Friday, November 6, 2015

A new look for our top-selling book about Google Blogger!

Google Blogger For Small Businesses In 30 Minutes new cover
Last month, publisher i30 Media refreshed its top-selling Blogger for Dummies alternative. The new cover for Google Blogger For Small Businesses In 30 Minutes now features a fresh, more modern design (see inset photo). The contents can help all kinds of small businesses -- from local shops and professional services firms to Internet entrepreneurs and anyone with a cool idea -- hang their virtual shingle on the Web for everyone to see!

Here's what readers have to say about the book:
"I found this e-book while searching for information on how to use Blogger as a Website. Very grateful the search engine gods delivered a link to Google Blogger For Small Businesses in 30 Minutes. This e-book tells you everything you need to know (and then some) to personalize and configure Blogger as a small business website. It is delivered in a friendly, humorous, and personable manner. I felt as though Ian was sitting next to me telling me what to do."

"This tiny book teaches you a lot quickly. The book cuts to the chase - you get all the info you need to use Blogger to create a nice, professional website."

"Very concise and helpful little book for Google Blogger. I feel as though I'm all set for setting up my blogs for being an author and in the future once I'm a qualified life coach. The author was clear and easy to understand, and the photos and screenshots were helpful too."

"A well-written book that allows the reader to take advantage of Google Blogger (there are few books of this good technology). The book uses scenarios and practical examples that lead the reader to understand why certain aspects of the technology are good for his use.

To purchase the book in paperback form, visit Amazon. Ebook versions are available for the Kindle, Apple devices, and other platforms, as well as a PDF. 

Note: Google Blogger For Small Businesses In 30 Minutes is an IN 30 MINUTES® guide. It is not associated with Blogger for Dummies or any other book series. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to use Google Domains to register a custom domain on Blogger

Big news: Google Domains has launched, providing an easy way for Blogger users to register a .com domain for their sites. The new service is integrated with Google Blogger, making it possible to register a custom domain for your blog (or static site) in less than 5 minutes. It's also very cheap. The details describing how to use Google Domains to register a custom domain on Blogger are explained below.

Before registering your domain, think carefully about the type of domain that would most suit your business. Here are some guidelines:
  • Try to choose a domain name that is easy to pronounce, spell, and remember. This will help customers more easily find the site, or recommend the business to someone else. The .com suffix is easiest to remember. If the .com domain you want is not available, .net, .org, .biz, or other suffixes are possible.
  • The title of the site and the domain name should be a close match in terms of the words that are used. Oftentimes, this will be a close match for the official name of the business. For instance, for the fictitious consulting company described in Google Blogger For Small Businesses In 30 Minutes, I used “Digital M Consulting” as the blog title. A good choice for a domain would be www.DigitalMConsulting.com.
  • Short and/or common-sounding phrases are seldom available for a custom domain. For instance, www.BestShoes.com is already taken. But adding an extra word increases the chance of availability — www.BestShoesChicago.com or www.TheBestShoeShop.com.
  • Adding a place name to your domain name (Seattle, Main Street, etc.) helps with local search in Google and other search engines.
  • Blogger requires “www” or another suffix before the domain name. So-called naked domains, such as BestShoesChicago.com, are not permitted.

I advise people who want to get a custom domain for their Blogger site to set up the site content first -- if you are creating a static site, make the home page post and the product pages. If you are going to operate the site as a blog, create at least one or two posts. Then follow these steps:

1. Go to the blogger.com dashboard for your blog and select Settings.
2. Under Publishing, click the Buy a domain button:

Google Domains Google Blogger custom domain


A long list of available domains will be shown, based on the name of your site: 

Google Domains select a custom domain for Blogger blog

3. Click More to see additional domains, or use the search window to find domains that use certain word combinations.
4. Make your selection by clicking the Buy button.


