Note from Shel Horowitz: As a blogger, I feel some responsibility to participate in the wider blogging community. And thus, if someone with an appropriate book for my audience (ethics, marketing, sustainability, etc.) asks me to be a stop on a blog tour, I’ll say yes if it makes sense.
Today, I’m the blog tour host for MaAnna Stephenson, author of Just the FAQs eBooks Series. Here we go:
Q: You’ve written a bunch of little e-books about the Internet, covering blogs, RSS, articles, and websites. What led you to write these, and what’s your background?
A: Each of the four books is about forty pages and I decided to split them up that way so folks could pick and choose books covering a topic in which they needed help. The books are small because they are to the point and don’t have a lot of fluff. They guide folks step-by-step through the process of fully customizing and optimizing their online presence.
I’m an electronics engineer and have decades of experience writing technical documentation and training manuals. I also designed sites for non-profits and small businesses for over a decade. I took a break from that while I did an intense research project for over four years that resulted in the material published in The Sage Age – Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom, which was featured in Publishers Weekly shortly after its debut.
When I began creating an online presence for that book, Web 2.0 had become all the rage. I wanted to make use of blogs and RSS feeds in addition to a website. I was shocked at how little documentation there was on how to make the most of these tools. I simply documented the process as I went through creating my own resources. When my editor had questions about optimizing her blog, I sent her the documentation. She was so excited about having such a great resource that she encouraged me to publish. That’s how the blogs, feeds, and articles books came to be. I wrote the websites book from my experience working with clients. It has the same three worksheets that I gave folks to help them organize the material for their site. It also advises folks on the expensive pitfalls some of my clients experienced on their first site.
Q: Why should the average non-techie entrepreneur care about something like RSS?
A: RSS feeds are one of the most powerful companion tools you can add to your blog. Most folks follow more than one blog. Instead of having to go to each blog to see if there is a new post, they can simply subscribe to any blog that has feeds. Every post is then delivered to their feed reader and they can view them all in one place. Think of a feed reader as a personalized virtual newspaper. Feed readers are becoming very popular, not only for convenience, but to cut down on spam as well. Folks no longer have to give out their email address to each newsletter owner just to find out what’s happening with them.
Feeds can also be delivered via email or to mobile devices. Podcasters can use feeds to list on iTunes. Even if you run an opt-in email list, you should still offer an RSS feed subscription to your blog. You don’t want to miss out on the growing trend by not making it available. They are easy to install and no maintenance is required. They also allow you to collect statistics, or metrics, on your subscribers.
Q: How does RSS compare with e-mail, and with social media like Twitter and Facebook–what are the advantages of each?
A: All of these broadcast tools are slightly different in scope. Each allows you to deliver current information, but each has different advantages and limitations. RSS feeds allow you to deliver your entire blog post, including graphics via email, or in plain text sans graphics to a reader or a mobile device. The safest way to deliver email, such as a newsletter, is in plain text and it cannot be reformatted to be read well on a mobile device. Both of these delivery systems allow you to include far more information than you can on social media sites like FaceBook, and especially on Twitter, which has a 140 character limitation. However, Twitter and FaceBook are both very useful to announce that you have a new blog post and that will drive more traffic to your site. That is another reason why blog posts are becoming more popular than a newsletter. FaceBook and Twitter are also great tools for acquiring more followers.
Q: Your blogging book recommends using and hosting with Blogger.com. I’ve been recommending to my clients that they set up a blog on their own server, where they have control and where no one can pull the plug. And while I started my own blog (in 2004) on Blogger, I found that I had a lot more flexibility when I switched to WordPress, and that Google found my posts just as quickly. True, I had to have someone else set it up, but once installed, it’s been completely self-maintaining. Why Blogger? What happens to your blog if Blogger changes its business model or decides to censor?
A: There are literally millions of people already on Blogger, although WordPress type sites are gaining in popularity and will continue to do so for the next couple of years. There are also millions of folks who have never blogged and own static websites that they paid big bucks to have designed. Blogger is free and extremely easy to use for folks new to blogging. It’s also very simple to incorporate posts from Blogger into an existing static site without having to do a complete site redesign. That’s very advantageous because many of these site owners are with hosting services that include their shopping cart or storefront. It would cost them thousands of dollars to revamp to another format on another host. The JTF books are also designed to help folks who are only selling products through affiliate links and do not need file storage. A good example would be someone who reviews books. They really don’t need static pages or ways to sell their own product. Blogger blogs can also be made private so they are only viewable by those the administrator allows. This is great for small groups. In fact, I’ll be conducting JTF classes on a private Blogger blog.
I’ve heard a lot of talk about the fear that Blogger may change something or censor a site, however, I’ve known folks who’ve had Blogger sites since they started years ago and they’ve yet to have any issues. You would have to post some pretty derogatory or inflammatory material before Blogger would ever consider censoring you. And, since Google purchased both Blogger and FeedBurner, all of the changes have been for the positive. I’m sure they are already working on upgrades that will give WordPress even more competition. It’s simply not in Blogger’s best interest to make the service difficult or pull the plug on any of its millions of happy users.
For an author just starting out, a WordPress site may be a better fit than Blogger. But, keep in mind that there are two different types of WordPress sites. WordPress.com is very much like Blogger in that it is free and uses template designs that you can customize up to a point. It is hosted by WordPress. But, it does have a couple of important limitations. You cannot include third-party widgets, like Google Analytics. You must use only the ones provided by WordPress.com. And, you cannot monetize the site with things like AdSense ads. You can monetize Blogger.
WordPress.org is the generic blogging software that you can download for free and host anywhere you like. You can fully customize and monetize the blog as you see fit. However, it requires connecting to a database and working in the coding language PHP as well as designing the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This initial part of it will likely require you to hire a WordPress designer. You will also pay for hosting and a domain name. Once those things are all set up, it’s very easy to use and maintain.
If you are already using formats such as Blogger or WordPress.com, your posts and archives can easily be imported to a WordPress.org site if you want to upgrade at some point in the future.
Q: Your article-marketing book offers detailed instructions on submitting to a number of different article portal sites. For the busy entrepreneur, is it worth posting articles if you don’t have time to do all the sites?
A: Yes, even if you only have time to post to one directory, article marketing is still a great way to drive traffic to your site, gain expert author status on a particular topic, and increase your ranking in search engines because you have more links on your name, your product title, and your keywords.
Q: With limited time, which one or two article portals would you recommend?
A: E-zine Articles is still one of the top article directories, however, they are not yet allowing videos to be embedded in the article. New directories are popping up that do allow videos, which is an emerging hot trend. Because of this, these directories are gaining in popularity. Article Bins is one directory that allows videos.
Q: Tell us about the giveaway contest you’re doing?
A: I’ll have a random drawing after the tour offering two free classes based on the blogs and RSS feeds books to folks who leave comments during the tour. The classes guide folks step-by-step while offering additional support for their unique needs. It also covers advanced tips and tricks not found in the books.
Q: Where can people learn more about your books?
You can find more information about Just the FAQs books, classes, and podcast at the main site, which is http://www.JustTheFAQs.net