Mastering Twitter: Do not LIKE my tweets, RETWEET them if you really like them!

The short point is: If you really like my tweets, do not like them. You will help spread the message to others better if you retweet them. For getting my tweets in your Home timeline, you need to follow me.

Let me explain the relative importance of these main ways of responding to a tweet, and more...

Twitter likes and retweets

What happens when you like a tweet?


When you like my tweet, it does not spread the message. It only does these things:
  • It shows your approval of the information/ thought given in my tweet.
  • It adds to the number of likes below my tweet, so others know that the tweet has been liked by so many people.
  • It comes to me as notification. I can then check who all have liked my tweet.
But it does not show on your Home timeline or profile. It also does not spread the message to others. The message ends there. 

What happens when you retweet a tweet?


Retweeting a tweet does these things:
  • It shows your firm approval to the information/ thought given in my tweet. 
  • It goes to the Home timeline of those who follow you.  So, the message you found useful/ interesting is shared with others and thus spreads far and wide.
  • The retweet behaves like a fresh tweet. If people find a good retweet by you, they will retweet the retweet. My message, which is now your message, is seen by the followers of those who have retweeted your retweet!
  • It shows on your profile. When someone visits your profile, he/she sees it there. So, if you retweet good tweets, people know that you are in good company and have good taste.
  • It adds to the numbers of retweets under my tweet.
  • I also get a notification.

So, if you really like my tweet and find value in it, you should retweet rather than like it.

What happens when you follow someone on Twitter?


If you love my tweets in general because they are useful and interesting, and you feel that you should automatically get my tweets in your Home timeline, you should follow me in addition to retweeting individual tweets.

Following does these things: 
  • My new tweets and retweets show up in your Home timeline. Thus, you don't miss my Twitter messages.
  • It will add a number in your Following List. Others can see that you follow me.
  • It will add a number in my Followers List. Others can see that you follow me.
  • I will be able to send you a Direct Message (DM) [details below]. 
That is why I said, do not like me if you actually like my tweets; retweet the tweets and follow me. 

Please note that liking and retweeting a tweet show your approval of the information/ thought given in the tweet (even if you declare in your bio that "retweets are no endorsement"). However, your following me does not mean you support me all the time; it only means that you want to keep receiving my tweets on your Home timeline. That is why many political opponents follow each other. Mediapersons and research agencies follow many public figures to find what they tweet, not because they like the Twitter handle.

I have compared the main ways of engaging with a tweet. But these are relative. For example, if you have just 10 followers, a single like from a celebrity would perhaps mean much more to you than 100 retweets by one who has just 2 followers. Though that like would not take your tweet to your followers, you yourself will talk about it with your friends and feel great that the celebrity took time to like your tweet. Same goes for mention though in itself it is not as valuable as retweet or reply.

Some more useful tips and tricks about engagement on Twitter:


Retweet with a comment; that adds value to the discussion. This is the best way to engage with a tweet.

When retweeting, just click the retweet button when you are in a hurry. But if you have time, make an  interesting comment that will carry the discussion further. You can think of a new angle that is missing in the tweet or supporting the thought with new evidence or disagreeing in a courteous manner or saying a few words of encouragement.

Do not use hashtags (#) indiscreetly. I have seen tweets stuffed with half a dozen hashtags and stupid hashtags that only make the tweet unreadable. Since I have carried a detailed post on this subject, let me not repeat it here but leave a link to that post: How to use hashtags effectively

Mention my name in any tweet if you want to tell your followers that I am responsible for the message or to refer to me in any discussion on Twitter. When you mention my full Twitter handle (@sociallogging), anywhere in any tweet (do not put this at the beginning of a tweet or retweet because that makes it a reply, not mention), you are making me answerable for the message. I get some benefits out of a mention: I get noticed. If someone clicks on my Twitter ID, he/ she reaches my Twitter profile. If I post good quality tweets, people appreciate that because of the connection made by the mention. 

Two examples of mention
I got a surprise of my life today. @BarackObama congratulated me on phone on my bold stand against partheid being practiced in my...
How can you say with finality that HCQ is not effective against COVID-19? @WHO in its latest tweet says, it is yet to be established that...
 
