If you want a place to share your travel stories, photos, and wisdom from your own travel experiences, what better way to do it than by starting your own travel blog? There are sites like Blogger and WordPress.com where you can start your own blog for free, or you can buy a domain name and web hosting. Many travelers choose to go with the free blog, but there are some significant reasons to go the other direction.
First, let’s talk about cost. When we’re talking about buying a domain name and hosting it may sound expensive and complicated, but it’s really not (we’ll cover the details in just a minute). I use and recommend SiteGround for web hosting, and they make it super easy to get your blog up and running. I’ve used about 10 different hosts over the years and SiteGround is simply the best that I have come across. When you purchase web hosting with SiteGround you’ll get the domain name for free, and the cost of hosting starts at just $3.95 per month. So when you’re considering buying a domain name and hosting we’re not talking about a major investment.
Reasons why you should have your own domain name
While it’s true that you can start a travel blog at Blogger or WordPress.com for free, there are plenty of convincing reasons why you will want to have your own domain name and hosting. And when you think about the fact that we’re only talking about paying $3.95 per month in order to get these benefits, it’s really a no-brainer.
- Branding. If you hope to build the audience of your blog over time, branding will be a major factor in your success. Having your own domain name is a critical first step towards building your own brand.
- Monetization. With free blogging platforms you will be extremely limited in the ways that you can make money with your blog. They will have terms and conditions that you need to follow, and some free platforms will even display their own ads on your blog. If you have your own domain you can use Google AdSense, other ad networks, or affiliate programs to make money. Even if you don’t want or need to make a lot, just making a small amount per month would easily cover your hosting fees and provide you with some extra money to use while you’re traveling.
- No limitations. With a free blogging platform you will be limited in a lot of ways. You’ll only be able to use certain templates or themes for your blog, and the functionality will be limited in a lot of ways.
- Ownership. If you are publishing your blog on a domain name that you do not own, there are a lot of things that are out of your control. That site could shut down at any time and you would lose everything that you’ve worked for. When you have a blog at your own domain you have full ownership of your site and control over your content.
Ok, so now you’ve seen the benefits of having your own domain and hosting, but if you’ve never set up a website or blog you may have no idea how to go about it. The good news is that the process is very simple, and you don’t need any technical knowledge or experience. Here are the steps:
1. Chose a domain name
With so many domains already registered, finding one that you like that is available can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are a few resources that can help you to find available domains. First, go to bustaname.com. With this free tool you’ll enter a few keywords that can be used in your domain. Click the “add” button and it will start to search for available domains.
Now, scroll down on the page and you’ll see some options.
Available .com’s are often hard to find, so you may want to check the boxes to also search for .net, .org, and .info. You can also check the box to search for 3 word combinations, which will give even more possibilities. I’d also recommend unchecking the box “for sale on resale marketplaces”. Now you should have more suggested domains being shown.
Scroll through the list of suggested domains and see if there are any that you like. You don’t want to click on the “buy” buttons, because you will be getting a free domain when you sign up for hosting.
If you didn’t find any available domains that you like with this method, there is another free tool that might be able to help. Free Domain Generator works in a different way. You enter your main keyword, check “both” for prefixes and suffixes, and click “find available domains”. The tool works by adding popular prefixes and suffixes to your keyword to generate domain suggestions.
Again, you don’t want to buy a domain name here, you just want to look for good ideas because you will be getting a free domain name with your hosting account.
2. Sign up for web hosting
Ok, now that you have found a domain name for your blog we can go ahead and sign up for hosting. I highly recommend SiteGround based on my own experience with them. They provide excellent customer service, their prices are great, and your blog will load very quickly on their servers. So go to SiteGround to see the different hosting plans that are available.
You’ll want to choose StartUp, the cheapest plan. You can always upgrade later if you need to, but for now this plan should meet your needs for a while if you are starting a new blog. So click the orange “Get Started” button. This will lead you to the page shown below where you can enter the domain name that you want to register.
