How to Start and Build a Blog
As I said earlier, starting a blog is easy. You just have to know where to start, and that’s what I’m going to show you. You’ll need to make several decisions, and since I said I was going to assume you have the cash, I’m going to assume you’re going for the proper method.
I say “proper” method because while the “free” method is viable, it’s nowhere near the option because of the limited amount of flexibility and freedom that you will need.
To put it before anything else I say so you can skip most of this if you want, a paid hosting solution with your own domain offers you the most freedom and control over your own space.
If you actually understand how this works, then feel free to jump to the section about software to use. The following information about free vs. paid is for people who need further clarifications.
Blog Hosting: Free Versus Paid
Hosting your blog for free means you’ve gone to Blogger.com, WordPress.com, or maybe even LiveJournal.com and set up your blog. Yes, you won’t have to pay a hosting bill and you can get a neat name like your-blog-name.wordpress.com, but you’ll have to deal with their rules.
You versus Them
You might be one of those people that live in a democracy where freedom of speech is rampant. So you might be thinking you should be able to say anything you want to since it’s a free country. You would be wrong; blogs and similar internet “spaces” are private entities. They, therefore, might have rules different from the rules which are for public areas. Hosting your blog on their site means their rules, and their rules may not be the best for you.
One of the most limiting factors when hosting on their site means you have to restrict your links. Whether it’s what you link to or the frequency of your liking, they’ll be limiting you. So, you’re saying, just follow their rules.
It’s not that simple. You can follow their rules and jump through their hoops, but because it’s their system, they decide if you’ve broken any rules and you get no recourse. You face deletion or banning, and if you’ve picked up some popularity, then your site will die one day and no one will know why – or maybe they will if they follow you enough.
I’m not saying DON’T have a blog on their site. As a matter of fact, you certainly can. Just remember that you should offload the users onto your domain as quickly as possible, and I’ll discuss how to do that later. Your domain should be the main setting for all of your information or you will come to regret that decision the first time you get banned and deleted.
Blog Creation Software to Use
Since you’re going to host it on your servers, you’re going to use WordPress. You could use other software but I’m going to show you how to install, use, and customize WordPress. It’s all very easy for the most part and it can all be done within the “Dashboard” or admin panel.
There are a bunch of reasons to use WordPress, but I’m going to tell you the most obvious ones: it’s heavily supported, it works well, and it’s easy to install, use, and customize.
Feel free to experiment with other blogging software for what’s right for you because this is a personal experience and you could only benefit if you learn new things.
Finding a Blog Hosting Company
What’s Important In A Hosting Provider?
You may look for the following qualities in choosing your blog’s hosting provider: speed, support, and security. Scalability is also critical. You need the ability to rapidly scale your website as your target audience grows. This will give you the resiliency to handle sudden bursts of high traffic.
Hosting services are available in a wide range of prices ranging from a few dollars a month to thousands of dollars. If you’re a small business getting started, you can probably do quite well with a cloud, virtual private server, or managed service ranging from $10 to $100 per month.
Here’s a look at what experts recommend you consider when choosing a hosting provider:
Decide how much hand-holding you’ll need.
Basic customer service provides access to email, ticket and phone support. Turnaround time on requests, however, will vary. Some service providers even offer 24-hour phone support. The limiting factor to non-managed service is that while a vendor may answer questions about basic configuration, it won’t be your systems manager.
If you want to delegate the management of your site completely, then you want to consider managed service. Providers of managed service will make sure your system is configured properly for your load, keep an eye on security issues, patch your software as needed and manage backups among other tasks.
Estimate the amount of traffic you expect (and be honest with yourself). Hosting providers generally charge based on storage and bandwidth usage. Bandwidth is a measure of how many bytes you serve over a given period. If you expect only a few folks to visit your site, bandwidth will be low. But if you’re suddenly featured at the top of Google or your product goes viral you can expect bandwidth requirements to surge.
As long as you’re honest with yourself, there’s not much of a risk. For example, if you plan to only serve a few pages to a few local customers, you’ll never run afoul of any limits. But if you know that you’re really building a site that will stress low-end shared servers, be sure to pick a dedicated or cloud-based server. That’s next.
