Blogs are popular on the internet for a good reason: they are an easy way for people to share their thoughts on anything and everything.
Launching a blog isn't difficult.
All you need is a website that functions as your blog and a blog hosting package to get your site online.
In this article, you'll learn how to get up and running with your blog and the web hosting that supports it.
What Blogging Is, and Why You Might Be Interested
Blogs (which is short for weblog, or web-based log) are a great way to share content you create.
You can think of it as an online journal where individual articles you write and published and presented (usually) in reverse chronological order.
Are you interested in creating a specialized page where you cover a given topic in depth? Or are you just interested in sharing the daily minutia of your children's life with faraway grandparents?
Blogging is a great way to manage and share frequent updates.
Running a Blog: Consistency and Frequency are Important
Blogs differ from websites in one key way: they are frequently updated. Websites tend to be updated whenever their content changes or becomes out of date. Blogs, however, are expected to be updated much more frequently.
The frequency with which you write and publish posts does not really matter, but generally speaking, your readers will expect some regularity.
For example, you might be blogging every other week on Thursday, or you might post a shorter update three times a week.
Because you are interacting with your blog, especially the back end, so frequently, it is important that you choose blog software and web hosting options that are easy to use.
What is a CMS?
One of the easiest ways to get started with blogging is to use a content management system (CMS).
Content management systems are apps that facilitate the creation, management, storage, and organization of digital content.
In this article, we will focus on the use of CMS for blogs, but CMSs are used for other purposes, such as publishing digital images and videos, and for e-commerce stores and other businesses.
Notable Features of CMSs
CMSs provide a great variety of features but there are some general things you can expect from them all.
Some of the features a content management system include:
- Version control so that you can roll your blog back to an earlier state
- Site search and article retrieval
- Thematic elements to ensure a uniform/consistent experience for your users
Remember, this is just the tip of the CMS-feature iceberg.
Popular Content Management Systems (CMSs)
If you are interested in using a content management system as your blogging platform, where do you start?
There are many different options out there, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
To help you begin your search, we have rounded up some of the most popular options available today.
You have probably heard of WordPress since it is the most popular content management system/blogging platform in the world.
In fact, we would say that WordPress is the content management system par excellence.
Here are some WordPress highlights:
- Free to use, since it is open source
- Extremely customizable
- Very powerful (WordPress powers some of the largest websites on the internet)
- A Large number of themes and plugins available
- WordPress Community is huge
WordPress is Simple to Install
If you are familiar with websites/web hosting, WordPress boasts a five-minute installation (and yes, we have verified that this can be done).
If you do not know what you need for your blog just yet, you cannot go wrong with choosing a WordPress blog.
In addition to being able to support pretty much whatever you want to do with your blog, we would be very surprised if you found a web host that does not support WordPress.
Joomla is a free-to-use and open source software/content management system/blogging platform similar to WordPress.
There are a lot of similarities between WordPress and Joomla in terms of features and functionality.
However, Joomla does offer some things that WordPress does not (such as support for non-MySQL databases).
Who is Joomla Best For and Why?
Joomla is more difficult for beginners to use than WordPress. In addition to lacking the same five-minute installation, Joomla's configuration screens and the like are less user-friendly thank WordPress'.
For more advanced users, Joomla offers the core installation key features, such as those required for search engine optimization and security.
Finally, we think that Joomla is a better fit for users who want an interactive site.
Rather than focusing primarily on blogging, Joomla is a good option for those who want to create a community, where many people come together and interact using a forum/message board-like user interface.
Movable Type is very similar to WordPress, though it is a proprietary option that would appeal to more serious users. Its feature set includes:
- The ability to host multiple blogs and standalone content pages
- File management
- Access management and user roles
- Tagging and content management
Ghost bills itself as the "Professional Publishing Platform." It is open-source and written in Java.
Ghost was created by a former WordPress employee who became frustrated with the complexity of using WordPress for just blogging — complexity that had grown over the years.
Ghost provides a clean, aesthetically pleasing interface useful for writing and content creation. Ghost is definitely more of a blogging platform than a content management system.
Pure Blogging With Ghost
Essentially, Ghost tries prevent the bloat that occurs when you try to build a content management system that can be used for anything and everything.
