How To Start A Blog Or A Website

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These days, there are about 2 billion websites and over 400 million blogs in the world. Despite the huge competition, many people decide to start an adventure with running their own websites.

In this article, you will find the most important tips and information about creating a blog or any website.

 

How To Start A Blog

 

The process of creating a website can be divided into several stages.

The first two decisions you need to make before setting up a blog is choosing your niche and choosing a blogging platform.

 

Choose Your Niche

 

Before you create your blog and start blogging, you need to do one very obvious thing – choose your niche.

You can create all your posts in just one niche (majority of blogs work this way) or you can create a few categories for a few different niches (like I did).

As it comes to choosing a niche, there are many various niches. Some of them are more profitable, some are less.

Samuel Zulu from trialsandtests.com has published an amazing post about the best niches for making money on your blog.

 

Comparison Of Blogging Platforms – Free And Paid Solutions

 

There are paid and free platforms. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages. Their comparison is shown in the table below.

 

Type Of A PlatformFreePaid
ExamplesWordPress.com, Blogger / Blogspot, Tumblr, Weebly, BloxWordPress.org, Joomla
Pros- no fees- professional address of a blog
- many opportunities of modifying appearance of your blog
- a lot of plugins (free and paid) which can significantly improve your blog's performance
- huge popularity of WordPress.org can help solve potential issues easier
- you can publish whatever you want and you can make money on your website / blog
- you are the only person who manages your website / blog
Cons- unprofessional address of your blog: domain_name.blogspot.com, domain_name.wordpress.com
- limitations in modifying appearance of your blog
- small disc space
- no plugins
- making money on free platforms is usually forbidden
- you are not the only one who manages your blog; there is also an administrator who can delete your blog without warning because of attempts of commercialization of your blog / website
- paying for hosting and a domain name is obligatory

 

As you can see, free platforms are not the best solution – they have a lot of restrictions.

If you are interested in running a website with a professional www address (without endings like: .blogspot.com, .wordpress.com etc.) and the possibility of making money on the website / blog, the only choice is the paid option.

Taking into account the two most popular paid platforms (WordPress.org and Joomla), WordPress is definitely the better one. Currently, it is the most common platform in the world, which is also characterized by a slightly easier management than the competitive Joomla.

Since the choice of the platform has been made, it is time to describe the components required to create a blog or a website. These components are: hosting and domain name.

In fact, these two components (except a few paid, optional plugins) are the only paid elements of the whole puzzle, because Joomla and WordPress itself do not require any payment for the purchase and installation.

 

What Is Hosting And What Is A Domain Name

 

Every website available on the web, must be stored on a server. Such a server (its disk space and other components) is referred to as hosting.

The domain name is a name specifying the website address (it is something like the website address, but without the prefix http(s)://www.), e.g. alivebetter.com, onet.pl, facebook.com, google.com.

The suffix after the dot in the domain name is called the extension.

The best and the most popular extensions are: .com, .org, .net, .biz, .eu, .co.uk and all abbreviations related to the names of countries.

Recently, domains with endings such as: .club, .life, .tech, .online, .store, .world appear. It is possible that they will become more popular in the future .

 

Features Of A Good Domain Name

 

A good internet domain name should have several of the following features:

  • possibly short – a domain name with an extension should not exceed 20-30 characters; the shorter the domain name, the better; wonderfulwebsiteaboutthepoliticalmovies.com would be definitely too long name;
  • dictionary – the domain name should contain words appearing in the dictionary (it can not be a string of random characters, eg wfn8o4gtkhi.com); each string of random characters is a pretty bad domain name;
  • related to the industry (type of business) – if your site is about fashion or motorization, do not choose a domain like lovelydogs.com;
  • easy to remember – potential readers and / or customers should not have a problem remembering the website address;
  • should contain your keywords;
  • may contain your name, surname or company name (if you have one);
  • it should not contain numbers; exceptions are numbers 24 and 365; prodiagnostics24.com is a very good domain name;
  • should not contain hyphens;
  • should pass the so-called domain radio test – if you tell someone a domain name, for example, by phone, they should not have any doubts about how to write / spell the name.

 

Where To Buy Domain Name And Hosting

 

Since you already know what is hosting, what is a domain name, and what are the features of a valuable domain name, it’s time to get information about the process of purchasing them.

