Example

At this point in the process, you have your niche blogging topic and your domain name. The next step in the process of setting up a profitable blog is picking a hosting company. With all of the different options out there today, it can get confusing, so let’s take a look at what you really need out of your hosting provider as you start your profitable blog and your business. The following article is going to provide my suggestions and experience as it pertains to web hosting and web hosting providers.

What is a web hosting company?

First, for those of you that are not already familiar with web hosting, what is a web hosting company?

According to Wikipeida.com:

A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to make their own website accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server they own or lease for use by their clients as well as providing Internet connectivity, typically in a data center. Web hosts can also provide data center space and connectivity to the Internet for servers they do not own to be located in their data center, called colocation.

Simply put…a web host rents out server space to you and makes that information available on the web. By renting space in these large data centers, you are able to make your content visible to the world in your search to create a successful blog. You have to choose a web host provider if you are going to have your WordPress blog with your own domain name. When you use free services such as WordPress.com or Blogger, you are using space on their data centers and you have to use their domain names. Using your own domain name and servers gives you the freedom to realize true success through blogging.

Keeping Domain Names Separate from Hosting Accounts

For the purposes of this series, I am going to recommend that you keep your domain names with a different provider (we used GoDaddy in the previous step) than your web hosting company. The reason for this is very simple. If you ever want to change your hosting provider in the future due to any number of reasons, it is much easier to do so when your domains are not tied to that company. Switching hosting companies can be a relatively easy process when you do not have to worry about your domain names.

Choosing the Right Hosting Company for Your Blog

When you start looking at different hosting companies to host your WordPress blog, there are several aspects you need to look at before dropping your hard earned money on server real estate.

  1. Price – Everyone has a limit on what they want to spend. Luckily for you, there are a lot of really affordable options when it comes to web hosting. Typical web hosting plans are going to start around 5 bucks a month and go up to around $12. For beginning bloggers, plans in this price range should suit you perfectly as you continue to grow your readership and traffic. You are making an investment in your future by using your own domain name and host company, but luckily…at this point in time…the investment is pretty small.
  2. Updated Technologies – Your web hosting company needs to keep up to date on all of the latest web server technologies. I know what you are thinking…I have no freaking clue what those technologies are…much less what version they should be running! That’s ok…almost 99% of all of the reliable web hosting companies out there are completely up to date.
  3. Up Time – While most companies are going to claim 99% up-time on their website (who would advertise 75%?), I would do some preliminary web research to see what other website owners experiences are with the host in question. Any down time (periods of time where your website is not available to your readers due to server issues) can really hurt your progress and bottom line. If you see A LOT of downtime in reviews of that host, I would avoid them and move to the next. Nothing is more annoying than down time issues while you are trying to grow your site.
  4. Domains, Traffic and Space – With most affordable web hosting options out there, you are going to get unlimited amounts of all of these (or more than you could possibly use). When you are choosing a web host for your WordPress blog, make sure you have plenty of room to grow for the future.

My Experience With Web Hosting Companies

I have had a checkered experience with web hosting from the beginning, so hopefully my experience can help you avoid the same headaches that I have had in the past. Like most beginning bloggers, I originally setup a Blogger account and got to writing. After about a weeks worth of content production, I realized that Blogger was not going to fit my needs, so I went in search of a web host.

I started off with Hostmonster.com to handle my domain and hosting needs and it ended up being a nightmare. At one point in time, I actually had a 2.5 day down period. During that time, they did not even move to a backup! They were…by far…my most frustrating problem when it came to blogging and it was completely out of my control. After multiple down-time occasions just like that one, I decided it was time to get away from Hostmonster and find another host that would be able to deliver reliable service. The move was a complicated one as I had my domain name tied to my Hostmoster.com account. I was able to move all of the information safely to another hosting provider, but getting that domain moved was a different monster all together. This is why I recommend hosting your domain names separate of your blog’s web hosting company. By taking that step, you are preventing this situation and saving yourself money in the future (you still have to pay for the hosting during that period you are moving your domain name).

