So You Want to Start Blogging – But Where to Begin?
So you want to start blogging… Awesome! Whether you’re a business person wanting to share you knowledge and expertise in your field, or a stay at home mom with tons of funny stories about what it’s like to raise twin toddlers, you’ve made a wonderful choice that will provide a lot of insight and enjoyment for many many people – not the least of all yourself.
But where do you begin?
This is the most common issue I hear when the topic of the benefits of blogging come up in conversation. There are a lot of different ways to approach getting started, but first you should answer a few questions.
- Who is going to read your blog?
- Does professionalism matter?
- What types of topics are you going to blog about?
- What if any, sort of budget do you have set aside?
- What types of customization options do you prefer?
- What level of CSS coding knowledge do you possess?
- How unique do you want your blog to look?
If your blog is going to be an informal, sparsely updated journal meant to be read primarily by your friends and family, a simple hosted blog on a site like blogger.com, or wordpress.com will suffice. They are easy to use and understand, and look pretty decent in the overall scheme of things. There will be nothing unique-looking about your site, but that isn’t really the purpose of the hosted blog platforms. They are for the casual user who isn’t too concerned by the very limited options that these site offer.
Pros of hosted blogging: free, user friendly, no software installation requirements.
Cons of hosted blogging: very limited customization options, no stand-alone domain names, very basic design, generally rather casual in appearance, sometimes have to tolerate ads on your site.
If your blogging needs exceed that which can be met by one of the free services, you will need to have what is referred to as a ‘self-hosted’, or stand-alone site.
The steps to create a self-hosted blog are as follows:
First, choose a domain name (the address of your blog, i.e. mikejuly.com). While selecting a domain name may seem like a trivial task, it is actually one of the most important steps in the entire process. When deciding what to call your blog, it is critical to consider this from a personal branding standpoint. As I have mentioned in another post, your blog is an extension of you. It may be the only thing the your readers/potential clients identify you by. After you’ve decided on your domain name, register it here at GoDaddy.com.
The next step is to sign up for a hosting service. I recommend HostGator.com, which has plans that start at $4.95 a month. For more on the reasons I suggest HostGator.com for your hosting needs, see this post (coming soon).
After you’ve purchased a hosting plan, you need to start setting up your blog. In the Hostgator control panel, click ‘Fantastico’ and follow the steps to install the latest version of WordPress on your hosting account.
After you’ve successfully set up your WordPress blogging platform, you will need to log in to your blogging dashboard. You will be able to do this at [http://***yourdomain***.com/wp-admin.php] and enter the login/password you created during the last step. This gets you into the WordPress ‘dashbaord’ for your site.
At this point you need to decide if you want to use one of the generic themes that come with WordPress, or if you want a custom theme. To view the stock themes, simply click on the ‘Appearance’ link on the left side of the dashboard, then click on ‘Installed’ and it will open up all the themes available. If you are satisfied with one of the available choices, simply activate it and move on to the next step.
While there’s nothing wrong with the stock themes, they are rather plain and generic by most standards. They are going to look like all the other blogs that utilize the same theme. For tips on how to select and install a custom WordPress theme, see this post.
When you’ve finished installing your custom WordPress theme, go back into the installed themes page of your WordPress Dashboard. The theme you just installed should appear along with the ones that came original with WordPress. Activate the theme and you’re done.
At that point, you officially have a WordPress blog and are ready to start blogging!!