It focuses purely on blogging and nothing else.
There are very few restrictions on what you can do if you are self-hosting your Ghost implementation.
Drawbacks and Features of Ghost
The biggest drawback to Ghost for users new to blogging is how your content is created.
Rather than giving you a WYSIWYG editor like WordPress or Joomla, Ghost content is formatted using Markdown.
While Markdown is not too difficult to learn, it is something you will need to know if you want to work with Ghost.
Furthermore, though Ghost ships with some features that WordPress does not (such as those needed for search engine optimization), your ability to customize Ghost pales in comparison to WordPress (and to some extent, even Joomla).
Building Your Site with an All-In-One Site Builder
Content management systems or blogging platforms are not the only way by which you can get a blog up and running.
You can easily set up a website to post and display your content.
For example, just as you can use WordPress to create a website, you can create a website to display your blog posts! Going this route does not mean that you will need to do additional work.
There are many all-in-one website packages from which you can choose, and many come with the extensibility you need to quickly and easily add blogging platform functionality.
Squarespace is known for three things:
- Its intuitive drag-and-drop site building features
- Beautiful, modern designs
- Its top-notch customer support
Using Squarespace, you can get up and running with a beautiful website in no time flat.
You can then choose to create new pages for each new blog post (though we do not recommend this method), or you can add a blogging widget that will allow you to create, manage, organize, and share the content you write.
Squarespace is a fully-hosted, all-in-one solution.
The content management systems we mentioned in the section above are plenty powerful on their own. Even so, you still need to do things like find the appropriate web hosting and configure your hosting to display your site.
If you would rather not handle the setup of your blog yourself, an all-in-one solution like Squarespace will minimize the headaches you face when getting started with blogging.
In addition, from your Squarespace dashboard, you can:
- Transfer your domain(s) to Squarespace and manage them
- Create and manage a G-Suite email account
- Accept donations or sell products and services via a built-in Stripe integration
- Have access to built-in sales and marketing tools
Weebly is another player in the all-in-one site-building space and is focused on those looking to grow their e-commerce business.
The company offers free-to-use options, as well as premium versions powerful enough to support e-commerce stores and websites for larger businesses.
With the latter options, you get things like integrated marketing.
Blogging for Business
Blogging can be a powerful driver of sales, especially since posts are longer and allow for more information to be conveyed to the customer.
If you are interested in developing a blog for your business, be sure to consider Weebly.
However, do not discount Weebly even if you are not creating a blog for business purposes — its packages are more than enough to power even personal sites and can certainly be used to do so.
Weebly is a fully-hosted solution.
Wix is a cloud-based website building platform that allows its users to create websites (including mobile-friendly ones) using a drag-and-drop site builder.
Wix users can then customize their site further by adding functionality like:
- Community forums
- Social media integrations
- E-commerce features
- Integrated marketing
Simplicity with a Fully-Hosted Solution
There are a wide variety of options available, so if you are looking for something that supports more than just a blog, Wix might be the right option for you.
Wix does not require the use of any particular feature, so you can easily create a blog using your Wix site builder and leave everything else alone.
Like Weebly and Squarespace, Wix is a fully-hosted solution so you do not have to deal with the management of your website's back-end systems.
Micro-Blogging and Other Non-Traditional Blogging Platforms
In addition to content management systems/blogging platforms and all-in-one website builders, there are several other ways you can get up and running with a blog.
Blogger, which was acquired by Google a couple of years ago, was once very popular for those who wanted to start a simple blog.
Is Blogger Fit for Beginners?
Blogger has waned in popularity over the years, but we still think it is a good option for those who are looking to get started with blogging (especially if you want something that is ready to go almost immediately after you sign up for an account).
Blogger offers many different templates from which you can choose, and you can easily customize the functionality of your blog by adding widgets.
These widgets can be used for things like:
- Calendars that hyperlink to posts you have written on any given day
- Tag clouds so users can find all of your posts on a certain topic
- Search functionality to retrieve posts relevant to the keywords the user enters
- Custom menus that make it easy for your visitors to navigate through your archives
Free, Easy Sharing
Blogger is not fancy, but if you just want to write and publish and have your work available for others to see, you can't go wrong with this option.
