There are three things which a serious blogger needs to think about: a domain name, a blogging software and a hosting provider to host the blogging software.
High Level Process of Choosing a Domain Name, Blogging Software & Hosting Provider
- You choose a domain name, say ExcitingTravels.com.
- Then you select a blogging software to use. The most popular free blogging software is WordPress.
- Now you will create a blog using the blogging software, and the internet address of that blog (ExcitingTravels.com) will be the domain name.
- Obviously running that blogging software on your laptop will not work. No one can access your laptop from the internet. So you have to choose a hosting provider who runs computers connected to the internet. The most commonly known hosting providers are X10Hosting, Bluehost, WordPress.com and WPEngine.
- Every hosting provider has a step-by-step wizard to help you find and select a domain name, choose a blogging software and then with a few clicks deploy it on their site. The payment options range from $6/month to about $200/month.
Anyone – I mean anyone can do all this. You don’t have to be a tech wizard at all. If you know how to purchase things on Amazon, you can set up blog with your own name.
Now that we have an understanding of the overall process, let’s look at each step in detail.
Step #1: Selecting Your Domain Name
To be trusted on the internet you need your own home – a domain name.
Your domain name is unique in the world. Having a domain name for your blog separates you from the wannabe bloggers and puts you among the major-league bloggers.
Domain Name Checklist: What name should you choose?
- Choose a domain name which is easy to pronounce, spell and type. Avoid numbers, hyphens and double letter words as it is easy to mistype them.
- Is your dream domain name available for purchase: check by putting in the domain name here: www.who.is.
- Do some research – avoid domain names which show up as other people’ names or businesses or movies. Having a domain name similar to a famous person – when people search on Google for your domain name, they are more likely to find that famous person or business ahead of you. And it might lead to unpleasant legal complications as well.
- If your blog offers local services, then you can also include the city name in your domain name. e.g. nytours.com
- Though one-word domain names are best (zavesti.com), they are hard to get now. You can choose longer domain names (fullbellyartist.com).
- Stick with .com – other domains (e.g. .net) don’t pack that much oomph, and will require heavier marketing.
- Don’t sweat too much about getting the absolutely dazzling domain name. Your first and last name (marystewart.com) may be more memorable to people than bestartshop.com.
- No need to waste your money buying an expired domain which has a fancy name. New domain names cost $10/year. Just get a new one. Apart from the fact that an expired domain name could have a questionable pedigree (was that domain used for adult or scam content?); the fact is that a fancy domain name would not give you much boost. Your success will almost entirely depend on how you market your content.
Step #2: Selecting Your Blogging Software
This one is relatively easy. Despite the plethora of blogging software out there, WordPress remains the most popular. It is the popular because of its flexibility.
Flexibility is great as it lets you choose the colors, theme, branding, layout, and functionalities exactly as you want them to be. Flexibility, however, means you have to learn some new things – how to manage and set up WordPress and most importantly, how to secure it and safeguard it from hackers.
If you prefer simplicity then instead of WordPress, you can choose Wix or Weebly as your other blogging platforms.
There are many other options -e.g. Ghost, Drupal, Jhoomla, Tumblr, Squarespace. I have tried them all.
You can spend your life looking at the pros and cons of one blogging software vs the other. In truth the platform and the layout will matter only minimally. The content you create and the promotion you do will make the most differenec. My suggestion is to keep it simple. If you want flexibility and a world-class platform the go with WordPress. If you prefer absolute simplicity then choose Wix or Weebly.
Step #3: Selecting a Hosting Provider
So have selected a domain name and you have identified a blogging software. Now is the time to choose a hosting provider.
Here are some suggestions.
I evaluate the providers based on price, performance (does my site time to load in the browser), uptime (will my site be unavailable frequently due to technical issues), portability (can you export your site and move to some other hosting provider easily), support and security.
If you have chosen WordPress as your blogging software then some hosting providers you may want to consider are x10hosting, Bluehost, WPEngine, and WordPress.com.
I have run my sites on x10hosting.com for years. They are not the cheapest, but their service is great. My sites have never been down and their support team is outstanding.
The other option is Bluehost. Bluehost may prove to be cheaper and is more well known on the internet. However, some people report that the sites running on Bluehost are frequently unavailable for short periods of time.
WPEngine and WordPress.com are other respected names for hosting. They are more expensive than the most hosting providers. However, they offer great uptime and better security.
WordPress.com is not the same as WordPress blogging software – they are two different things. WordPress.com is a paid hosting provider which you can contract to run your blog. WordPress software is a free blogging platform which you can download and run anywhere on any hosting provider of your choice.
It is easy for a newbie to focus on the razzamatazz colorful layout and not think about security. I can not stress security enough. Unlike the hosted blogs like Google Blogger and Medium, when you host your own site, you will be accountable for everything, including site failures and hack attacks.
Sites running on the top-notch hosting providers in the world can be hacked if they are not properly configured. That is why some hosting providers like WordPress.com limit the amount of configuration you can do. Your flexibility is a bit limited with a premium hosting provider like WordPress.com – but your security is much enhanced.
If you don’t want to use WordPress as your blogging software then there are two popular options – Weebly and Wix. Their prices are similar. Though each touts its unique selling proposition I don’t think those technical differences matter much. Your content and marketing will make the real difference.
One thing to keep in mind is that Wix does not allow you to export your content – so if you want to move your site elsewhere after some time, you won’t be able to do it easily. As of now, Weebly allows you to export your site.
Where is the Actual Step-by-Step Guide for Taking Action?
Where is the guide to actually do all this stuff – sign up for a domain name, choose a hosting provider and then sign up for a hosting provider?
All the hosting providers that we have discussed (X10hosting, Bluehost, WordPress.com, WPEngine, Wix and Weebly) have wizard-driven tools to help you in the process of searching, selecting and purchasing domain name, installing wordpress and choosing a hosting plan.
There is no point in me giving you guides for the process since the whole thing is really simple – moreover if you choose a hosting provider then you will need to use their specific tool to get set up.
What I have given you in this post is unbiased and honest perspective on the things you must keep in mind while making your selection. Use this post as a critical lens with which to evaluate your decisions. I hope this will direct you to the best path in your blogging journey.
Getting started with your own domain name is exciting. And it is simple. I have discussed here the most important considerations which you need to keep in mind.
Wish you much success in your blogging journey!