After you’ve chosen a niche for your new blog, the next steps in setting up a blog are choosing a blog name, domain name, and Web hosting company. Start by reading Choosing a Business Name and Domain Name for Your Online Business.
If you’re setting up a blog with the expectation of it being a long-term project, business model in itself, or a vehicle for building your credibility or displaying your expertise in a niche, avoid free blog hosts such as Blogspot (from Blogger) and WordPress.com (this is the hosted version of WordPress).
This is because you don’t have as much control over a freely hosted blog (such as designs and advertisers), and you can lose incoming links if you later decide to move the blog to your own domain name as free blog hosts generally won’t let you set up a 301 redirect from their service to your new site.
On top of that, having your own domain is usually better for branding and building respect (how serious should your readers think you are about the future of your blog if you’re not willing to dish out a few dollars for a domain name and a few per month for hosting?).
There are two common camps on site and domain names: domain names for keyword value and domain names for branding value. Google would be an example of a name chosen for branding value (although now it certainly serves both purposes). I suggest going with something brandable in every case unless you’re planning to create a splog. That doesn’t mean that you have to neglect keywords though.
In some cases you can certainly do both. My PR blog is called NakedPR (NakedPR.com). It was a name I chose strictly for branding purposes (you could argue that the “PR” aspect is also for keyword relevance, but that’s so hard to rank for, and has so many different meanings these days that I don’t see it that way). I also run a freelance writing website at AllFreelanceWriting.com, which works nicely on both fronts.
Combine them when possible, and in most cases try to have your domain name reflect your blog’s name. Let them both reflect what the blog is about in some way, whether that involves your own name, an overall image or attitude (something sounding “Web 2.0” for example), or a topic-based name. Just never sacrifice branding for keywords. Branding will bring you more traffic, trust, and overall value in the long run. You can always optimize individual pages or categories for more specific keyword phrases.
Choose a domain name registrar that meets your needs as far as price, privacy options, and transfer rules if you choose to leave them down the road. Some of the registrars I currently use are GoDaddy, HostMySite, and Netfirms.
As for the hosting side of the equation…
There are plenty of Web hosting companies available, and I’ve already written an article on how to choose a Web hosting company. There’s only one hosting company that I recommend, and it’s the one hosting just about all of my own sites and blogs – HostGator. I love HostGator for a few reasons:
- They’re inexpensive (you can get a decent shared hosting package for less than $10 per month, which is low enough that even new blogs will quickly pay for themselves).
- They allow you to host an unlimited number of sites or blogs on one account including unlimited email accounts, subdomains, and MYSQL databases (a nice feature if you want to launch several blogs).
- Their support has always been excellent with me. It’s rare that I need them for anything, but when I do they’re almost immediately fixing the problem (including recently over the Thanksgiving holiday when an issue surfaced and I called support to work it out).