You will then be brought to Google Domains to complete the registration. Here are the steps involved:
  1. Enter your contact information. This will be publicly listed, unless you want to use the third-party privacy service offered on the same screen.
  2. Click the Continue button.
  3. You will be asked to use Google Wallet to pay for the first year of the registration. Enter your credit card details when prompted.
  4. Click the Accept and buy button. Your card will be charged an annual registration fee (currently $12/year). There is no cost for hosting the site on Blogger, even if you have lots of text, photos, and other content.
That’s the easy way to register a domain. For those who are comfortable with configuring Internet settings, there is a harder option, involving registering the domain through a third-party registrar, such as GoDaddy, 1and1.com, or Yahoo Small Business. I don’t advise going this route. The configuration process is too technical for most beginners, and the registrars are merciless when it comes to upsells for worthless add-on services as well as bait-and-switch tactics, such as jacking up the price once the introductory registration offer has expired.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Google Blogger book: Now available in paperback

Google Blogger For Dummies
This week, Google Blogger For Small Businesses In 30 Minutes had two big updates. In addition to a complete refresh of the contents of the Google Blogger book, publisher i30 Media also released a paperback edition of the guide. You can purchase the book on Amazon. The post below gives the details about the improvements to the book.

The first edition of the guide was only released as an ebook in late 2012/early 2013 for the Kindle, iPad, Nook, and other platforms. I experimented with a few different titles before settling on Google Blogger For Small Businesses In 30 Minutes. It lagged a little at first, but then as readers began to see how Blogger can be used to support their businesses, shops, consulting firms, LLCs, and startup ideas, it began to take off. I was overjoyed to see positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere:
"A well-written book that allows the reader to take advantage of Google Blogger (there are few books of this good technology). The book uses scenarios and practical examples that lead the reader to understand why certain aspects of the technology are good for his use."

"Google Blogger is a free, easy-to-use blogging platform, but you do need some guidance to avoid tearing out your hair now and then. Setting up my blog to promote my upcoming book(s) was made a lot easier with this resource. It did take me more than 30 minutes to set mine up, but that’s more my fault than anything. Good, clear instructions with lots of useful illustrations. I’d still be fumbling around if not for this helpful guide."

I discovered that there are actually quite a few authors who need to build a website to promote themselves and their books. They (and other business owners) are often turned off by Wordpress, which requires a bit more technical knowledge to operate. It’s possible to get a single-page Google Blogger business website up and running in less than an hour, although business owners who want to add more pages or a custom domain (for instance, www.eddiesflowers.com) will have to spend a few hours more. The guide shows exactly how to do it, from registering with Google (which owns Blogger.com) to adding photos, maps showing the location of your business, and links to other resources.

In terms of the update to the contents of the Google Blogger book, what changed between 2012 and 2015? Here is a short list of what’s new:
  • The guide now uses high-resolution screenshots (mostly 300 pixels per inch and above) which make it easier to see details on the page or in the e-reader.
  • Google changed the way new users sign up for Google services.
  • Custom domain activation has is now more difficult, requiring users to sign up for the domain using a third-party registrar like GoDaddy.
  • Adding gadgets (Blogger’s term for “widgets” used by Wordpress and other services) and performing other template and layout tweaks uses a slightly different method than in the past.

Google Blogger For Small Businesses In 30 Minutes can be purchased via Amazon (Kindle/Paperback), B&N, the Apple iBookstore, Google Play Books, and as a PDF. It’s also possible to make a special order for the book through a library or specialty bookstore using the book’s ISBN (978–1939924322).

A sample of a high-resolution template sample from the guide:
Sample Google Blogger business site
 

Note: Google Blogger For Small Businesses In 30 Minutes is published by i30 Media Corporation. Copyright 2015, all rights reserved. In 30 Minutes® is a trademark of i30 Media Corporation. i30 Media Corporation and IN 30 MINUTES guides are not associated with other brand names, product names, or trademarks cited in this book, including the Blogger™ web publishing service. Google Blogger For Small Businesses In 30 Minutes is an independent publication and is not affiliated with, nor has it been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Google Inc. Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission. This guide is not affiliated with Google Blogger For Dummies, Wiley books, or any other publisher.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Blogger ends integrated domain registration, but here's how to use custom domains

Earlier this month, Google killed off one of its most useful features for its Blogger service: Integrated domain registration. In short, this feature let people who had created a blog on blogspot.com (Blogger's default free domains) quickly register a domain from within Blogger's Settings area, using a basic form and a credit card. It was easy and cheap. It's how I registered this domain (10dollarsmallbusinesswebsite.com) and many others for myself and for clients, and it was one of the reasons I wrote "Google Blogger For Small Businesses In 30 Minutes". This feature made it possible for practically anyone to set up their own small business website with a dedicated domain.