Regarding the choice of hosting company and domain registrar, I have created separate entries. Here I will write very briefly: two best hosting companies – SiteGround and Kinsta, two best domain registrars – Namecheap and OVH.

Important:

If you want to purchase a domain in a company other than your hosting company (this is the option I recommend to everyone), first buy the domain and then the hosting. This order is very important, because when you create an account with the hosting provider (at least in case of SiteGround) there will be two options to choose from: either you already have a domain and you will type it, or you must register it with the hosting company when setting up your account.

Since you can purchase very cheap domain with OVH or with Namecheap, I recommend purchasing it before buying the server.

If a domain name with particular extension was unavailable, it may be necessary to buy it from another registrar (the two companies mentioned by me provide almost 100% of all extensions available in the world).

If you want to buy another domain in the future and connect it to the same server, you can do it in the hosting provider’s admin panel.

Coming back to choosing a domain, there is also a second way to acquire it. Instead of registering a new domain name, you can buy a domain name which has been registered some time ago by somebody else. However, this option has its pros and cons.

One of the main advantages is the fact that a few-years old domain will be easier to rank in search engines than a completely new one.

The biggest drawback of such searches is the cost of buying a domain. While the new domain can be purchased for around $10, buying a few-years old domain (which is naturally more valuable) is equal to spending thousands dollars depending on the name of the domain, its age and its history.

Examples of popular sites that bring together domain sellers and buyers are Sedo and GoDaddy.

 

What Is Worth Checking Before Buying Old Domain Name

 

Before you decide to purchase an old domain name, it’s worth checking out some of the aspects listed below.

Information about the age and owner of the domain

whois.domaintools.com – on this page you will check when the domain was registered for the first time, in which company the registration was made (or where the host is located) and who owns the domain (if the person does not use the option of hiding their personal data).

Previous content of the page

web.archive.org – on this site you can check how the page looked like at certain moments in the past.

Checking if the domain has been recognized to be spammy

ultratools.com – check here whether the domain is known for sending spam (if it is, its purchase naturally does not make any sense).

Site verification for spyware, viruses, etc.

There are two valuable sites offering such scanners: sitecheck.sucuri.net and safeweb.norton.com.

 

Domain Name Value Appraisal

 

When it comes to the valuation of the old internet domain name, it is quite difficult to make it precisely. Some people say that the domain name is worth as much as the customer is willing to pay for it.

However, there are several tools available for free that can help to deal with the domain name value appraisal.

The two most recommended are Free Valuator and a Free Domain Value and Appraisal Tool from GoDaddy.

The first one takes into account such factors as the name and age of the domain, Alexa ranking, and the content of the site.

The second one reviews transaction history of similar domains and the amounts of these transactions and, on this basis, makes a valuation.

 

How To Buy Domain From Its Previous Owner

 

If you decide to buy a domain from its previous owner, you may be wondering how to make the payment and whether the previous owner will actually give you ownership of the domain after receiving money.

In this situation, escrow transactions are your help. The process of such a purchase has been described on the Namecheap blog.

 

How To Point Domain Name To The Server

 

Two Important Notices:

1. The part concerning SiteGround was written a long time before introducing New Client Area and Site Tools.

2. This part of the article shows you how to do basic set up of your blog. However, if you decide to run your blog or website for a long period of time, you will have to consider implementing a good-quality CDN such as Cloudflare. More information is available in AliveBetter’s Speed Optimization Guide.

 

If you have already purchased a domain name and hosting, it’s time to put these two things together. Otherwise you will not be able to create anything on your website.

DNS settings for SiteGround server

First, log in to the SiteGround admin panel. Then click on My Accounts -> Information & Settings and copy the values from the Account DNS section.

SiteGround DNS 2018

Alternatively, you can copy them from whois.domaintools.com if they appear there.

Whois DomainTools - AliveBetter com

The next step is to log in to the company that registered your internet domain, find the appropriate fields and paste the values copied from the administration panel of your hosting provider.

For Namecheap, click Domain List in the menu on the left, then Manage next to the domain you want to connect to the server. In the Nameservers section, select Custom DNS option from the list and paste the values copied from the hosting provider’s panel.

Namecheap DNS

For another domain registrar, you may need to connect the server by adding an A Record to the domain DNS zone. An example of such configuration can be found on the screenshot below.

