If you ever wanted to start a blog or website but thought it was difficult and expensive to do, let me set your mind at ease - I wish I knew earlier how easy starting a blog is and how very inexpensive it is. If I could do it, you can definitely do it too.
Over 26% of all websites are powered by WordPress.org and it keeps growing. Over 500 sites per day are being created on WordPress.org. There are many famous WordPress sites - including The New York Times, National Geographic, People Magazine, and Forbes. And the soon to be famous 'The Art of Travel Hacking'!
I recommend starting with a self-hosted site using WordPress.org. This type of website gives you the most freedom and control over your own site. There is a small cost involved (less than 20¢/day) but in the long run it is definitely worth it to have complete control over your own website.
Don't get tricked into signing up for an account at WordPress.com - it's actually different than WordPress.org. The free account at WordPress.com is hosted by WordPress.com and your domain will include '.wordpress.com'. You will have limited control over your site.
The WordPress.org software is free and easy to install on your self hosted site.
Let me walk you through the steps.
Register Your Domain
The very first thing you will need to do when starting a blog is to come up with your domain name (examples: harvard.edu, wikipedia.org, or usatoday.com). This is harder than you think. Since March of 2016, there have been more than 326 million domains registered - you may think of the great name, but chances are someone else thought of it also and already registered it. I'll show you how to check if a domain is available.
I knew I wanted my domain to to include 'travel hacking' but also wanted it sound elegant. Somehow I came up with 'The Art of Travel Hacking' - I'm not sure if I remembered seeing 'The Art of Shaving' store in the mall or it came to me from reading 'The Art of War' book years ago. Luckily, it was available.
A few tips - you want something that is :
- preferably short
- try to get a .com web address if possible
- easy to remember
- includes words about your site content
- avoid numbers (when telling people about your blog, they won't know if the domain is '8' or 'eight')
- don't use words that sound alike (sense and cents).
You can get a domain from many places for a $5-12/year, but I would suggest just using Bluehost. Bluehost is how I started this blog, they make the process very easy and they even give you a FREE domain name when you sign up for 12 months of web hosting. It's a no brainer, why would pay for a domain somewhere else and have to deal with transferring/redirecting it to a different web host.
Setup Web Hosting
As mentioned above, Bluehost's main purpose is to act as your web host. This is where your blog/website lives - on a computer server in a data center. Since you are just getting started, I recommend Bluehost which is where I started my blog. Bluehost is a large company but they offer a great combination of speed, reliability, and 24/7 support for a very small price. I couldn't believe how inexpensive it was to get started.
Another great thing about Bluehost is that they include email addresses for you. It makes you look much more professional when you are using an email account from your own domain (TJ@theartoftravelhacking.com) instead of a generic google email account (TJ@gmail.com).
Bluehost also has a '1-Click' install of the WordPress.org free software I mentioned above, it couldn't be easier. Let me show you . .
Let's Get Started
Here is a step by step guide to follow along. I would suggest keeping this window open along side the window that will open in step #1 so you can follow along with the different steps.
2.) Click the 'get started now' button
3.) Just select the basic plan - we want to keep our expenses down as much as possible since we are just starting out. You can always upgrade to the plus or prime plan at a later date for just the difference in cost.
4.) Next is where we are going to see if the domain name we thought of is available, enter your desired domain and click 'next'. If the domain is not available, it will let you know. Keep trying until you get something you are happy with.
5.) If your domain name is available, you will be directed to the next page to setup your account information. It's all self explanatory.
6.) Next move on to the package options. You can lower the monthly price by selecting a term longer than 12 months.
I purchased a 36 month package to get the lower cost and to keep me blogging for at least 3 years (I hate buying something and not using it).
You can also uncheck the site backup, sitelock, etc. The only option I would consider is the Domain Privacy Protection. I didn't get it and regret it. You have to provide your contact information including phone number when signing up which becomes public record unless you select domain privacy. I immediately started to get unsolicited calls from all kinds of web developers looking to help me with my site.
7.) Finally, fill out your credit card information, check the box, and hit 'submit'. Don't forget Bluehost offers a 30 day money back guarantee.
Fantastic! - you are now all setup with your own domain name and web hosting provider.
Let's move on to the next steps . . .