Reply to me if you want to say something regarding a tweet and you want to address it to me. If you want to reply to a tweet, click on the call out button under the tweet. I will be able to read the tweet, I will also get a notification and your message will be visible to your and my followers. 

reply is not as good as retweet or even a mention but much better than like. It is important that you make useful and relevant comments in your replies. If you want to reply to my tweet, you just need to click the reply button at the bottom of the tweet and type your message. However, if you want to send a reply on your own or on someone else's tweet, your reply must start with my Twitter handle (e.g. @sociallogging, what you say makes sense in the context of...)
 
Send Direct Message (DM) when you want to say something privately. You sometimes like to tell me something about my tweet. Direct Message (DM) is the way to do that. You can DM me only if I follow you, so it is one way communication except when two people follow each other on Twitter.

like versus retweet vs mention on Twitter

This is how a follower's profile looks on Twitter.
Pic shows the profile of @sociallogging as seen by someone whom it follows.

Summary of Twitter best practices for effective engagement

  • If you are interested in his/ her tweets whether you like those tweets or not, follow him. 
  • If you like a particular tweet, retweet it. Better, if you can comment while retweeting.
  • If you want to respond to a tweet's content, reply to the tweet.
  • Do not use irrelevant and many hashtags.
  • Mention about a person if you want to associate him with the message or to quote him.
  • Send a direct message if you want to discuss something privately with someone who follows you. 
  • When commenting, add value.
  • If you are not too impressed with a tweet but still value it or want to show your appreciation for it, just like it.
If you like this page, would you mind tweeting about it?   

Blogging platform Ghost infected by a virus, cured!

The world is in the midst of coronavirus pandemic, so any mention of virus alerts us that this virus story is also about coronavirus.

No, this is different.

Popular blogging platform Ghost, which comes with many premium features, was affected by a virus last week, and the platform had to close for many hours. The virus brought all the CPU active processes on Ghost servers to a standstill and then used their processing power for mining cryptocurrencies.

Ghost has stated that only its servers were affected and user data was not compromised.

free blogging platforms


If you have not used Ghost, let me introduce it to you. Ghost is an open-source content management system or CMS for making websites/ blogs, much like Wordpress.org. Many find it difficult to set up and therefore go for a paid plan that also comes with some additional frills. Those who use Ghost are its loyal fans. A good number of big companies use Ghost as the software behind their websites.

As a blogging platform, Ghost is not as popular as Blogger, Wordpress etc - partly because it is not free the way Blogger, Wordpress.com and Medium are.

Blog writing techniques: 10 top tips on how to write a good blog


‘Content is king’ is perhaps the best rule that has ever been told to a writer. It has become a cliché but its value has only increased with the advent of the world wide web.

Many bloggers who have made good fortune tell you that they concentrate on content as much as on other aspects of blogging.

We judge written content on websites and blogs in two ways: subject matter and writing skills. Both need to be of excellent quality so that the blog fulfills its purpose of informing, educating or advising people. Such content attracts attention, is referred to by people again and again, makes visitors come to the blog looking for more such content, and sells products.

Please bear in mind that quality content is not one-off affair, nor will it give quick dividends. You must churn out quality regularly; success will come as a by-product.

How to write a good blog post?


blog writing tips 2020

Here are the ten simple but very effective techniques to create great content for blog posts. Once your posts are of good quality, the entire blog's quality gets a boost: in the eyes of people as well as search engines.

1. Choose the post topics on your blog with care.

You need to carefully select the topic for your post.

First, the topic must be current. For example, if you have a news blog, you cannot be writing on a subject that has gone out of public memory. Even in very personal blogs, you need to select a topic that resonates with the reader's current memory. If you are dying to tell something from the past, give it a current intro and introduce the past event in flashback.

Second, choose a field in which you have expertise, special knowledge or extra-ordinary experience.

Third, if you have a general blog, write on a variety of subjects, otherwise the blog would turn monotonous. Of course, you may need to remain within a limited field if you have a specialized blog, e.g. a blog on food, clothing, old furniture, medicine or architecture. There too, you need to bring variety. Too narrow a field - such as 'migratory birds of the upper reaches of Naini lake' - would not only exhaust your own knowledge soon, it would interest a very small number of readers.

