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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Choosing a Blog Host

Bun Bo Hue 29

I met up with a bunch of other food bloggers tonight at a dinner sponsored by my advertiser, Foodbuzz. Recap to come!

Apparently, several of the bloggers were quite interested in my "How to Start a Food Blog" series. And judging from my stats, so are many of you. I've been working on this series sporadically for the past 5 months. It's a compilation of everything I know, or rather everything I think I know. There's a total of 14 topics or chapters planned, technically 15 if you count my intro. Please let me know if you'd like to see something that I've missed. And other bloggers please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong and/or to provide your input as well. To increase your anticipation, I'll include the "chapters" at the bottom of this post.

Then I'm going to take a bit of a break from this series and finish up a bunch of other dangling posts. What can I say? My non-blogging readers aren't interested in this blogging stuff. They just want to see pictures.

Before you begin blogging, take a look at various food blogs and compile a list of what you like or don't like about each one. Is it the photos that pulled you in? The writing? The design? Then look at the little things that might make a difference in ease of use. How are subjects organized? Is there a navigation bar? Are categories in lists or a tag cloud? Are archives easily accessible? All these things factor into how easy it'll be for you to use your blog, and how easy it will be for others to access your content.

Then decide which platform you want to use. The biggies are: Blogger, LiveJournal, WordPress, or Typepad? Do you want your own domain name? Most blogging programs will now register and host you for about $10 to $15 a year. Do you want ads? Blogger has Google Adsense built in and allows ads. WordPress does not officially allow ads. I've seen some blogs add them anyway so it is possible, but technically that's illegal and I prefer to play by the rules. You can get around that legally if you register your own domain name. Typepad costs money but has a reputation for good tech support if any issues arise. ProBlogger.net posted about the pros and cons of various blogging platforms. I suggest signing up on several of the free sites, play around a little, see which format works best for you before committing to one or the other.

I chose Blogger because it seemed like most of the food blogs I read were on Blogger, it's linked to all my Google accounts, and it was dead simple to start up. If you'd like to customize the format, I recently wrote about how I was able to convert mine in one night in "Easiest Blogger Hacks: 3-Column Template, Favicon, Label Cloud, and Navigation Bar."

For those who think having their own domain name is a must, consider this: According to Who is Hosting This, via Problogger, 8 of the top 100 blogs use Blogspot. According to Wikio Food and Wine for the month of August, 40 of the top 100 blogs use Blogspot. Having your own domain name might seem nice, but content is more important. Of course, on the other side of the argument, Daily Blog Tips says, "On Domain Names, Size and Quality DOES Matter!" If you do plan to register your own domain name and switch over from a hosted blog service, do this within the first few months. Otherwise, you'll lose all those links and basically have to start building your traffic all over again.

This part may sound a bit morbid, but in deciding whether or not to switch to a domain name, it wasn't the loss of links that was the deciding factor for me. I wondered what would happen to my blog if I was gone. Would I want my family to have to make a decision each year of whether or not to pay for my registration renewal? Or say I just got tired of blogging? Many of my readers view my blog as a resource, I'd like the information to be available no matter what happens.

Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 1

So which hosted weblog service is the most popular?

I used Elise of Simply Recipe's technique of typing in the name of various blog hosting services in her post, "An Overview of the Weblog Tools Market." (Well, if I'm reading that post right, I think that's what she did.) Since that post was in 2004, I decided to check and see what the current numbers would be. Unlike her post though, I wasn't interested in blogging platforms as much as I was in hosted weblog services. (I hope I'm phrasing that right.) The difference is that I'm not a techie and don't care about the software behind how or why blogs work. I was simply interested in which weblog service the average person decided to sign on with and how actively they used it. This, of course, might exclude users with their own domain names who use these blogging platforms. Since I couldn't figure out how to find the number of users, I did a simple search for number of URL pages as an indication of a weblog service's popularity. Also, in recent years since her post, blogs on social networking sites such as Friendster and MySpace have increased in popularity. Though Blogger has cornered half of the market, WordPress has surprising inroads considering it was only launched a few years ago.

