You know now that you should blog. You may have even thought about what it is you should be blogging about. In case you haven’t, the one sentence answer is: Blog about what you know about.
Now comes the technology…
Where should I blog?
When I get this question, I like to look at the objectives before I answer it.
If you are blogging as yourself about a light topic, and you might like to make some extra income from your writing, but that’s not the major objective, then you should examine the free (or inexpensive), multi-user options like WordPress.com, Blogger or LiveJournal. Consider not just today, but where you see your activities in a year down the road, or three.
If yours is a more serious venture, or a more serious topic, where professionalism is key to success, I tend to advise people not to use these free tools, and go with a hosted solution.
There are a few different hosted blogging platforms available, but the superior one is the hosted version of WordPress, downloaded for free from WordPress.org.
The advantages of the self-hosted vs. the WordPress.com version are numerous:
- You can add as many plugins as you wish with the self-hosted version, but you are limited with WordPress.com to their smaller list of approved plugins.
- You are able to add, modify or create your own theme with the self-hosted version, but again, you are limited with WordPress.com to their approved themes.
- Properly cared for, your content is 100% safe (in the very unlikely event that WordPress.com or LiveJournal goes out of business, the hosted version on your totally separate server, with your very own backups is safe and sound).
- You are even able to modify the WordPress programming itself, if necessary.
When selecting the hosted version of WordPress, it is important to select a website hosting company that is familiar with WordPress. For example, at our website hosting company (dotcanuck Web Services), we host many websites that operate using WordPress, so our support staff are intimately familiar with what is involved.
When image is critical, we also have a website design team with a tremendous amount of experience selecting and skinning appropriate WordPress themes, and building them from scratch.
What should my website address be?
You can move your website down the road, but it is better to have it hosted in the same location for it’s entire lifetime. Think not only about search engines, but every other incoming link – digg’s, tweets, and even people’s personal bookmarks – all of these could die if you moved it to a new location in the future.
Again, if your blog is on a topic that you don’t anticipate could ever become a serious business, by all means keep it on the free website address you get with your multi-user option. But if it is on a serious topic, with a serious business intent, invest a small amount of money to have it hosted, and register a domain name.
What should I think about when registering a domain name?
Consider your audience.
If you are appealing to a global audience, look for a .COM domain name that describes your topic. If you cannot find .COM, look at alternatives like .NET, but be careful – people may judge you, and presume you are less of an authority if you use the wrong domain name – too many dashes, too long, an inappropriate top-level domain, too cryptic or clever, beginning with a number, etc.
If you are appealing to a specific country, register a domain name using their country code. For a Canadian audience, you would register a domain name ending with .CA. Similarly, for a UK audience, you would register a domain name that ends with .CO.UK.
American’s beware: this is pretty standard in every country in the world, except the United States, where a .US domain tells the message that we couldn’t get the .COM. (The other consideration is language, of course, but we can’t help you there.)
Don’t make the mistake of looking for a name, finding it’s registered, and moving on. Make a note of these names and contact the owners to find out if they are for sale. Domain names are real estate like any other kind, only virtual. People buy and sell them all the time.
Now it may be that your name is registered, and the owner does intend to use that for some other purpose, so it’s not for sale. But if you find that the website address does not resolve, or it comes up with a multi-link “parking” page, the chances are pretty good that it’s for sale.
People in the domain name speculation business, called domainers, are not as daft as they once were, either. Unless they have a million dollar domain name, most of them are not foolishly holding out for a million dollars. Domain names commonly resell for under $1,000 on exchanges like Sedo.
While WordPress.com does allow you to use your own domain name for a fee, the extra cost of this service there is nearly as much as a web hosting company might sell a package to self-host WordPress. The greater flexibility with the self-hosted version is too great to pass by for the sake of a few dollars a month.
If you are building an entire website, there are blog options within CMS systems like Drupal and Joomla for people who are building an entire website, too. Keep in mind, however, that entire websites are often using the self-hosted version of WordPress – it’s not just a tool for blogs. Perhaps the most popular example of this is CNN.com.