Create the Right Kind of Blogging Platform
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Let me tell you a story about the right way to create your blogging platform and the possible consequences if you try to take shortcuts.
Judy wanted to encourage young moms. She had raised two daughters and a son to adulthood, and each now had their own family. She saw the kinds of challenges they were facing, and, being the good mom she was, was always encouraging her children.
She thought a blog would give her the opportunity to share her values, relationship knowledge, and practical homemaking tips with thousands of young married women just starting.
But Judy made a fatal mistake at the very beginning of her blogging journey, and it came to a sad end.
Think of Platform Location First
In real estate, they measure value by location. A 2,000 square foot residence in Austin, Texas sells for about $375,000. The same square footage is about $2.9 million in Manhattan. “Location. location, location.”
The same principle applies to the location where you create your blogging platform. Many new bloggers are trying to get started on a budget, so they begin blogging at free places like Blogger.com and WordPress.com, or some versions of Wix.com and Squarespace.com. That was Judy’s error.
She reasoned that she would start in a shack by using the free Google-owned Blogger.com service, and would work her way up.
She thought it was a reasonable, but sealed her fate before she started. Little did she know it more like walking into a building that would soon crash in around her.
What could possibly go wrong?
- Her Blogger.com account was free, but she discovered that using the assigned domain name (judyhelper.blogspot.com) allowed her almost no visibility. Her site was not distinctive. There are millions of blog subdomains attached to the blogger.com (Blogspot) domain name.
- People saw she was using a free blog site, and that hurt her credibility. Most of the free blogging services don’t offer much variety in blog design, so once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Yes, the content will be different, but free sites are known for being spammy, and many people avoid them for that reason.
- She found the free account had all sorts of rules, and that she had little flexibility. She couldn’t monetize it. They could shut down her site any time they wished.
As time when on, Linda needed to expand her online presence, but it was impossible. If she moved to an independent site with her own domain name and hosting, she would likely lose all her followers and the links that led to her website.
People don’t think they will lose their following overnight, but it happens every day. It’s devastating. Believe it or now, a giant like Google shut down 174 of its services in the last dozen or so years, many of them very popular. They could shut down Blogger.com too.
Back to Judy. Rather than put all the effort into rebuilding her lost following, she decided she would retire from blogging. She was disappointed, but she recognized she had made a wrong decision in starting with a free site and was forced to live with the consequences.
“Page Builder” Sites
Page Builder platforms like Wix.com or SquareSpace.com offer free versions, but you forfeit your own branding, and that’s bad. Even if you pay to use these Page Builder platforms, they can wreck your hopes and dreams for a profitable blog. One of the most authoritative sources, Search Engine Journal, says, “Page Builders are terrible. Every single one of them. They offer no SEO advantage. Ultimately, these WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) website builders will severely limit your business growth.”
Thus, you want to start right. Using a free or Page Builder platform may seem like a convenient pathway for new bloggers, but it is not a wise decision if you intend to build an audience and make money.
Make an Investment in Yourself
Your most significant investment when you become a blogger is your time. You need to protect that investment when you create a blogging platform that has the elements you need to reach an ever-growing audience.
You want to set your own rules about what you publish, not be subject to the rules of a huge company that owns the free blogging platform that may not like your values.
If a big company controls your website, they control you, what you say, and your income. You don’t want that. Pay your way (a modest amount), and you control your destiny.
Some paid platforms, like Wix or Squarespace, are marginally better when you do not use their free services. You can use your own domain name on some paid plans.
However, you must still comply with their Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy. If you don’t, they’ll shut you down (often without notice), and you’ll lose all your hard work. Their documentation is sufficiently broad that they can take action against you if you say anything of a political, social or theological nature with which they disagree.
I’m not suggesting that you will be out to break rules. That’s not the point. I’m only suggesting that you retain your independence. No matter what the topic of your blog, you want to say it your way and not be subject to the policies of massive corporations. It is best to have your own domain name and independently hosted blog where you set the rules.
To be independent, you need to create your own blogging platform at the very start. I would go so far to say that if you are not willing to do that, then it’s probably best that you save the money to do it right, or just forget blogging altogether.
