Taking part in my 31 day writing and running challenge, I have seen a few people ask how they should set up a blog and thought I would answer them in this post.
A couple of terms you might need to know (click to expand):
[thrive_toggles_group”][thrive_toggles title=”domain registrar” no=”1/3″] A domain registrar is a company that will sell you a domain name. The largest of these is probably GoDaddy and there is also Namecheap. Personally I use a company called Moniker.com. There is in all honesty little to choose between them.[/thrive_toggles]
[thrive_toggles title=”Site Hosting” no=”2/3″] To have a website on the internet you need to have storage space. There are a couple of ways of doing this. If you are super technical you could just connect up a spare computer to the internet – its not really recommended for various reasons.
The good news however is that there are many companies that will host a website for you from as little as a couple of dollars a month. At the end of this post I have given a few suggestions.[/thrive_toggles]
[thrive_toggles title=”Hosted” no=”3/3″] This is when rather than rent storage space and install your own software to manage a website you look to a service where it is all managed for you. The great thing is that there are some really solid options here where pretty much all you have to do is assign a name to your site and then start typing. The best known of these is wordpress.com, but some other options include blogger.com and tumblr.com.[/thrive_toggles]
You really have two main options when you decide to set up a website.
First The Hosted Website Option
If you are doing a website purely for fun then you may well decide that going for one of the hosted platforms like Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, or maybe Typepad. If you do decide to go down this route my personal recommendation is to use WordPress.com. That is because it is:
a) the largest of the hosted platforms, and
b) more importantly it is the easiest to transfer to your own hosted version of it.
The great advantage of going the hosted version is that all you really need to do is write and publish your content. Everything else is set up for you – and you can get started for the huge financial investment of $0.
Another good thing about the hosted options is that there is already some traffic and you could get your site featured but its probably not a big enough plus to make you choose hosted over self-hosted.
If you do go the hosted version at least halfway seriously I would recommend getting your own domain name – which really needs to be another blog post. This is because it tends to be much easier to remember than yourname.platform.com.
When it comes to a domain name I would urge you to if possible get the .com version, failing that a .net or a .org and avoid other extensions as a general rule. I would also go for something that is easy to spell and remember.
All the hosted platforms allow you to do this. With WordPress the cost of a .com domain is $18 per year at the time of writing. For Tumblr and Blogger you just buy your domain through a and assign it to the site. They both have reasonable explanations of how to do this on their site and it is generally a couple of dollars cheaper than using the WordPress domain registrar.
For Tumblr you just buy your domain through a domain registrar and assign it to your site.
This video shows you how quickly and easily you can set up a WordPress.com website.
Now The Self Hosted Option
If you want to go with self-hosted you get much more control over what you can do and you can pretty much do everything you want to do. At the end of this section is an 11 step installation of WordPress guide.
When you decide to go the self-hosted version you have to rent storage space from a company and then upload your software to that platform to create a website. The first time you do it you might need to dedicate an hour or so to it, but after you have done it a couple of times it becomes easier. There are various very good guides out there on the internet that explains how to do this and whoever you buy your website hosting from will have an explanation of how to do this anyway.
The biggest problem with Self Hosting is that you are responsible for keeping your site up to date, for doing regular back ups, for making sure your site is properly optimised for speed and is kept free of viruses. The one thing you definitely need to make sure you do is keep it updated, especially if you add content to it regularly.
The biggest plus however is that you have total control – and unlike on WordPress.com, Blogger.com and Tumblr, you can choose what adverts you want to display, you can write about whatever you want, install whatever addons you want and have much more flexibility over design and monetization methods.
There are several platforms out there that are quite good for a self-hosted website but the clear winner is WordPress…. It has grown dramatically from somewhat humble beginnings to become the largest website platform in the world and is enormously flexible capable of managing everything from simple blogging sites, to fully functioning e-commerce sites.
[thrive_toggles_group”][thrive_toggles title=”11 Step WordPress SetUp” no=”1/1″] 1 – Install WordPress: This is pretty self explanatory. The first step should be to install WordPress on your host. WordPress has a great guide to follow so this shouldn’t hold you up. Some webhosts even have something called Fantastico which installs WordPress automatically for you.
2. Login to your new site: Again self explanatory.
3. Make sure your email addresses are set: This is important because this is where you will get your updates and password if you ever lose it. There are two places to make sure your password is set. The first spot is in Settings->General. The other spot is in your Users menu – you will want to ensure your Admin email is correct.