After Hostmonster, I moved all of my information over to Hostgator. Hostgator provided reliable hosting for my blogs for a long time. With very minimal downtime (and great reaction time/support if something did come up), I would consider Hostgator a great hosting company for beginning bloggers.

During my time with Hostgator, my traffic on multiple blogs continued to grow to the point where I needed some faster servers and a more “enterprise” solution for my hosting needs. I now had a viable company that I was running, so a little bit more personal attention was needed to bring my blogging to the next level. When it came to decision time, I chose Sliqua (you can even see a screenshot of my MTB homepage on theirs!). Sliqua provides incredible support, speed and reliability that is needed for top level blogging, but you pay for it.

What Is My Recommendation For New Bloggers?

Here the route that I would take if I had it to do all over again. First, I would register my domain names through GoDaddy and then pick up a hosting account with HostGator. You are able to keep your domains separate from your hosting account and both companies do an incredible job. By doing this…you should be set for your first couple of years of blogging until your needs change. Once you hit the big time and start looking for more expensive hosting options, I would hook up with a company like Sliqua or invest in your own dedicated servers. Luckily, you will not have to worry about this until some time down the road, and you can get to posting that juicy content on your blog right away with a reliable set of resources.

Now that you have your domain name and web hosting provider, we are going to need to setup your DNS name servers and your WordPress installation. That is going to be handled in the next How To Start A Blog article.

Example

Since you have already taken the first step and chose your blog’s niche topic, it is time to tackle the domain name for your blog.

Choosing the right domain name can prove to be a difficult task…especially in crowded niche’s where many of the typical names will already be taken. With a little creativity and planning, you can have a catchy, easy to remember domain name that you can start to build your brand around for years to come.

Do Not Make The Same Mistake I Did

One of the main reasons for publishing the How To Start A Blog series is to prevent early mistakes you can make as a blogger. Lucky for you and unfortunately for me…we can learn from my early mistakes as a blogger so that you can use that knowledge and experience as you move forward. Through this…you don’t have to make the same mistakes that I did!

Early in my blogging, I picked a domain name that I liked that seemed relevant at the time, but it was difficult to remember in hindsight. MTBTrailReview.com is not the easiest url to pass along to other mountain bikers at the local trailhead. Luckily, you can change urls (going to bike198.com…see how much easier that is to remember?) but the process is a tedious one that requires A LOT of work and planning. By taking the extra brainstorming time in the beginning of the blogging process, you can save yourself a lot of headache in the future.

Brainstorming Domain Name Ideas

The world of domain names is becoming increasingly crowded as more websites and blogs are added to the net on a daily basis. Choosing the right domain name for your blog might be a long road of brainstorming ideas, or a quick guess that hits with the first try. Start with a list of keywords and catchy phrases that are directly related to your niche blog topic. These are going to be the foundation in which you build your blog’s domain name.

Note: It is a proven fact that url’s help with general SEO, so having specific, related keywords in your domain name will help in the long run.

Once you have a list of specific keywords, start looking for catchy ways to string several together in an easy to remember domain name. The idea is to have a unique enough domain name that sets you apart from your competition that is also easy to remember. If you are making strictly a personal blog, your name would be a good choice but that is not required.

Remember, your domain name is what you are going to build your branding around as a blogger, so think of your domain name as your brand name as you continue to look for the best name for your blog.

Researching Domain Name Availability

Now that you have several ideas ready to go, head over to GoDaddy.com to research the availability of your domain name choices. GoDaddy.com makes it extremely easy to research domain names through their home page and they even go as far to recommend alternative choices if your potential domain name is already taken. You might get lucky and hit your favorite right off the bat. In most cases…you won’t and this is where you are going to need to start to get a little bit creative. If you have several names that you really like but are already taken, head over to thesaurus.com and try out different, similar word combination’s. In some cases, I have actually come up with domain names through that process that I liked better than my originals.