Harsh? Not really. Too many authors and bloggers think writing is like a Vegas slot machine. Insert a quarter and get a million dollars. That’s more magical thinking and far from reality. The United States is a capitalist nation. The most fundamental principle of capitalism is that “It takes money to make money.” So, people invest money (capital) to make more money. Yes, it takes hard work too, but an investment is required.
How do people get capital? They earn it and save it until they get enough to invest in any money-making venture. Some people borrow the money they need to start and pay it back from profits. You can go to the bank, or you can go to a family member or friends to see if they will invest in your vision. Or you can put initial costs on your credit card. There is risk, but also potential reward.
How much will an independent site cost to set up? About $250-$350 is probably enough to get you started blogging if you do most of the work yourself. However, the more capital you have, the more likely you are to succeed. Yes, you can start with less money. It still takes some money, but you compensate by learning skills and doing the work yourself. This is called “Sweat Equity.” Equity is the financial value of your blog and is the basis of your ability to earn income.
Set up Your Blogging Platform Correctly
To set up a blog properly, and to have a chance at making the most money fastest and building a strong income for the future, you must do three things:
- Buy your own domain name
- Secure independent hosting
- Install a world-class content management system, WordPress, on that host
Why? You retain control that way.
- You have your own Terms of Service.
- You can say pretty much what you wish.
- You can use many different methods to build traffic.
- You can make money with ads and no one will interfere with your efforts.
You will likely hear stories about people who made money starting with a free blog. The only reason you hear about them is that such cases are so rare and unusual.
Here are the simple steps to building a place where you will call your blogging home.
Buy a Domain Name
Your domain name, or URL (like BlogginghSuccessPlan.com), is how people find you on the Internet. Therefore, you want to pick one after you decide for sure precisely what you intend to write about. If you haven’t decided what your blog topic is to be, don’t buy your domain name yet.
Be very sure about the topic of your blog first because domain name branding is essential to your forward progress. Here are some important tips.
Always get a dot com
In the past, there used to be six major domain extensions. They were:
- .COM (commercial, for business)
- .NET (for network providers)
- .ORG (for non-profits and other organizations)
- .EDU (for schools and colleges)
- .MIL reserved for the military
- .GOV, reserved for local, state and federal government entities.
These vary by country code. Anyone can buy a US “dot com” but the same thing is designated (dot CO dot UK) is Britain. Also, there are top-level domain name extensions (TLDs are they are formally known) ballooned, and there are over 1,500. You can buy a domain name that is .info, .mobi, .gay, .cool, and many hundreds more. They have become almost like automobile vanity license plates. But they are not effective for people who wish to make money.
Sometimes these offbeat domain extensions are offered cheap, like 99 cents a year. You may think you’re saving money, but you’re not. Cheapness here will come back to bite you. These domain names are cheap because they have little value in almost all cases. Yes, some odd domain extensions sell at a premium price too, but the value is simply not there in my view.
My advice is to avoid these names and stick with dot com. Why? Simply because users still identify that as being a credible, reliable, domain name. The new ones seem flaky even if they are not.
In research done by Varn, they reported that 70% of people don’t trust these new domain names.
And there is the trick of memory too. People may not remember the full name of your site. “YourWonderfulBlog” is in the name they think, so they always try the dot com first. But they won’t find you there if you used dot info instead. Your dot com competition will get your traffic instead. That’s bad.
So, don’t fight it. Stick with a dot com domain name.
What Length Should My Domain Name Be?
All the best one-word domain names have already been taken. If people own them, they use them to make millions. If they sell them, they make huge profits. For example, Cars.com sold to its present owner in 2016. How much did they pay for it? $872 million. No, that is not a typo. The new company paid just a couple hundred million shy of $1 billion for it. Why? Because the new company knew it would bring them billions of dollars in car sales profits in the coming years.
Today, some entrepreneurs are making up one-word domain names and selling them for inflated prices.
At this writing, I noticed one of these alleged predatory companies made up a long list of names and are seeking high prices for the domain names they bought for them.
At this writing, I see you can buy the one-word nonsense name “Avvix.com” for $2,149. The fake-ish “Nexro.com” is up for sale by the same company for $3,299. Should you pay these kinds of prices for a one-word domain name. No. I’d say that would be absurd.
