloggers. Let that idea firmly impress onto your mind. Be with it. Allow the idea to worm its way into your consciousness until being generous becomes part of your being. Helping people for free boosts your skills and increases your exposure. Skilled bloggers with massive exposure become successful.

But one wake up call seems to find most bloggers who refuse to learn this lesson. Bloggers need to struggle, fail and suffer because they try to get money and traffic by focusing solely on receiving methods, versus giving generously of their time and talents. Imagine this scenario; a blogger writes and publishes one blog post weekly. Cool. But the blogger sits around and does nothing else blogging-wise for the remainder of the week. Hmmmm…this is not being generous, guys. This is being stingy. Bad move. At week’s end, the blogger did not make a penny of profits. Panicking, the blogger immediately analyzes their various income streams. How can they maximize profits through the streams? What is wrong with their income streams? Did they pick the right streams? Or did they pick the wrong streams? What gives?

Struggling bloggers then spend 2, 3 or 5 hours analyzing their income streams, focusing all of their attention and energy on the GETTING aspect of their blogging campaign. Terrible idea. Why? The reason why you struggle to get is because you refuse to give generously of your time, energy and talents. The income streams? Nope; not a problem. Your lack of generosity is the problem. The wake up call is most bloggers focus heavily on getting when struggling to drive traffic and profits when they should be focused heavily on giving generously. Giving generously leads to greater blogging profits. Instead of writing and publishing one blog post weekly, how about writing and publishing 2-3 posts weekly, weaving some stories into your blog posts?  How about you spend 4-8 hours daily generously reading blog posts, commenting genuinely on blog posts, promoting other bloggers and yes, promoting yourself, too?

Put in the giving time to make getting easier and easier. No need to slam into the cold, hard wake up call of focusing selfishly inward, trying to pin your struggles on inanimate, lifeless income streams. You have a giving problem, buddy. Time to be generous. Time to step it up. Write a guest post daily or perhaps, every 2-3 days. Go ahead. Do it. Begin video marketing. Build bonds with bloggers. Help them out. Practice writing. Gain invites to guest post on blogs from your niche. Blogging becomes more fun, more enjoyable and flat out easier if you put in the time, generously helping folks.

Focus heavily on giving. Your star will shine if you generously serve people. On the contrary, blogging and life become so much harder if you obsess over your income streams, analyzing, over analyzing, focusing, wasting precious time and energy on getting, when you should be giving more freely. Blogging feels more fun, too, when you focus heavily on giving, because we were designed to give, to be generous and to serve folks. Doesn’t it feel amazing to help people? Of course, it does. Enjoy the blogging journey and avoid this painful wake up call….plus….you get to sleep in, hehehe 😉

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