26% of the entire web and about 50% of all blogs in existence. These are just a couple of the impressive numbers behind WordPress.
But does that make it the best solution for you and your blog?
Are there better platforms?
I don’t know you, but if I had to wager I’d say that WordPress probably is the best option. The thing is that this is a strictly individual choice; it depends on personal preferences and goals.
Luckily, I don’t have to gamble on your blogging future – that’s for you to do – so what I am going to do is the following: I will outline the possible solutions, and you can make up your mind.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear – there aren’t objectively right and wrong options; instead, there is one, which suits your needs best and all the rest.
Having a blog can be an awesome hobby or a fully-fledged occupation. But even if it becomes your main source of income, it would still resemble hobby more than a regular job. Because blogging makes sense only if it is about something that ignites your interest like nothing else.
What is the thing you can talk about for hours? Is there something that you find so fascinating that it baffles you how it is possible that the people around you are not crazy about it as well?
It doesn’t have to be a positive thing. Something that riles you up is a good topic too. As long as you find it irresistible, you are on the right track. Because if you are not invested in your blog, you’d hardly be able to sustain it long enough to make it the focal point of an awesome community.
One of the main things that makes running a blog a pleasant experience is the platform used. Thanks to solutions like WordPress and Blogger, starting your own blog can take less time than cooking an omelette du fromage.
I want to make it very clear that there is nothing overly technical in setting up a blog. Everything you are about to read is easy to understand and even easier to apply, in the vast majority of cases. That doesn’t mean that you will make no mistakes and there will be no unexpected obstacles when setting up your blog. Probably, both will rear their heads at one point or another.
However, after this guide in how-to-set-up-a-blog, you will have the confidence only knowledge can provide. Armed with it, you could tackle mostly all issues. At the very least, you will know who to call for help.
Which is all it takes.
Ultimately, the internet is for communication, isn’t it?
1. The Basics – Where to Host the Blog?
Not only starting a blog can be faster than frying an omelette du fromage, it can also be cheaper.
As long as you can connect to the internet – and seeing you here, I bet you can – you can launch your blog for free. A simple Google search would reveal a myriad of platforms for blogging.
The two most popular are WordPress.com and Blogger, with Tumblr somewhere up there too.
All it takes is a simple registration, and you are good to go: a blog can be set up in no time.
Before you realise it, it would be time for your second post already!
Platforms of this kind are known as hosted solutions because they provide the full package: account creation, content management (i.e. web design and site updates) and web hosting.
They even sport free plans.
Sounds awesome, right?
Well… Not quite.
I mean, yes, it is quite cool and easy, but this ease of use, this apparent functional opulence and comfort are partially a marketing trick. Granted, these platforms can be used for casual blogging, for striking a conversation with a handful of interesting strangers, but that’s about it.
Despite offering free plans, hosted blogging solutions like Blogger can be quite costly in the long run.
The main issue with hosted platforms is the lack control. The owners of the platform allow you to use it.
Essentially, you are at their mercy.
And that’s not all. Here are the main disadvantages of hosted blogging platforms:
- Domain name that sucks – what is easier to remember, type, tell to people: MyAwesomeBlog.com or MyAwesomeBlog.WordPress.com? Admittedly, a real domain name can be used with some of the hosted blogging platforms, but only Blogger allows it for free.
- Limited functionality – while these hosted solutions allow you to start a blog quickly, their features are not all that impressive, especially when your blog starts to grow.
- SEO limitations – there are some tools to boost the ranking of your blog but much can be desired.
- Hosting limitations – indeed, hosting is thrown in the mix, but how flexible and expandable is it? Not overly much. Bandwidth, storage space, file upload, all these are limited; you’d have to pay for additional email accounts.
- Limited revenue streams – since you are essentially a guest on the platform of choice, generating revenue from advertisement is not really a possibility.
- Chained for life – once your blog grows, moving it away from a hosted platform is a tall order.
Again, despite these restrictions, hosted blogging platforms come with a lot of inbuilt functionality, handy tools and are very easy to use.
Some of the limitations can be lifted by upgrading, too. The bigger subscription plan you purchase, the more you get.
Why bother, though?
If you are going to pay, it makes much more sense to go for a self-hosted option, with WordPress.org (it is different from WordPress.com) being the obvious favourite.
It would grant you the following advantages:
- Domain name that sticks – you can register a domain name and make it your brand.
- Total control – you will have complete control over ALL features of your blog. The site will be yours and yours alone.