2. Give the post a heading that attracts attention.

Make the title as direct as possible. Use action words where possible. In posts that are advisory in nature, go straight to what you intend the viewer to do: ‘Eat these 5 … daily for …’

Whether the post demands a pithy, smart or matter-of-fact title will depend on the subject. However, the title should always speak for the post. It should give crux of the issue in hand or say a moot point that goads the reader into reading the post.

On the other hand, a very smart title, if it does not relate immediately to the content below, would lose its value in a moment.

3. Be original; no copy-pasting and no lazy writing.

There is a saying in relation to literature that nothing is original as everything has already been said. That may be true for fiction, but you still can be original in blogging – very original. If you have taken some idea from somewhere, and have seriously put your thought over it, experimented with it and refined it, what would come out of your keyboard is your own thought. It has your ‘original’ contribution.

On the other hand, if you just copy-paste someone else’s idea – verbatim or with modification – the staleness shows up. It lacks logic, coherence, commitment. It tells the reader, you are a fake.

Very generalized conclusions and advice, such as those on political and social topics, do not add your original thought into the discussion. At best, these qualify as lazy thinking.

For example, we are hardly adding anything new,  special or specific to the discussion on Indian agriculture by advising that ‘We must find a lasting solution to the problems in agriculture sector… farmers must be given good prices for their produce… land reforms must be done…’ Such piece exposes the blogger’s mediocrity in many other ways: he does not have deep understanding of the issues involved, he has not analysed the subject well, he has written for the sake of filling up his blog-space, he is not serious, and he is not original. What value does a visitor find in that post? Why will he visit that blog again?

You will say that it is not possible to write original thoughts/ content all the time. Yes, but you can still bring freshness to it. For example: If your blog is on news etc, write news stories from a fresh angle. If the blog contains articles on current affairs, write them fresh. If it is a book review blog, write the review after giving due thought to the content from different angles. If it is on cooking, bring new recipes on the table and write them in interesting ways.

4. Put your heart into your blog posts whenever you can.

When you write because you are passionate about the subject, you tend to write well. Even if the language is not outstanding, the thought will be. Even if the thought is incoherent, it will have the emotive quotient, which fills any writing with energy.

For example, if you felt very strongly about the way the US forces killed Osama and wrote a post on it, your writing must have shown your emotion. You were not ‘balanced’ in your approach: you either abused the US or Pakistan or Osama and his terror kingdom or intelligence agencies. You showed your frustration with the world’s inability to counter terrorism. You felt not capturing Osama alive after such a long intelligence operation was a failure. Or, your sympathies were with Osama. You did write what your heart cried about. We bet, it was a good post, whatever other short-comings it had.

In being emotional, you are seldom as balanced as an essayist who debates carefully the two sides of the issue, but that often brings out a new viewpoint. By all means, be balanced and reasonable, and appeal for peace even at the greatest provocation, but only if your heart says so.

Give your opinion and not give a drab, neutral, summary. I am not advising that you deliberately bring controversy [that would perhaps give you more visitors but devalue your blog if you do it just for controversy sake], but give an opinion that matters. If you write a fervent post in times of communal clashes, you may well end with an appeal for calm or showing that such infighting would weaken the nation, but even then say it with force, not like a concluding para in a child’s essay like this one: ‘In the light of the arguments given above we can conclude that it is the duty of every citizen to remain calm…’

Serious subjects might not be amenable to such emotive relation with your heart, but your commitment to the subject would still show up.

5. Advise only if you are an expert; don’t try to fake your expertise.

I took a full week in writing this post because I needed to research on what is working on blogs in 2020. I needed to talk to people who write well and who maintain quality blogs. I needed to re-re-re edit the post till I thought I could publish it.

Be credible, believable. Don't write on a serious subject unless you are an expert on it or have gained fair level of expertise by researching and investing your thought.

Do not make judgments where you do not have deep knowledge about the subject.

Do not indulge in ‘how to’ posts on health, yoga, dance, etc unless you have the necessary knowledge, skills and training. Subjects such as cooking and photography look safe and people often copy-paste tips, but if they are not written with authority and with personal experience, the reader will soon find that they are recycled.

