Give the blog an independent identity for long-term gains.

If you are scared of technology and have created a blog on a free host, you have lost nothing, just nothing. You can retain all the beauty and resources of the old blog and run it like the true owner of the blog. We have discussed website hosting etc on other posts linked at the bottom of this post; here we'd talk about having an independent domain. Why and how? Read on…

Most of the blogs on the web today are hosted by big hosting platforms such as Blogger, Wordpress, and LiveJournal. These hosts provide free hosting and an array of tools to improve the looks and functionality of the blog. Such freely hosted blogs serve individuals as well as small corporate and institutional bloggers well. 

And yet, the number of blogs with their independent URLs [e.g. instead of] is constantly on the rise. If you search for blogs on a topic, you are likely to get such blogs higher on search pages than the free-hosted blogs.

How is a blog on a paid web hosting site different from a free blog?

domain-name-web-hostingThe free hosted blog has, etc suffixed to the operative name; the independent blog has a standalone, more respectable, URL.

You don’t pay anything for opening a blog on free platforms; in the case of a stand-alone blog, you pay for (i) creating the blog, (ii) buying the domain name, and (iii) hosting the blog on the web.

A free blog is often part of a community [e.g. in the case of LiveJournal] and is closely linked to the hosting site; an independent blog is not associated with a free blogging platform.

A free blog has a big blogging community that creates free widgets, apps, themes (templates) etc, answers to queries, discusses new developments. Independent blogs lack this support other than the limited tools provided by the web host.

I have a free blog. How do I convert it into an independent blog?

Migration from a free-hosted blog to an independent blog / website is a win-win situation. While you pay a nominal amount for the conversion, all your assets remain intact including the data and site design.

Both the major blog hosts, viz. Wordpress and Blogger allow you this; others such as LiveJournal, Tumblr, Medium do not. In the case of Wordpress, free blog and the new URL are ‘mapped’. You need to pay for web hosting and mapping. The new site gets all the existing web tools and also extra space and more resources. Blogger has a simpler solution: you buy a new domain name from any host [including through Blogger itself], and migrate to the new name. It offers extra webmaster tools to accounts opened through it.

In fact, this migration / transfer / mapping thing takes away all the hassle of engaging a programmer to create and maintain a blog and it gives you a blog that is a full-fledged website of your own, at a very low cost.

LiveJournal too has a paid service that allows customization and statistical tools, but no independent URL. Typepad, another popular blog host, is fully paid.

What are the advantages of having a blog with a stand-alone URL?

It shows that you are serious, as you are spending money on the blog.

It helps in the long run, as your blog is seen as a stand-alone entity on the web.

It gets higher web authority and popularity as search engines tend to attach a low value to free hosting.

What are the negatives of a stand-alone website?

If it is a totally independent blog / website, you’d need to invest in writing code, buying URL and hosting it. You’ll need to keep writing and tweaking the code as the technology changes. So, this route does not suit you if you don’t want to invest in programming and you yourself are not a programmer. Even if you or your programmer can design a good blog, you / he would need to be abreast of the emerging web-technologies. Chances are that what you / he invent is already available with Blogger, Wordpress, etc.

If it is a blog with independent URL but uses tools of Blogger, etc, you will need to pay a small sum to the host for hosting the blog and using tools. You will also have to follow the terms of the host. It may sometimes not be painless to later on convert it into a big, multi-functional website since many of their resources will no longer be available to you.

Is the effort and money worth spending on a domain name and/or hosting (if I have a personal, not commercial, blog)?

Yes, if -
  •  you want to maintain the blog on a long term.
  •  you want to build a brand around the blog.
  •  you want the blog to be visible on the web beyond your small web community and be popular.
  •  you are a budding or established celebrity or an expert, and you need to promote yourself.
  •  you want the blog to sell products or services.
  •  you plan to convert the blog into a big site with functions beyond those offered by the free-hosting site.
No, if -
  •  you don’t want to extend the blog beyond your community.
  •  blogging is a transient hobby for you, and you are not sure it’ll stay with you.
  •  you don’t want the bother involved in migration to / creating of an independent blog, however small the bother might be.
  •  you’d like to experiment with a number of topics / designs etc before you settle down.

If I migrate from a free host, what will my existing blog lose?

You won’t lose your data or the existing design. You are likely to get all the traffic to your new site [if you choose to]. You will also get additional tools for analysis and promotion of your blog. Do check the terms of migration on your host’s website, to be doubly sure.

Any further tips?

Take time to find a good domain name. If your present blog is quite popular and has a standing, choose a URL that is close to the existing one. If you can’t get a matching domain name, give the blog a description just under the title that relates the two during the transition period. [You can change that after a few months.]

Once the new blog is established, go for traffic migration [The host will provide this facility, mostly by default. It means, your present traffic would automatically be diverted to the new blog.]

Be prepared for your blog’s search popularity going down initially. It will not only come back, it will grow faster if you properly maintain the blog after migration.

Put a notice on the blog that you are changing the URL. You don’t change your home address unannounced, do you? The same here. In addition, inform your regular visitors by email and through social networks.

The two big big free platforms, Wordpress and Blogger, allow one-click migration of the blog to the new URL. Technically called 301 redirect, this keeps both the URLs and sends those coming to the first URL automatically to the new one.

We have further developed this subject to answer many queries relating to web hosting, having a domain name, practical issues in migrating from an existing blog and so on. You can visit the new posts starting from this link: Giving website an independent name

How popular is your blog?

Now that we are in the ‘business’ of examining blogs in detail for many years, we can claim to have experience much beyond many webmasters, web experts and bloggers. As we promised sometime ago, we are starting a series on matters relating to blog popularity and SEO. This first post is on mapping your blog’s [or website’s] popularity.