- Mind-blowing customization possibilities – WordPress is the most comprehensive Content Management System (CMS) in existence. Over 25% of all websites on the internet are powered by WordPress. It is open-source, with a huge community, countless themes and innumerable plugins. New ones appear on a daily basis. No other CMS gets even close.
- Flexible hosting – there are thousands of web hosting companies, which are eager to host your blog for as few as $2 per month. I’d recommend SiteGround or InMotion hosting, as they have specialised WordPress hosting, with servers optimised for the platform and with specially trained support teams.
- Additional features – practically all shared web hosting plans provide more features than simply having a blog. At the very least, they include an email service, which is helpful with branding and reaching out. Often analytics are tossed in too.
- God-like SEO – a separate article would be needed to cover the SEO possibilities WordPress provides.
- Unlimited revenue stream – I mentioned it would be your site and yours alone, didn’t I? Anything the site generates from advertisement would be yours, too.
- Freedom of movement – you can transfer your blog from one web host to another. Many hosting companies migrate sites for free.
The downsides of a self-hosted solution are: a steeper learning curve and more management to be done, as you’d have to find a web host, pay them and use their services. With the hosted platforms you have everything wrapped together in a tidy bundle.
But with greater power, comes greater responsibility. It’s only natural.
Do you have serious blogging intentions?
That’s the real question here.
Answer positively, and you’ll realise that going for a self-hosted solution is the obvious choice.
On the other hand, if you want to blog casually, some of the hosted platforms would probably suit your needs better.
2. The Domain Name
Arguably, choosing the right domain name is even more important than selecting a specific blogging platform.
One thing is clear: a real domain name is infinitely better than having a subdomain with some of the hosted blogging platforms.
Generally speaking, the shorter it is, the better a domain is. The value grows exponentially. New 3-letter domain names easily fetch prices in the tens of thousands. Established brands would cost millions. Such is the marketing worth of a good domain name.
So, how should you approach the topic?
A new domain name costs roughly $10 per year. InMotion Hosting and other web hosts include it for free in many of their shared hosting plans.
You should definitely go for a .COM Top-Level Domain (TLD). Even though .CO.UK, .NET and .ORG are popular as well, .COM is still the undisputed leader.
With this being said, a couple of years ago a huge number of TLDs were released. If your blog is about something specific, you might consider registering the appropriate TLD as well. Say, you write about cycling in London. The domain of your blog could be Bikes.London.
Pro-tip for traffic generation: if you can afford it, register .NET, .ORG and other popular TLDs, and then make them forward to the main address of your site.
This brings us to another aspect of the secret life of domain names.
What should it be, exactly?
Technically speaking, you must avoid hyphens and numbers, strings of words and ambiguous terms. People struggle remembering such things.
Ideally, the domain of yours should be a keyword and something that captures the nature of your blog perfectly well. Use your imagination and creativity. Go for something that can be branded easily. JackTeachDrums.com has greater marketing potential that DrumLessons.com. The latter sounds more like an organization domain name, which it is, while the former is personal and somewhat catchy.
Using your name, a variation of it or a nickname is a solid choice as well. This is especially true if you are writing about yourself, but it could be used for virtually any topic.
Is your name too long or too common? Shorten it or create a pen name.
Play with words.
Are you going to write about some small niche topic?
Research the relevant keywords. See what people interested in the topic search for.
Try to mix things up. Incorporate the most popular search term in the domain name.
In case the domain you wish to register is already taken, you could try to purchase it anyway. It would cost you more, but it might be well worth the investment. There are sites for domain auctions, where you can browse for inspiration and good deals. Sedo and Flippa are two of the most popular places for domain name hunt.
Before moving on, I would recommend protecting your domain name by purchasing a domain privacy for it. This would spare your mailbox, as spammers and shady marketers tend to scan public domain name databases for lists of valid email addresses.
3. The Hosting
A self-hosted platform means that you should provide its hosting. Well, not you per se, unless you happen to run a small data centre in your garage.
But it is you, who has to choose the right web hosting provider. Whichever company you choose, always start with the smallest plan available. Scaling up your blog will happen easily when the time is right.
The things in this section might sound a bit scary if you have no technical background, but I want to extend my virtual hand and lay it reassuringly around your shoulders: there is nothing complicated.
The competition among web hosts is so fierce that they are going out of their ways to provide things like excellent support and good onboarding practices. Whatever you need to know, you can ask directly the support staff of the company you consider to host your blog with or our experts here on WebsiteBuilder.org.
In reality, you wouldn’t have many questions, because setting up a WordPress blog is practically fully automated.
