Starting a blog for $20 a year (and it’s easier than you think)

Every podcast I’m listening to, whether it is a business podcast, fitness podcast or a podcasts for fitness business says that starting a blog is a great idea. It’s hard to disagree . I’ve been writing for the Idaho Select blog for years and have seen those results. The ability to create, share and then have Google help people find your content (especially if you do it the right way) makes this a no brainer.

But there are a ton of blogging platforms out there. This blog was a fresh start for me. I can go anywhere I want.

Putting content creation aside, my biggest needs and concerns were: is the platform easy to use, is it scalable if I want to add pages, advertising, products, plugins, etc? What if I want to switch platforms later? Is this easy to do? How mobile friendly is it? Does it do well with SEO?

I wanted a platform that I could methodically build great, searchable and relevant content that would be easy to find and easy to either upload or create on the fly, preferably from my smart phone (I’m currently using an iPhone 6 Plus). And I’d like to start the blog for $20 a year or less.

Where to start

The first thing I did was go to Google and search “how to choose a platform for a blog” which got me 32 million results. That’s a lot of information. And most of them say the same things.

I found this post by Ginny Soskey helpful. It is on the Shareaholic website, a plug in I use on the Idaho Select website. She has good information based on facts and her own experiences, something I can relate to.

The first platform on her list, and the one that first comes to my mind is WordPress. I have a ton of experience with WordPress. I’ve built entire sites on the platform (www.montanaselectbasketball and www.northwestpremierinvitational.com) and I’ve also used it as the blog only piece of www.idahoselect.org.

I’m also familiar with Blogger, as that is what we use with www.bamjamboise.com . Additionally, the BAM Jam site is built on Umbraco (so is our www.transitionhoops.com site) but that really is more about content and database management, WAY too complicated for what we are doing here. The Blogger platform seems a little outdated, though I know it is probably a good option if you want to link up with AdWords via Google.

I read articles on Medium.com (especially those by Larry Kim and Jason Fried) and it is enjoyable from a reader’s perspective. However, since you are putting your content on another website and not your own domain, it’s not the best way to build my personal brand at this point (though it might be fun to jump in there from time to time).

I don’t consider what I want to do here a microblog so Tumblr didn’t seem like the right fit. I’ve been really getting in to Shopify lately, and will probably be moving our www.selectprintingusa.com site over there soon. But with a $30 per month price tag, a non-e-commerce site didn’t seem like the right fit.

Enter SquareSpace and TypePad.

I’ve seen SquareSpace on several websites I’ve visited in the last few months and the sites looked good. They run $144 a year, paid up front, and that seems to include a domain name. The feature set on SquareSpace is pretty complete and it even addressed fonts, which for some reason is important to me (if you’re a psychologist, please explain why to me). The website also mentions that there is “one-click data portability”, whatever that means.

TypePad looks more like a formal newspaper. I love journalism and great writing but that really isn’t what I’m going for on this site.

Ultimately WordPress wins out. It offers everything I need today, I’m very familiar with it, there is a huge community of plug in builders and it looks like all major e-commerce platforms have a way to transfer WordPress sites over to them. The transfer piece is important to me as I have no idea where this will need to be in a year. Today things are pretty simple.

Getting the blog running for $20 a year

If you look at Go Daddy or bluehost, the cost of setting up hosting runs similar on the surface. bluehost has WordPress hosting on sale (at least when I wrote this) for $1.95/month (and then $7.99/month after the first year). Go Daddy offers WordPress hosting for $3.99/month ($7.99/month after the first year). Both include a free domain name (that you’ll need to renew each year). For a year of bluehost WordPress hosting you’d pay about $23.40. On Go Daddy it would be around $48.00. bluehost gets me pretty close to my goal.

But then I remembered that there are tons of coupon codes out there that actually work and can save you a few bucks.

Another quick search on Google for “godaddy wordpress coupons” you can find coupon codes to get the first year of hosting plus a free domain for $12.00! That gives me a little room to spare. Add in an $8.00 a year privacy purchase (to try and keep away the spam) and we’re up and running for $20.

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