How To Develop A Stand Alone Blog
Filed under: Blogging, Computing, Making Money
If the blogging bug has bitten you recently you are part of a very large and growing community. Caslon Analytics cited claims that 184 million blogs had been started by March 2008.
Not all of them are still active but the ones that are originate from all over the world and they fall into many different categories: personal journals, knowledge sharing, creative writing, political reporting/ranting, religious teaching/sharing, philosophical debating, etc.
Blogging has even become a serious marketing tool for all kinds of products and services from which bloggers can benefit financially as well.
For beginners, getting started is very easy. Mashable lists 40 different blogging companies that offer free blog hosting for various types of blogs and most are fairly easy to set up.
“Free,” of course, sounds nice but it comes with limitations. There is a limited selection of page design choices, ad options and so on. Some free blogs won’t allow ads at all. After awhile the “restrictions” become overbearing especially for the more creative types.
In many cases the design choices are all very similar and a bit bland anyway. One design blends in to the next and they all look the same. If you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.
Additionally, free hosting promotes the host provider as much as the one writing the blog. The host is actually making money off the blogs they host, which means there is really nothing free about it.
At some point you will want to separate yourself from the mainstream and create your own identity and this can be tricky. In fact, the “free” host providers are counting on you being frightened off by what seems to be an insurmountable amount of learning necessary to isolate yourself from the crowd. But, many bloggers have made the leap and with a bit of guidance you can too. There are several steps to getting there and many people to help you along the way.
To simplify the process, the steps are:
· Get a domain name. The domain name is the name of your site or what is otherwise referred to as a URL. The name you choose fits between the “http://” and the “.com” or whatever extension you choose.You can use any name you like as long as someone else hasn’t registered it first and even then you can use it if they are willing to sell it.
The people to see for a domain name is GoDaddy. They are by far the best domain name registrar around. They offer 24/7 support, their agents are very helpful and they have the best prices. I learned a lot about the domain name industry just by navigating around their site and bugging them on their support lines.
· Contract a host provider. Right now I am using Lunarpages but I don’t recommend them. They are usually listed as one of the top ten providers but they have one huge weakness, they offer limited support.
Many bloggers are working out of peak hours and need support at odd times. That means Lunarpages is not always available when you need them and their prices are not competitive enough to make it worth your while financially.
The good news is there are many host providers who offer support 24/7, good service and very fair prices. HostGator has been recommended to me as a provider who is “quite reliable and truly cares about their customers getting good service.” They boast an impressive 4,500 templates from which to choose for your first site, which comes free with the service and the templates can be customized to suit your tastes.
If you are curious you can research the various hosts by googling “hosting reviews.”
Update: In November 09 I made the switch to HostGator and it was an absolute pleasure. They took care of transferring my site from Lunarpages, they did within a couple of hours and their support people were helpful and encouraging.
· Adopt the right platform. With little knowledge of blogging software I wasn’t sure which platform I would choose but fortunately, I received some very good advice from Lunarpages and others as I was getting started. Everyone suggested I use WordPress for several reasons:
1. It was easy to use
2. It was open source and therefore free
3. There was a very large community of code savvy people developing new plugins and themes for this platform constantly.
Most authorities rate WordPress among the best so it comes with very credible reviews. All the top hosting services provide the WordPress download through their control panel so it is easy to access.
· Get solid Design/Development assistance. WordPress does maintain a forum in which you can submit your questions about code manipulation and site design. There are many people who participate and, as far as forums go, it is as good as any. But, I have never found any forum to be that useful including WP’s.
Therefore, I decided to look around for someone that could help me develop my site the way I wanted it. I needed someone who was familiar with WP and patient with people. I needed someone that would help learn a little about the underneath side of the internet (code) while writing on the topside. That way I wouldn’t remain a dummy.
I wasn’t interested in hiring a designer outright. I needed someone to take my ideas, tell me how to implement them (and if they made sense at all), allow me the time to try and implement the code myself and then give me the option to accept or reject them as I went. Obviously, they also had the difficult task of making things right when I got it all wrong. Not every person can work with this situation but I managed to find someone who would, Steve Wolfson with Mountain Computer Services.
I met Steve through the WP forum and decided to contact him for information when he answered some of my questions quickly and accurately. Not every forum answer is good but Steve got it right. Before I contacted Steve I checked out his web site and discovered that his purpose statement was exactly what I was looking for. It read:
“My priorities are to:
Resolve your issues in the simplest way
Help you become more computer self-sufficient
Keep your costs low
Be a positive addition to your support team”
Working with Steve I found him to be all of those things and more. He charges me a fair hourly rate, answers all my questions, gives me direction without taking over but is always there to assist with problems I cannot solve. You might call Steve a designer/developer/tutor.
With 25 years experience he knows his way around computer code and he is very familiar with WordPress.
If you are serious about blogging and you find yourself spending hours looking for answers for which you’re not even quite sure of the question and would like to shorten the learning curve then contact Steve. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call him at (541) 201-0825
For now, I wish you all the best in your blogging ventures.