I mentioned SiteGround and InMotion Hosting as good choices for a blog because of their WordPress optimised servers and specialised support. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a decent support team. When choosing a hosting company, this is easily the most crucial thing to consider.
Whenever technical matters are involved, bugs and issues are bound to creep in. Such is life. Having a knowledgeable and responsive support team gives a tremendous peace of mind. Both SiteGround and InMotion Hosting have excellent support teams.
Additionally, SiteGround has very competitive fees for the features its plans include. InMotion is a bit more expensive, but its knowledge base is second to none.
Other things to consider when choosing a web host are: backups, speed and reliability. This list is far from exhaustive, but these are by far the most important parameters of a decent hosting package.
Frequent backups are a must because, again, things do go wrong.
The speed with which your website loads translates directly to a higher percentage of visitors actually reading your blog and to much better ranking with the search engines. People are impatient, and a slow page is much more likely to make them navigate away. Search engines know that and rank higher pages with good performance.
Reliability is the uptime a hosting company guarantees. Most of them promise 99.9%. In the majority of cases, your site will never go down but the higher the uptime guarantee, the better.
Lastly, make sure to choose a host, which provides Softaculous or another 1-click WordPress installer so that you can configure the blog with a simple click.
All these things and more can be checked and compared at a glance here, at WebsiteBuilder.org.
Before going further, I’d like to clarify that you don’t have to register your domain name with the company, which would host your site. It does make things a tad easier, as all elements of your hosting plan would be in the same place.
Then again, linking a domain name to a hosting plan is quite simple – even the most junior technical support agent would be able to walk you through the process.
There was nothing scary in the most technical part of this guide. As promised.
4. The Beginning
Ironically, the beginning was meant to be the last chapter of my guide.
So far, you should have a clear idea what hosting platform to choose.
Maybe even a catchy domain name is bubbling in the back of your mind.
Once you have chosen the appropriate web host, you would be nearly there. Use their 1-click installer and set up your WordPress.
Normally, the WordPress login area can be reached by typing yourdomain.com/wp-admin in your browser.
Then the design phase can commence.
WordPress comes with a few default themes you can see under the Appearance menu. They have a pretty good design, clean and stylish. I would recommend playing around with the WordPress menus to get to know what the platform can do. The possibilities to customise it and tweak it are endless but without knowing the basics, you’d be a bit lost.
Learning the WordPress options probably would be the most time-consuming activity in the blog setup. It is best to learn by doing, but some reading and watching a video or two cannot hurt.
Does learning scare you?
Then go for Blogger.
Does designing a site scare you?
Well, then you can opt for something slightly unorthodox but perfectly viable, like Weebly or Wix.
5. The Middle Ground
Wix and Weebly are two of the most popular site building platforms.
Standing somewhere in the middle between purely blogging platforms and CMSs, they are hosted solutions with a significant degree of control.
There you can choose among hundreds of templates, play around with simple drag-and-drop functionality, apply SEO and speed optimisation techniques, use your own domain name and much more.
The main downside of such solutions is that the paid plans of most website builders are more expensive than a small shared hosting package for WordPress.
Then again, they are simpler and easier to use and can get your blog going a bit quicker.
Wix, in particular, has really good designs, modern and memorable. It is one of the most intuitive website builders out there, but this ease of use doesn’t hamper its excellent functionality and slick templates.
Actually, a hidden pitfall is exactly that, the degree of excellence of their themes. Modifying them carelessly can easily break the immersive impression immaculately intertwined in impeccable layouts.
On the other hand, they are practically ready to be used and quite inspirational, if it is, indeed, possible to judge by the resulting alliterations, however clumsy they might be.
Starting a blog is easy.
It is easier than learning how to drive.
Heck, it is easier than learning how to cook a decent dish, even.
All technical obstacles which could discourage you ten years ago are resolved.
Still, I would recommend doing your research before you begin. You have lived your life until this very moment without running a blog. Spending an hour or two refining its concept and strengthening the understanding of what is needed to maintain a blog can only help.
If you have made it thus far, excellent. You are on the right path.
Evaluate what you learned and internalise it.
Read a bit more about SEO.
Find a good domain name, check out potential hosting companies or blogging platforms and soon you will be fully equipped to make your voice heard.
Blogging is astonishing!
You cannot imagine fully all the possibilities to learn, to connect, to overcome stereotypes, to make money and, indeed, to become a better writer.
I am giddy with excitement for you and applaud your decision.
Quite possibly, you are embarking on a journey, which would make you fulfil your potential and reach heights you haven’t even dreamt of yet.