A good friend asked me recently on how to start an online website/blog for financial news, specifically on forex trading. I am no expert on the topic but the last few months with GadgetReactor has taught me a few lessons on potential pitfalls.
Getting a Domain Name
To start things off, you would need a name for your blog. You can always choose an all-in-one solutions provider like Blogspot or WordPress.com or Tumbler who can host your blog at a sub-domain “gadgetreactor.wordpress.com”and provide you with a nice interface too. The fallbacks are that you would be identified only through a sub-domain name, your domain name “www.myname.com” might be purchased by others subsequently, and as the services are through these service providers, it is less customisable. WordPress offers more options through the use of plugins but blogger prides itself on simplicity and I would say that you can get your blog off and running in far less time compared to Blogger. There are many comparisons of WordPress vs Blogger but I find the ComputerWorld article most comprehensive. To summarise, WordPress offers a wider range of tools for adding content, more widgets and better social networking integration, and superior customization. But Blogger, on the other hand, is much simpler to set up and easier to use; and yet, still have access (less customisable) to useful and important features such as social integration, analytic stats and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
To get a domain name like “www.myname.com”, you would have to pay an annual fee to a registrar for the right to use that name. Getting a name does not get you a website or anything like that. It’s just a name. I use Godaddy services but NameCheap.com is apparently more popular, so you can consider them as well. It’s sort of like registering a business name in the brick-and-mortar world; having that business name does not mean that you also have the shop premises to go with the name.
Hosting Your Website
A web host is basically a service provider of storage space for your website and to allow the public to view these data. You could actually use your computer and internet connection to host the website but that would mean that your computer is on permanently. It’s a suitable option if you wish to test out specific web applications. Otherwise, get a webserver to do it instead. Different webservers can provide additional services like mySQL, Ruby on Rails, SSL certs for more complex web services. If getting a domain name is analogous to getting a business name in the brick-and-mortar world, getting a web hosting account is analogous to renting office or shop premises for your business. There are many issues involved in finding a good web host. As highlighted above, your requirements may vary. For a simple wordpress site, a standard PHP and MySQL support would suffice. Other issues like geographical location of the server matters as well. Web host in US tends to be cheaper but a host in Singapore would help make speeds faster for local traffic.
I was using 000webhost free services for a couple of months until I hit a CPU capacity limit. I ended up having to switch host and blogged about that previously on the hassle of transferring. That bad episode aside, it is great for a free service. Although speeds are rather erratic and could get a bit slow.
Content for your Website
The next term you would need to be familiar with is Content Management System (CMS). A web CMS is a bundled or stand-alone application to create, manage, store and deploy content on Web pages. Web content includes text and embedded graphics, photos, video, audio, and code (e.g., for applications) that displays content or interacts with the user. Basically, it provides a easy way to manage your websites and content. A long time ago, people actually had to know HTML to build websites, but not any longer.
The current three heavyweights for CMS are WordPress.org, Joomla, and Drupal. And even so, there are many more that serve a specific niche market. However, the three I listed are the common ones and they are also listed in complexity. You see me providing quite a few WordPress examples as that is what I personally use. It is a familiar interface for bloggers and has enough customisation to allow me to tweak the website to a design that I am happy with.
The Important Stuff
Now for your website to take off, the main aim is to get yourself noticed. Search engines favour descriptive, key-rich domain names in their rankings for searches based on the same words. It goes the same for the articles and SEO is all about having the right keywords and putting them in the right places on your site. But don’t let that scare you. With the recent Google Search Engine “Penguin” updates, Google’s current algorithm tends to reward original content more so just go ahead and blog and let your words grow with the site.