We’re already well into November, but you wouldn’t know it if you were expecting me to make regular updates. My site was down late Thursday into Friday, and then from Friday until Tuesday. Thus, for most of November I haven’t been able to do much blogging. (Or even much of the behind the scenes stuff that goes into making a blog run properly, like editing comments and making backups of my site.)
What I have been able to do is think about just how tricky blogging can be. I’ve discussed the troubles of blogging before, but I was mainly focused on the troubles of writing and socializing, the things that your readers and fellow bloggers see you doing. But there’s a lot of things you need to do just to get, and keep, your blog up running. These issues make blogging a lot harder than you might think from everyone who encourages you to start in the blogging game. That’s why I want to share these
5 Harsh Truths about Blogging
1. Using Generic Blogging Sites Won’t Get You Much Respect (or Cash) – There are quite a few sites out there that allow you to create a blog on their servers, sites like Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress where you can create a blog of your own that is hosted, managed, and most importantly for our purposes, controlled by the corresponding host. Now, depending on your purposes, this might be enough. Should you simply want to write articles and have them available for outsiders to read, go ahead. You might even be able to set up advertisements and generate some profit from your writing. But it won’t be much profit. Creating a blog that gathers lots of ads and lots of profit means that you need a real blog, and:
2. For a Real Blog, You Need a Webhost, and They Are Tricky – One particularly difficult behind-the-scenes trouble is getting a webhost that’s appropriate for your blog’s needs, both when you start and as it grows; moving from one type of server to another is what’s kept my website from being up these past few weeks . I could start getting into the difference between shared servers, virtual private servers (or VPS, as I’ve discovered this past week) and dedicated servers, and how to choose the best one for your needs, but it’s nearly impossible to give a one-size-fits-all answer here (plus other people have already done it better).
If pressed, or trying to provide a basic answer to fill out this article, I’d say that shared is probably fitting for most bloggers, particularly beginners, although if you’re planning a major site, you might want to go with a VPS right off the bat. They cost a LOT more, though, so tread cautiously. That said, most of my downtime these past several days has been as a result of the difficulties in transferring from a shared to VPS server as my needs for dedicated hosting power have risen. I realize that figuring all this out when you are just getting started is difficult, to put it mildly (it was for me), which brings me to the next harsh truth:
3. You Will Have Trouble – There are a lot of things that you need to do to keep a blog running properly (and profitably). Manage the blog plugins, maintain the appearance, provide useful advertisements, manage search engine optimization (SEO, for us old blog pros), handle social media, and engage with other bloggers. And all of that is before we get to issues of creating contents, by writing articles, making pictures, filming videos, or otherwise generating new material to add to the world. (And let’s not even start on matters of coding; I’m assuming you’re not even planning to build your site from scratch.) Keeping up with all of this would be tough for a whole crew, let alone one person. This means that:
4. You Will Need Help – At one point or another, you will need to get help. Perhaps it will be to build the site, perhaps it is to promote your site, maybe it’s to create content; as some point, you’re going to need help. Trying to build a successful, world striding website filled on your own will drive you nearly insane; there’s a reason that big sites aren’t run by just one person. You will need to get assistance in some form.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be another person or service provided by people, although that’s a fairly effective method. There are plenty of plugins and programs that can do many of the tasks I’ve mentioned, in most cases nearly as efficiently as the most skilled humans. Still, getting assistance of some form, mechanical or mankind, is all but required if you’re going to be successful. The best assistance, the most effective programs and the people who can help you, are definitely needed, but…
5. It Will Cost You Money – You’ve probably already guessed, but all this is going to cost money. Getting a server, particularly a powerful one, getting assistance, just getting advice from people more knowledgeable than yourself; all of this costs money. Any estimates you have on how much it will cost to run your blog should be increased substantially, probably doubled or tripled (if not more). At the very least, if you do run a successful website, you’re going to need to continue your hosting for years (maybe, although this is getting extremely ambitious, decades) beyond the initial hosting cost.
As a side note, as I’ve learned from this whole incident, you should probably limit how long a time frame you purchase for that initial hosting period; while it might seem more cost effective to buy months or even years worth of hosting time and get the bulk discount, you can end up spending a great deal more money than needed if you have to change your hosting before your service time is up. Better to go month to month, or in blocks of three to six months, so if your site takes off, you can bump up your server power with (minimum) difficulty.
One final thing before we go: remember that these problems are for impressive, successful blogs. If you have a small blog that rarely gets attention or a single comment (even from your mother), you’re not going to have to worry about creating a real site, upgrading servers, transferring websites, or getting a great deal of help. Having those problems is a sign that you’re doing something right, keeping your blog running and the web traffic flowing. In that respect, congratulations!