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Starting a blog is easy. OK, so “easy” is a relative term. Middle-aged people didn't grow up surrounded by computers and high tech. We each have our own levels of technical comfort. But as someone who has built websites since 1994, I'm going to share my best advice on how to set up a website or blog, even if you've never done anything technical in your life.
You can do this!
Buy a Domain
Buy your own domain. You pay a nominal annual fee for each domain. I service all my domains on My Domain. I don't use them for hosting (and suggest you use different companies for domain registration and hosting).
Don't use a subdomain from a website service (even one that redirects to your own URL). You want to own your site. You want to post what you choose, monetize what you choose, etc. You don't want to have your content at the mercy of some website platform. I have had many clients over the years who started on a free platform and had their sites shut down without notice because they violated a term of service—or didn't. Sometimes they couldn't even find out the reason.
Do not let a service buy your domain for you as some kind of “incentive” or “freebie” included in their hosting package. Because then guess who likely owns the domain? (Hint: not you!) You want to own your domain outright and have complete access to it.
I have used over a dozen hosting services. Bad hosting is the death of good content.
Since 2014 we have used Lightning Base to his all our sites. It's not the cheapest, but if you get reasonable traffic with occasional viral spikes, this is the only service I've ever had (in decades) that hasn't crashed with my best posts. I love Lightning Base and highly recommend it.
If you have decent traffic, but nothing crazy, a less expensive (and stable) alternative is Site Ground. Most seem quite pleased with the service. It is used on a group blog I've been on for years without issue.
Whatever you do, do not use a service that is owned by EIG (Endurance International Group). The conglomerate has purchased dozens of smaller, solid hosting companies and run them into the black hole of terribleness.
Customer service becomes slow and inconsistent—and sometimes nonexistent. If you can get in touch with someone during an outage or problem, the answers you get are noncommittal and non-communicative. Not their problem. Don't know what happened. Don't know when it will be fixed. It will be fixed in an hour. Oh, one more hour. Oh, one more hour. (And the put-off can continued for hours or days while you lose momentum, readers, and customers.)
If you go over your magical quota (on a plan that was described as “unlimited”) your site can be shut down without warning.
Emails stops working. CPanel is inaccessible. Dashboard “under maintenance.” FTP access denied. White page of death.
Site specific traffic spikes —as well as general spikes on the shared server—will pull your site down. There's nothing so discouraging as having your most recent post take off only to have your site crash during your window of opportunity.
I have personally used the following (now EIG owned) services and switched away from them after EIG ruined them. (And, trust me, moving all your sites to a new service is a nightmare of a chore.)
At one time I had a bunch of sites hosted on Go Daddy. I moved all of those because of the skanky, sexist advertising Go Daddy engaged in for years. I understand they finally saw the light, but I was long gone and not ever going back. Don't recommend.
Most hosts have a simple installer script you can run without touching code. Some will do it for you upon request.
Learn the WordPress Interface
You don't have to learn any code to use WordPress. At all. But you can use it if you choose. Poke around the backend. Doing the basics (creating posts and pages) is fairly intuitive. Just dive in and look around.
Watch some YouTube videos or read some tutorial blogs for general and later specific help. WordPress.org has a ton of tutorial information, too.
It's not rocket science. Spend a couple of hours learning the basics and you'll be ready to roll. You can continue to learn as your needs increase.
Use a plugin, a service from your host, or do it manually. Whatever you do, make sure you backup both the files and the database. Protect your work so you can restore if needed.
These are the basics you need to get started. If starting a blog is on your 2019 New Year's resolution list, I hope this helps you check it off first thing!
Alison Moore Smith is a 59-year-old entrepreneur. She has been (very happily) married to Samuel M. Smith for 38 years. They are parents of six incredible children and grandparents to two astounding grandsons.
She is the author of The 7 Success Habits of Homeschoolers.