I hope you enjoyed the last post in my Blogging 101 series. This time around we’ll be talking about starting a self hosted WordPress blog and all the basics that need to be covered when starting a self hosted blog. This is a LONG post, so grab a cup of coffee or tea and lets get straight into it.
Choosing a domain name
The first step in starting a WordPress blog that is self hosted is choosing a domain name. As I mentioned in the first part of this series, your domain name is important as it becomes part of your brand identity. Ideally you want the domain name to be short because it makes it easier to remember, and easy to spell too.
I suggest brainstorming some name ideas and putting together a short list of options before researching name availability. If however you have an existing blog and are migrating to a self hosted WordPress blog I highly recommend staying with your existing blog name where at all possible.
Once you have settled on a shortlist of name options you will need to begin researching the availability of your domain name. There are a number of tools out there that make this easy. Domainsbot is a great tool which makes researching domain name availability easy, and it will also check the availability of the name for Facebook and Twitter at the same time.
Selecting a hosting company
While it’s often tempting to go with the cheapest option available don’t. Do your research first.
When I initially moved Delicious Everyday from WordPress.com to a self hosted WordPress blog I chose BlueHost. It was cheap and it was recommended on the WordPress.com website so I thought that was a good indication of their support. In fact their support was good until I ran into performance issues, and well, I have to say their support was extremely lacking and all the blame was put back on to me, my configuration and the number of plugins I ran. After wasting weeks trying to rectify performance issues to no avail I finally decided that it was time to move to a new hosting company.
I have since moved to MDD Hosting. Before I settled on MDD however I had signed up with another hosting company, and part way through transferring my website to their domain their servers went down for 18 hours!!! Let me tell you, it was a horrible experience and I lost all access to my emails for a couple of days. And when I tried to contact them to find out was going on I was given little to no information. Needless to say I sent them a swift request for a refund and spent a bit more time researching a new hosting company before I finally settled on MDD.
After reading several hosting company reviews (try sites like Web Hosting Jury and Host Jury) I kept seeing positive feedback for MDD. But I dug deeper, because as we know from news stories regarding TripAdvisor there are unscrupulous companies out there that do pay for positive reviews, and didn’t take the positive reviews as genuine at first, which is the mistake I made the first time round. After conducting some research I found the reviews were genuine and I also spoke to MDD and discussed my requirements before finally signing up.
It’s important to talk to your hosting company BEFORE signing up. Explain what you want, explain your stats if you are migrating an existing blog/website (page views, unique visitors, wordpress database size etc) and most importantly talk to them about support. This will give you a good, albiet not always accurate, indication of their services. Finally, before clicking sign up ask around about the hosting company, Twitter and Facebook are great places to ask, and see what feedback you receive. If it all checks out then you should be good to go. Just make sure that the hosting company you select has a money back guarantee period (usually 30 days) if it all goes pear shaped.
Interestingly since my move to MDD I actually use more plugins now than when I was on BlueHost and my site is more than twice as fast. In fact, according to Google Webmaster tools (which I will explain in another post) when my site was running on Bluehost it took an average of 22 seconds to load and now the average is under 8 seconds. I should also mention that the 22 seconds my site took to load on BlueHost was already enhanced by the fact that at the time I was utilising a web acceleration tool called CloudFlare (I will explain more about this in another post) but now, on MDD I don’t use it.
Now while I’ve talked about BlueHost and MDD Hosting I am not suggesting that either hosting option is right or wrong for you and your unique requirements. I merely wanted to explain my experience so hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes I did. The most important point to take away from this is research, research and more research. Read reviews, ask around and talk to the hosting company before signing up. Also ask them about their money back guarantee period.
In addition to reliable support and performance I also suggest ensuring that your host includes CPanel (a website admin interface). PHPMyAdmin (enables you to manage your WordPress database) is a useful addition too, and most good hosting companies include this. Alternatively there are a number of Plugins available to assist you with WordPress database maintenance, and in fact I’ve only ever had to use PHPMyAdmin once, so if you don’t feel comfortable at the thought of using tools like this you don’t have to. Also look for, and ask, whether one click install of WordPress is available. Finally, if you are planning on migrating an existing blog ask whether they will handle this for you too and what the charge is for that service.
Hosting Company Selection Checklist
- Read reviews.
- Conduct independent research – ie ask around on Twitter and Facebook
- Talk to the hosting company
- Is CPanel and one click WordPress installation included?
- Will they manage the migration of your existing website? What is the cost?
Installing WordPress and migrating an existing blog