If you want a one-word domain at the usual rates of $10-$15 annually, then think up one yourself. Is your name Judy? Are might try Judella.com or something like that. That domain name is not in use as I write this. And why not? The high-priced faked one-name company I mentioned trying to sell “Yudella.com” for $1,999. You can save at least $1,986 by making up your own one-word name.
One important tip. Make sure your made-up one-word domain name is not already a trademark owned by someone else. You can do an initial trademark check here in the United States.
What about a two-word domain name? Try for that. They are excellent. Even three-word domain names are desirable. Beyond three words, you are entering a field of marketing landmines.
There are some long-term considerations when it comes to selecting a domain name. I discuss them in a different context in here. Don’t jump there now, but keep in mind that there are many factors in domain name selection rather than just your preference. Personal preference is just one of many.
Don’t Fall for “Free” Domain Names
Never accept a “free” domain name from anyone. Whoever offered it will own it in many cases, not you. You want a domain name you can register with ICANN (the regulatory agency) as the legal owner.
Also, be careful of those “$1.99” the first year” type offers. They are likely to charge you $39.95 for each following year. A typical, fair price for a ‘dot com” domain name that has no strings attached, is in the $10-$12 per year range right now.
Never buy your domain name from your hosting company. If you do and have troubles, they can lock you out completely when they manage both your domain name and hosting.
When you have a domain name that you have independently registered, you can send traffic to a new site in just minutes. Settle your troubles later. But, when you have your hosting and domain name with the same company, they have you in a headlock. Always keep domain name registration and hosting with separate companies.
I would never advise anyone, under and circumstances, to buy a domain name from either GoDaddy.com or Register.com. I won’t go into details here, but there are many horror stories associated with these companies, so never let them control your domain name.
Secure Your Own Hosting Service
A hosting server is where your site resides in cyberspace. You rent space on a computer that connected to the Internet infrastructure, and anyone anywhere can reach your site when they type in your domain name.
Like everything else, you need to exercise care when you chose one. There are some excellent hosting services online, and there are some terrible ones. Here’s what you’re looking for:
- Fast, reliable connection
- Excellent support
- Reasonable price
Let me suggest how you can evaluate some selected hosting options. In this case, I’m starting my evaluation at the worst and ending with the best.
Don’t GoDaddy to Create the Right Kind of Blogging Platform
Lots of people select GoDaddy.com because they are cheap and because they do a massive amount of advertising. Of all the hosting services, GoDaddy would be my last choice. They lure people in because they are so cheap, but in my opinion, their server overloading is a big problem, and their support ranks among the worst.
I have built many hundreds of websites for clients, and I quickly learned to require a surcharge when they wanted me to use GoDaddy. Their convoluted backend is time-consuming to use, so pay to overcome that was necessary. The lesson here is that “cheap” is likely to come back to bite you, and that especially true with GoDaddy. GoDaddy will bite you in multiple ways in my experience.
GoDaddy.com has another significant problem, in my opinion, and that is they are constantly trying to up-sell their customers. They want you to pay extra for services you either don’t need or that other hosting services offer for free.
One GoDaddy.com customer put it this way: “The most annoying thing is that they charge for every little feature or service. There are many good hosting companies that provide free email, free SSL, and other free add-ons for which GoDaddy charges a premium price.”
To add insult to injury, GoDaddy.com attempts to make sales while you are trying to do work in the hosting back-end. They have no respect for the marketing/technical boundaries. They continuously attempt to sell you their upgrades while you’re trying to work. One independent reviewer said, “The worst, confusing and hard to understand platform I have even seen.”
One of the biggest complaints is that they will auto-renew your annual payment months early and refuse to refund you if you want to escape them. One independent reviewer said, “GoDaddy auto-renewed my yearly subscription after ten months and then refused to refund.”
One major independent host ranking service gives GoDaddy.com these ratings:
- Reliability 3.4 / 10
- Pricing 3.8 / 10
- User-Friendly 3.5 / 10
- Support 3.1 / 10
- Features 3.4 / 10
I have been building websites since 1999, and I would never use or recommend GoDaddy.com. Also, never register a domain name with them. If I had a domain name with them, I’d move it to another registrar immediately.