Furthermore, Blogger is completely free to use (though your blog will only be accessible via your Blogger subdomain, such as **your-URL.blogspot.com).
The best way to think of Medium is that it is a mashup of a community of blogs and a news website.
But before we go into this in more detail, let's talk about why you might consider using Medium for your blog.
Using Medium, you get all the features you would expect from a blog host:
- A domain by which your content can be accessed
- Space where you can create and edit your content
- Publishing features, including those related to basic website design
Medium Community of Posts
However, rather than having your blog posts exist in its own little sphere on the internet, it exists in a community of blog posts.
For example, let's say that you are blogging about swimming. When publishing on Medium, your swim-related posts can be accessed by Medium visitors alongside others' swim-related posts.
This has a two-fold effect:
- You get recognition in conjunction with others who write on a selected topic (and vice versa)
- Visitors get a host of reading material without having to look too hard for it
Tumblr is a microblogging platform that is most commonly known for its GIFs. In microblogging, blog posts are much shorter than you would expect with a traditional blog.
Like Blogger, you can get started with Tumblr in just a couple of minutes and with few mouse clicks.
Tumblr is a free service, and you get everything you need to share your thoughts with the world.
Tumblr's Loyal Community
What makes Tumblr different from Blogger is the built-in community.
While Blogger allows you to enable comments so that your readers can engage with you (and with each other), Tumblr is designed so that such participation (including the reposting of others' work) is easier and encouraged.
However, if you are not looking for such a community, you can still use Tumblr for your blog.
Its ease of use makes it a great choice who would rather spend time on content than the support for such content. If you have ever used Twitter, you will be at home with Tumblr. Tumblr is kind of like a heavyweight version of Twitter.
WordPress.com is the hosted version of the WordPress blogging platform.
With WordPress.com you do not have to perform a WordPress installation.
You get most of the features and functionality that ship with WordPress, but everything behind the scenes, so to speak, has been set up for you.
This means that you do not have to worry about things like domain names, web hosting, and so on.
Advantages of WordPress.com
The biggest upside to using WordPress.com is that you can get started with a blog and the process will not be any more complicated than that of Blogger.
You simply create an account, name your site, choose a theme, and you are ready to begin writing.
There are several downsides, however.
Downsides of WordPress.com
First, WordPress.com is not free if you want more than the basics or if you want an ad-free site.
Second, you are limited in how you can customize your WordPress blog. One of the biggest perks of a self-hosted blog is that you can make it do or behave exactly as you like. With hosted WordPress, you may find yourself constrained by the fact that there are limits on what you can do or how your website performs.
You may not have access to all plugins/themes available.
Finally, you do not get to control what type of infrastructure powers your website. This is no different from any other hosted product, but given the flexibility for which self-hosted WordPress is famous, we thought this would be worth a mention.
How to Choose a Host for Your Blog
If you do not choose any of the all-in-one site builders or hosted blogging tools we mentioned above, you will be responsible for selecting a web host provider to server your blog to the internet.
There are pros and cons to choosing a blog software option before choosing your hosting, but there are downsides to doing the opposite as well.
Choosing a Web Host First
By choosing your web host provider first, you are able to choose a provider that:
- Offers a package at a price you want to pay
- Offers performance you would find acceptable
- Will meet your blog software's needs — you will not have to limit your options since you do not have software constraining your choices yet
For someone just getting started, web hosting can be tricky, so choosing a company that you work well with can be crucial to a positive blogging experience.
Choosing a Blogging Platform First
There is something to be said about choosing your blog software first — the whole purpose of this exercise is to start a blog, and it makes sense to start with the software.
After all, it is the software that will be closest to your content.
Most web hosting providers will offer options that meet your needs, and it is unlikely for you to find a host you like that does not support the software you have chosen.
Do Your Web Hosting Research
Furthermore, do not underestimate the convenience of knowing which blog software you are using and selecting a host that provides custom features for it.
As an example, let's say that you have decided to use WordPress for your blog.
Many, but not all, providers offer one-click installers for WordPress sites so that installing is super simple.
It can, therefore, be helpful to choose a host that offers such functionality, since that means that you will have to do less to get your blog up and running.
Type of Web Hosting
Aside from making sure that your blog software is compatible with the web hosting plan, you have chosen, what else should you look for?
