I want to start blogging. What do I do?
This question is coming up a lot lately. It’s easy for me to forget how many individuals and organizations have never maintained a blog but blogging is seeing a resurgence due in part to social media. Here is my quick guide on getting started and avoiding a few pitfalls.
1. Register a custom domain name
This is a necessity. Having your own domain name provides flexibility, branding, and scalability. I gladly endorse GoDaddy, I’ve been a customer of theirs for years and they are the only place I buy domains. Their pricing, customer support, and domain management features fit beginners and veterans alike. Domain registration will cost you around $9 a year.
- Get a .com (or .org if appropriate) – It’s tempting to consider other options but realize people will instinctively assume .com
- Don’t buy all the addon packages, just get the domain name
2. Choose a Platform
There are a ton of great blogging platforms. Blogger, Tumblr, Posterous, Typepad, and WordPress just to name a few. How do you decide?
Do you know how to use FTP?
- No –> option 1
- Yes-> option 2
Option 1 – Covergirl (as in Easy, Breezy, Beautiful)
You can’t go wrong with either of these platforms. They are well developed, widely used, and free*. The main advantages of these sites are their rich features and easy editing. Every blogging feature and add-in in the world supports Blogger & WordPress. They also offer great export options when you are ready to upsize.
Create your free accounts and then setup your custom domain name.
- How to: Setup custom domain on WordPress.com *Wordpress.com charges $10 per year for custom domain names
- How to: Setup custom domain on Blogger.com
Here is a good feature comparison of WordPress and Blogger “Blogger vs. WordPress.com Comparison Chart – 2009”
- Poor feature Integration – A lot of the features and add-ons of the larger platforms aren’t easy to integrate into Tumblr/Posterous. Things like blog rolls, link lists, and commenting add-ins require a lot more coding knowledge to make work.
- Export limitations – When you are ready to move your blog these services don’t export functions. Your content is locked into their system.
Option 2 – Some Assembly Required
Recommendation: WordPress.org self-hosted
Hosting your own blog is the only way to go. Self hosting means that you own both the domain name and the web space. Other than a reliable web host I don’t rely on any other service to serve my content.
First, you have to purchase website hosting plan. There are a ton of hosting providers but I’d recommend one of these 3:
Personally I am an ANHosting.com customer and I couldn’t be happier. Their customer service, performance, and management options are great. I’ve never personally used DreamHost or BlueHost but they come highly recommended and they are highly rated.
Second, once you have a hosting provider then its time enjoy the wonder that is WordPress. WordPress.org is the completely free self hosted version of WordPress.com. There is simply no better hosted blogging platform. The interface is wonderful and the options and plugins are limitless.
I won’t cover the installation in detail because many of hosting providers have a simple installation process built in. However, you can always manually install using the WordPress installation guide.
Once you have your domain, a web host, and WordPress install you are ready to go. Just login to your wordpress installationand start blogging.
Here are a few more tips to make your life better.
- Use Feedburner for RSS – Create a free feedburner account and publish your content through feedburner. It offers good subscription options to your readers and if you ever need to move your blog you can simply update the source URL of your feedburner feed.
- Download Windows Live Writer – If you can use Microsoft Word you can blog. Live Writer is a free blog writing software and it it makes composing posts so much easier. @DenHarsh has a great setup guide for WLW and WordPress
- Download Filezilla FTP for uploading/downloading files to your site.
- Blog regularly (unlike me) twice a week is a good goal.
- Use Category and Tags – Categories should be broad be few in number <10, tags are specific, add as many as you like.
For further ideas about how to blog well I suggest
- How to Write (in a 1000 words or less) by @Dwax
- 40 Ways to Deliver Killer Blog Content by @ChrisBrogan
- How to Write A Blog Post by @NeilPatel
- and of course anything by Problogger.net
If you’d like help setting up your online presence I’d love to help. Just contact me and let me welcome you to the web.