Introduction To Blogging – Part 3b: Setting Up A Blog On A Private Domain

Warning: this article, by necessity, touches on some technical webmastering details. If you want to set up a blog but do not want to use a free host, then this article is for you. However, if you find it too technical, you may want to consult a a friend who understands this stuff. I’ll do my best to keep the technical aspects to a minimum. I do not provide specific details of installation and configuration.

So, you’ve decided to forego a free host and use your own web domain for your new blog because of the freedom it affords you. The steps to do so are functionally simple, but there are important differences compared to using a free host. Here are the general steps:

  1. Choose a domain name for your blog that best represents what you will be writing about.
  • When you choose a domain name, you might consider the terms “blog”, “diary”, “journal”, or “letters” as part of the name. There are some bloggers who think that the term “blog” might not be in use in a few years. I personally don’t think it matters that much: use what you are comfortable with.
  • Unfortunately, a lot of short, popular keywords and phrases have already been registered as domain names. You may have to come up with a large list of name options, and check them in decreasing order of preference.
  • There are a number of websites that offer free domain name checking. For example, http://www.internic.ca, http://www.internic.com, and variations thereof for several other countries. Most Internet hosting providers also offer a domain name checking service that tells you whether the name is taken or not.
  • If you plan to use your website to promote your business, it is recommended that you register your domain name for at least two years. This helps your standing in the Search Engines, and indicates that you intend to do serious business on the Internet instead of becoming a “spammer”. Of course, if you are promoting your business, the domain name should probably be similar to your business name. Your blog can then simply be setup in a subdirectory of your domain.
  • Choose a hosting plan.
    • Once your domain is registered, you need to pay for the monthly cost of site bandwidth. With most hosting providers, you can register a domain and set up the hosting all in one session. However, you should understand the difference:
      • Registering a domain name is like registering a business name with the government, but it also gives you your future web address, or URL.
      • Setting up a hosting plan is the equivalent of paying for monthly rent for an office space for your business. If you choose the right hosting provider, you can do all the setup in one place.
    • Compare the hosting plans of several hosting providers. Most of them will let you upgrade later, painlessly. But changing providers later is a pain and is best avoided, so choose carefully. If you’re just starting out, there’s no need to spend lots of money getting advanced hosting plans. Unless you have tons of money and plan a huge promotional campaign. In which case, it’s unlikely you need to read the rest of this article or series 🙂
  • Set up your blog. Here’s where things could get technical, and there are a lot of options.
    • If you don’t have a technical friend you can rely on, your hosting provider may offer a service where they do this for you, as part of their hosting account package, or may charge you a setup fee. One of my providers has an administrative panel where you can enter some information (such as your new blog’s name, etc), and the blog will be set up for you after you click “install”. Many providers offer this type of easy install, but they do not always have any of the popular blogging platforms.
    • If you want to use one of the more popular platforms, such as MovableType, WordPress, TextPattern, Drupal, etc., you’ll need to download the software from the source, then upload it to your new domain’s web server (host), then install it. This is too technical to explain properly in a single article. I recommend finding a host or a webmaster that will do this for you. For example, both MovableType and WordPress have teamed up with hosting providers to do this. You would have to register your domain name elsewhere, but then set up hosting with them.
    • There are far too many blogging platforms and too many differences of installation to get into the details here. In fact, I could fill a book talking about the different blogging platforms. All of the popular platforms have reasonably well-written instructions. Here’s my summary of a few platforms I’m familiar with:
      • While Blogger.com is most often used with the controversial Blogspot.com domain, you can use Blogger.com’s interface to set up a blog on your own domain.
      • Blogger.com is very easy to set up and use. It’s a bare-bones blogging platform, but it’s not a bad starting point for new bloggers.
      • WordPress.org’s WordPress is super-simple to install and has a whole host of “skins” (templates) and plugins for special functionality. I love the easy install, but many of my favourite WordPress plugins slow the website down, forcing me to disable them. This platform is quite popular amongst non-technical bloggers who manage their own domain.
      • SixApart.com’s MovableType is easy to use. I enjoy the interface, and use it almost daily for a blog I write for someone else. But because I focus on free, OpenSource CMSes (Content Management Systems), I haven’t used the full version of MovableType on any of my sites. (There is an older free “personal” version.)
      • SixApart also offers their own free OpenSource platform called LiveJournal. You can use their free hosting, which in principal is like Blogspot.com. But if you don’t want their banner ads showing, you have to pay a monthly fee. You can also down load the LiveJournal platform code and install it on your own domain. Unfortunately, unless you have a background in using the Linux operating system, you probably shouldn’t even attempt it.
      • Drupal.org’s Drupal is arguably one of the most versatile and well-supprted blogging platforms. I’ve selected it for my next round of blogs. However, it’s not an easy install like WordPress. Furthermore, according to the Drupal community, domains set up with some hosting providers may produce database problems. I’ve encountered this issue myself and haven’t decided what to do.
      • TextPattern, BoastMachine, Nucleus and several other newer platforms are gaining in popularity. They’re relatively easy to use and install. In fact, some hosting providers offer one or more of them with point-and-click install simplicity.
      • Most of the above require that you at least know how to “FTP” files, and what that means.
      • OpenSourceCMS.com has a detailed survey of many more blogging platforms and other CMSes. There are demos of each platform as well.
  • Set up a welcome page. Once your blog is set up, you can start posting entries. Most blogging platforms display entries in reverse chronological order. Nevertheless, it’s appropriate to start with a “welcome” post, explaining what your intent is, what you will be writing about, and how often.
  • Keep in mind that you can combine a regular website with a blog. In such an instance, the main page looks like a regular website, but there would be an area on the page with a “featured article”. My suggestion, if you’re just starting out, is to keep it simple. There is time later to re-design your website, and to customize the page template. I know I’ve glossed over a lot of very technical details, but you can learn along the way.

    In the next article, I’ll talk about how to promote your blog, whether you’ve used a free host or a private host. In a still later article, I’ll talk a bit about ad networks and how you might earn some advertising revenue.

    (c) Copyright: 2006-present, Raj Kumar Dash, Chameleon Integration