A blog is a standard way to reach your audience and customers, whoever they may be. Even if you are not blogging for a living and you merely trying to promote your (or others’) product(s), a blog is one of the best ways to go. In this post I’m going to explain everything that you will need to create one; from buying a domain name and a hosting plan to choosing a theme and setting up WordPress with a number of plugins.
Buying a domain name
First of all, you’re going to need a domain name. Using domains like myblogtitle.blogspot.com or myblogtitle.wordpress.org that many people do is out of the question. I believe that the benefits are obvious and I won’t need to convince you, but in case you want me to, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to do so.
How to you choose a domain name is a big discussion (a blog post on that is coming soon), but there are 2 main suggestions to go with:
- Choose a memorable, brandable domain of a (preferably) narrow-length. This is a quite good suggestion for people who want to build a brand around their blog (which is actually their product).
- Choose a domain name which includes your main keyword. Even better if it’s memorable and brandable! This is clearly a suggestion for people who care that their website ranks in a specific niche for a specific keyword.
For this blog, I’ve chosen the second option since my main focus is to talk about passive income. I intend to share my knowledge and ideas, so myPassiveIncomeIdeas.com is exactly what I was looking for. It might be big, but I believe that it’s memorable. To tell you the truth I was ready to go either way, but since I just found it, I liked it and decided to use it.
As for the extension of the domain (top-level domain or TLD), I usually prefer .com, .net or .org. I wouldn’t bother using extensions like .info and I only use country-specific extensions (such as .us or .co.uk) only when the website I’m building targets a specific country.
To buy and manage my domains, I use either GoDaddy or NameCheap, two of the biggest domain registration companies out there. I have domains in both, but lately I mostly use NameCheap because they provide a free 1-year Whois protection (after the free year expires, it’s still quite cheap).
Choosing a hosting plan
First of all, there is the option of hosting your blog in a service like wordpress.org or blogspot.com (using your own domain name), but I would not recommend it since you are not in full control of your website etc. So, let’s find you a proper hosting service.
To host a WordPress blog (this is what we’re going to use; I’ll explain everything in the next section) you don’t need anything special in terms of storage space and traffic (since your blog will be quite new), so a small Shared Hosting plan from any of the companies I’m going to propose (or -most likely- any other company that you can find) will suit you for now. When your site grows, you’ll upgrade your hosting plan as well.
Although it’s not that important, if you know that your traffic will be from a certain part of the world (e.g. US or EU), you should prefer a company that has servers in the region you’re targeting, since the website will be quicker for them.
I’m going to list a number of companies that I’m currently doing business with (or I have done business with recently). I want to say here that I have as a principle that I do not work with companies that offer “unlimited” or “unmetered” services since that’s never the case.
So, here is my hosting companies list (in alphabetical order):
- Eleven2: I’m currently using one of their shared hosting plans and I’m satisfied. The server’s speed and uptime is good (I’m using a US server but they provide EU servers as well). The only time I needed to use their support, I’ve chosen the live chat option and the experience was great.
- Hawk Host: A friend recommended them and I decided to try one of their small hosting plans with this blog. It’s still quite early, but until now I had no problems. I’m using one of their US servers (they also have servers in EU and Asia). Please let me know if you experience any problems with the response time of the blog.
- Hetzner: Their servers are based in Germany (they are a German company) and they are famous for their cheap unmanaged VPS and Dedicated servers. I’m using them both in many projects and I have a quite good experience for a long time now. I’ve never used their shared plans (that are managed) but it worth a try since they are quite cheap.
- ICDSoft: I’m using their Economy plan for some years now in a blog with several thousand visits per month, and it performs very well. I’m using their US server, but they have servers in EU and Asia as well.
- Web Hosting UK: I’m using them for the last 3 years for my UK-based projects (where their servers are located). In the first year I’ve been using a shared plan and the last two a VPS. I’m quite satisfied from the quality of the server and the 24/7 live chat support.
After you decide and purchase a hosting account, you’ll have to wait an amount of time (from some minutes to a couple of hours) to be activated. When it is activated, you’ll receive an e-mail with information about your account. Locate the part that lists your “nameservers” (there are going be 2 URLs similar to “ns1.yourhost.com”), open the control panel of the domain name you’ve already bought, go into your domain’s properties, and there find the option that allows you to change the nameservers (they might be referred as DNS as well) and insert the information provided by your host there.
By doing that, you will have your domain connected with your new server. Please note that depending on how often your ISP (Internet Service Provider) updates its data, it might need from 10-15 minutes to several hours until you can “see” your server when you type http://yourdomain.com in your browser.
Setting up WordPress
I’ve used WordPress in so many blogs and for so many years, that I’m literally incapable of suggesting anything else for your blog, especially since I consider it the best blogging platform out there. I’m going to write some more detailed posts about WordPress soon, so I’m only going to mention the basics here.
After you download and install WordPress, the next step is to find the perfect theme for your needs. There are many options to go with here. There are free themes, paid themes or theme frameworks. I’ll explain the pros & cons of each approach in detail in one of my future posts. Here, I’m going to list a number of websites that I’m using to buy/find themes (in alphabetical order):
- ThemeForest is a marketplace for themes (not only for WordPress but there is a dedicated WordPress category). Their price range for a theme is from $30 to $45, which is fairly cheap.
- Thesis is a powerful theme framework that allows you to tune the appearance of your blog easily and it’s also very good for SEO reasons.
- WooThemes provide several different themes, both free and paid which come with a great customisation system.
- Smashing Magazine has a dedicated WordPress section, where you can find several posts that showcase great (and usually free) themes.
Almost all of the themes include live previews, so make sure you check them!
Finally, you’re going to need a number of plugins to enhance your blog’s functionality and include more features. For one more time I’m going to mention that I’m going to write a more detailed post on the subject in the future, so here I’m only going to mention quickly a number of plugins that I use so you can start with the essentials. Sorry for that, but if I write everything in this post, we’ll end up with enough content for an e-book!
So, here is an essential WordPress plugins list:
- Akismet comes pre-installed with WordPress, but you have to obtain an API key (you can do it for free) to activate it. Don’t forget to do that, or you’re going to quickly end up with a collection of spam comments!
- There are 2 really good plugins for caching and you should use one since it will speed up your blog. The first one is called W3 Total Cache, and the second one WP Super Cache. I’m using both (not simultaneously of course), but I think I prefer the first one.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast and All in One SEO Pack are the leading plugins for SEO-proofing your blog. I recommend the first one but it’s good to have alternatives.
- Search Meter records everything that your visitors enter in the search box of your blog. Extremely useful information!
- Simple URLs allows you to track and manage outbound links from your site. Quite useful if you want to track clicks, use a permanent URL for a link you might change in the future, etc.
I have many more plugins to propose, but I’m going to stop here since we’ll get out of scope. To find more, you can browse the free WordPress plugins directory and the CodeCanyon marketplace where you can find paid plugins.
You’re ready to go!
You have a domain, a server, a blogging platform with a great theme and cool plugins. What’s missing? Content! Not just any content (don’t start copying and pasting stuff written by other people), but great and valuable content. Good luck!
photo by linkedmediagrp@flickr