When you are not an expert and you try to show off, the labour will show up one day or the other. Though it is not as bad as being outright fake or giving wrong advice, but it hurts the blogger's reputation - one of the most essential ingredients for successful blogging.

Please also remember that in blogs, lack of expertise gets exposed more than in printed periodicals as the post is there for long; the trash once written spoils the quality of the blog again and again.

In popular magazines, we often see columns on health, astrology, cooking, home remedies, etc that are written week after week by people engaged to fill space. Columns by 'agony aunts' and sex advisers are written similarly in many magazines and newspaper supplements. These columns often give unscientific, even harmful, advice to advice-seekers. They spoil the reputation of the magazine without the editor/ owner realizing it.

6. Talk to humans; be a good  human being too.

Blog is an interactive web medium. When you write a post, you intend to talk to people visiting your blog. Even if you write about something very personal, you write that so that others read it - and not to keep it like a private diary. So, write as if you are talking.

Writing as if talking means short sentences, simple language, active voice, addressing the second person ‘you’ rather than ‘he / she’.

Think of the blog visitor as a real visitor to your home or office. Think of him / her as a knowledgeable, intelligent and friendly visitor who will love your blog if it has an inviting tone and will be put off by your snobbery, carelessness or unwelcome tone.

Too much of self-promotion in the blog shows you don’t care for others and toot your own trumpet [e.g. 'I have become so successful because', 'They got this fantastic result after my advice', 'I did my masters in this subject with A grade and so I say this.']. Too much of philosophizing and judgmental statements shows inflexible nature [e.g. ‘That’s what happens to the rich’, ‘Old women always get angry when you call them by their first name’, ‘God will always listen to your prayer when you say it the first thing in the morning.’].Too much of cribbing makes you a ‘crying baby’.

Being a pleasant human being matters greatly in personal blogs.

7. Write like a journalist, not like an essayist.

Do not waste space on introducing the topic or telling why you wrote the post. Come to the subject straight, like a good newspaper reporter. Unless, of course, when you're talking about technical or rarely known subjects.

In newspapers, they write reports starting with the most urgent and most interesting facts in the first para. They follow it with some details, but these details too are important. Further down, they give other, less important, details. This ‘inverted pyramid’ style of writing suits blogs as well, because the attention span of web surfers is found to be smaller as compared to print readers. [Forgive me for writing this post the other way, like a feature. On 'how to' posts, you need to introduce the subject a bit. I know that many readers of this article will skip the portion before the sub-heading, How to write a good blog post above.]

Use the middle of the post for explaining your hypothesis and giving examples.

Use the end to conclude. If you intend to conclude the post with an opinion, give a firm opinion, not a conservative, please-all, neutral one. Ending a post with a question works well if it is not done too often and the question makes the reader think beyond the blog. Just adding 'What do you think?' at the end of the post does not make a good ending.

8. Compose the post well.

Blogging, though it started with personal diaries for one’s own sake, has evolved much beyond that. Blog posts are for others to visit, see and read. Even if you write on very personal subjects such as  how your baby is growing, you must care for your prose. Ensure that your language is standard. Ensure that your words express exactly what you intend to. Your post can sure have jargons and slangs if you intend to have them, but that will be with some purpose and not because you cannot write good prose without them.

Use one paragraph for just one argument / thought. If you stuff more than one argument in a para, it is likely that all arguments other than the first would be lost to the blog reader. If the thought can come in just one sentence, let that para have only one sentence, but do not add sentences just to enlarge it.

Write in numbered points and bullet points; this adds clarity and keeps the post in order. Such a posting style suits ‘How to’ type of topics especially well. For example, a post on ‘5 ways to look gorgeous on your wedding day’, will have 5 clearly defined sub-titles and one or more paragraphs under each sub-title. In such cases, even if the post is lengthy, readers won’t mind that. Numbered or ‘bullet point’ lists within descriptive prose also get reader's special attention to the entries in the lists.

Use sub-headings in between [especially if the post is turning longish].

Use formatting to improve looks and readability. Highlight important words and phrases [but not too often] so that they catch the attention of visitors in a hurry.

