Friday, March 9, 2012

Setting Up Your Site for Success

One of the first choices you have as a blogger is where to start writing. There are lots of options, but nearly everyone agrees that if you want to take your blog seriously, you should follow a process like this:
  1. Get your own domain name through a certified registrar. I like Dreamhost or BulkRegister personally (just $11/year for .com domains), but there's loads of good options. 
  2. Host the site yourself. Folks like Dreamhost,, Squarespace and Laughing Squid are worth checking out. One I've not tried, but heard amazing things about is WP Engine. They'd probably get my vote if you've got the $49/month to spend and are more serious about your blog's growth.
  3. Get a great designer or learn to make something beautiful yourself. Good places to find designers include Dribbble, Forrst, Sortfolio, ElegantThemes, ThemeForest and 99Designs (Note: there's some controversy in the design community about the crowdsourced model of 99 Designs, but you should make up your own mind).
  4. Choose a blog platform (aka the software that powers your blog). Wordpress, Posterous and Tumblr are all worth looking into - if you're a bit more adventurous, B2Evolution is interesting, too. I wouldn't choose Blogger/Blogspot for a variety of reasons too lengthy to go into here.
Alternatively, you could setup a site in 3 minutes flat on a subdomain of Wordpress (e.g., choose an pre-existing theme, don't customize the design/look and just start writing. But, that minimal effort also costs you many of the benefits - flexibility, the possibility to grow, optimization potential, monetization opportunities, etc - that come with a little more elbow grease.
Blogger's SETAPR Graph
If travel blogging is something you want to do not only as a personal endeavor, but as a professional one as well (whether you hope to eventually have ads, make money, or you simply wish to move beyond a hobby-site that is technically owned by another company), you'll need your own domain. That may sound a bit daunting, but all of the above can be done in less than a day, even if you're completely non-technical. If you're feeling overwhelmed, might be the easiest of the bunch to handle 90%+ of this.
From here, you just need one more critical thing - analytics (aka a way to measure how much traffic you get, where it comes from and what people do on your site). Fortunately, there's an easy answer: Google Analytics. It's free, it's simple to install (one-click or plugin with most of the blog platforms I noted above) and it works wonderfully.

Everywhereist's Google Analytics
If you're looking to get much more serious about tracking + improving everything around your site, read this post - Launching a New Website - Successful Metrics & Marketing.

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