These days, when you own a business, you pretty much have to have a presence on the internet. It’s usually the first place people look when looking for products and services, and marketing surveys constantly list blogs as one of the best tools for generating sales leads. To those of us who are not programmers, or even all that tech savvy, the whole concept of setting up a website or blog can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What should you include? How do you do it? Website or blog?
When I first started the old version of this blog, Animal Massage Guide, in 2008, I didn’t know a thing about code, widgets, plugins, etc. But I was determined to get the blog up and running, and I learned with the help of a blogging coach and a lot of trial and error. When I was organizing and cleaning up the posts to get them ready for the launch of this site, I realized how much I have learned. My keyword choices were terrible, there were posts with no images at all, and the whole site was really poorly organized.
So I decided to start this “How to start a blog” series to share what I have learned, which can hopefully help you get your own blog up and running quickly and easily.
Website or Blog?
When I first started, if you wanted a website, you had to hire one or two people for website design and programming, and when you wanted to update your site, you had to ask that person for help. These days, setting up a website is so much easier! There are sites where you pick a template, customize it to your own needs and voila! Instant website. I have my photo website on a service called Zenfolio, which is designed for visual artists with easy ways to add galleries, etc. It didn’t take me long to set my site up and I’m very happy with it. For those with more service-oriented businesses, there are sites like Wix, Weebly, etc. with lots of templates to choose from, and customization options for each.
You can also set up a blog to look and work as a website. You just need to make the front page static and put your information in pages instead of posts. But more on that in a separate post – this one is about blogs.
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
You can either blog for free at sites like WordPress.com and Blogger (formerly Blogspot, owned by Google), or you can get hosted blogging, where you register your own domain name and pay a hosting company to host your site. I personally prefer WordPress over Blogger, and I also like to own my domain name and have full control over my blog. But there are pros and cons to both approaches. Below are the main points for each option.
WordPress.com (the free version) Pros:
- It’s free
- It’s very easy to set up
- You get to pick from their pre-installed themes, stat counters and widgets
- Your posts are automatically backed up
- You don’t have to do any site maintenance (upgrades, etc.)
- You need hardly any technical knowledge
- Your domain name will have .wordpress.com at the end (i.e. www.animalwellnessguide.wordpress.com) unless you upgrade to a paid account and buy your own domain name
- You can’t upload your own theme
- You can’t modify the themes supplied by WordPress (unless you upgrade to a paid account)
- You can’t upload and use plugins
- You can’t put videos on your site (unless you upgrade and pay a fee)
- You are not allowed to put ads on your site
- WordPress.com sometimes put ads on your site
- You don’t own your domain name
WordPress.org (self hosted) Pros:
- You have your own unique domain name (www.animalwellnessguide.com)
- You can upload and use any theme you want
- You can modify your theme to change the look of your site any way you want
- You have complete control of your site, put anything you want on it
- You’ll have to buy your own domain name (a .com domain is usually around $13 – $14/year)
- It does require a bit more technical knowledge to get your site up & running
- You’re responsible for upgrades, backups, etc.
- You will have to have your site hosted somewhere (which costs from $5 and up per month)
If you have a hobby or family blog, WordPress.com is a great way to go. However, for a small business, I think it’s important to have full control of your blog and make it stand out from the rest. So even though it may sound like a lot of work, and there are a few expenses involved, I recommend the self hosted option.
Other posts in this series include:
- how to set up a free blog
- step-by-step guide to setting up a self-hosted blog
- choosing a theme
- installing WordPress and activating your theme
- how to publish pages
- posts, categories and keywords
- installing plugins
For a list of the blogging products I use and recommend, see the Recommended Blogging / Website Resources page.