Now Google has removed this feature. There is no announcement on the official Blogger PR blog, but a Google employee left this message on a support forum stating that the integrated service had been discontinued. There was no explanation as to why this happened, but I suspect the rise of Weebly, Shopify, and other services that offer better-looking websites with integrated domain hosting has reduced the number of people using Blogger with a custom domain.

As far as I know, people who have already registered a domain through Blogger will see no interruption in service, as long as they continue to pay the annual $10 domain registration fee through Google wallet (as I did for one of my other domains last week). But where does this leave bloggers who never had a chance to register a domain in this way?

The good news is, Blogger still supports custom domain hosting in Blogger. The bad news: Users have to register the domain on their own. It's an unpleasant, technical process to not only register the domain but also tweak settings with the registrar that are required to activate the domain on Blogger. In addition, registrars use different terminologies for certain processes, which means it's impossible to give a one-size-fits-all cheat sheet to get it done. But I will try my best to give a general overview of what's required.

Step 1: Register the domain


For the initial step, the basic idea is to find an available domain that no one else is using (for instance, "www.flowercafeboston.com") and claim it by paying for it and giving the ownership details. To do this, you have to go through a "registrar", which are the officially sanctioned companies that are allowed to issue domains and have them connected to the rest of the Internet.

Note that Blogger requires you to have "www." or "blog." in front of the custom domain, in order to be integrated with the service. If you register a "naked domain" (e.g., "flowercafeboston.com") you will get a warning sign. Note that you can add www or something else later, but it's a pain to set up.

The fees for registering a domain are generally pretty cheap -- between $5 and $15 per year is typical, and discounts or special deals are available. However, the registration fee does not include "Hosting", which is basically space on a computer that contain the text, images, and other elements that will make up your website. What we're going to do is use Google's free Blogger service for hosting, but to do that we have to change some settings (described below) on both Blogger and the registrar's website.

Note that after you register a domain, registrars will attempt to upsell other services, including hosting, special website builder packages, and other services. You don't need any of this, because Blogger will take care of that for free. Just find a domain that's available, and register it.

Which domain registration service should you use? Blogger used to be integrated with GoDaddy and eNom. I don't recommend GoDaddy, because the interface is confusing and the upsells are merciless -- it's easy to be tricked into buying something you don't need. For the most recent domain I registered on my own and hooked up to Google, I used 1and1.com. The interface was good, and so far, there haven't been any problems, but that's not a full endorsement.

Step 2: Let Blogger know that you are using a custom domain


Log into Blogger.com, and click Settings. Under Publishing, you will see something like this:

Blogger publishing

Click the link that says "Add a custom domain".

At this point, you will need to paste in the domain that you just registered on the other site -- for instance, www.flowercafeboston.com.

Step 3: Verify that you own the domain so Blogger can use it


Of course, Blogger will check to make sure that you have the authority to use that domain in its Blogger service, by checking the registration information associated with the domain. But don't be surprised if you get an error message that says "We have not been able to verify the authority to this domain. Error 12":

Blogger custom domain error

(I've blacked out some information, for security and privacy reasons)

You'll note that Google provides some technical information to fix the problem. The idea is, you take this information, and paste it into the settings area of the registrar handling your domain registration (for instance, GoDaddy). This is where things get tricky. You basically have to deal with CNAMEs and other tricky settings, and Google's default instructions don't always match up with the terminology used by specific registrars.

In the example above, after I received the "Error 12", I had to go to 1and1.com (my domain registrar) and create two new subdomains for the custom domain (using the "labels" that Blogger cited; in other words create two subdomains called www and cwa62xxxxxx). Then, taking the information under "Destination, Target, or Points To field", I had to copy and paste that into the corresponding "Alias" fields on the 1&1 site for the two subdomains. Under "Use a missing files host?", I kept the default, "No".

Sound confusing? It is. That's why Blogger's decision to pull the plug on integrated domain hosting is so frustrating. If you want to do this, and you are not technically inclined, I highly recommend getting help from someone who is or finding a registrar with good customer service.