Try to keep your domain name short and to the point as you research into different options for your blog. There is a lot of argument around the web on .com vs. .net vs. .me etc. Typically, I would stick to the .com’s and .net’s if possible as they are the easiest to remember for potential blog visitors. In the past, I used to soak up all of the potential endings for brand protection…but sticking to the main ones and saving a little bit of money is proving to be the best tactic at this time.

You Found The Right Domain For Your Blog

Great! You have your own domain name that you are ready to purchase to build your brand and your blog. GoDaddy.com has a great url/domain name backend, so I recommend that you go ahead and purchase it right there. With some of the best pricing on the internet and easy search-ability for possible domain names, GoDaddy.com just makes sense for domain name management. As you continue with your blogging career, there are probably going to be other domain names that you want to scoop up in the future, and I would keep them all at GoDaddy (that is where I keep all of mine).

Now that you have purchased the right domain name for your blog…we need to move onto hosting your blog and installing WordPress…and that is coming up next so stay tuned!

Choosing the Right Niche for You is the first article in the How To Start A Blog series.

Choosing the right niche topic to blog about is the first decision any beginning blogger needs to make. As much as we wish we could just shake up the Magic 8 Ball for the answer on the perfect blogging topic…that just isn’t an option. Unfortunately, many first time bloggers go through all of the trouble of setting up a domain name, WordPress and the design without the first idea of what they are going to write about. The problem with taking this route is that your url and design should reflect your topic…thus…your niche should be selected before these items…not after. So…as you venture onto your new blogging career, what are you going to write about that is going to shake the world up and change blogging forever?

Choosing the Right Niche – Blogging About a Specific Topic

Many failed blogs on the net failed because they had no purpose or direction. Many bloggers just wing it in the beginning hoping that something eventually sticks. Now…if you are just looking to have a personal blog that shows what you are doing throughout your life and you are not looking to make any income from your blogging, then having a blog without a direction is ok. You are just blogging for the sake of sharing your life and thoughts…not creating a business or income generation. When you are looking to generate income through your blogging and make money online that will hopefully replace that 9-5 that you love to hate, you need to have a direct purpose in your blogging with a defined subject matter.

Are you passionate about your blog topic?

This is the first question any beginning blogger should ask them self. Many blogs fail because the blogger chose a topic based on monetary potential with zero passion on the subject. You have to be able to churn out quality, informative blog articles on a daily basis, so to be successful with your blogging, you have to be passionate about your subject and blogging niche. Without that passion, your blog will eventually fade out due to the lack of true interest in generating more content on a topic that you really have no interest in. Ask yourself several questions during your quest for the perfect blogging topic for you.

  • What do you like to do?
  • What drives you to be better?
  • Is there a niche that you are involved with on a weekly basis…daily basis?
  • What do you do now that you would like to be better at with time?

The goal is to become an expert in your field (not necessary at startup), so as you go through the process of setting up your blog and generating content, you need to have a working knowledge of what you are writing about. Even better, you need to have a unique voice that goes along with that content to separate yourself from the other bloggers in your niche.

Hint: Don’t blog about making money online or blogging if you have not been successful in either category. At the same time, don’t blog about how to drive a race car if you have never been on a track…see my point?

Blogging…when it boils down to it…should be a fun activity that you enjoy. It should not be work that has to be completed everyday and by being passionate about your blog topic, you will be able to grow your blog during the years to come.

Are search engine readers searching for your blogging niche?

Once you have decided on a subject to blog about, you need to do some preliminary research into your “competition” and keyword search volume. If you are going to blog about gardening, here are the steps I would take to make sure you have a viable, potential readership that is worth writing for.

