Follow along on a five-part series of posts on how to start a blog. The first post in the series focuses on 3 simple steps to get your blog off the ground – choosing your web hosting service, determining your domain name, and setting up a SSL certificate.
Start a Blog | Post Series
- How to Start a Blog Today – The Ultimate Guide
- Choosing the Best Blogging Platform
- How to Choose a WordPress Theme – 10 Insightful Tips!
- Best WordPress Plugins for New Blogs
- How to Build and Email List from Scratch
Making the decision to start a blog is exciting! You’ve probably been thinking about this for quite some time. Now your asking yourself, “How do I start a blog and what are my first steps?” You’ve come to the right place. My wife and I started two blogs over the last several years and I’m going to share with you our key learnings and a step-by-step approach to get yourself off the ground today. Don’t let the techy stuff scare you. You can do this. Let’s get started!
Decide on a Web Hosting Service
First things first. You’ll want to identify a hosting service to be your partner. Web hosting services are the platform that connects your blog to the internet. You can look at the web host as your landlord of sorts. The web host is providing the real estate for your blog or technically speaking…digital storage space. Sounds pretty important. What’s makes this decision a little bit difficult are the overwhelming number of options you’ve got out there. A go to third-party source of information for me has been CNET. They provide technology reviews on a wide range of consumer products – web hosting being one of them. Check out their September 2017 review for the 20 best web hosting providers. Here’s some factors to consider in your web hosting decision:
Different Types of Web Hosting
- Shared – You share a server with other websites. How many other websites? Good question.
- VPS – A step up, but your still sharing SOME of the server resources with other websites. The good news – you do get some resources dedicated to your site (i.e. RAM, storage, etc.) that can definitely impact your page speed.
- Dedicated – It’s all yours! Your website lives on the server all by its lonesome. The ultimate package when it comes to website speed, resources, and ancillary services. This one will cost you though.
In a nutshell – I’d recommend a shared service for a new blog. You’re just starting out. How much storage do you really need? In our second month of blogging, our website with 15 posts was using 3 gigabytes of data per month. The data limit for our shared web hosting service we signed up for was 35 gigabytes! More than enough. Additionally, will dedicated resources really speed up your new blog that much? Things like bandwidth, RAM, extra domains, and upgraded SSL certificates are nice but not necessary. The early stages (first 6-12 months) of a new blog will hardly strain the resources of a shared service plan.
Our Web Host Choice
What web hosting service did we go with? We chose Bluehost’s pro level shared service ($19.99/month). You can start a blog for less than $3/month and get all the things you need to get your site off the ground. In fact, I encourage you to sign-up for the lowest level of shared service as your starting out. You can always upgrade. BUT, let me make one point for a premium level of shared service.
As a newbie, you’re going to do A LOT of exploring, learning, and creating with your new blog. If you’re like us, you wear all hats. You’re the blogger, the editor, the technical expert. A jack of all trades. Along the way, you’ll make some mistakes (believe this advice). Some of those mistakes can cost you dearly. Like playing with your new websites code to get your website looking just right. Yes, I did this, and our site crashed. I hadn’t backed up our new site yet…queue the freaking out. I called Bluehost customer service. They told me that my pro level shared plan came with a service called “Site Backup Pro”. What’s “Site Backup Pro” you ask – it automatically backs up your site EVERY day. Bingo! I was saved, and also convinced that you get what you pay for in web hosting.
If you’re a newbie, and it fits your budget, pay a little extra on the front end to get some of these services that will save you from yourself! Additionally, Bluehost’s customer service has been responsive, courteous, and available 24/7. Yes, 24/7. I’ve tested these stated hours after midnight multiple times to find a friendly, knowledgeable technical support representative standing by. In one such instance, the support representative went beyond my expectations. I had concerns about my site speed. The representative went into my WordPress account and installed some widgets to speed up my site. I didn’t lift a finger other than making the phone call and stating my problem. That’s service my friends worth paying for!
One final point on our decision to use Bluehost. If you plan on using WordPress for your blogging platform, Bluehost is one of the four approved hosts for WordPress.org. Bluehost offers web hosting plans tailored to WordPress blogging platforms. Now that’s simple.
What’s Your Address (Domain)?
A domain name is the address for your blog on the internet. Without this critical piece of information no one would ever find you. You may already have some ideas about what that name should be, but what if it’s taken? Here’s a free tool to begin the search for your perfect domain name.
Some things to consider with your domain name. When we started our first website in 2013 it was important to work keywords into your domain name. For example, our website was focused on homeschooling. We made sure to include the word “homeschooling” into the domain name. Times have changed – the necessity of including keywords in a domain name have diminished significance. Google ranking algorithms are ever evolving, but as it sits today you have far more freedom in how you develop your domain name. Bottom line – content is king. Put your time into post content my friends!
You found your name? Good, let’s get hopping to the next step!
Your first best practice that will differentiate your site with visitors is the implementation of an SSL certificate. Why? A SSL certificate makes your site credible to visitors because it says you value their privacy. You’re providing an encrypted, secure connection. Visitors can see this in two ways. One, your web address begins with “https” versus “http”. Small but important difference. Two, your url has a “lock” symbol next to it. Again, symbolizing you value their privacy and you protect their information. We’ve all seen enough examples in the news about customer information being compromised. A SSL certificate shows you take their privacy seriously. Additionally, a SSL certificate positively impacts search ranking results with Google. I like that!
Most hosting services offer a free SSL certificate when you sign-up. Important note – there are different types of SSL certificates that provide increasing protection and security. For a new blog, the free or complimentary SSL offered by most web hosting providers is sufficient. Once you start growing your blog and offering products for purchase through a store, an upgraded SSL certificate might be a worthwhile option to pursue.
There you go, 3 simple steps to start a blog! You’re on your way now. Check out the next post in this five-part series to launching your successful blog. I’ll discuss how to choose the best blogging platform in part two and selecting a theme in part three. Once you accomplish these two tasks you’ll be ready to write your first post and be on your way to blogging success!