Welcome to the first of our multi-part series on how to start a blog or website.
Why a series? Cuz it can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. Feel like you’ve got some basic knowledge about how websites work? Then go for it. Read the entire series in one sitting and get to it. The links to the other articles are at the bottom of this post. But some of us need things broken down and time to absorb and learn what can be a pretty major learning curve.
Grab a notebook and pen and get ready to learn. Today’s post is all about choosing a platform and a domain name and some basic definitions.
WHAT IS A DOMAIN NAME?
A domain name is basically the name of your blog or business. Like a store name if you were opening a real live bricks and mortar store somewhere. Your domain name is your web address. For example, Bluehost.com is the domain name but also the address of their website. Drop the .com and they are simply Bluehost.
Fun fact about domains. You can’t have a website without a domain name but you can buy a domain name and not have a website for it. You just park it. I sometimes buy domain names and sell them later if I think they’re great names and will go up in price as the dot coms dwindle away. I don’t build a website for every domain I buy but if a great name pops into my head, I generally do some research and if it’s not already gone, I snap it up. Back to the basics.
You can buy and register domains at pretty much any hosting site. I used to register all my domains with Bluehost but lately I’ve moved over to Namecheap because it’s, as you’d probably guess by the name, often cheaper.
As an aside, once you buy and register the domain, you get the joy of paying for it yearly. The web is big business, y’all. The upside is, it’s usually not very expensive.
BUYING AND REGISTERING YOUR DOMAIN NAME
Let’s say I want to build a blog about drinking wine all day long and I’m digging on the name I Drink Wine All Day. Or idrinkwineallday.com because you need to look up domain name ideas by the actualy URL. Next, I head over to Namecheap or Bluehost to see if it’s available. And it is! I took a screen shot so you can see what it looks like when you find a domain name that’s available. Oddly, this one was 😉
You can see that to register the domain name with Bluehost, it will cost you $11.99 a year. Not too bad and not going to break the bank. With the amount of .coms going daily, it’s getting harder and harder to find one so you’ll be offered other choices as well, like .net or .org. Always go with the .com if you can but only after you’ve done some searching online to make sure there are no sites with the same or similar name already running. You don’t need that competition. Just do a quick search on Google, Facebook, and I like to include Twitter and Instagram as well. See what comes up in your search and make sure that if there is a similar domain that it’s not in the same niche as your site. If it is, try a few more domain name ideas until you hit on one that work and doesn’t have direct competition online.
Interestingly, I ran this fun title through Namecheap and it was more! $14.68/year. Comparison shopping and all. We do that.
Make sense? Excellent.
Let’s move on to your platform.
WHAT IS A BLOGGING/WEBSITE PLATFORM?
A blogging or website platform is a specific form of a content management system. The platform is to blogging and websites what a book case is for books. A place to keep all of your content online. It’s the service/software that you’ll be using to publish and manage your content on the internet. All your photos, posts, videos, ads, etc are stored in the platform/content management system.
So with that information in mind, how exactly do you choose a platform?
Here’s the thing. Yes, there are free options that don’t require hosting. You don’t want those. Really.
I was on blogger for almost three years before I made the jump to WordPress and overnight I started getting requests for sponsored posts and my ad income from Adsense jumped dramatically. The downside was that I lost a ton of traffic as well during the move to WordPress. My site didn’t transfer well, I lost a ton of work that took me months to re-do and get back to where we were.
When it comes to blogging or starting an online business, start as you mean to go on. It’s a business, take it seriously.
Sponsors, affiliates, and other sources of your future revenue prefer to work with people who are self hosting and own their domain. Why? Because it demonstrates that you’re serious about your work and your site and because it actually belongs to you. Investors, sponsors, advertisers, and collaborators are not going to invest in something that you don’t own.
Which is why I always recommend that people build their blog on WordPress.org. It’s different from WordPress.com in that you own your domain totally.
The difference looks like this…..
Let’s say for example that your blog or site is called “My Blog” and by some miracle that name was available and you’ve purchased it already (Again, more about that tomorrow). When you purchase hosting and build your site on WordPress.org, your URL (address online) will be “myblog.com” which is exactly what you want. A nice clean title that is easily found and totally belongs to you. If you went with Blogger, your URL would be “myblog.blogspot.com” and you’re pretty much telling everyone that Blogger owns your content and your site. The same applies to WordPress.com. You’re URL becomes “myblog.wordpress.com” So not cool.
By far the biggest issues with sites like Blogger and other free options is that you don’t own your site. They do. And while it’s not a huge risk, the risk does remain that all of those “free” sites, could close down anytime they want, taking all of your material with you. If you’ve ever lost something you’re working on online because you didn’t save or the computer crashed, imagine losing years of work and never getting it back. I seriously start to have anxiety sweats when I think of things like that. #passthevaliumplease
Yet another reason to be self hosted?
Free sites will add their own ads and make money off your hard work. You don’t monetize your site, the free platform does. Because, hey, that’s a smart idea, if you happen to own the “free” platform. But for a smart business babe, it’s like whoring out your hard work for someone else to profit with while you sit home and miss the ball entirely. #cinderella
Smart business gals invest in their own sites, thank you very much.
So while Google’s Blogger platform, Tumblr, and WordPress.com are all free, free comes with the cost of not growing a business from your work. That’s not free when you learn what you can do with your site and how to monetize it. Go WordPress.org all the way.
The only time I don’t push a client towards a self-hosted wordpress site is when you’re interested in only opening a shop. In that case, Shopify may be for you. You still purchase your domain name elsewhere but Shopify hosts the site. The nice part is that you’re URL is still “myshop.com” or whatever you’ve called it all while being hosted on Shopify, which is an amazingly easy platform to use.
Having said that, Shopify is not free. In fact, they charge around $30 a month (US $. If you’re in Canada that’s more like $43 at press time) to host your shop which is quite a bit more than purchasing hosting and using WordPress.com.
However, Shopify is a really easy platform and perfect for beginners. As such, it may be the perfect solution for one stop shopping and getting your site off the ground in a hurry. If you want to learn more about Shopify, don’t forget to sign up for our email list because I’ll be sharing a lot more about Shopify in the next couple of weeks.
Ready to step it up? Here are the other links in our series.
- Part 2- Registering your domain and hosting
- Part 3- Setting up WordPress
- Part 4- Choosing a theme
- Part 5- How to customize your site