Understand server types.
The very cheapest hosting is available on shared servers, where one box may run hundreds of websites. The performance of your site depends on the load all the other sites are putting on the host. Shared hosting also limits your access to the server’s capabilities, generally limiting you to uploading files via FTP or SFTP, preventing shell access, restricting what programs you can run on the service and limiting the amount of database access your site can perform.
The next tier up is VPS (for a virtual private server), which is a full instance of a virtual machine (a simulated computer) running on a box. Usually, hosting providers run many VPS instances on one box, but performance is almost always better than base-level shared services. If you use a VPS, you should be familiar with basic server maintenance and management.
If you don’t want to share performance with other sites, consider a dedicated server, a physical box that’s rented to you. It’s the same as having a server sitting behind your desk, except it’s located in a service provider’s data center. Only those with system management skills need to apply.
Cloud servers may be a better choice. They usually run on the giant public clouds, like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. Service providers can build whatever configuration suits the needs of their customers. The big benefit of cloud servers is that you can scale seamlessly. If you need to be able to handle that big traffic surge, just pay your provider more money. Nothing needs to be moved or rebuilt.
Be wary of unlimited offers.
Some hosting providers offer so-called unlimited storage and bandwidth for a few dollars a month. This deal often isn’t what it seems to be. If you pay three bucks a month for hosting, there will likely be something in your terms of service allowing your hosting provider to either throttle your performance or shut you down after a certain usage level.
Choose a portable content management system to avoid lock-in. Most hosts are pretty good, but times change. Management changes, acquisitions, and technology shifts can alter your web hosting plans. Make sure your site isn’t locked to any one host and that you have a backup practice in place.
For my business, I make sure I use an open source content management system. Many people use WordPress on top of PHP, which will run on just about anything. Do regular updates and site backups, so you always have access to your site’s data, media, and structure. This approach means all you need to do is load your backup on another provider’s service and point your domain name to that provider.
Finding a Blog Domain Registrar
So, now you know where to host your blog and you’re ready to purchase your hosting. The one thing you’ll notice is that you’re going to need a domain name in order to sign up for an account.
The conundrum is also that it seems you need a hosting account to sign up for a domain. However, it’s not so confusing because you can actually use the registrar’s nameservers temporarily. You could also just park it until you get your hosting set up.
The biggest problem in this scenario is that if you change the information too many times in a short period. Meaning, you will have to “wait until the dust settles” with all of the nameserver propagation. This could take up to 72 hours if you have a lot of conflicting information.
This is because when you feed the information to the nameservers, they will distribute it. Then, while distributing it, you submit different information. It will distribute it again, but the first information is still being distributed along with the second wave.
This nasty little situation will compound if you submit a lot of times. So make sure you enter the correct information the first time just to be safe.
A Registrar You Should Use
There has been one registrar that I have relied on for several years now. I have used both RegisterFly and GoDaddy while searching for domain names, and at times when I haven’t any money I would wait until the next day to register – only to come back to find the names I had wanted were registered already.
At that time I didn’t actually understand people were able to see what was being searched for in a live setting so they could see what was “popular”. So far, I haven’t been victimized by domain speculators while using NameCheap.
And NameCheap’s price is acceptable also – they’re $8.41 with a coupon which you can usually find if you Google “NameCheap coupon”. It also comes with free anonymous WhoIs registration for the first year if you’re interested in that.
You could use any good hosting company your hosting solution, but if you don’t want to go that way, you could use NameCheap as your all-in-one solution for both domain registration and domain hosting.
This would be particularly helpful if you’re having domain resolution issues or any hosting related issues. This is the only way to have a complete solution without having to contact one tech support and getting an answer, then submitting that information to the other tech support.
Even if you don’t choose NameCheap, you should choose a registrar that’s relatively inexpensive. This is because you shouldn’t pay more than $15 per domain name per year and the convenience of WhoIs protection shouldn’t be more than $3 per domain per year.
Beyond those guidelines, you should Google the potential registrar and see if there are lots of recurring problems with them. All registrars are going to have some problems because it’s the nature of doing business. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t see problems dominate the first or second page of the SERPs for the particular registrar.