Many people have asked me how I set up my own site at www.skepticgeek.com and migrated my existing blog from WordPress.com in the process. In this series of posts, I will briefly cover the steps I took to set up this site.
There are many guides on the net about how to setup your own website, so I will not try to repeat all that wisdom here. Instead, I hope these posts will be helpful for two reasons: One, many of the guides and tutorials on the web are outdated, as the technology and commerce landscape changes rapidly. Two, there are some unique considerations involved in hosting multiple blogs on one domain and migrating a blog from WordPress.com to your self-hosted WordPress.org installation.
Choose Domain Name
I used Instant Domain Search to search for my domain name. If you are looking to build a professional website, I strongly suggest going with .com domains, and avoid other alternatives. For personal websites, any domain name that fits your budget is fine
There are advanced domain name search engines like Domize if you want to use sophisticated search. I also read How To Buy Domain Names Successfully and 11 Steps to Buying a Domain Name That Doesn’t Suck.
When choosing your domain name, think into the future. You can choose your own name if it is easy to remember and short . However, your personal name as your domain name puts limitations on what you can do with it. If you envision the site to be used by multiple authors for blogs, or to build a user community, a generic name is more suitable.
Try to get domains that have keywords of your interest and focus in the domain name. You might also want to check if the corresponding Twitter handle, Facebook vanity URL, etc. is available while making your choice. I went ahead with www.skepticgeek.com only to discover later that the Twitter username was already taken, and hence had to resort to using @ScepticGeek on Twitter.
Do not buy the domain name with a registrar until you have chosen your web host. Read further to know why.
Choose Web Host
There are some web hosts recommended by WordPress here. This is Lifehacker’s user-voted list of Most Popular Reliable and Affordable Web Hosts. After a simple search in FriendFeed, I realized that there is no “perfect” web host. You need to choose one based on your budget and technical requirements.
I checked the simplicity of WordPress installs, bandwidth and storage limits, flexibility in customizing and configuring various applications and subdomains, etc.
I tested the quality of customer service by live chat with the web host customer service before I decided on my host. After evaluating many alternatives, I had narrowed down my choices to Hostgator, Dreamhost, and Bluehost, and finally decided on Bluehost.
I also suggest you check with your social network community – either FriendFeed, Twitter, or Facebook. After I tweeted about searching for good web hosts, I got couple of responses that pointed me to some sites that list and rank the best web hosts. The names and locations of these sites change all the time, so find out the current ones by searching and asking around. Comparison matrices at such sites can be useful, since if you only look at the “features” offered by one web host at their own site, you might get the impression that they offer everything under the sun.
Is it better to buy a domain name separately and choose your web host later? This is certainly one option that has some advantages. For example, you can buy a “hot” domain name instantly and decide on hosting at your own leisure. If you are dissatisfied with the hosting service, you can easily move on to another provider since the domain name is completely within your control.
In my case, I found that Bluehosts plan included a free domain name, and there were no discounts if I already had purchased my domain. Hence I did not buy the domain separately, and bought it as part of signing up with Bluehost.
I used my PayPal account for convenient online payment.
Use Free Site Monitoring
All web hosts, even paid ones, have down time. Use a free website monitoring service like Pingdom to monitor your site’s uptime. Until now, there were no free services like this, and Pingdom has recently introduced free monitoring for one website. You must take advantage of this free offer.
If you find the post useful, let me know in the comments. In the next post, I will describe how I have setup two blogs on one domain. In the final post of the series, we will look at the process of migrating an existing blog from WordPress.com to your own self-hosted WordPress.org installation.