General & Tutorials by Leon Hitchens on May 20, 2016
Starting a custom self-hosted blog isn’t hard, and for many is a way to jump into coding. We’ve been blogging for years on this site and a dozen of other sites, and we’ve used almost all of the popular blogging content management system (CMS). I also personally make a living off of blogging for Ninjality and other outlets so that I would call myself a blogging expert. I often get asked how someone could get started blogging, and how easy is it. The answer is in two parts. The first part is setting up a blog and having it designed efficiently. The hardest is the blogging - you’ll often write to yourself and growing your audience isn’t easy. This isn’t to say you cannot make it blogging, but in fact, there are hundreds of pro-bloggers.
What I want to focus on is the initial setup of a server to your first post. The early steps are necessary for setting a solid ground for your newly minted blog. The choices you make when picking a host, a domain name, or even a theme is critical in the branding and the style you’re setting for yourself. If you’re starting a blog for your business even better! I’ve had more experiences with companies, startups, and news outlets than personally blogging about my name.
I know you may think blogging is a dirty word, and you’ll say it implies your unprofessional or doing it for fun. In fact, blogging is typical career much like YouTuber is a job title thousands of people have. Blogging is nothing more than sharing your thoughts and opinions or sharing your expertise in an area. If your small business makes the best pizza, then you could blog about pizza. This blog could include how you source ingredients, how you make the crust just the right crunch, or it could include other great pizzas around the world. This would give customers a place to think about your pizza even when their not in front of your store or even thinking about pizza. Also, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to blog about pizza?
Choosing a domain registrar is important because they’ll be the ones who you pay for your domain. Some registrars like GoDaddy upscale, add extra services or charge extra for a domain. While it may be convenient to buy your domain, hosting, and extras with GoDaddy it’s not always cost-effective. GoDaddy has dozens of services which make them sell their domains for much more than other registrars would usually charge. Everyone at Ninjality uses NameCheap for years, and I’ve had domains with them since early 2010. They offer ‘cheap’ domains from .com to .ninja, and they’re always adding new TLD (Top Level Domains). The NameCheap team is always active on social media where you can always get live support or always chat with someone easily. Namecheap always offers monthly coupons to save you extra money on top of their already low prices.
Now there are others registrars which always offer excellent services and don’t upsell or throw extra junk you don’t need. The best two are hover and Google Domains, which focus on domains and email. Hover is a domain and email host which focus on only those instead of trying to do hosting or extra fluff. Google Domains is the same way - by focusing on domains, they don’t have to worry about selling a bunch of other tools. Of course, Google offers email and web hosting but those are separate tools which you can opt to use, and Google doesn’t force you too.
Choosing a web host is imperative, they’re the ones storing all your blog post and images. If the host disappears or losses you data, everything can be gone in mere seconds. This is why we always opt for cloud hosting solutions like AWS or Digital Ocean. Of course, there is host optimized for blogs like WordPress, but they cost more than you would have to pay for a web space. We’ve used a handful of the different host from WP Engine for WordPress hosting to AWS for Ghost. We’ve hit a middle ground now: Digital Ocean, which offers a cloud hosting solution which is inexpensive scalable and easy to manage. They charge you only what you use, whereas another host you usually pay for a large swatch of space and hope you don’t use all of it.
Digital Ocean is a little more technical, but they have easy one click-installs. The apps include WordPress, Ghost, and other popular platforms. If you do run into a hiccup, you can reference on of Digital Oceans tutorials or help documents they’ve compiled.
Content management system or CMS is where you’ll manage your photos, comments, and most importantly your articles. There are platforms like Tumblr, WordPress.com, Blogger, and others. Those platforms are not self-hosted, cost a lot, and are very limiting. A custom self-hosted blog allows you to change anything you want and has full control over the content you have. While it’s unlikely, WordPress.com could stop working tomorrow and your data would be gone.
A self-hosted blog can cost as little as $10 a month with backups included. This would be perfect for a small blog which doesn’t have a lot of pictures of views yet.
Which CMS you choose is hard. I’ve used WordPress for years because the support and some things developers can add or design with. If you’re looking for a sophisticated blog with custom post pages, multiple dynamic designs, and dozens of static pages - WordPress would be the best option. There are millions of plugins, themes, and support places for any problems that could arise. If you feel like you only want a blog with something simple, yet elegant, I would recommend Ghost. You’re still able to customize the look to your liking, but Ghost doesn’t have a lot of fluff. There are themes, some plugins, and different styles you can do, but they are easy to use. I also love the markdown - live preview side by side that they offer.
Starting a blog isn’t hard as you think, and isn’t expensive at all. In fact, you could start blogging in an hour. Now, if you want something custom built with styles and colors which match your businesses site we can design and develop a custom WordPress theme which fits within your company’s current web design. All you have to do is head over to the contact page where one of our design ninjas will get in touch with you. They’ll walk you through the process and get a quote to you quickly. The prices can fit within most budgets, and trust me I’m a broke blogger who has had work done by the team.
Let me round up what I said in the post:
Check back on The Ninjality Blog for more articles on how to start a blog from doing the marketing, to managing updates, all the way to hiring writers for your blog!