These days, almost everyone knows what a blog is: a journal-format web page where a writer (blogger) can post his or her thoughts, opinions, and ideas for other readers to comment on and share said content. Five years ago blogging was a relatively new phenomenon; today bloggers play a major role in politics, fashion, technology, and practically any other field where opinions matter.
For many of us, though, that’s where our understanding of blogging ends. We’d like to start blogs, but we don’t think we’re internet-savvy or we don’t want to invest time and money on an online hobby. Fortunately, though, getting started with blogging has become incredibly quick, simple, and in many cases, completely cost free.
In general, there are two types of blogs: free blogs hosted on a parent site, like Blogspot, Blogger or WordPress, and self-hosted blogs, whose maintainers control their own websites, pay for their own hosting, and register their own domain names. Which route you choose depends on your goals.
Before you start blogging, you should ask yourself, “Where do I see this blog in one year?” The answer to that question will decide what kind of hosting you use, and what platform you choose to blog on. If your goal is to create a personal blog for family, friends and associates, your best choice is to host on a parent site, since it’s fast, free, and requires very little in the way of technical prowess. If, on the other hand, your goal is to create a topical blog (say, gadget reviews, or political analysis), then the decision becomes harder. Will you place advertisements on your blog? Do you want your own independent domain name, or are you willing to create your blog within another blogging site?
If your goal is simply to get your voice out there and you don’t care much about customizing your software, making money off of your blog or controlling your domain name, the simplest solution is to host your blog on a parent site. Some of the most popular sites to blog are Blogspot, WordPress and Blogger, although a wealth of alternatives exists on the web. Nearly all of these are free hosting sites, and several even offer revenue sharing on advertising. You can start a blog on these sites in minutes; the hardest part is usually thinking of a creative name for your blog.
If your goal is to monetize your blog, though, or if you plan to create many blogs with specific topics, your best bet is to choose your own hosting provider. You can typically get an account opened at a reputable hosting provider in ten or fifteen minutes, and most of them will register your domain name and host it in one simple step. Many large hosting companies, such as Dreamhost or GoDaddy, offer attractive hosting packages and so-called “One-Click” installations of blogging software packages.
“One-Click” installs can be a great way for technical neophytes to get their blog up and running quickly. Essentially, after you’ve purchased a domain name and set up an account with a hosting provider, they’ll set up the blogging software of your choice – usually for free, and usually almost instantly. Some of the best CMS (Content Management Systems) are free, like Drupal, WordPress, or Joomla. These programs allow you to create blog posts without using a single bit of HTML – meaning that you can get started blogging faster, without having to learn complicated computer languages.
Content management systems are what make blogging possible. Instead of creating a webpage and uploading it, the way that old, static sites were constructed, users can simply submit their blog posts through a web-based interface that takes care of all of the programming – freeing you up to focus on the content of your blog, not the construction and maintenance.
Remember, when starting a blog, the key is to realistically define your goals. If you don’t plan on creating a mega-popular blog, don’t waste the money on an expensive hosting package. If you don’t care much about your domain name and don’t plan on customizing your blog very much, consider hosting with a parent site. But if you’re going to get into the gears of your CMS, or if you want to earn the most possible money from your blog, consider getting your own hosting and installing your own content management system. Either way you do it, you can have a blog up and running in less than an hour, meaning you’ll have more time to tell the rest of us what you think about your chosen topic.