Blogging on a budget

If you're trying to run a blog and you don't have the budget to hire a team of developers and coders, you might be trying to figure out some options for how to best get your message out there.  I can't claim to be an expert on blogging (yet), but here's a briefing on my, current, state of the blogging art.

First, the tools in question:

  • Google Domains
  • Blogger
  • Rebrandly
  • IFTTT
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • HootSuite
With the exception of Google Domains, all of these services have a free tier that can make your life much simpler when trying to get your message out.  Let's look at them one by one

Google Domains
I've used a few domain registrars and none of them are complicated.  But, Google just brings the whole process together simply into a single interface.  You can search for and buy a domain in just a few clicks.  Once you've picked the perfect name, you can manage all the standard settings.  DNSSEC, Mail Servers, Name Servers, etc.  You can also choose to simply point your new domain at a Blogger blog.

Blogger
In the past, I've used either a custom site written with FrontPage or Wordpress.  A couple of years ago, though, I switched to Blogger to save on hosting fees.  Since my needs are simple, I didn't see a need for a full web server (virtual or otherwise).  Blogger limits some of my options, but the lower cost and simpler maintenance make up for it.  As this blog takes off, that may change.  But that simply allows me to make a new, updated, post.  :D

Rebrandly
Have you seen those cool short URLs?  bit.ly, ibm.biz, ow.ly, etc?  I wanted one of my own.  I saw an excellent write up by Scott Hanselman on coding one in an Azure Cloud instance.  But that wouldn't be free, would it?  Rebrandly allows you to either work with the well-known bit.ly or bring your own domain (thanks, Google Domains).  I got kva.fyi and used Rebrandly to define a series of quick and easy to remember links to some of my more common site (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc).  At some point in the future, I want to try and use it to generate the short links for my blog.  Maybe another post?

IFTTT
IFTTTT (If This Then That) is a free, easy to use, automation site.  It can automate things such as turning on your smart lights when you open your garage, or changing the mood lighting when you put on that special playlist in Spotify.  It can also be set to cascade events from one site to another.  I use IFTTT to submit a new Tweet every time I publish a post on my Blog, it will also submit my post to Tumblr and a whole slew of other options.  If you want to publish once and post many, then IFTTT is the tool for you.  This blog uses the services for:  Blogger, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  I use the Facebook, iOS, and Alexa services for my private blog and contacts.

Twitter
If you're not on Twitter, what are you waiting for?  It's the de facto short-form publishing platform.  Get out there and grab your real estate and start Tweeting.  I use Twitter to publicize my own content and also keep up to date on what my peers and competitors are up to.  A word of advice, stay away from politics, it can get ugly in the Twitterverse.

Tumblr
Tumblr is a service very similar to Blogger in that it allows you to blog items.  It also combines some of the concepts of Twitter by allowing you to build a "feed" of other blogs and post your own content.  I mainly use it as another destination for my own content.  I'm new to the platform, so maybe I'll add some details on this in a future post as I get my hands on Tumblr more.

HootSuite
HootSuite allows you to manage your various Social content in a series of ways.  First, it allows you to see all of the information you're following in a single screen.  It also allows you to create your own posts and either publish them immediately or set up a schedule.  The Free version allows you to schedule 30 posts which is enough for a simple blog for a couple of weeks.  Since Blogger allows you to schedule an unlimited number of posts, you can rack up some serious pre-planned content without breaking the bank.  Since I am also the Media Committee Chairman for my Sons of the American Revolution chapter, HootSuite allows me to manage my personal and other accounts from a single, screen.

How does this whole thing work?  Here's the short description of how a new post goes through this process.

  1. Using the Blogger admin panel, create the new post in its Composer.
  2. Save and Edit as desired until it's done  
  3. Schedule the post for the desired release timeframe
  4. Shortly after the post appears on the site, IFTTT will be notified.
  5. IFTTT pulls the pertinent details from the post (Title, Labels, URL) and generates a Tweet.  That tweet is then published by Twitter.
  6. IFTTT pulls the details from the same post and generates a Tumblr post (I chose a "Text" post).  That post is then published to Tumblr.
  7. Ditto for LinkedIn


So, there you go.  An initial look at the nuts of bolts of running the back end of my blog.  I'll keep you posted as things change and if you have thoughts or comments on what's happening, leave them in the comments below.

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