9. Write for SEO

A good SEO expert or blogging expert will tell you, "Write for the reader, not for the machine." That is a great advice, and I fully support that. However, once you have written the article, think about SEO or search engine optimization. SEO skills are needed for content writing for the web, becasue that makes your posts visible to people. Without that, your article will be lost among millions (yes, millions!) of articles being published on the web everyday.

For making your article SEO-friendly, you need not apply bad practices or spoil the article with unnatural 'keywords'. You just have to apply common-sense along with a bit of knowledge of SEO. Since this article itself is becoming long and I have already published many posts on good SEO, let me refer to these posts: How to make the best use of SEO on blogs/ websites

If you use Wordpress, there are a number of SEO plugins available, free or paid. They  identify areas that need improvement.

10. Edit, edit, edit.

Never write a post in a hurry and then mindlessly publish it on the web. Hurried, sloppy and uncorrected writing makes the content poor. It shows that you are either an uneducated bloke or too careless – in both the cases, you need not be taken seriously.

Edit the post at least once for grammar and punctuation, spellings, sentence structure, flow, length and formatting. Then see whether the post is also SEO-friendly (especially look at heading, sub-headings, expressions, links). Finally, read it from beginning to end in one go to see how the prose flows: whether your thoughts are logical, whether thoughts and actions shift from para to para in a sequence, whether you achieve the intended purpose. If you find the thoughts getting confusing, see whether re-arranging paragraphs would make things clearer. Cut the post short if it has become too long. See if you can serialize it in two or more posts if nothing can be cut.

Take care of these aspects whenever you write a blog post. Refer to this post again and again till good writing [for blogs and otherwise] becomes your habit. Hope, you achieve great blogging success using these writing techniques!

Start blogging in times of coronavirus pandemic? Does it make sense?

Even when the times were normal, I have been prodding my friends and followers to start blogging - because blogging helps in many ways in making our lives purposeful and happy.

Studies have found the special value of blogging for old people, those recovering from or managing chronic diseases, students and very young kids. Housewives and mothers have discovered a new meaning in routine chores and also child-bearing. People have been able to spur their creativity, even write books after regular blogging. On top of it, thousands of bloggers are making money out of standard blogging and an even larger number from 'blogging' on photo- / video-sharing platforms such as Instagram and YouTube.

Now we are in the middle of a global health-cum-economic crisis created by COVID-19 pandemic. I need not go into what all problems it is creating for us all; we all are sufferers to different degrees and coping with it in our own ways. However, let me share that blogging can be even more useful during stressed periods than in normal times.

From the point of blogging, you could be in one of these situations:
  • You are not yet into blogging: you might want to know whether to start a blog at this juncture. If yes, how?
  • You have been doing blogging as a hobby or maintaining a web diary: If you have not proactively put more energy to it, chances are that it has declined. Why does it make sense to give it more time rather than let the dull feeling of lockdown and stress affect it? 
  • You are an established, 'sucessful' blogger: Chances are the traffic, engagement and money  have suffered. You must not only cope with the realities, you must prepare for the good days when they return.
Let us deal with all the above, one by one.

But before that, let me show the graph of Google Trends in the last one year. Note that overall web activity (other than social networking, instant messaging, sharing/ straming of visual content) has declined since the onslaught of COVID-19. Please also note that interest on blogging has been seeing a declining trend all since its peak days of 2008-10. Yet, the graph below shows reversal of trend as far people's interest on blogging is concerned, during January-April period this year!

Google Trends: rising interest in blogging, though dip in searches
Let's now talk discuss why and how you should blog during the current coronavirus epidemic.

Should I start a blog in times of coronavirus epidemic?


Yes, you should. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it has been found that blogging helps people in different situations, and in many ways. If you are not sure how blogging may benefit your life, I would advise you to look at some of the successful bloggers I have showcased on this very blog, SocialLogging. I have also created this small slide-show on the common advantages of blogging: Why should I blog?

