Set up a WordPress blog – First things first

by Peter

This is the second post in the series about installing and tweaking WordPress. In this post I discuss things to consider before you even start installing your new blog!

Hosted or self-hosted?

The first question that needs answering is whether to have a self-hosted blog or a hosted blog. While it is possible to get a free hosted WordPress blog at WordPress.com that works perfectly and is good looking and fast, or set up a free hosted blog at TypePad.com or Blogger.com, or a number of other sites, this post is mainly for people wanting to set up their on self-hosted WordPress blog.

Blogging is tough work For most bloggers, self-hosted is the superior alternative. Self-hosted means you go out and register your own domain name – say myblogname.com – so that you own and control that name. Well, actually, to be quite technical about it, you pay a fee for each and every year you want it and lose it if you don’t pay, so you technically own it for a limited time.

If you choose to have a hosted blog, the name would be different, something like myblogname.wordpress.com or myblogname.blogger.com – longer, and not owned by you, and instantly revealing that your blog is hosted, and making many people think you really aren’t all that serious a blogger.

Domain and ownership

Why does ownership matter? The advantages are full control over the domain and full control over the content. Well – if you host at wordpress.com for free, you can’t have ads or commercial links. But if you host free at wordpress.com, every once in a while wordpress will run ads on your pages. If the blog never catches on, that may be OK, but if the blog gets popular, you can only monetize (sell ad space basically) yourself if you own your domain and the blog is self-hosted.

Also very important is that if you get lucky and hit some nice spot, you definitely will not want to move it from hosted to self-hosted. If you do, all those nice and important links to your blog will disappear and you will lose tons of traffic that you may or may not be able to get back.

So go to a domain registrar – a site where you can search for domain names and check if domain names you like are available – and do some searching. Then, when you are ready, do a domain registration. The smart thing to do, if you know you have found a good name, is to purchase it for 3-5 years. That sends the signal to future advertisers that you are serious!

The disadvantages of self-hosting

The downside to self-hosting is that there are a few but fairly simple extra steps you need to take when setting up the blog, and that it will cost a little. For me, and millions of other bloggers, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Self-hosting will cost you a minimum of $60 a year. The domain name will cost you 10-20 dollars a year depending on the registrar. Some hosting services offer a free domain if you buy hosting with them – I recommend buying just the domain instead. That way you can be certain you own it (there have been some nasty stories about people having their domains actually owned by the hosting service), and you will be completely free to buy web hosting wherever you want without restrictions.

Buying hosting will cost you 4-5 dollars a month and up, depending on what you want. It is fairly easy to change to another provider if you need to accommodate more traffic or if you don’t for some reason like the provider you choose, so while selecting a good one may be important it is not a choice that is irreversible. There are a number of OK providers out there: GoDaddy, Bluehost, Dreamhost, Media Temple are all good, very professional and easy to work with.

A note on domain names

A good name is hard to find, and when you finally figure one out, it is probably not available. Some say short names are the best, because they are easy to link to and faster to type (e.g. «short.com»). Some say longer names are better, as people will remember them more easily, they tend to better match the activity or topic of the site, and will help you get the right traffic from the search engines (e.g. «realestateportland.com», with or without hyphens). I tend to lean more towards the latter position, but prefer the shortest among the otherwise good names.

For the blog I actually will be setting up step by step while writing this series about setting up a WordPress blog, I have chosen the domain name CSSLION.COM. It mentions the key topic of the blog – CSS – and conveys an image I like.

Future posts:

That’s it for now – the next posts in this series will discuss the technical requirements, software that is good to have, and how to actually go about setting up a new blog from scratch.

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