Well, there are a few things you need to decide before you start your first blog. The first thing you need to do is think about what you are looking for from your blog long term. It’s easy to get excited and rush into starting a blog however if you make a plan of action and decide what you want from your blog in the long run you, should enjoy blogging much more and find more success.
- Are you just looking for a place to publish your thoughts online?
- Would you like to make money from your blog in the future?
- Will the blog be used to promote yourself, a service or a product?
Another important thing you need to think about is your blogs topic. My advice to anyone who is thinking about starting their first blog is to choose a topic which they are passionate about. Choose a topic which you love discussing with others about and a topic which you read about regularly, be it from a book, magazine, blog or online forum.
It’s tempting to start blogging about a topic which apparently offers higher advertising commissions however you will quickly learn that writing for a topic you have no interest in is difficult, boring and….well pretty much a pain in the ass! Blogging shouldn’t be about that. If you pick the right topic then you will enjoy writing for your blog and this will show in your posts.
Hosted or Self Hosted
Before you start blogging you need to decide if you want to use a free hosting service or pay a little extra every month to host your own blog.
If you are just creating a small personal blog to post your thoughts on the web for friends and family then a free hosting service like Blogger or WordPress.com is more than sufficient for your needs. These services are perfect for beginners and require very little technical knowledge to get up and running.
However, if you are looking to develop your blog a little more and would like to monetise your blog (immediately or sometime in the future), then I strongly recommend hosting your blog yourself. Most popular blogging scripts like WordPress, Text Pattern and Life Type are free and you can purchase your own private hosting space for as little as $4.99 per month.
Hosted Blogging Solutions
Although there are many free blogging solutions available, most bloggers decide to go with either Blogger or WordPress.com. Please check out our ‘Blogger or WordPress‘ guide for help in deciding which one is best for you.
- No Cost. The majority of hosted blogging services are free.
- Incredibly easy to setup. No technical experience required.
- Limited control over the blog compared to hosting yourself.
- The host may remove your blog at any time without prior consent (this is rare though it has happened).
- Some hosted services integrate their own ads into your blog in order to cover hosting costs.
- Some services (like WordPress.com) do not allow advertisements of any kind to be placed in your blog (unless you upgrade to their premium service). This means you cannot make any money from your blog.
- Complete control over your blog and it’s identity.
- Webspace and bandwidth. Hosted solutions only offer you a limited amount of webspace so once a blog reaches a certain level, the blog will probably have to be moved to a dedicated hosting solution. Self hosting allows you more space to store your files and much more bandwidth to help with your blogs traffic.
- Monthly Costs start from around $5 a month and upwards.
- Requires a little technical knowledge. Some bloggers may struggle with basic tasks like uploading the blogging script and customising the blogs design.
Buying a Domain Name
A domain name is vital for building a successful blog. It is your blogs identity, it is how visitors easily find your blog and it plays a major role in what traffic you receive from search engines.
As I mentioned before, if you just need a blog for personal reasons (e.g. a blog to post about your 3 month holiday to friends and family), a domain isn’t necessary and the url that the free hosting solution will be sufficient.
For the majority of bloggers though, a domain name is essential. Many bloggers make the mistake of starting their first blog using a free hosting solution such as Blogger or WordPress but don’t register a domain for their blog until their blog is established. In my opinion this is a big mistake and I advise you all to register the domain for your blog before you create the blog itself.
Failing to do so can be counter productive for a few reasons. Firstly, by developing your blog on a free host without registering the domain means that there is a great risk of the domain being hijacked. The domain might actually have been registered before you created your blog so it’s important to purchase the domain before you do anything.
Secondly, search engine traffic is tied to the url of a site. When changing the domain of a blog you can use a 301 redirect to tell search engines that the blog has been moved however you can still lose traffic.
A domain costs on average $10 a year for a top level domain (e.g. .com, .net etc), which isn’t really too much of an expense considering how important. So I encourage you all to find the right domain for your blog before you even write your first post.