I did this several months ago so obviously the number of URL pages dramatically increased. For example, back in April when I entered Blogspot.com into Google, I turned up 159 million pages. Did that again tonight and got 596 million. (Whoa! OK, that's crazy! Maybe someone should double-check my math... If you do and you create another set of graphs, send them to me and I'll upload those and credit you.) For WordPress.com it was 59.6 million and 95.1 million, respectively. LiveJournal had the biggest difference, upsetting WordPress by jumping from 52.1 million to 130 million, respectively. I'm not sure, but I think this reversal may be because people are using WordPress, but registering their own domain names so that doesn't show up in my search. Unless there's some other reason to account for LiveJournal's popularity. Percentage-wise, with the exception of the insane growth of Blogger and the reversal of positions of WordPress and LiveJournal, the increases are about the same.

That took a lot of work to compile, so I'm not going through that again. I'm sure there are other hosting services that I missed, but I think I got all the big ones. I'm also not a techie and I can't do math, so excuse any errors. Trying to figure out percentages and looking at all the zeros made my head spin. Please let me know if there are any glaring errors though so I can fix them. Overall, I think this gives a general idea of which blogging services are most popular and how much people posted on those services. And this also shows just how quickly blogging has grown within the space of a few months! Just imagine these graphs with the Blogger even greater.

So plugging in hosted domain names into Google and the number of URL pages with these domain names, I got:

# of URL Pages on Hosted Blog Platforms as of April 10, 2008:
Blogspot 159,000,000
WordPress 59,600,000
LiveJournal 52,100,000
Xanga 18,600,000
Typepad 11,900,000
MySpace Blogs 8,580,000
Yahoo 360 7,100,000
Vox 4,390,000
Friendster Blogs 4,360,000
MSN Windows Live Spaces 3,420,000
AOL Journals 3,370,000
Tumblr 2,650,000
DiaryLand 2,350,000
Blogsome 2,100,000
Square Space 659,000
I Blog 476,000

Total # of URL Pages 339,655,000

Here's what that looks like on a graph. The second bar below without a title is WordPress. Click on the graphs if you'd like to view them larger.

This one shows the numbers in pie form.

Obviously, Blogger clearly cornered the market. I went with Blogger because it was the easiest, and I suspect that was the same case for many others.

  1. How to Start a Food Blog
  2. On Blogging and Food Blogging
  3. Choosing a Blog Host
  4. Picking a Name: Be Clever, Original, and Memorable
  5. Posting: Frequency, Topics, and Accuracy
  6. Giving Credit: The Right Way to Link, Copyright, and "By," "Inspired," and "Adapted"
  7. Your Online Identity: Blogging Interactions and Comment Policies
  8. Photos: Photography Tips, Storage, and Watermarking
  9. Design: Layout, Navigation, and "Above the Fold"
  10. Blogrolling: Will You Be My Friend?
  11. Building Traffic: Participate in the Community and Respond to Your Stats
  12. Measuring Success: Cheerleader or Nerd?
  13. Public Relations: Handling the Freebies and the People
  14. Monetizing Your Hobby: To Ad or Not to Ad
  15. Bottomline: Have Fun, but Protect Your Work
Did you find this series useful? I'd appreciate credit if you use any of the information. Thanks!

1 year ago today, prickly pear cactus fruits, golden kiwis, Taiwanese white melons, and yellow watermelons.


  1. Interesting to consider all the details and decisions that happen to some people by happenstance. You've gathered some mind boggling statistics there!

  2. You know, once you're done with the series you should make a book out of it, like a Food Blogging For Dummies... I think it would sell well!
    The steak was good, but alas, the burratta had already taken its toll... At least it didn't go to waste! =)

  3. Hi WC, It was so nice meeting you and chatting. Thanks for the tip on a separate comment window and blogger info. I am going to read your hack info hopefully tomorrow when I get a chance. I love your title, I need to get me some photo shop...

  4. I love this! "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Food Blogging But Were Afraid to Ask!"

    Leave it to an academic like yourself to write the definitive guide to food blogging. I'm looking forward to what you write on each topic, but especially "Cheerleader or Nerd". I hope being a "Nerd" is a good thing, cuz I am one!