Well, it depends.
If you are just getting started or you are just dipping your toes in to see how things go, a shared hosting plan will likely be enough — regardless of the number of resources that you get.
As a Blogger, Do I Need a Premium Hosting Package?
Every shared hosting plan will get your site online, and you can then determine, via experience, if you need more for your blog.
If, however, you know already that the content you are producing is resource intensive (for example you might be a photographer interested in sharing lots of high-resolution images in each post), you might start with a more premium hosting package, such as a virtual private server (VPS) option.
This also goes for those who are expecting higher levels of traffic from the beginning.
Different web hosts offer different levels of packages.
If you are interested in starting small, but you think you might need to upgrade, consider selecting a host that offers a range of plans.
That is a pretty cool feature.
Software-Specific Weblog Hosting
If you find software-specific blog hosting, you might want to give these a serious look.
For example, due to popularity, some hosts offer what are WordPress-specific plans.
Generally, you get everything a generic web hosting plan would get, but you get bonus features, such as managed WordPress services that will help you keep your WordPress core updated, services, and infrastructure (such as a server partition optimized for use with WordPress).
Beginner-Friendly Blog Hosting
If you find the prospect of choosing blog hosting your blog daunting, consider beginning your search with one of the following two providers.
Bluehost is a great provider of web hosting services, especially if you are using WordPress (the company is known for its WordPress blog hosting).
BlueHost maintains a close relationship with Automattic, the parent company of WordPress, so the two products work well together.
It is known for being a WordPress hosting company, but it offers many options for users not on WordPress as well. As a hosting company, BlueHost offers different types of hosting packages at all price points.
It offers good customer service, a free domain name, and shared plans (as well as some of the more premium options) are backed by a 30-day money back guarantee.
SiteGround is one of only 3 web hosts worldwide to be officially recommended by the WordPress organization.
This recommendation comes because SiteGround's platform is calibrated and optimized to provide excellent performance for WordPress sites.
SiteGround does much more than WordPress hosting though and it's known for its versatility, strong community, and customer support.
You cannot go wrong with a SiteGround hosting account.
In addition to offering a variety of hosting options at different price points, SiteGround uses excellent hosting technologies, provides a free domain name, offers good support and offers a money back guarantee if you are unsatisfied.
Choosing a blogging platform, as well as the weblog hosting package that best supports a blogging platform can be overwhelming.
However, with just a bit of work, you can certainly find the options that are best for your needs.
Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
Can I allow others to post on my blog?
This will depend on the platform you’re using, but many blogging programs allow you to set up different users or user groups.
Each group can then have different permissions, such as the ability to post on your site.
If this is an important feature, make sure you research each program to ensure it provides that capability.
Is there any way to communicate with blog readers even if they don’t visit my blog every day?
Absolutely. The easiest, and probably best way, is to provide an RSS feed on your blog site.
When a user subscribes to your RSS feed, anytime you create a new post, it is automatically sent to their favorite RSS reader. Some users even send RSS feeds directly to their email, so they never miss a post.
Is it possible to make money off a blog?
Absolutely. Blogs, like any other website, typically rely on advertisements to make money.
Most blogging applications make it easy to include ads on your site by simply placing a widget on the side of the screen.
Provided you get enough traffic and your ads are relevant for your users, you can make substantial money with a good blog.
What should I blog about?
That is probably the toughest and simplest question in the blogosphere.
Toughest, because you never know what’s going to strike a chord with your audience. Unless you’re a huge-name celebrity (or a cute kitten), there’s no guarantee your blog will be read.
On the other hand, you never know what’s going to strike a chord, so the blogging world is an open book.
Write about whatever you want. Maybe it will be a success. Maybe it won’t. But you never know until you get it out there.
Do I need to know HTML to blog?
Most modern blogging platforms provide a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) editor, meaning your post will appear exactly the way it looks on the screen as you’re writing it.
They usually features a toolbar for altering the appearance of your text, adding links, or embedding images, very similar to the toolbar in your favorite word processor.
Do I need any special requirements in order to host a blog?
Any hosting platform should be able to host a blog, and most will provide one as a one-click installation. If your host doesn’t, it’s probably time to find a new host.