Saturday, November 3, 2012

About Blogging - or - Blogging Startup Hints for Writers

I was recently asked if I would write a newsletter article on blogging for an online writers' group.  I suspect the request was more about the mechanics of blogging - how to get blogging space and get started - as opposed to the process of writing a blog.  After all, blogging is writing ; it's just that you get to decide when, where, and how to publish what you write.  That's part of blogging's attraction.

There are two primary ways to get started with your blog, with a third alternative that's a combination of the previous two. 
  1. Find a blogging service that will give you space - free or for a fee.  They become your web host; you publish your writing on their servers.  They provide the blogging tools (platform) so you don't have to do much technical setup. 
  2. Purchase a domain name and web hosting space from an online host; do your own technical setup to publish your blog using one of any number of free or fee-based blogging platforms. You publish your writing on the web host's servers.
  3. Purchase a domain name and web hosting space from an online host., use a blogging service to write your blog posts, and publish your writing to the web host's servers, not the blogging service's servers.
1. Blogging Service
There are many blogging services available. Just do a web search for "blogging services" and you'll get a ton of results that you can check.  Here's one result that compares a number of blogging services and tools (platforms) for you:

Once you select a service, you complete their forms and select a name for your blog.  Your blog will be published at a URL that looks something like this: http://maryjone'  That's the address you will give to friends and readers.

While the really technical setup will be done for you, you will have quite a selection available as to how you want your blog to look.  Expect to spend an hour or more on these next steps.
  • Selecting a template: This is a predefined setup that provides the overall look - color scheme, background, fonts, layout of elements on the page, etc.
  • Fine-tuning it to your needs: You'll have options to customize the template to suit you.   

2. Domain Name & Hosting Space
This is more technical than using a blogging service, thus the proliferation of bloggers who use blogging services.  Even Geeks like me, however, use blogging services (more on that later).

To claim your own domain name, you need to decide on a name, then register and pay for it.  Create a unique name that nobody else has claimed on the Internet.  It is fairly easy to find out during the registration process if your unique domain name has already been claimed by someone else.  The difficult part is coming up with a new name if that happens. Make sure you have one or two alternatives handy so you can switch names if your first choice is taken.  For me, it was pretty easy to come up with a unique name that I thought no one else would have claimed.  How many people would have named their domain, Claire'sCorner-OnMyMind?

This is where it gets a bit technical (or geeky, as I like to say).  Using the example name from Option 1 above, the URL for Mary's blog if she owned her domain name would be "http://maryjone'"  The domain name is the set of characters immediately preceding the .com or .net or any Internet extension.

In the first example, the URL was "http://maryjone'"; Mary Jone's name came before "" and was separated by a period.  The period in a domain name separates certain parts of the address from other parts, much as street #, street name, city, state, and zip separate physical addresses.  Whatever immediately precedes the extension is the actual domain name.  It's good to know this because it can help you ferret out the spam that hits your mailbox or spot faked URLs that might otherwise lead you to a site you thought was your bank or a reputable organization.

Anything preceding the domain name that follows either "www." or the two forward slashes "//" (if there is no "www.") is a subdomain; it is using a separate space on the domain's server but giving it a unique identity.  You will be the only one who has access to the data in that space unless you give someone else your login and password.

If you have a choice when setting up your domain, select the option to have but not force the "www." because domain names no longer need it.  Most people today just type in the domain name and are directed immediately to the site.  If you force a "www." on them and they don't type that in, you may lose visitors because they cannot find you.  If you don't have the "www." as an option, however, you may get an advertisement page or something else that isn't you. 

Understand that there are two parts to owning a domain name and getting a web host.
  • You claim (and thus own) a domain name through an Internet Registrar.  You pay an annual fee of anywhere from $8 - $20 dollars for your domain name.  
  • You get a web host through a web hosting company and pay a monthly fee.  Expect web hosting to cost anywhere from $3 - $12 and higher per month.  Many web hosts offer discounts for paying annually or paying for multiple years at one time. You can pay a lot more for additional services, higher bandwidth (if you expect thousands of visitors to your blog), or other customization to their standard packages.
Not all Internet Registrars are web hosts.  Not all web hosting companies are Internet Registrars.  Luckily, most web hosting companies will handle your domain name registration for you through an Internet Registrar so you can sign up for web hosting and claim a domain name at the same time in one process. 

Again, back to your search engine. This time, search for "web hosts."  Your results should include many, many options and a number of reviews.  To get you started, here is one review site that came up in my search,

Once you have your domain name and web host, you begin the technical process of setting up your blog. It makes sense, if you choose this option, decide on a platform first (more on that in another article) and choose a web hosting company that has that platform available and will do the installation for you.  Most web hosts have several options to choose from, so you should have no difficulty finding one that suits your budget and has the platform you need.  Expect to spend a few hours customizing the platform. 

3. Combining Domain Name Ownership & Web Hosting with Blogging Services
This is a popular alternative as it gives you your own domain name on a web host but the technical setup and management of your blog is minimal.  Even though I'm a hard-core Geek, I use this option for some programs, including my personal blog and several community resource sites I manage.  For the non-Geek or the Geek who doesn't have a lot of time to manage technical issues, it's the best of both worlds. 

Start by selecting and setting up a blogging service.  Get all your template selection and customization done and off your mind.  Start blogging.  Write to your heart's content.  See how it looks.  Make it work for you.

Meanwhile, you can search for a web host and register your domain name.  Once you've got that, there is some more technical work to do and your web host and blogging service will provide the information you need.  The Help files or Help Center in both these sites should have the information you need.

Your goal is to Redirect your blog from the blogging service to your domain .  Start at the blogging service technical area (setup, maintenance, whatever they call it) and search for that information.  What they ask for or give you for redirecting your blog is what you must get from your web host.  Print out or write down what you need, then go to your web host and find that information.  Back at your blogging service, it is often a matter of filling out two or three items on a form to get your blog redirected.

The best part of this method is that you will continue to log in and write your blog from the blogging service.  They've made it easy for you and it will continue to be easy.  Everything you post will automatically be forwarded (pushed is the term you'll often hear used) to your blog. 

One bonus you get with Options 1 and 3 is that you will have your own e-mail address at your domain name.  You can use your Gmail or Yahoo Mail or other accounts for general purposes and use your professional writer's e-mail address for your writing.   

Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Claire,

    This is a helpful post for people new to blogging. Much of the information out there is written with the assumption that most folks have a basic understanding in place; but many don't, I'm sure.

    One thing I've learned to do is purchase variations of my primary domain name to protect my branding efforts. For example, my blog (launching January 1st) is But I also purchased and, and recently I purchased the hyphenated versions of those three domains:, etc.

    This might overkill for some people, but I think it's a fairly common practice if you have any concern about protecting your domain. And something else I struggle with myself: When possible register for multiple years, because there are domain squatters who will jump on your domain as soon as it expires. Financially I can only afford to do this in one-year increments, but soon hope to register my domains for the five-year maximum offered via GoDaddy, with email reminders turned on so that when the expiration time rolls around, I will know to hop over to GoDaddy and renew my domains.

    Carla :)