In part 1, I discussed selecting the right blogging engine to use to start a blog, with a big recommendation for WordPress. Now it’s time to figure out where to host your blog, meaning on what server your blog will reside. This can be a server controlled by you, or a server controlled by the company that makes the engine you use to blog.
If you agree with my advice that WordPress is the blogging engine of choice, you have two possible options. The easiest way to do it is to let WordPress host your blog. In that case, you need to go to wordpress.com and sign up for an account. They’ll build a blog for you, explain how to log in, and then you’ll be ready to start blogging and telling people about your new site. For casual bloggers – those who just want to write a blog for a few friends to see – this is the most painless way to do it. Also, if you aren’t very technically savvy, this is the best option. If you decide you want to move WordPress to your own server later, don’t worry, you’ll be able to export your posts.
On the other hand, there are several good reasons to consider installing WordPress on a server you control (this doesn’t mean the server has to be physically present in your home or business – we’ll get to that in a moment):
- If you host it on WordPress.com and your blog gets really, really popular, you may find that people get a “currently unavailable” message when they hit it, because you’ve exceeded the maximum bandwidth per month allocated to a free account.
- Many of WordPress’s coolest plugins won’t work on WordPress.com accounts; they require you to have it installed on a server you control.
- If you control the server your blog is on, you don’t have to worry about someone else censoring you. I’ve never known WordPress.com to do this, but if you post something particularly inflammatory or X-rated, keep in mind that they do have the right to remove it if they own the server your blog is on.
If, after reading this, you’ve decided to host your blog on WordPress.com, you can skip the rest of this page and continue on to Part 3: Blogging tips.
Hosting your blog on a server you control
The first thing you’ll need to do is get a server. No, this doesn’t mean you have to run down to Best Buy and spend $2,500 on a server (although that’s an option). A much cheaper way to do it is to buy space from a hosting provider, a company that supplies web space to individuals and businesses for a fee. This is what I do, and my expenses for hosting my blog run less than $10 a month.
I’ve been through several hosting providers over the past 11 years I’ve been on the Web. The one I use now is GoDaddy.com and I highly, highly recommend them. I’ve been with them 3 years without a complaint. Their service has been outstanding, and the immense amount of disk space, bandwidth, and tools they offer for the money is just an amazing deal.
There are two things you’ll need to purchase to have web space for your blog. First of all, you’ll need a domain name, a name that uniquely identifies your site on the Web. Domain names end in .com, .net, .org, or other extensions; mine is paulryburn.com. Take some time to think about the domain name you want; think of alternates, because your first choice may already be taken. GoDaddy charges me about $10/year to register and manage my domain name.
Then you’ll need a hosting account, which provides space for you to store your blog posts. I use GoDaddy’s Deluxe account, which is $6.99/month. This gets you a massive 150 GB of disk space, and 1,500 GB a month of data transfer (meaning, you uploading stuff, and people downloading/reading what you wrote). Unless your blog gets super, super popular and you upload an immense amount of video, you will never have to worry about exceeding these limits. (If you do exceed these limits, you have what is known as a high-class problem, as compared to a low-class problem, which is what happens if no one cares about your blog.)
Why not the cheaper Economy Plan at $4.29/mo? For one thing, there is a chance you’ll outgrow this one. With only 10 GB of storage, you may hit the limit if you upload pictures and video to your blog. Also, the Deluxe account and above allow you to tie multiple domain names to one hosting account. If you plan on ever writing more than one blog, this is a huge advantage. I have my paulryburn.com on its own hosting account, but all the online stores I run – Tube Top Boutique, Mid-South Alcoholic Supply, Hawaiian Shirt Paradise, How to Learn Pool, Pro Wrestling Book and Video, American Flag Merchandise, and more to come – share one $6.99/mo hosting account with multiple domains pointing there. Also, the Economy Plan doesn’t offer GoDaddy’s full range of tools. It’s only a couple bucks more a month for the Deluxe account… I recommend you spend it. They also have a Premium Plan for $14.99 but this is overkill for almost all bloggers.
Once you buy a domain name and hosting plan, you’ll need to set up your hosting plan settings so that your domain name points there. GoDaddy’s excellent support team can walk you through this. You’ll then need to wait for your domain name to propagate – for all the servers in the world to be made aware that yourdomainname.com now points to such-and-such folder on such-and-such server on GoDaddy. They say this takes 24-48 hours, but in practice, most domains I’ve registered lately have propagated in under 2 hours.
After reading all that, does GoDaddy sound good? Here’s that link again: GoDaddy.com
You’ll then need to go to WordPress.org and download the latest version of WordPress. It will be downloaded as a ZIP file, so you’ll need to unzip it (uncompress it). You can find many programs that do unzipping on freewarefiles.com (a great site to bookmark for free software).
Once you get the program unzipped, you’ll need to do WordPress’s famous 5-minute installation to get your files configured and transferred to the server. Part of this will involve setting up a WordPress database, and then telling your config files how to log into the database. A gotcha to watch out for: The WP config files will tell you that 99% of the time, you can leave the server name as “localhost.” GoDaddy is the other 1%. You have to enter the actual name of the database server in the config file. GoDaddy’s support team can help you figure out the name of your database server if you get stuck.
Then, still as part of the 5-minute installation, you’ll need to upload the files to the server. For this you’ll need a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) program. The current best free FTP program is FileZilla (you can get it here, and you only need to download and install the client, not the server).
Then you’ll need to follow the instructions and complete the 5-minute installation. At the end of it, you’ll have a username and password you can use to log in to the WordPress dashboard. Be sure to write these down and store them in a secure place. Once logged in, you’re ready to start blogging.
If all this downloading and unzipping and FTP stuff sounds too confusing: You may be better off starting your blog on WordPress.com. Once you gain a little experience, you can always set up hosting at a later date and export your posts.
Alternately, you can hire me to do your WordPress setup on GoDaddy for you. My rate is $125/hour, one hour minimum and rounded to the nearest quarter hour after that, payable through PayPal. You must be using WordPress and GoDaddy hosting. A standard installation (downloading the latest version, setting up the database, making configuration changes, FTPing the files, completing the installation, and handing you your WordPress admin username and password) should take no more than an hour in most cases. Note that I do these installations on an as-time-permits basis, as I have a full-time day job. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
By this point you should be set up and ready to start blogging. In part 3 I’ll cover some blogging tips, tips on how to get people to read your blog, and how to post material people will want to read.