The BlueHost.com Option Will Get You Almost There
BlueHost.com is often recommended by people who promote blogging. They think it is an excellent hosting service. It is a popular place to host a blog. In fact, it has the official recommendation of WordPress.org (more about them later), and that’s impressive.
Still, I would suggest you exercise extreme caution with BlueHost. Why? In my opinion, their parent company, Endurance International Group (EIG) is not the kind of corporate conglomerate you want to deal with. When EIG buys a hosting company, they tend to maximize profits and minimize service.
And EIG is buying a huge number of hosting services. At this writing, they own almost 80 hosting brands, though they don’t prominently advertise their ownership. Their popular brands include BlueHost, HostGator.com, FatCow.com, iPage.com, and Site5.com.
Let me tell you my EIG story. I was a HostGator.com customer for 14 years. It was an excellent, independently run hosting service when I started using them. The owner then sold his company to EIG.
After EIG bought the company, servers got slower, and support got worse. There was a significant adverse change.
But, I had many sites on HostGator.com and was reluctant to change. But soon enough they literally drove me away with what I would call shady marketing techniques.
HostGator.com started trying to sell me a particular brand of malware (virus) protection. Their servers were under attack, but they wanted individual sites to buy protection. I didn’t buy their third-part solution. Soon after that, they started telling me that just one of my many sites was under attack, and they started taking it repeatedly off-line. I felt like they were gangsters forcing me to pay “protection money” to keep that site visible online.
As a professional, I immediately identified that their third-party malware protection was over-priced and unnecessary. Plus, I had a popular, effective, free malware plug-in already in place on all my sites. By rights, hosts should be protecting all the websites on their servers. It is irresponsible for hosting companies not to try to stop malware attacks.
Is this circumstantial evidence? Maybe. But the reliable malware plug-in I was using did not identify any malware. I had no malware attacks on the site for 11 years before HostGator.com started their massive third-party anti-malware product sales campaign. And there has never been a malware problem since I moved that site to another host.
The joke is, today HostGator.com advertises “Automatic Malware Removal” as a free service. But, as an EIG company, they have already betrayed trust, so I have no respect for any of their brands. And yes, you can plenty of negative HostGator and BlueHost reviews online, so I’m not alone in my disdain for EIG hosting companies.
Am I saying BlueHost is terrible? Not at all. I have several trusted colleagues in the website industry who like BlueHost. and recommend it. BlueHost is popular, has good features and fair pricing, but does not compare with SiteGround based upon my experience.
SiteGround.com: Best Service at the Right Price to Create the Right Kind of Blogging Platform
With my years of blogging experience, which host would I select today? SiteGround.com. No question about it. Their servers are fast, their price is right, and their support is world-class.
The fact is, after my horrible experience at EIG’s HostGator.com, I spread my sites among different hosts so I could test the hosts and, of course, write about my experiences.
SiteGround knocked my socks off. Their prices are competitive. Yes, when you sign-up, they offer a couple up-sells, but I recommend you ignore them for a few months to see if you need them.
There are two things I especially like about SiteGround besides their fast servers and competitive prices. The first is, they have a very easy to use interface. It is very simple to log-on to the SiteGround back-end and does what you need to do without fighting a maze of ads or other visual interference.
A clean interface may seem like a small thing. However, believe me, it’s enormous. SiteGround eliminates the confusion, and that’s always a win. You’ll love the simplicity of using SiteGround.com.
The other big plus is SiteGround support. They have servers around the world (good for you), but SiteGround is based in Eastern Europe, and the educated support staff they hire speak and write English better than most Americans, are ultra-tech savvy, and they offer solutions quickly.
If there is anything I hate is waiting on the phone to talk to a support person with a thick overseas accent who doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing. That doesn’t happen at SiteGround.com. Their support is a class act.
In my book, only SiteGround meets the three hosting criteria I believe is most important:
- Fast, reliable connection
- Excellent support
- Reasonable price
SiteGround.com is the only hosting company I recommend without reservation right now. I’ve ignored advertising hype and tested many hosts, and SiteGround.com is the only one who has passed my test.