Even if you are [now] convinced that blogging is good for you and you should try your hand on it, you might have doubt whether you will be able to create a blog like others do. Let me show you how simple blogging is and why it need not feel like a burden. Look at these facts:
  • Blogging need not cost big. In fact, you can do blogging for years and post thousands of posts without spending a dime. There are many free blogging platforms, and they are really good.
  • Blogging does not need technical expertise. Not at all, if you are on a free blogging platform. You can open a blog in 2 minutes even if you do not know anything about tech. Most bloggers, including the highly successful ones, spend time in creating good stuff and not technology. Those who do blogging as a business or profession do need some technical skills, but they often outsource this job as they are already earn from blogging.
  • The jargons associated with website maintenance (web hosting, domain name registration, SEO, content marketing, etc) need not bother you at all. Of course, if you intend to open a blog for making money or something like that, you will encounter these, but they are not too difficult to master. I have a number of resources on these aspects here, keeping people like you in mind. 
  • Blogs of all forms exist simultaneously. At one end of spectrum, blogging merges with websites and portals and on the other end, with social networking. You have blogs as big as Huffpost.com and also those with just a few articles on medium.com platform. People also 'blog' on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even Twitter. So, you need not compare your blog with others, you need not copy their design, layout, writing style etc. In general, a simple blog that captures your thoughts can be more valuable (especially for you) than a complex website. 
  • Of all types of web media, the standard blog has the best of both the worlds: it is your own property, unlike a stream of small posts (as on Facebook or Twitter); it has a distinct personality; it is more permanent than social networking posts; it is more fresh and modern than static websites. So, out of the time that you might be spending on social networks and chat groups during the lockdown, take out some for a more valuable activity that will not be lost the next moment like your 'likes', 'retweet', 'share' etc on social sites.
Let me share the link to a detailed guide on creating a blog when you know notthing about blogging. Once you are confident of the process, you can graduate into 'professional' blogging.

My blog is going down due to the coronavirus epidemic. What do I do?


Yes, coronavirus has brought a lot of pain to professional bloggers, especially who make their living out of blogging. I have seen reports of bloggers suffering because their own mobility is impaired, their loyal readers/ buyers are not currently interested in the blog, the stream of potential raders and buyers has dried so their efforts towards promotion are not yielding any results. Some have reported that since there is lockdown, they don't find time and space for blogging (at home, where every family member is sharing the same space). Life has become particularly tough for those who have branched out a real-world service from blogging (e.g. restaurant, travel advisory service), which is their bread and butter. Coronavirus epidemic has dried up traffic and money from the blog as well as the real-life business.

If you are in such a situation, what you can do is to have patience and do whatever you can do so that you are well prepared when normal times return. I suggest some such actions:

  • Don't be disheartened. Don't stop blogging. Don't get into depression. You have to face the situation, and the more poised you remain the better you will come out of it. 
  • Write posts that would cheer up others. That will improve your own mood and fill you with positive energy.
  • Write posts for the present. Tell your readers how they can cope with lockdown and low economic activity. If you are a food blogger, share quick recipes for stranded singles; if motivatinal writer, write something that would help people to cope with stress; if health blogger, write informative articles on COVID and give tips that will help people in these times; if edu-blogger or mommy blogger, give tips to parents on how to keep kids engaged in creative pursuits. Coronavirus itself generates hundreds of topics ranging from drug research to politics to economics to health advisories, scenarios and updates.
  • Write posts for the future. Give tips on how to be prepared when the epidemic subsides. Write about post-epidemic scenarios from economic, social, family, career or other angles. You can focus on a small area or the globe; a small economic problem or national economy; a specific industry; and so on. Perhaps when you give tips to others, you get tips for yourself too!
  • Use this time for reserch. Read a lot and update yourself. Research the web. Learn something that you missed learning earlier. Identify subjects for discussion later. 
  • Write and schedule posts. Since you have spare time but publishing too many posts right now might not give good results, schedule posts for the future. 
  • Engage. If you could not respond to comments earlier, do so now. Be purposefully active on social media. If you are not already active on forums and social groups (on Facebook etc), join some and see if they work for you. If already there, engage with those seeking help.
  • Clean up and organize. If your pictures are scattered all over, organise them into folders. Make a library of relevant reading material. If you need to add categories and labels to posts, do that. If older posts need repurposing, do that; if they need SEO tweaking, do that. Back up your blog if you have been postponing it for a long time.
  • Spruce up the blog. Look at the design, colors, layout... You may not get the time later for these works, so utilize this time on sprucing up the blog.
  • Learn technology if you are otherwise averse to it. A bit of tech knowledge will help you in understanding the logic behind routine maintenance tasks. You will learn how different elements of the website work - and you will be able to handle these better. For example, learning a bit of CSS will help you in beautifully formatting text or adding some cool styling; a little understanding of JavaScript will help you put a third-party code on the blog for a new functionality; on Wordpress, if you have not used Gutenberg block editing, try that.
  • Prepare yourself for post-COVID days. Think of the actions you will need to take when things improve, so that you are ahead of competition. A giveaway, an invitation to a web event/ webinar, a discount offer, some service when people come out of homes... there can be many things you can plan that will interest/ help people. 

