How to Start a Blog

I want to start blogging. What do I do?

This question is coming up a lot lately. It’s easy for me to forget how many individuals and organizations have never maintained a blog but blogging is seeing a resurgence due in part to social media. Here is my quick guide on getting started and avoiding a few pitfalls.

1. Register a custom domain name

This is a necessity. Having your own domain name provides flexibility, branding, and scalability. I gladly endorse GoDaddy, I’ve been a customer of theirs for years and they are the only place I buy domains. Their pricing, customer support, and domain management features fit beginners and veterans alike. Domain registration will cost you around $9 a year.

Considerations:

  • Get a .com (or .org if appropriate) – It’s tempting to consider other options but realize people will instinctively assume .com
  • Don’t buy all the addon packages, just get the domain name

2. Choose a Platform

There are a ton of great blogging platforms. Blogger, Tumblr, Posterous, Typepad, and WordPress just to name a few. How do you decide?

Do you know how to use FTP?

  • No –> option 1
  • Yes-> option 2

Option 1 – Covergirl (as in Easy, Breezy, Beautiful)

Recommendation: WordPress.com OR Blogger.com

You can’t go wrong with either of these platforms. They are well developed, widely used, and free*. The main advantages of these sites are their rich features and easy editing. Every blogging feature and add-in in the world supports Blogger & WordPress. They also offer great export options when you are ready to upsize.

Create your free accounts and then setup your custom domain name.

Here is a good feature comparison of WordPress and Blogger “Blogger vs. WordPress.com Comparison Chart – 2009

It’s worth noting that Tumblr and Posterous are good beginner options. They are extremely simple for strict publishing however they have 2 major drawbacks.

  1. Poor feature Integration – A lot of the features and add-ons of the larger platforms aren’t easy to integrate into Tumblr/Posterous. Things like blog rolls, link lists, and commenting add-ins require a lot more coding knowledge to make work.
  2. Export limitations – When you are ready to move your blog these services don’t export functions. Your content is locked into their system.

Option 2 – Some Assembly Required

Recommendation: WordPress.org self-hosted

Hosting your own blog is the only way to go. Self hosting means that you own both the domain name and the web space. Other than a reliable web host I don’t rely on any other service to serve my content.

First, you have to purchase website hosting plan. There are a ton of hosting providers but I’d recommend one of these 3:

Personally I am an ANHosting.com customer and I couldn’t be happier. Their customer service, performance, and management options are great. I’ve never personally used DreamHost or BlueHost but they come highly recommended and they are highly rated.

Second, once you have a hosting provider then its time enjoy the wonder that is WordPress. WordPress.org is the completely free self hosted version of WordPress.com. There is simply no better hosted blogging platform. The interface is wonderful and the options and plugins are limitless.

I won’t cover the installation in detail because many of hosting providers have a simple installation process built in. However, you can always manually install using the WordPress installation guide.

Once you have your domain, a web host, and WordPress install you are ready to go. Just login to your wordpress installation http://example.com/wp-login.php and start blogging.

Here are a few more tips to make your life better.

  • Use Feedburner for RSS – Create a free feedburner account and publish your content through feedburner. It offers good subscription options to your readers and if you ever need to move your blog you can simply update the source URL of your feedburner feed.
  • Download Windows Live Writer – If you can use Microsoft Word you can blog. Live Writer is a free blog writing software and it it makes composing posts so much easier. @DenHarsh has a great setup guide for WLW and WordPress
  • Download Filezilla FTP for uploading/downloading files to your site.
  • Blog regularly (unlike me) twice a week is a good goal.
  • Use Category and Tags – Categories should be broad be few in number <10, tags are specific, add as many as you like.

For further ideas about how to blog well I suggest

If you’d like help setting up your online presence I’d love to help. Just contact me and let me welcome you to the web.

6 responses to “How to Start a Blog”

  1. samanthahartley says:

    Hey Keith, Great post. I have to tell you, some of the lingo in your post scared me and I've been blogging for years! Probably what's most helpful is for someone to get a tech buddy who will know the answer to “What the heck is FTP?” and “Help! My ___ is messing up!” It's really worth the investment (doesn't have to be expensive) and it gets you going.

    I'm not using Windows Live Writer, so I'm off to check that out. Keep these useful posts coming!

  2. Keith says:

    Samantha, thank you for taking the time to read and for the compliment. I
    really appreciate your comments on the lingo. I'll work on revising the post
    with more friendly language. I'm honored you stopped by.

    PS: You'll love Live Writer

  3. samanthahartley says:

    Hey Keith, Great post. I have to tell you, some of the lingo in your post scared me and I've been blogging for years! Probably what's most helpful is for someone to get a tech buddy who will know the answer to “What the heck is FTP?” and “Help! My ___ is messing up!” It's really worth the investment (doesn't have to be expensive) and it gets you going.

    I'm not using Windows Live Writer, so I'm off to check that out. Keep these useful posts coming!

  4. Keith says:

    Samantha, thank you for taking the time to read and for the compliment. I
    really appreciate your comments on the lingo. I'll work on revising the post
    with more friendly language. I'm honored you stopped by.

    PS: You'll love Live Writer

  5. JohnRazmus says:

    I definitely have to say – a paid, self-hosted blog is the way to go. It is always annoying having to tell your friends “yea, my blog is at …blogspot.com or …wordpress.com”. It really isn't that impressive if you can’t OWN your blog.

    I have setup well over 30 blogs by now and have gone through the technical setup process so many times I could do it in my sleep : ). If you would like me to set it up for ya, I do it for free at http://www.how-to-start-a-blog.org.

    Happy Blogging!
    – John

  6. great post…i have also written a post about how to start a blog which is about creating a self hosted blog.

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