Get a Free Ebook

Five Inspirational Truths for Authors

Try our Video Classes

Downloadable in-depth learning, with pdf slides

Find out more about My Book Therapy

We want to help you up your writing game. If you are stuck, or just want a boost, please check us out!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Blog or Website—Which Does a Writer Need?


I do a lot of teaching at writing conferences across the country and lately I’ve been reminded that not everyone knows the difference between a Blog and Website.

So, blog or website—which does a writer need? Today I thought I’d give you an easy way to decide which you should have and begin the evaluation process for your specific situation.

As many of you know, social media and blogging aren’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Far from it! But the almost endless array of choices can leave anyone feeling uncertain what’s needed.

Before we get into the choices and how to decide, let’s make certain we’re all clear on the definitions.

A Blog
The word itself is a relatively new invention. Its usage began in the early 80s and comes from the words Web and LogBlog—and was originally envisioned as a sort of online journal. Occasionally I still run across someone who doesn’t realize blogs haven’t been online diaries for many years.

Having a blog used to be thought of as the amateur way to have an online presence. Again, this hasn’t been the case for quite a number of years. Many well-respected sites are in actuality, blogs.

Enough history, here is an up-to-date definition of a blog:
An online site, with regular, frequent updates that encourage interaction through comments and sharing. It can be a single-page site or a multi-page site. But its primary purpose is interaction.

A Website
In contrast, a website is much more of a static site, where much of the information remains the same. It doesn’t usually have a place for interaction—although there is almost always a contact form somewhere so visitors can interact if necessary. It's almost like a yellow pages ad or a billboard.

A website can also be a singe-page or a multi-page site. But more generally it has several pages. Often times, one of the pages is a blog. Websites are most often built by website designers or those willing to learn HTML code. Even though a lot of folks use a template to build a website, they are almost always customized and use a lot more code specific design.

As you can see by the definitions, blogs and websites do tend to overlap in their intent. But, and this is VITALLY important to understand, they are not the same in the way they’re developed.

Take WordPress products for example. WordPress has a lot of great options, for blogs and for websites. But, blogs are built on the WordPress.com site, and websites are built on the WordPress.org site. Why two different sites? Because websites and blogs are very different in the way they’re constructed.
Think of WordPress like a car company—say Volkswagen. Even though the VW Bug and the Jetta are both built by Volkswagen, they are very different cars. A mechanic doesn’t fix them with the same parts or even necessarily the same tools. It’s the same for WordPress Blogs (the free version .com) and WordPress Websites (the paid version .org). Even more than that, just because someone has their own WordPress website doesn’t mean they know how to help you with WordPress blog. Be very careful here, the plug-ins are not always the same!

Generically speaking, a blog isn’t better than a website and visa versa. But specifically, there are times when one choice is better than another.

When to Build only a Blog
I recommend new writers always start with a blog and here are some reasons why:
  • They’re easy to work with. By that I mean, it’s easy to learn the basics if you stick with a reputable platform. I recommend Blogger, WordPress, or TypePad.
  • They’re free. Blogger is completely free. WordPress.com is free, but also has some upgrades available for purchase. And TypePad has a small monthly fee, depending on which version you choose. It may surprise you to know that my favorite, hands down, is Blogger. Blogger offers more options for personalization and it has the added benefit of being owned by Google, so you get good search engine results if your site is well done.
  • They can be tweaked and changed as your career grows and focuses. Just because you begin writing devotions, doesn’t mean you won’t one day end up writing fiction. It helps if you don’t have to start over and build a whole new product. 

When to Build a Website
I recommend an author with multiple books, and the means to pay someone to keep it up, invest in a website…with a blog. Now don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of writers who’ve built their own websites. Some of them like to tinker with code (not many) others just want to save money. Personally, my passion is writing, NOT website building.

Here are the reasons to build a website:
  • You are more than one person, commercially speaking. For example, my friend and critique partner Vonda Skelton, is an author, a motivational speaker, an actress, and a womens ministry leader. She needs a website to have multiple pages under each of the four categories.
  • You’re ready to have someone else run that part of your business and can afford to pay for it. Make sure you have someone who comes highly recommended and who has time to make changes you need in a reasonable time-frame.
  • You have multiple books and need more room to promote/engage your readers. 

All of that said, even the biggest and best websites can benefit from having a blog somewhere within the site. In today’s publishing climate readers like to engage with authors. At this point, a blog is still the best way to do it.

Now it's your turn. If you have an questions about which is best for you, leave them in the comments section below. Also, for those of you with websites, we'd love for you to chime in recommending good website designers.

Edie Melson is the author of four books, a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She’s also the social media columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and social media mentor for My Book Therapy. Connect with her through Twitter,  Facebook, and her popular blog for writers, www.thewriteconversation.com.

14 comments:

joy said...

This is very interesting Michelle. I have lots to learn when it comes to blogging and website.

Beth K. Vogt said...

Edie, I love all your insights about all things social media! I have both a blog (WordPress) and a website. The blog is built right into the first page of my website, which gives me fresh information on an almost daily basis. Matt Jones of JonesHouseCreative handles my website -- he and his staff are amazing!!

jillweatherholt said...

This is great information, Edie. I only have a blog, which I love, but it doesn't take time away from my WIP.

Edie Melson said...

Joy, I'm glad you found this helpful! Thanks for stopping by, Edie

Edie Melson said...

Thank you, Beth. I love the way your website/blog is designed. It's easy to navigate and the blog is a welcoming entrance to you as an author, and as a person!

Edie Melson said...

Jill, I agree. As I mentioned, I only have a blog, too. I love the connections with my readers. And it compliments what I write, instead of stealing valuable time.

Michelle Griep said...

Super informative. Thanks!

Edie Melson said...

Thanks Michelle!

Becky Jacoby said...

Edie, Nice post. I'm sure it's helpful to many. Since you've requested, I would like to recommend this person to help with websites/blogs. He is professional, knowledgeable, communicative, listens to your needs and is competitively priced. Reach him at Josh Warmke and please use my name as the referral source.

F.A.Ellis said...

Thanks!I kind of knew a little bit between the two,but you've clarified it more for me.It doesn't hurt to learn things at any age...

Edie Melson said...

Becky, thanks so much for the recommendation!

Ian Acheson said...

Edie,a good simple outline...

Very useful..

Ian

Emily Akin said...

Edie, I'd like to clarify a little bit about Wordpress. The wordpress.com site is where you go if you want a free blog. You can set it up to look like a website by using a static page as Home page. The blog is there, it's just not the first thing you see. You cannot have advertising on a wordpress.com account. You cannot sell anything from wordpress.com. There are some features you can pay for, but you are still limited with what you can do with it.

Wordpress.org is where you go to get the Wordpress software free for use on your self-hosted site or blog. The software from Wordpress.org does the same thing that Wordpress.com does. It's just that you can add more functions using "plugins." You can have a blog page on either. With Wordpress.org, you must pay for your own hosting, but you can have all the advertising you want. You can sell books or e-books from your site. You can choose free designs or pay for custom designs.

Suffice it to say that there is no reason to use Wordpress if you do not need a blog feature. I use Wordpress.org for my site http://emilyakin.com. My blog page is not the home page. It's called Blog4Writers, and it has its own tab on the menu. The other pages include my bio, resources for writers, etc.

I also have some Wordpress how-to posts on my blog if you would like to check it out.

Thanks for your blog. I enjoy it very much

Marji Laine said...

Great comparison between the VW Bug and Jetta. Easy to understand illustration. I have a question:Is there a way to transfer a blog on Wordpress.com to a site at Wordpress.org without losing the followers?