What measures popularity of your blog?

Simply said, a blog is popular if it attracts a large number of visitors. In numerical terms, this is measured in terms of traffic, and ‘page views’ is a good measure of traffic. 
Another way of looking at popularity is to see what placing the blog gets on search result pages [=SERP] when people search for a relevant keyword. 
A popular blog is also the one which is favourably cross-linked in other blogs / sites / directories / social networks. 
If your blog is followed on social media and is subscribed to by many, it shows that the blog is popular. Similarly, being mentioned or quoted or upvoted on social networking / bookmarking sites can be a good measure of the blog's popularity.
The number of genuine comments that your blog posts regularly get also indicates your popularity.

Some big web organisations have developed proprietary tools that measure a website’s popularity, e.g Google PageRank [=PR] and Alexa Rank. Online bookmarking / social networking sites such as Digg, StumbleUpon and Facebok also give a measure of a blog’s popularity based on visitors’ ‘sharing’, ‘likes’, ‘following’ etc.  Technorati assigns Authority to blogs based on its own rating logic and also ranks them according to popularity. Many region / language specific portals also measure website / blog popularity based on different parameters.

You can open an account with Google webmaster tools or Bing webmaster tools to have detailed reports on not only blog traffic but many other aspects of your website’s working. You can also go for QuantCast and Compete to track your blog's performance but if your blog is not in multi-thousand pageviews category, they may not give you correct reports. A number of traffic measuring tools are freely available on the web, some also as a widget on the blog.

Is your blog popular enough?

You must have come across some very popular websites, such as those dealing with travel bookings and news sites, and mega portals. These are popular because people need to visit them for information or services. Individual bloggers are not likely to have energy and resources to match them. Yet, some blogs are much more popular than others and some claim to be getting many thousand visitors a day.

During our blogosphere surveys, we have found the following types of blogs quite popular: celbrity blogs, blogs of newspaper columnists and channel anchors, blogs as part of vibrant communities and technology blogs. Long-standing and regularly updated blogs in all categories tend to be more popular than new and irregular blogs. Blogs with superb content are often cross-referenced and quoted, and in long run keep getting high-quality traffic. 

But only good content and blog design are not enough to get hordes of visitors to the blog. Whether you like it or not, you need to do some SEO to come high on SERP and thus get new visitors, which otherwise would take a long time. We have compiled posts on best practices in SEO in this link.

Coming specifically to a blog's popularity, it would be a good idea to check it against the top blog in your category. You can then take the required steps. For example, you might find that not many people comment on your blog while they interact greatly in that blog, or your blog has a very low placing on Google search pages for a desirable keyword. In the first case, you would like to increase interaction on other similar blogs and quickly respond to comments. In the second case, you could think of putting those keywords in your posts and doing search optimisation.

So what is the take-away from this short discussion?

We’d talk about other aspects of blog popularity in subsequent posts on domain naming etc. For now, let's conclude with some sensible and practical suggestions for improving your blog’s popularity without it losing authority and respectability: 
  • Give your blog a relevant URL, an associated title and a presentable description. In an already running blog, you may not have the liberty to change the URL, but why not tweak the title and description?
  • Post regularly.
  • Post with authority on the subject. Don't try to look expert; gain expertise if you don't have.
  • If you have a personal blog, write in lucid style and give your first hand impressions.
  • Interact with those who make valuable comments on your blog.
  • Popularise the blog and/or individual posts among people who’d appreciate them. This includes relatives, friends, colleagues, email friends and social network friends.
  • Don't hesitate to do a bit of  search engine optimisation or SEO. It is not technical or tough, but can be very rewarding.

state of the blogosphere 2011 survey by Technoratti: interesting findings

We forgot to discuss the Technorati  ‘state of the blogosphere’  2011 report, because it came out when we were terribly busy with updating our own Indian blog directory and then we got busy clearing the huge backlog of requests for detailed blog review (the backlog still remains). 

Those of the visitors who don’t know about Technorati let’s introduce it. It is arguably the biggest and most authoritative site / organization for searching and indexing blogs from the world over, and tracking the blogosphere. It brings out a survey every year on the trends in the blogging world. 

Before reading their survey results, however, do remember that these are based on responses from those in Technorati network and/or their visitors. The ones who responded are necessarily the ones who are active on the web and don't mind filling a detailed survey form. A survey based on responses from such a sample is not likely to capture the entire blogging spectrum in respect of parameters such as blogging habits and hours spent on blogging. Interestingly again, 80% of their respondents were not bloggers!

Some interesting findings of the survey are:
  • Many respondents reported that they were blogging more than before, and they did so because it helped them professionally or in business. Some did so as they enjoyed interacting with people. People who were blogging less than before did so as their time was taken by other activities or they now devoted more time to other types of social media. Very few bloggers reduced blogging because it seemed to hurt their social life.
  • Bloggers tended to be influenced by others’ blogs when choosing topics for their own blogs.
  • Bloggers said, the primary reason for blogging was sharing expertise and experience, speaking out one’s mind, connecting with like-minded people, getting more involved with their passion and so on, rather than seeking business.
  • More than two-thirds of the respondents believed that blogs were being taken more seriously as source of information than before, vis-à-vis other media. A significant number of respondents felt, blogs are written better than the traditional media and are being taken seriously as source of information – more than the traditional media and much more than Facebook and Twitter. Yet, blogs were down in the list as a trusted medium of information.
  • Blogs, not print media and television, were a source of inspiration for many people.
  • Wordpress was found to lead Blogger as the blogging platform of choice; others didn’t come anywhere near these two.
Update: Technorati no longer release such surveys about blogs nor do they maintain archives.