by John Eberhard
So you want to start a blog? Where do you go and how do you do it?
First of all you have to decide whether you want to do this as a professional business or if it’s just a hobby. That will determine how you set it up.
Free Blogging Sites
If you want to start a blog as a hobby and it’s not something where you want to sell products or services as a professional business, you can start a blog at one of the five free blogging sites:
Each one of these sites will allow you to start a free account and put up a blog, and to customize it to some degree. Each site has a selection of “themes,” i.e. stock designs that you can choose for your blog. If you really dig into the interface you can also customize the items that appear in your sidebar. In some cases you can customize the header graphic at the top.
Of the five free blogging sites I like www.Wordpress.com the best, because it is built on the WordPress architecture and gives you the most options.
WordPress and Typepad
If you want to start a blog for a professional business, then I recommend that you use either WordPress or Typepad to set up the blog, as these are both professional blogging platforms.
Setting up a blog with WordPress is different from setting up a free blog at www.wordpress.com. You have to have a hosting account, or you can set up a blog in a sub-directory on an existing site. Doing it this way will give you quite a bit more customization options. You can set it up via your hosting company (on their web site or calling them), or you can download the files from www.wordpress.org (not .com), and upload them to your site. Doing it via your hosting company tends to be much faster. And of course doing it this way with WordPress allows you to choose your own site address.
You can either pick an existing WordPress theme and then customize it, or you can have the blog customized by a WordPress expert so that it looks just like your existing web site. Or you can have a brand new design done by a web designer and then have that converted into a WordPress theme. Using an existing WordPress theme is the less expensive way to go. Having a design converted into a WordPress theme will add significant cost.
Setting up a WordPress blog has many advantages, such as the fact that the WordPress system has quite a few plugins that can give you added features or functionality to your site, such as search features, nice looking photo galleries, connection with Facebook or Twitter, or search engine optimization functions.
Typepad is another very professional blogging system. You pay a monthly fee (either $9 or $15 depending on what service you choose). The $15 per month option allows you to have unlimited blogs, and you don’t have to also pay a hosting fee. The default is that the blog address will have Typepad’s name in it (http://yourblog.typepad.com) but you can register a URL and set it so that that URL goes to your blog (http://www.yourblog.com).
Typepad has quite a few themes you can choose from, and it is relatively easy to customize your graphic header at the top and your sidebars, and put in pictures of yourself or products you sell or whatever. Typepad also has a good selection of plugins to add special functionality.
I think it is a good idea to decide BEFORE you start on whether your blog is going to be a pro thing where you will be selling something, or just a hobby blog.
If it will be a pro thing, it is better to select WordPress or Typepad in the beginning, and set up your own custom URL. The reason is that having a web address with “wordpress” or “blogspot” in the address, sort of indicates that it is not a professional thing. It makes it look sort of amateurish. Not that a lot of companies don’t do it. They do, but I think it looks cheesy.
And I have seen some people start a blog on Blogger for instance, and then build up lots of traffic and fans for it, and then they are stuck with being on Blogger. Because to move the blog would for the most part result in having to start over with traffic building.