As most of you know by now, I quit my job earlier this year to pursue blogging and freelance writing full-time. As someone who is not tech-savvy at all, I think this is absolutely crazy. I probably hate technology and computers more than most people on Earth. I’ve also been known to go bat shit crazy when my computer is running slow or my website is acting funny. But still, I make it work. How? Because starting and running a blog is easy.
People email me all the time asking how they should get started. And to be honest, it’s hard to explain all of the detailed steps in an email. So, instead of creating a generic email response, I decided to write this post. If you’re thinking of starting a blog and don’t know how to get started, use this page as a step-by-step guide toward blogging awesomeness.
1) Name Your Blog
So, the first thing that you need to do is to choose a domain name for your site. There are as many different theories to choosing website names. You can choose anything from your own name to search engine friendly terms. We decided to create our own brand, Club Thrifty. Our brand name is flexible enough that we were able to start the blog as a frugality blog and later branch out into other areas of personal finance like travel and lifestyle. Whatever you do, choose something you like. Whether it’s eccentricporksword.com or twilightfansunite.com, or whatever, make sure that your new domain name is amazing.
2) Register Your Domain
Once you have batted around some ideas about names, you need to make sure that the domain names you selected are available. Better yet, check on those names WHILE you are batting them around. Nothing sucks worse than spending 4 days coming up with the perfect domain name only to realize that it has already been purchased by someone else! All you have to do is head over to GoDaddy, type in your potential domain name, and hit search. It will show you whether or not your domain is available, and you can purchase it from them immediately. We like to use GoDaddy to buy our domain names because they are cheap. Typically, domain names are sold for as little as $12 a year there. Better yet, new customers can get their own GoDaddy domain for as little as $5.99.
Editor’s Note: I also like to buy domain names as an investment. Does anyone else do that?
You can also find places that will give you a domain name for free. However, it may be something like clubthrifty.wordpress.com or ilovecookies.wordpress.com. There is nothing wrong with getting a free domain as long as you don’t mind being stuck with it for a while. You can always change your domain later and transfer your site. However, it can be a huge pain in the ass.
3) Find a Host
So, now that you have the world’s greatest domain name, you need to find a host for your blog. There are several different companies that provide hosting services. Two of the most popular hosting companies are HostGator and Bluehost. In the past, we have always used HostGator to host our blogs. We were fairly pleased with HostGator’s customer service for a long time, and it is hard to beat their pricing. Furthermore, we love that HostGator makes it so simple to integrate your website with WordPress, which we’ll talk about later. Their hosting plans start at $3.96/month. We use their middle of the road package which costs us $9.95/month. We also wanted our website to have its own unique IP address, so we pay an additional $2/month for that.
However, as our blog has grown, we’ve found that we need some different things out of our hosting company, including faster speed. We recently changed hosting companies, and now all of our websites are with Big Scoots. (We’ve got a review coming soon!!!) So far, we have found them to have extremely low downtime, increased website speed, and their customer service is top notch.
So, including our domain registration and hosting, we pay approximately $13/month to run our website. And, if decide to sign up for HostGator using the coupon code “clubthrifty” you’ll get an additional 25% off of your purchase.
4) Connect Your Domain and Host
Now that you have a domain name and a host, we need to get them talking to each other. This is done through the use of domain name servers or DNS. I don’t want to bog you down with all of the technical names and details, but it is easier than it sounds. Think of DNS as a zip code and your domain name as an address. Essentially, you’ll need to change your DNS at GoDaddy so that the address gets put in the right zip code (at HostGator or Bluehost). You should get a welcome email from your new host that gives you the new DNS that you will need to add to your domain address. To change your DNS with a GoDaddy domain name:
- Log in to your Account Manager.
- Next to Domains, click Launch.
- Select the domain name(s) you want to modify.
- From the Nameservers menu, select Manage.
- Under Setup type, select Standard.
- Click Save.
5) Build Your Site
Booyah! You’ve got an both an address and a zip code that are communicating. Now all you need is a lot to build upon. For this, I suggest that you use WordPress. Hostgator makes creating a WordPress site super easy. Just go to your CPanel page, scroll to the “Software/Services” section, and click on QuickInstall. From there, click on the WordPress link in the “Blog Software” section and hit continue. Simply fill in the fields and shazam! You’ve installed WordPress! WordPress provides a ton of options for customizing the look and feel of your site. There are hundreds of templates that allow you to create the site that you want.
However, once you have WordPress installed, you may wish to buy a custom site template. Honestly, this is something we wish we would have done WAAAAAAY sooner. The look, feel, and speed of the site became much more professional when we actually made the switch to the Genesis framework from Studiopress by Copyblogger. Think of WordPress as the lot, Genesis as the brick and mortar of the house, and your theme as the paint and decoration of your site. For a one time fee of about $85 we were able to get a professional framework and custom theme…and it was WELL worth it. (Currently we are using the Prose theme.) It took days to get the site looking the way we wanted it after we made the switch. Had we started with this right away, it would have saved us hours upon hours because we wouldn’t have had “create” the site twice. Plus, we started to get more visitors after the switch because the page was easier nicer to look at and easier to navigate. Furthermore, once you buy the framework and theme you can use it on multiple sites! Not bad, huh?
6) Write stuff.
Complain about your neighbors. Post pictures of your pet gerbil. Start an online diary about our Star Wars figurine collection. Who cares? The blog is now yours to mold into whatever you want it to be.
So, there it is. What do you think? Have you ever wanted to start a blog? If you already have a blog, what tips have I missed?
If you’re bored, head on over to Frugal Travel Guy to check out my latest guest post. Extra bonus points if you leave a comment!!!!!