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So by now you have read ‘Starting a Blog in the UK – Pt. 1 – Key Decisions’ and have chosen your Genre, selected your Target Audience and you have a good idea of some of the topics you are going to discuss. What a Great Start! The next thing that you have to consider is:
Choosing a Platform
Here comes the technical bit. You need to choose a platform on which to blog. In the most simplest terms, there are 2 main options:
- A Third-Party Hosted Blog
- A Self-Hosted Blog
You need to think carefully about which option you want to choose before you get started as it becomes very difficult to migrate further down the line. Third party hosted sites are when you join a blogging community website (such as Blogger, WordPress, Blog.com, Typepad, Jux etc.) free of charge and post within an account on the site. A little like Facebook, but more blog orientated and more public. Technically, this is very straightforward, but there are a number of limitations with this choice:
- Design / Customisation Options – You are unable to apply different templates / themes / widgets and fonts to your blog. This will cause your blog to look generic and a little bit boring. If you want to stand out from the competition, then you can forget it! 😛
- Storage Capacity – This can be limited and essentially could run out as your blog grows.
- Bandwidth (Speed of Access) – If your site becomes popular, the bandwidth limitations could be exceeded and could result in your site being shut down until the quota resets.
- Advertising / Monetising Options – Some sites prevent you from running advertising programs like adsense or from displaying sponsored banners. Furthermore third-party hosted sites are much less appealing for potential clients offering sponsored posts.
- S.E.O. – Search Engine Optimisation – i.e. it is harder for your pages to score high in google’s search algorithms and be displayed towards the top of the results
- Backup Options – Self-Hosted options allow you to backup your work on cloud storage sites like dropbox, or to create a local copy of your blog on your computer. Chances are the third-party site will not have this functionality available and will not guarantee the safety of your data.
- Security – We all know how ‘easy’ it is for websites / servers to be hacked! A self-hosted blog allows enhanced security fortification measures to be implemented.
I could go on, but hopefully I have covered enough to persuade you that a Self-Hosted Blog is the way to go!
Self-hosted essentially means that you are going to buy a domain (i.e. SavvyScot.com) and you are going to pay for hosting – i.e. you are going to pay a company a monthly/annual fee to host your blog on their servers. You then install a blogging platform – essentially an interface – and go from there. Some of the available blogging platforms include:
- Expression Engine
- Movable Type
Personally, I use WordPress and 95% of other bloggers that I know also use WordPress. WordPress is the most popular and best supported platform. Furthermore, it also has more templates/widgets/themes around than any other platform. More about installing the platform later.
Choosing A Domain
Remember how long you spent thinking about your Genre, Target Audience and Topics from Part 1? Well you need to spend the same sort of time thinking about a domain name for your blog. When you choose a domain name, it is very unlikely that you will ever change it again. Out of all my personal finance / other blog friends, I can only think of one person who has changed their domain name and this was due to extraordinary circumstances. You need to choose something short, catchy (unique) and relevant.
SavvyScot.com is short, it is pretty unique and slightly relevant to Personal Finance. The Savvy conveys that I am smart / know a lot about something and the Scot that I am Scottish – the unique part (although numerous people still think I am called Scott)! The name doesn’t actually cry out personal finance, which is something that I regret slightly, but overall I am happy with my choice.
Too many people have chosen domains with keywords such as ‘Personal Finance’ or ‘PF’ in the title and I find it very hard to remember who is who. My advice is to choose something a little bit different – something that will intrigue somebody enough to click to find out what you are about. Personally, I use GoDaddy for my hosting / domain name registrations and have been very impressed with their service over the last three years. I recommend that you use the domain search feature while trying to decide on a name – chances are, a lot of your ideas are already taken, but the search feature can provide suggestions of available alternatives!
I recommend that you choose a .com domain simply because they are universal. Although I am based in the UK and write from the UK, some potential readers / visitors may have been put off by a .co.uk (local) domain. Furthermore, .com is generic and Google ranks these domains higher in search results (which is our ultimate goal). If possible, choose to ‘autorenew’ your domain name with the registrar. This will prevent it from ever expiring and being bought by someone else. A point to note here is that a lot of people make a significant living out of buying expired domains and redirecting them to other sites. (imagine the traffic I could get if I redirected GetRichSlowly or something similar)!
Choosing a Hosting Plan
The other reason that I love GoDaddy is that they offer affordable hosting which enables you to pre-install various Blogging Platforms at the checkout. This saves you from having to access the server via FTP (file transfer protocol) and manually installing the client. You can select the product you want and the GoDaddy servers install the platform instantly!
Most Hosts (including mine) offer various hosting packages. I recommend choosing an option that will give you unlimited bandwidth, Included SQL databases and email support. This allows you to later create an email address/es for your domain (i.e. mail (at) savvyscot.com). I currently use the GoDaddy Deluxe package (Economy – Deluxe – Ultimate) which costs around £4 / $6 per month. You can often get significant discounts if you pay for a year or more upfront. You can always upgrade at any point.
Where New Bloggers Go Wrong
A lot of new bloggers (especially personal finance bloggers) go wrong at this stage. They are reluctant to cough up some money at the very beginning and pay for a domain name and hosting. Perhaps they don’t see the benefit when they can get one for free; or see it as a poor investment decision. If you are serious about writing and want to make some money at some point, I strongly recommend you take the hit and pay.
If you were to begin with a third-party hosted blog and decided 6 months down the line to change to self-hosted, you would be presented with a variety of issues. Not only would it take a LONG time to transfer content over, but Google would instantly penalise your site for ‘copying’ content from another site. The Algorithms would detect that you are hosting duplicated content and are able to tell that you essentially copied it from another source. Instantly your domain’s ranking would drop and you would find it hard to recover.
I have to admit, I myself was reluctant to pay the best part of £60 ($100) upfront for a years hosting and domain registration when I first started. Looking back, I laugh at myself considering the money that I have made over the last 6 months.
Stay tuned for Part 3 which will discuss the basics of setting up your site and getting started as a blogger!