Once, you’ve entered the domain name, click on the blue “Proceed” button. On the next screen you’ll see a confirmation that your domain name is available for registration, and you’ll be able to enter your personal info.
You’ll also enter your credit card info to pay for the hosting. By default it selects the option to pay for 12 months. If you prefer you can opt to pay for 2 or 3 years instead, but it doesn’t reduce the monthly price, so I don’t see any reason to do that. By default it will also have some add-on options selected. You may or may not want those add-ons, it’s up to you. Personally, I prefer to purchase the domain name privacy for $1 per month because it keeps your personal information hidden so people cannot solicit you through the domain registration. I don’t recommend paying for the premium support, because my experience with SiteGround’s support is that the basic support is outstanding and I don’t see any reason to upgrade that. The basic backup service ($2 per month) and the hack alert monitoring ($1 per month) are something that you may want if you don’t mind paying a little bit extra.
When you’re ready, click the blue “submit order” button. After that, you will be led to the confirmation page shown below.
Click on the “proceed to customer area” button. This is where the magic happens for instantly setting up your blog. Leave the button checked to “start a new website” and click the orange “proceed” button.
Step 3: Install WordPress
Next, you’ll be led to the account setup assistant. All you need to do here is check the button for “personal/blog” and check the button for “WordPress”. Then click the orange “proceed” button.
Next, you’ll enter your email address, a username, and password. Be sure that you use your main email address here, because if you ever need to reset your password it will be sent to this email address and you’ll need to be able to access it. You can choose one of the recommended free templates if you like, but you can always choose a template later. Click the orange button when you are ready and it will install your blog automatically.
You’ll be led to a confirmation page to tell you that your account is setup. It will list the login URL for your site. Keep this login URL bookmarked or somewhere that you can easily find it because you will need it to login to your site.
And if you go to your website you can see that it is now live!
Ok, so you officially have your own blog set up and live in less than 10 minutes! Now, I’ll go over the basics of using your blog and choosing a template. Let’s start with the template first. When you go to the login URL provided by SiteGround (it should be yourdomain.com/wp-login.php), enter your username and password and it will take you to your dashboard. On the left side, click on “Appearance” and then click on the blue “add new” button (see the red arrow in the screenshot below).
This will lead you to a page where you can search for a new theme. You can enter a keyword to search, or you can select any of the boxes to filter themes. If you go that route, check the boxes that you want and then click on the “find themes” button. From here you’ll see the themes that match your search.
You can click the “preview” link on any of the themes to see it in action, and when you find the one that you want to use, click on “install now”.
Ok, now that you have your theme selected, we’ll shift our focus to some important settings. In the left navigation menu of the WordPress dashboard, click on “settings” (it is near the bottom of the navigation menu). At this page you’ll want to enter your site’s title and a short tagline. The other settings that you might want to change here are the timezone and time format. When you’re done, click the blue “save changes” button at the bottom.
Next, click on “permalinks” under settings. From here you have a few choices about how the URLs for your pages and posts will be structured. This is an important setting because it impacts the usability and search engine optimization of your site. “Post name” is the recommended setting here, so check the button and click the blue “save changes” button at the bottom.
Ok, now everything is set up and you can start entering your blog posts. Click on “posts” in the navigation menu and it will show you a list of the blog posts. It installs with a sample post, which you will want to delete. Hover your mouse below the post title and click on “trash”.
Ok, now to enter your first post click on the “add new” button at the top of the screen. You’ll be led to the screen where you can enter your blog post.
Referring to the screenshot below: enter your post title where the red arrow is pointing, enter the post body where the green arrow is pointing, enter a category where the yellow area is pointing, and when you are ready publish the post where the orange arrow is pointing.
When you want to insert a photo into your posts, click on the “add media” button and it will allow you to upload the photo from your hard drive.
That’s it! You now have your own blog on your own domain name and you can publish posts whenever you want.
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