Basics of Blog Design & Development — Should You DIY or Use a Paid Service?

Basics of Blog Design & Development — Should You DIY or Use a Paid Service?

Decided it’s time to start publishing a blog for your business? Committing to move forward is a big step, but really just the first step in a long journey.

Blogging means a lot of writing, whether by you, others in your business or hired guns keyboards. That’s discussion for another day — or days — though.

Regardless where you get those wonderful words you post on your blog, there won’t be anywhere to post them until you first set up the blog itself.

What is a Blog?

You’ve decided your business needs a blog and seen a number of others yourself but as you try to get started you realize you have no idea just what a blog really is or how to get started.

If it makes you feel any better, there are lots of business people asking the same question. (For the record, it didn’t make me feel any better either.)

A blog is really, from a basic structural standpoint, really just a website. Yes, any site can be a blog, because it’s the content that makes the site a blog rather than the structure.

Those building a blog for an S&P 1000 company or for personal use have options to consider for the basic formation of their blog. When we’re talking about a blog for a business that isn’t one of the biggest – at least not yet – you really have one path, though with several decisions along the way.

You have to have your own domain (the www…. that drives the web) and a blog structure designed just for you in WordPress. None of this means anything to you? Read on and it will.

Self-hosting is the formal name for it, but that makes it sound much more difficult than it is. Well, maybe not that much.

Getting Your Own Domain

The domain of your blog – address on the where your customers and prospective customers will find the blog – is a basic building block. There are services that will let you use their domain but rarely is that the right thing for a business blog. No, you need your own address.

Do you already have a domain for your company? If so, you are set in this department. Don’t be tempted by those who suggest setting up another domain for your blog. What that does is take potential internet traffic away from your company website. Sure, you can link to it on your blog page, but it’s just not the same. Having a popular blog will raise the profile of the other items on the domain and likely make it more important in the eyes of the search engines, which can only be a good thing if you use your website to attract potential new customers.

If you don’t have a web presence already then you need to pick a domain for your blog. For this step it’s best to go right to a domain registrar, really just a company that provide a service, registering domain names with the international clearinghouse. Most of them do much more than just that because domain registry itself is a low margin commodity business. The other services part really is important to you because it’s most convenient to register your domain with the company that will be hosting your website. It’s not a must, but we’ve learned the hard way that it’s much easier.domain extensions

We suggest going to GoDaddy.com (affiliate link) to set up your domain. We’ve tried others and made our way to GoDaddy, where we’ve been happy for more than five years.

Picking the Right Domain Name

The reason to work on your domain name selection at the registrar’s site is that chances are unfortunately high your company name isn’t readily available unless it has an unusual spelling. If you find it available on your first try, don’t go away and think about it but register it on the spot. The cost is low if you decide to change later so it’s a low price to avoid kicking yourself later. Yes, we learned that one the hard way.

So what if your company name isn’t there? Think about how people know you or how you would want them to find you on the web. Enter those names and see if something you like is available. It may take a while and you might have to get creative. These are our thoughts on some alternative approaches.

  • Hyphenated names – These can be a good way to get something close to what you want but are generally less than ideal, though it does work for some. Your domain is ideally something that will be memorable and hyphens (and likewise underscores, or “_”) are easily overlooked, especially when used in your email address, another thing we think you should do.
  • Long names – Used by some as a way to get the name they want in a domain that includes other words. What’s too long? Picture names on your business card. Would you company’s domain look awkward or your email address look so long as to be clumsy?
  • Alternate domain extensions – It is tempting to use an alternative extension, such as .net, .co or .biz, to get the name you want. That’s an option, but is it the right one for you? Would YOU remember to enter .biz or another extension after the domain name? It’s so common to use .com that many of us simply do that on auto pilot. You may want to have some of those with the .com name you really want, but try hard to avoid using an alternative extension as your primary domain.

Blog Site Building Options

Getting the domain name locked up is just the start – and maybe the easy part of your process. If you thought there were a lot of options there, get ready for building your blog site. We talk more about site building in a future post, but want to talk here about the first decision — do you do it yourself (or in house) or pay someone to build you blog site for you?

Like most things in business, there is no single “best” way to do it and trade-offs are involved in deciding which is better for your blog.

  • Time – is there enough of it? Do you simply have no more time in the day or even enough to take care of all the tasks you have already? That goes for you and others within your company who you may want to involve in the development of the site. If you don’t have time to devote to building your website right then you should look for someone else to do it for you.
  • Control – is it important to you? Do you like to be in control and want to maintain control of the website development process? If so, taking a do-it-yourself approach is probably the better way for you. No matter what a developer might tell you, hiring someone to build you website means you are giving up some of the control. That might go beyond the initial development well into the future, depending on your developer and their style.
  • Cost – From a financial standpoint, you’ll likely put out fewer dollars in your quest for a website if you do it yourself – but that is not translating your time into money. Only you can do that, so this factor can go either. Keep in mind your desire for future updates with software changes, style upgrades and more. Do you want to pay someone else every time you need changes? Can you afford in-house time to do it?
  • Getting It Done – Another consideration that only you can judge. Can you commit to working on it until it’s ready, including any education you need to develop skills (as I learned, you don’t need a lot of skill)? Do you want to be at the mercy of someone who may or may not deliver when you want or even when promised?

Think over the “who does it” some, but not until after you pick a domain name and get it registered. Each minute that goes by gives others a chance to lock yours up before you get there.

In an upcoming post we will discuss how to go about building your own blog, including tools and other resources we have found valuable.

 

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