Wow, I’m finally back – after an entire year and a bit! So, let me make myself useful on this comeback post —
I’m assuming you checked this out because you’ve been thinking of doing a blog but you have no idea where, or how, to start. Realistically, you will need a little understanding of a few semi-technical details if you want to know exactly what it is you’re doing. Of course, you can always pay someone to do it (wink), but if you are feeling ‘brave’ enough to try, I will attempt to simplify things here and will do my best to not get too technical (disclaimer to purist geeks!).
Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, Tumblr, Travbuddy, and even a previous work project GoAbroad.net, have all offered options for my very own online space to share stuff. The one thing that I didn’t dig so much about these free blog spaces were that, much as most of them gave options for personalization, they didn’t quite feel.. “mine”. These free sites will always have their branding on your blog address and it will never sound as cool as “www.LegalNomads.com“, or “www.thePioneerWoman.com” or my favorite “www.LaTartineGourmande.com“. So yeah, vanity eventually got the better of me and I decided to look into setting up a real blog.
Not too long afterwards, I found myself setting up blogs for friends and for personal web design and SEO experimentation. Because of my degree and what I do for a living, it did not take much for me to get the hang of dealing with nameserver settings, installing plugins via ftp, adding scripts for ads, analytics and social media buttons, etc.
Did I just sound like an adult from the Peanuts cartoon?? Don’t close this page just yet!!
Now, while all that sounds like serious, hyper-techie stuff, it really isn’t that much hard work. All it takes is a bit of understanding about which is what; the rest, I believe, is nothing more than following instructions. Yes, really.
Let’s begin. Here are the stuff you’ll need to buy, in this order:
1. A hosting account.
2. Your own domain.
Wait.. Wha..? What’s a domain? What’s hosting? And…it’s not free??
The steps I give here are for setting up a blog using your own domain. You DO have free options, but this post isn’t about that. Maybe, I’ll write on that next. But then I do think that getting your own domain is the way to go, so maybe I won’t That said, let’s answer the other questions one at a time:
Your domain determines your blog’s unique web address. Depending on your preferred TLD (top-level domain, i.e. that ‘extension’ part of the web address that says .com, .ly, .ph, etc.), the first step is picking a registrant.
Think of a domain registrant as the PO Box Rental section of your Post Office.
- You go to them and say you want an address.
- They check on availability.
- You pay for the box.
- They give you access, and you do what you want with it.
- Then, they make sure you have that address for as long as you pay them to keep it under your name.
A domain registrant is exactly that – you register a domain name with them and you have control of that name for as long as you pay them the fee.
There are many companies that offer this service, the ones I’m familiar with are BlueHost, HostGator, GoDaddy, DreamHost, and there’s dotPH for Philippine TLDs. It is hard to say which one is the ‘best’ – experiences really vary and while I can share mine, it is not fair to say a final word on anybody as services and prices improve (or degrade) over time.
What I would say is check on all providers that you can for any promotions that may be running at the time of your purchase. GoDaddy, where I register most of my .com’s, always has some promotion running; they also have a special bulk rate running all the time, so if you plan on registering a few domains, that may be useful to keep in mind.
Once you’ve picked a registrant, you will need to create an account. After that, is the part where I wish you luck – time to see whether the domain you want is available
TIPS ON PICKING A DOMAIN NAME:
- Pick something memorable. Your domain name is what people type in to find you, so make sure the whole thing is easy to remember.
- Being witty always helps, so try. If you have several options and can’t decide, conduct a poll among friends to get feedback.
- Target keywords. Think of the words that people may use to look for the stuff that you will be blogging about. It is common search engine knowledge that it helps to get you higher on search results when those words are part of your domain name.
- Settle, only as the last resort. That, my friend, is a general advice for life… Seriously though, trust me when I say switching domain names is a nightmare for any newbie-techie-wannabe. So, explore your options very well before throwing the towel in and going for any of the suggestions you get when the domain you want isn’t available.
- Check that spelling! This seems obvious but better safe than sorry – before checking out, read the domain several times over to make sure you’d not misspelled it. Sure, there’s Tumblr and Flickr and Xero and stuff, but I’m sure Lala Dimaculangan wouldn’t want to accidentally register an eponymous blog as www.laladinaculangan.com; you get me
- Oh, and before you buy, check out hosting FIRST. Please read below…
You need a web host to store the files that make up your website – images, your posts, the lines of computer code that make your blog do what it does – all that stuff. These files should be in a storage location (a disk, if you will) that’s accessible via the Internet 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. These hosting companies own big storage media and you pay to rent a little space for your stuff, you know, they host your content.
Strictly speaking, with ample technical know-how, it is possible to not have to pay for this. However, awesome advances in technology have allowed many companies to provide hosting at very reasonable costs.
- For as low as Php 200/month (USD 4.95), you can save yourself the technical hassle of keeping your website running 24/7!
Think of a hosting company as a 24-hour convenience store, and your blog as a space on their magazine stand. You pay them a fee to keep your content accessible to anybody who might be looking for it.
Heard of this “cloud” thing? Think of it as a network of convenience stores where you simply dump your magazine copies at the head branch and they take care of sending it to their other branches so that your content is available to your consumer at the location nearest them.
TIPS ON BUYING HOSTING:
- Check out hosting before buying a domain. I’ve deliberately listed hosting first on the buying list because previous experience had me wishing I’d bought hosting BEFORE buying a domain. This is because getting hosting with one company and domains with another would need you to be logging in to two separate accounts to manage your site. Most hosting services are also registrants, and they usually have you start the hosting setup process by searching for your desired website address, so I strongly recommend you shop around for a hosting service first.
- That said, always check on promotions before buying. Depending on available promos, it might turn out to be better value for money if you get your hosting and domains with different companies. I’ve chosen to go down this route myself, buying most domains from GoDaddy but hosting my sites on BlueHost. It’s admittedly inconvenient (hence the previous tip), but I’ve found ways to manage. Do your homework and don’t be lazy on the Math. Unless you have a deep pocket.. which I’m sure you want to keep deep, so yeah, do your Math.
- Caution on promos: Check the regular prices AFTER the promotional rate is over. Promo rates are intentionally made to sound and feel like the greatest deal you’d ever seen in your entire awesome life, but keep in mind that promo rates ALWAYS revert to a regular rate after a certain amount of time. For example, a promo rate may be to get hosting for USD 2.95/month for the first year, but succeeding years are at USD 9.95! Read the fine print as it may be better to go with a company that isn’t running a promotion but gets you to start at their regular rate of USD 5.95. Always think long term.
So I hope that little primer helped. Now, I’ll leave you to shop around. Tomorrow, I’ll write on the actual setup steps.