4. Change your permalinks: I suggest this to all clients. In your Settings menu there is a Permalinks section. Open that menu and then choose your new style of permalinks. For the ultimate in clean URLs I suggest choosing custom structure and inserting the following string: /%postname%/. This will make the title of your posts be the web address.
5. Add your title and tagline: In General Settings once again add the name and tag line of your blog. The name is anything you want – keyword rich is best. The tagline is your site’s description.
6. Choose your theme: If you want to use a theme (you do) you can find a wide variety to choose by using your WordPress back office itself. Just navigate to Appearance->Themes and then use the tools they have to search for a theme. Once you find one to your liking download and activate it.
7. Install your plugins: Any plugins that you wish to add, do so now. Plugins are very flexible so you can add more later on if you discover one you need. Install whatever plugins you think you need. I would suggest that you definitely include WordPress SEO and a contact form, Contact Form 7 is a good one.
8. Activate Akismet, or find an alternative spam solution. Akismet is a little expensive but does work the best at stoping spam.
9. Check your privacy: In your Settings menu there is a Privacy heading. Click it and make sure your blog is visible to everyone. If it isn’t, Google will not index any of your content!
10. Add your widgets: Under Appearance there will be a Widgets menu. You can use this to add functionality to your WordPress site using the sidebars. If you chose a widget ready theme (most are) you will have one or two sidebars (or more) on your site. In the widgets menu the sidebar will show up and you can drag and drop “widgets” into it. These widgets can be things like a search bar, an archive, a calendar, a recent posts list or a text/html box that you can put just about anything in. There are even more widgets than that available. There are even downloadable ones if the standard ones don’t do everything you need.
11. Create content: Now you can create some content! You can add pictures, galleries of those pictures, an about page etc… You can also start making posts – remember to create categories to keep them organized. Take advantage of the tag feature as that will come in handy when you have hundreds of posts. It helps with searches on your site as well. That is the bare minimum to get started with WordPress. You will have to learn a lot more but when you do, you will be happy you made the move to WordPress. Happy blogging![/thrive_toggles][/thrive_toggles_group]
If you are writing in a blog just as an exercise or as somewhere to share your thoughts and don’t really mind about any kind of monetization and just need something simple and easy to set up then going with a hosted version is probably the better idea.
If on the other hand you want to have control, you want to have the flexibility to grow and you want to be able to monetize your site then going for a self-hosted version is the best thing to do.
Hosted Website Platforms:
WordPress.com – the biggest and has the great advantage that if you choose to change to hosted it is very easy to change your content over.
Tumblr.com – A comparatively new player – recently sold to Yahoo for many billions and is a popular perhaps slightly trendier option than others.
Blogger.com – This was one of the earliest platforms and has been a part of google for many years. Not as flexible as WordPress and Tumblr, but still a solid choice.
Typepad.com – of the hosted platforms I have mentioned this is the only one you have to pay for.
Moniker.com – This is who I use. For a long time this was regarded as being the gold standard of domain registrars. They were sold recently and I don’t think they were as good as they were. They tend to be the cheapest registrar for .com domains, but tend not to have coupons so you may well pay more for your first year.
GoDaddy.com – There isn’t that much to choose between Godaddy.com and Namecheap below. Both have coupons that you can find googling to give you a better deal on your first year domain rental. They tend to charge more on year two. Go Daddy had some very bad publicity a few years back and have since changed and are a good company.
Namecheap.com – Another one of the top domain registrars. I think on balance they might be slightly better value than godaddy but there really isn’t very much at all to choose between them.
EIG is the largest webhosting company in the world and they have a number of different brands. The two best of these are Bluehost.com and Hostgator.com. They are generally a good webhost to start with as because of their size they have pretty fast technical support both via live chat and 24 hour telephone call. As an aside the coupon VashonClient gives you a discount off Hostgator and at the time I wrote this gives a more generous discount than any other coupon I have found.
WiredTree is who I use for this website and the rest of my sites. They are significantly more expensive but they are very robust and I get great service from them.
GoDaddy.com is another option. Not only is this one of the largest Domain Registrars but they also do a substantial amount of web-hosting. As a general rule however it tends to make sense to get your domain name from a different company than your webhost.