If you have specific queries on blogging, shoot an email to sociallogging@gmail.com. If you reached here searchin for an article on how coronavirus epidemic has impacted blogging and how social mediais playing out during this period, click on the link.

Happy blogging!

Looking for free web hosting?

I see a number of people making queries on Facebook groups and Quora about free web hosting for one's website or blog. Like them, if you are one who wants to build a website or blog that is self-hosted, but are not in a position to spend much money, this post is for you.

On the web, you will find offers of FREE web hosting with or without FREE domain name registration. So that it does not confuse you, I have dealt with both.

What do free website hosting and domain name registration mean?


  • A website or blog needs to have a name and a place on the web, so that it can be visited by others. The name is called domain name and it needs to be purchased. That is domain name registration.
  • For placing the website somewhere on the web, you need a server that runs day and night and is connected all the time with internet. This is called web hosting. You need to pay to the web hosting company to get your website on their server.

That was too simple.

It costs to get the name and place for the website, and it involves other works. What the free website hosting and domain name registration providers are telling you is that they will do this all free for you.

The companies that promise free domaian name registration and especially free web hosting are in the business, not doing charity. So, why should they give you so much free?

They are smart businesses, who use the free services as a bait. The bait may not be too obvious and they might give some freebies for earning goodwill - but just goodwill does not earn them anything. So, they keep you prodding to upgrade to their paid plans. Sometimes, they put advertisements on top of the free website.

As a new or small blogger or one who wants to have just some presence on the web, you might say, "So what if they put a small ad or ask me to upgrade. I will get what I want, and I don't have to pay a penny." But don't that should not lead to penny wise and pound foolish.

Remember, there is nothing like a free lunch. You pay even for free web hosting and free domain name. That is why this post. I will show you in a while that when you go for free web hosting, (i) how you might end up paying more than you would have liked, and (ii) you might get frustrated later as the web host does not deliver as promised. I will also discuss how you can still use free services in certain situations.

What do free web hosting plans offer to website owner/ blogger?


Different companies have different types of free web hosting (and domain name registration) offers. The common ones are:

A. COMPLETELY FREE PLANS

  • Free plans of website builders: There are a number of website builders, e.g. Wix, Weebly and SquareSpace. There are dozens of others. Some of them host the website free for you at the lowest end of their offers. They usually do not provide a free domain name.
  • Free website hosts: There are a number of free web hosting companies. They claim to charge nothing for hosting your website or blog. They also do not provide free domain registration. Some examples are 000WebHost, FreeHosting and FreeHostia.
  • Free web space providers: Some big companies (e.g. Amazon, Google) sometimes provide free web hosting, either for trial or as a giveaway (e.g. to students) or as a promotion in new territories. The provide the space but usually do not provide help in setting up a website. Becaue of this, such offers suit only techies.
  • Free blogging platforms: These platforms allow you to create a blog free, and provide totally free web hosting and domain name registration. However, the domain name that they offer is sub-domain of a large domain (e.g. your blog, example.wordpress.com, will be part of wordpress.com domain.) The biggest among them are Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, LiveJournal and Medium.

B. FREE WEB HOSTING AND/OR DOMAIN REGISTRATION WITH PAID PLANS

  • Free trial before you buy a paid plan: Many big companies offer this, usuallhy for 15 days. The trial plans may have all the features except for putting a watermark on the final product or not allowing you to make the website public without payment. There is no free domain registration with trial offers.
  • Free domain with paid website hosting plans: Almost all web hosts give free domain registration with their paid plans. You pay for web hosting, and the domain registration comes free. However, the FREE registration usually does not last more than the plan period. After that, you have to renew the domain at a rate that sometimes is higher than the regular rate - thus they take back part of what they offered as free!