  5. Wow! That's a lot of Blogger blogs. And that's a lot of blogs, period. I'm only partly a food blogger, but a lot of what you're discussing can apply to any blog you hope people will find interesting.

  6. That's wonderful stats of readership for your blog!-I'm still trying to gain improve on my ratings as well. I think those tips will be great for beginners and experienced bloggers-I didn't realize the differences between all those hosting webbies.

  7. Whoaaaa!! I didn't know any of this when I started my blog - I just jumped into blogger because that's where my friend Jeanie had hers. You're not just an awesome cook, you've got the makings of an A-rated CEO!!!

    Great meeting you last nite! Thanks for the cupcakes!

  8. Nikki,
    Not really mind-boggling, just laborious. ;)

    Nah, it's not long enough to be a book. The burrata was nothing. Just a little bit. Not enough to fill up on. Oink! Oink!

    It was nice meeting you too! Don't worry about it all too much, you're just getting started!

    Nerds like us definitely think that's the better thing. ;) I hardly think it's the "definitive" guide, just something useful since I've been getting questions. Who knew so many people wanted to be like me? :P

    I think everyone has something to say! And everyone has a different idea of what works for them.

    The stats are just OK. There's tons more that are much better. We all do what we can with what we have.

    I didn't know any of this stuff when I started either. I wish there was a central source for all this. So I guess that's why I had to make one. :P It was great meeting you too.

  9. whoa...thanks for the info! cos in hong kong, all i see are xanga and yahoo blogs...they most of them blog in chinese T_T

    your blogging tips posts reminded me of when i started blogging...i just asked you to link me, out of nowhere (wahahahaha). back then, i didn't know that some people have certain principals about linking hehehe

    hehehe but in the end, i am glad i got to know you. you're one heck of a blogging pal! hehe i learnt so much from ya, girl! keep up the good work!

  10. I think someone should just publish your work into a book! It's an awesome reference for people like me who don't really know much about certain cuisines, but would like a better explanation without feeling so ignorant when actually ordering at the actual restaurant. Thank you for EVERYTHING you put into this blog!!!!!

  11. MCR,
    Yahoo is popular in VN too, and they blog in VNese. Yahoo has an agreement to send over proprietary information to the Communist countries, so that's how they've been doing business there for a while. There was a trial and Yahoo was fined for turning over info to the government that got a Chinese journalist jailed, or something like that. That that's how they've been allowed to operate and proliferate in China and VN. I'm assuming its popularity in HK is because it's written in Chinese.

    Thank you so much for such nice words! It's always nice to feel appreciated. :) I'm glad you're finding the information useful.

  12. Wow, I thought was the 3rd Blog Hosting company...

    Blogspot 159,000,000
    WordPress 59,600,000
    LiveJournal 52,100,000
    Xanga 18,600,000
    Typepad 11,900,000

    I was far from truth!


  13. Arthur,
    I think some people dismiss Blogger as too simplistic and not "professional" enough. But I think it's that very simplicity that makes it popular. That's certainly the case for me.

  14. I appreciate your series on starting a food blog. My wife and I have a food business and we are intending to start a blog. Is it lucrative at all? from ads? other sources? or when focused on our limited family time and the need for income, is it better to think of a blog as useful for exposure and perhaps indirect road to more income?

    Hunter Smith

    PS this is the first time that I have posted a comment on a blog so I am not sure if I will know if you responded so please email me at huntersmith8181@gmail.com if you can ... I found your page when we were searching images of food for inspiration in our cooking.

  15. Hunter,

    The vast majority of bloggers don't make a living from it, but that doesn't mean you can't or won't be successful. Just that it's not a get-rich-quick type of thing. However, I have seen craft bloggers who use their blogs as a way to promote themselves and their product. So if you look at blogging that way, it can certainly help. There are people who are much more knowledgeable than me, so I suggest exploring other blogs for business information.

    Good luck!

  16. I'm working on starting a blog and have read your information with much interest....and realizing that the more you know, the more you know you don't know!! The last three chapters 13, 14, 15 were not hyperlinked, so I was unable to get to them. I'm anxious to read the "rest of the story." Is that possible?

  17. Patti,
    That's because I ran out of steam and haven't written them yet. :P


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