WordPress is Your Best Friend
What do you put on your hosting service? A content management system called WordPress. There are other content management systems, but, in my opinion, they are not worth discussing. Face it, 35% of ALL sites on the Internet are WordPress sites. That’s an amazing statistic. It’s the leader for good reasons. WordPress is:
- Simple to use
WordPress is the backbone, but you can make your site look and function any way you wish by selecting from many thousands of templates and plug-ins. More about both later.
Disambiguation. There are TWO flavors of WordPress. One is WordPress.COM. That is WordPress on a controlled server, and you don’t control it. Not recommended. WordPress.ORG is where you get WordPress to install on your own host, like SiteGround.com, so you maintain full control over your blogging business.
Of course, you don’t need to go to WordPress.ORG to get WordPress. When you use a host like SiteGround.com, it’s there for you to install. It’s fairly simple.
There are so many good tutorials on YouTube.com and elsewhere. You can and should install WordPress yourself if you’re the adventurous type. It’s not overly complicated. Also, you can get support from your hosting company when you install WordPress from your hosting account.
You Choose the “Look” of Your Blog
The “look” of a WordPress blog is determined by the template or theme. There are thousands of free templates available. You can also buy custom templates for $20-$60 (sometimes more) if you want a distinctive look.
Free templates have their drawbacks and I discuss them here.
You Choose the Functionality of Your Blog
You will soon learn that independently hosted WordPress accepts what are known as plug-ins. These are apps that you can easily install which enhance the functionality of your site.
There are thousands of these plug-ins available, but there are ten that I strongly recommend.
Painless, Complete Install and Ongoing Support
If you want someone to install WordPress and any host (except GoDaddy), use the affordable service I offer. You get a complete install, plus all the typical bells and whistles, for one fair price. Use my service if you want a totally pain-free installation using proven themes and plug-ins. All you do is add your blog post content. One of the best things about my offer is that you get 30-days of ongoing support for the price. That support may completely transform your entry into the world of blogging.
Is that all you need to know to set up your blog? No, but it’s enough to get you started. You’ll learn more as you get into it.
Keep in mind that once you set up your blog, there is little or nothing else of a technical nature you need to do. After that, you simply write your content and post it online with a click or two.
Step 2 Action Plan to Create the Right Kind of Blogging Platform
When you start right, you give yourself the best chance at success. Sadly, too many people suffer from magical thinking and they suffer all their lives because of it. You MUST create the right kind of blogging platform from the start, and that includes getting the right domain name, using the right hosting (SiteGround in my expert view), and using the right content management system (WordPress).
When I was about eight-years-old, my parents went on a trip and left me in the care of my grandparents. One day I got this wonderful letter from them that they sent as they passed through Texas. It was unusual to my young eyes. It was a printed letter, but my mom had signed it. There was a tiny plastic bag filled with green flakes stapled to the corner.
I read the letter with great interest because it described the Texas cowboy life and how I could become a cowboy. That was a topic that grabbed my attention when I was eight.
I dutifully followed the instructions in the letter. I opened the little packet of green flakes and rubbed a small amount behind each ear. According to the pre-printed letter, that was all I needed to do to become a bonafide Texas cowboy.
Nothing happened. I rubbed more of it behind my ears and rubbed it in harder — still nothing. Maybe the results were not intended to be instantaneous, my young mind reasoned. I’d have to give it some time.
When I was about twelve, the age when magical thinking wanes for most people, it dawned on me what was inside the plastic bag attached to the letter, What I had applied so gullibly and luxuriously behind my ears. That’s right—it was dried cow manure. Just like the hard riding Texas cowboys accumulate behind their ears after a hard day on the trail.
Today, I still laugh at that childhood experience. It was fun then and now. But there is a lesson in it, and that is magical thinking does not put boots on your feet, a cowboy hat on your head, or a horse under your butt.
My point here is that you need to take action to achieve your goals. Don’t engage in magical thinking. Create a blogging platform that will bring you results. Don’t take shortcuts that only lead down dead-end streets. Get your tools in place and then start writing some stellar blog posts.