Recently, I asked my friend Grit if he’d be willing to write a post on taking your blog private and the ins and outs of same. Well, he has delivered. Please feel free to ask him any questions you may have on this topic, as I will turn over the comments/forum to him.
Thanks for the invite, and the opinion that the Brit and I know enough about what we’re doing that others might gain something from our adventures in blogging. A little background is probably appropriate at this point, so skip down a bit if you know us. I met the Brit when we were both messing about on Helium.com, and it was almost instantly apparent that we complemented each other in many ways. With this in mind, we decided to do some sort of writing project together, and determined that the best format would be a blog. Our first one, on which we both posted about the same topic once or twice a week, was well received by those who read it, but didn’t really have enough energy to keep us or our guests interested for long. Then we decided to open a second blog where we would each post whatever we felt like discussing, as often as we felt inspired to write. At this point, we also moved to WordPress, which seemed to have more character than Blogger. After playing around with that for a month or four, we started finding certain types of posts and subjects that we enjoyed, that our readers found interesting, and that allowed us to explore the difference in US-UK experiences. We kept that up for five or six months, at which point we were averaging 400 hits a day with the occasional spike into the thousands. This was great fun, but it was also consumed a lot of time for which we weren’t being paid. I’ve always thought that a good hobby is one that you enjoy AND makes money, so we figured, eventually, that we should see if we could fly on our own, away from the sheltering wings of the WordPress community. Still, taking our blog private wasn’t all about money.
So, on the trail of why to kick your blog up a notch, you need to think about why you’re investing your time in publishing your writing. If it’s just about making money, then there are several avenues available that are much more certain than running a variable subject blog. For that path, there are numerous sites devoted to how to start. On the other hand, if your bliss is only about the writing and finding an audience for it, then stick with the free blog providers. On the gripping hand, it may be the case that the constraints the free providers enforce are too limiting for what you want to write. Some people just have to say f**k occasionally or include pictures of people in various states of undress to express themselves, and I say this is a valid reason to have a privately hosted blog. Some wise person once said, by which I mean that the name of the person who said this has slipped my mind, that “the only people who have freedom of the press are those who own one,” or something like that. However badly I’ve mangled the quote, the idea is still true and it also applies to blogging. If you don’t shell out for paid hosting, you aren’t completely free to express yourself.
Another point on the freedom of expression issue is the appearance of your blog. To the best of my knowledge, all of the free ones restrict your access to the inner workings of the software, which in one way or another limits what you can do to control how your work is presented to the world, and how easy it is for you to put said work on display. I’ll skip the technical stuff, as there are numerous sites devoted to it, but will say that for the Brit and I this issue was part of our decision making process in buying our own domain.
This, of course, brings us to the topic of money. Once you decide to go private with your blog, there are costs involved. Our hosting, for instance, is through midPhase, and runs us less than $90 per year. Since we opened our account, they’ve merged with AN hosting, which has a lower introductory fee of around $60/year, but I hate change so we’re sticking with what we have. Besides, we made enough money from our affiliate ad, which is where you put a small ad on your blog referencing some service from which you get a commission if anyone goes there and buys something, to pay for our second year of blogging. Of course, not all affiliate programs work that well. We’ve had links to amazon.com up for a year or so, and have yet to make a penny for our efforts.
Which brings us to the pay-per-click ads. The big two in this category are Google and Yahoo, both of which, or so I’m told, work very well. Unfortunately, if you decide to use their services, you’re bound by their restrictions as to what you can publish, so freedom of the post flys out the window. Fortunately, there are viable alternatives. While we’re still exploring this subject, our best experiences have been, to date, with Text Link Ads, from which we’re seeing rapid growth in our monthly earnings, which are almost to the point of buying one of us a tank of gas So, if you don’t plan on publishing anything controversial, the industry leaders in Internet advertising may be what you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you feel the need to be wild, crazy, and a bit off color, you still have options.
So, looking at things from a business perspective and noting that we would be classified as a small business, of which most go belly up in the first year, have paid off our investment debt and made a profit, admittedly a tiny profit, in our first year, making us a success. It also means that we have our own printing press, the freedom that brings, and a hobby that at least pays for itself.