  • Go to Google and type in different series of keywords (ex. Gardening Blog, How to grow a garden, Successful Gardening, How to grow tomatoes, etc.) and see what the results are. Visit those blogs/websites and check out their subscriber count (if posted) and comment interaction on their articles. You can also find some background information through Alexa.com (not conclusive…especially for some niche’s) on those specific sites to get an idea on how much traffic that blog receives.
  • Next, I would go to the Google Keyword Tool and type in those same keywords. This Keyword Tool will give you an idea of the monthly search volume for that specific keyword combination as well as suggested related keywords. This will give you an idea about how many people are searching for your given blog topic.

If you are finding decent search volume with several related blogs, you have probably picked a niche topic that is worth writing about. If there is very low search volume and basically zero competition, you might need to look into expanding your blog topic or look for a completely different niche all together. There have been very successful blogs in small niches, but with a smaller audience to target, it will be much harder to be successful and generate traffic.

Narrowing Down Your Blogging Niche

Many times, you are going to pick a blog topic that has an extremely wide scope. I have found that it is best (especially in the beginning) to narrow down that niche into something that is more manageable. You will see better results in the beginning as you really focus on a sub-niche of your blogging topic. With the gardening example, if you are really good at growing vegetables, I would start a blog on how to grow a successful garden full of vegetables. Another option is narrowing down your topic geographically to get a better target audience that you can connect with (ex. Gardening in the southeast US). This does not mean that you can not expand your blog in the future to include a wider assortment of topics, but by narrowing your niche down in the beginning, you are increasing your success rate by focusing on a specific topic that readers will be able to relate to. By being spread to thin, you are increasing your chances for failure by taking on too big of a topic at once.

The key here is to narrow down your blogging niche topic into a manageable size that you can still write about on a daily basis. Do not pull your niche so far down that you are going to run out of content in the first 6 months. You have to be able to bring something unique and new to the table on a regular basis.

Proof: Check out this podcast on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com with Alborz Fallah (The Million Dollar Blogger) on how he narrowed down his car blog to a geographical area and saw rapid success.

Do you have your blog’s niche topic picked out?

Great! Now that you have done the research into what you are going to write about on your blog, you have increased the chances for success by doing a little bit of preliminary research. So what is next after figuring out this first key step? Now…we have to get everything setup and that starts with the domain name. Stay tuned as we continue down the path of starting up a successful blog that we can call are own.

Other Great Blogging Niche Articles

Magic 8 Ball Image by CRASH:candy

Despite what the news media wants to tell you…blogging is not dead. In fact, quality blogs are thriving and bringing in more subscribers and money than ever! As we continue to see blogging evolve and grow, one of the questions I see come across my inbox the most is…

How can I set up my own self-hosted WordPress blog?

While many people can churn out content like there is no tomorrow, the technical aspect of setting up a self hosted blog with your own domain name can be a daunting task for new bloggers. Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to take you step by step through what I believe is the ultimate guide for beginning bloggers looking to setup their first self-hosted WordPress blog. In this series, we are going to cover the following topics.

  • Choosing A Topic/Niche To Blog About
  • Choosing and Buying the Your Own Domain Name
  • Choosing a Web Hosting Company
  • How to Install WordPress on that Host
  • Choosing a WordPress Theme and How to Make It Unique with Little Funds
  • How to Install Feedburner and Google Analytics to Track Traffic and Subscribers
  • How to Install the Necessary Plugins for Your WordPress Blog (and which ones those are!)
  • Getting the Settings in WordPress Right for Your Blog
  • Content Creation and Brainstorming
  • How To Promote Your New Blog
  • Enjoying Your New Blog’s Success

The best part…there is zero charge for all of this content! When other companies want to charge you $500.00 and more just to complete this task for you, I am going to give you the tools to do it yourself! It is going to be published right here on robbsutton.com so that you too can setup your own WordPress based, self-hosted blog that is ready to take on the world. To organize this content, I have created a special category to make finding these posts even easier as they get pubished…How To Start A Blog.

To catch each of these articles as they hit the screen, sign up for the robbsutton.com RSS feed and stay tuned!