C. FREE SOFTWARE ONLY; NO FREE WEB HOSTING OR DOMAIN REGISTRATION

Though website creation in this method has no free web hosting or domain name registration, I have added this category so that you are clear about what is free and what is not, when people talk about creating a website free of cost.

  • Free CMSs and website builders: There are completely free content management systems (CMSs), e.g. Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal, available on the web. They are free software that you can use for creating websites, including blogs. After you have created the website, you need to pay for domain registration as well as web hosting.
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Free web hosting services: do they deliver?


You will yourself get the answer at the end of this section. For that, let me tell you the ground reality of free web hosting.

Don't be fooled by the promises made by those offering free web hosting services. They will not tell you the problems associated with their services, even if you read the fine print.

Most free web hosts put a number of restrictions on the storage capacity, server speed, bandwidth, security features and uptime. What it means is that your website may remain unavailable for some hours in a week or open slow or look insecure to the visitor, which no website owner should accept.

The storage provided to you may be just a few gigabites (GB), which will be consumed in no time if you put photos and videos on the website.

Even if the web host says it provides good amount of storage, speed etc, they will be lousy when it comes to trouble-shooting and support.

The website will be under several restrictions regarding what you can post and what not. The site can go down for technical reason, because they are under no obligation to keep it running. I have also seen many complaints about a website suddenly disappearing, without any back up. When the website owner tried to reach the hosting service, they were not available or not helpful.

You will not get to edit the code beyond a little. So, beyond their website building software or user interface, you will not be able to add any CSS or Javascript to spruce up the site.

Free website hosts do not allow advertisements, so you cannot make money from blogging/ ecommerce. On the other hand, some free web hosts put their own ads on top of the website.

You will not be able to apply search engine optimization or SEO on the website.

If the free service comes as a stripped-down version of a paid plan, they will nag you with pop-ups whenever you work on the website, asking you to upgrade.

The trial versions allow you to just play with the features, not publish the website on the web. 

The free blogging platforms also have many issues, the major ones being as follows. Some features can be available on upgradation:

  • sub-domain, not an independent domain name (Blogger allows free mapping with independent domain, Wordpress and Tumblr allow with heavy charge, others: no.)
  • limit on space (Blogger is generous, others are miserly.)
  • no posting of heavy stuff (Blogger allows videos, audio; Wordpress allows on upgradation; others: no.)
  • limited number of free themes, plugins etc (LiveJournal and Medium allow little customization.)
  • not allowing change in code (They allow in Blogger, some in Wordpress, not in others.)
  • no advertising (Allowed on Blogger.)

Should I go for a free web hosting service?


I hope, the discussion above should have convinced you that the so called free web hosting services are not for a serious website owner or blogger. 

Let me repeat that: In most cases, free website hosting is a bait for you to go for the paid plan of the web host. None of the available free web hosting services gives you resources and attention that you need as a serious website owner. Don't be fooled by the number they put on their websites; one of them even boasts of nearly 20 million users.

Go for a web hosting company and then the best plan that suits your needs. Shared web hosting plans are not very expensive, but beware that there could be hidden costs. In the linked article, you can find detailed advisory on how to choose the right web host for medium to small-sized websites and blogs.

Yet, there are situations when you can consider a free website host:

  • If you are a web development student and have to make experimental website. Go for a free web host only if your institution cannot provide you web hosting resources. 
  • If you are not in a position to spend on a paid web hosting plan, you will have to depend on a free web hosting service. Even then, do thorough research on the web about the web host that you have shortlisted. 
  • If you need to make sample websites for customers, you can use a local web hosting service or a trial version. 
  • You can use a free blogging platform for personal/ hobby blogging, but do not depend on it for professional blogging. I have dealt with it in detail here: making money blogging: go for self-hosted blog.
  • Regarding free domain name registration: you can take the free domain name that comes with a paid web hosting plan, but do not go for a plan just because you are getting a free domain with that. That plan might not have many features, for which you will have to pay on top of the base plan. So, be careful.