As promised previously, I’m going to delve deeper into each of the steps you’ll need to start your blog. One of the first things you’ll need to do is decide on a host and hosting plan. Now the simplest way to get a blog up and running is to sign up for a free blog hosted by WordPress or Blogger. There are probably hundreds of such services, or at least 40!
But there are good reasons to cough up the bucks and self-host. For one, if you choose the free blog route, the domain does not belong to you, even though the content might. Once you’ve been blogging for awhile and have some traffic, one way to monetize is by selling your blog outright. But you can’t sell what you don’t own so… enough said.
Another way to monetize is through affiliate programs (more on that later). Again, in order to be approved for a lot of these programs, you have to own your own site. Suffice to say that self-hosting puts you in a much better position for options down the line.
Web hosting is a pretty competitive market and therefore, affordable. Packages for shared server space range from $4.95 – $19.95 per month, with deals going on all the time. This will give you anywhere from 10GB to 150GB of web space, usually a ridiculous number of email accounts, and multiple MySQL databases (translation: multiple web sites). You can get fancier and sign up for more stable and secure Virtual Private Server plans (VPS) or dedicated servers but for beginning blogs, I’ve found that shared space is more than adequate.
Most hosts are also set up to be used with content management systems (CMS) like the ones most bloggers use, with either step-by-step installation guides or a 1-click install feature.
The most important criteria for me when evaluating hosts is what kind of technical support they provide. I’m no luddite and can problem solve quite a few technical issues on my own but when my blog goes down, I like to know that I have a back-up team — with more technical know how than I — that can help it get back online. In my blogging lifetime, I’ve had the chance to use Bluehost, DreamHost, HostGator and 1&1 Hosting. Of all of these, my personal favorite has been Bluehost simply because they have an actual phone number that gets answered by a real live person in a reasonable amount of time. Call me crazy but that makes me feel good! At the time that I was using DreamHost, the best they had was chat support, which was not always online when I needed it.
The most personalized hosting support I have experienced is with Miso Gusik, a developer that I’ve worked with on a number of membership sites. He hosts Hopeful World on his own private server, which means I can let him know ahead of time if we expect a spike in traffic. And if something goes wrong, he’s literally on my speed dial. Full disclosure: I am not getting paid for this review AND his hosting service really evolved as an added benefit for his clients to streamline the development process more. So the page he uses to provide information on his hosting plans is, in his words, “doesn’t really scream of a highly professional operation ready to take on thousands of clients all at once.” But if you are looking for a more personal solution for $15/mo., tell him I sent you and he’ll set you up!
Tune in next time for more Blogging 101.
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