OVH - DNS settings

One might say that this screen concerns the domain associated with Cloudways server, but my intention is to show you an example.

The name (or domain) should be the name of the domain that you want to connect to the server. Many companies use ‘@’ or ‘www’ record instead of a domain name. The first one means the domain name without the prefix ‘www’, and the second one domain name with ‘www’.

It’s a good idea to create A Records using both of these forms. This way, you can be sure that both domain_name.extension and www.domain_name.extension typed in the address bar will direct the user to the appropriate address.

Record type – in this case it must be A.

The destination address (target) is the IP address of your server (in case of SiteGround, it can be found in My Accounts tab or in cPanel).

TTL (Time To Live) is the time in seconds for changes in the DNS zone to be visible on the Internet. By default, the DNS record update process takes from several to 72 hours. If you set a short time in the TTL field, the update will end at the specified time, eg 1 minute (60 seconds) or 5 minutes (300 seconds).

Other records visible in the screen shot appeared automatically after domain registration.

DNS settings for Cloudways server

For Cloudways hosting, it is not possible to add NS records (nameservers) to the domain DNS zone. It is necessary to add previously described A Records.

The following screenshot shows where you can find the required IP address (Servers tab).

Cloudways - server IP address

The second option is to go to the Applications tab in the top menu and select the appropriate page / domain.

Cloudways - application IP address

DNS settings of alivebetter.pl domain have already been presented.

Below are the DNS settings for alivebetter.com domain.

Namecheap - DNS settings 01

Custom DNS option which was required for SiteGround server should now be changed to Namecheap BasicDNS.

Namecheap - DNS settings 02

The screen above presents previously discussed A Records with ‘@’ and ‘www’ symbols. Their function is to redirect both alivebetter.com and www.alivebetter.com to the specific IP address (address of the server which hosts my website).

What happens if there are several websites on the server and they are available through the same IP address? Each site is located in a separate directory, so the user will see actual content.

Your domain and hosting should now work well together, so it’s time for the main part.

 

Choosing Theme For Your Website

 

I have already written a separate article about the best themes for WordPress websites. Here, I can tell you that both my blogs are running on a free version of Astra theme.

 

WordPress Admin Panel

 

In this part of the article we will finally start the right work on the site.

The process of installing WordPress on the server depends largely on your hosting provider. Oftentimes, you need to go through the short installation wizard in order to install WordPress. In many cases, the installation is not required at all, as WordPress is available on the server as soon as it is launched.

Let’s move on to the WordPress admin panel.

To get to that panel, enter domain_name.extension/wp-admin (alternatively domain_name.extension/wp-login.php) in the address bar of your web browser.

After pressing Enter, you will see a window similar to the one in the screenshot below.

WordPress - logging

The next screenshot shows management panel of the WordPress platform.

WordPress dashboard - AliveBetter

A multitude of available functions and buttons may seem frightening at first, but in everyday use it’s enough to use just a few of them.

One of the most important options is the Posts button in the menu on the left. This is where you will create new posts and edit already created ones.

WordPress - posts

The next important option is Pages. You will create additional pages such as “Contact” or “About me” here. Their creation is not too complicated. You can use such plugins as Elementor in order to create these pages in visual mode.

WordPress - pages

Each page and each post can be set up as private, public or password protected.

With each post, it is possible to set the date of its editing. In order to increase the reach and popularity of the blog it is worth to edit and update old blog posts.

The Appearance -> Themes section is for managing themes.

WordPress - themes

Appearance -> Widgets, in turn, allows you to add various widgets to particular elements of the page. For example, you can place them in the sidebar assuming that your theme allows to do it.

WordPress - widgets

Another important option is Appearance -> Menus. This is where you can create a multi-level, expanding menu in visual mode.

WordPress - menu

One of the most important options is Plugins in the menu on the left. With this option, you can significantly increase the possibilities of WordPress and make your work easier.

WordPress - plugins

More information and a list of about 40 most important and best WordPress plugins can be found in this article.

It’s also worth to go to the Settings -> General tab and provide some basic information about your site.

This is where you enter the exact address of your site, including or omitting ‘www.’ depending on your preferences.

WordPress - settings general

In the upper right corner you can go to editing the administrator profile. There’s also an option to log out from the panel.

This part of the article briefly presents the basic and most important functionalities related to WordPress management. You will learn the other options over time and then you will gain more experience in using the platform.