If you eventually decide to come to Taiwan, or perhaps end up in Korea, Japan, or somewhere else, you might want to find your own little corner of the interwebs to call you home so that you can share your thoughts, adventures, and pic or vids with friends and family. Or maybe you even just want to keep an online memo of your adventure for yourself. Whatever the reason is, hopefully this this little primer will be of some help.
Below I’ll show you two different approaches to setting up your own blog. If you already know what you are doing, this may not be much help, but if you are new to online publishing, these basic should get you going pretty quickly. And as always, if you have a question or problem that this doesn’t cover, feel free to contact us.
The Free and Easy Way
There ares lots of free and easy to use blogging platforms nowadays. They come with their own unique pros and cons, but for someone who just wants a place to jot down their ideas and upload some photos, they are fine. If you want something a little more serious though, these options may not be your best choice.
Two of the most popular free options are Google’s Blogger and another similar platform called Weebly. There are tons more, but these two are fairly well known and rather easy to use. You can literally be up and running in as little as 5 minutes on both of these choices. (WordPress.com is another big player in this industry.)
The good thing about this type of blog is pretty clear. They are free. The only investment you make is the time that you put into it. If you get bored or get sidetracked, you aren’t out of any money. They’re also really easy to set up and use. Weebly is especially simple as it uses a well designed and easy to understand drag and drop type of interface.
It’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows with these types of sites. The first is that they do have some requirements, though they are not too demanding. To use Blogger you will need a gmail account (who doesn’t have one by now anyway?), and they will both usually want to verify that you are a real person via SMS.
Another problem with these free options is that if at some point you want to decide to try and make a little coin off of your adventures, you might have to jump through some hurdles. Blogger will allow you to use Google’s advertising system Adsense, but that’s only if they approve you. It’s also not a monster earner unless you are some massive site with tons of visitors everyday. The free WordPress option won’t let you sell anyone else’s product, like something from Amazon.com or another similar site. Weebly seems to be a bit friendlier, but they could change their minds at any given time.
Another drawback is your website name. You will actually get a subdomain on their big domain. What this means is instead of having movetotaiwan.com you would end up with something like movetotaiwan.blogspot.com or movetotaiwan.weebly.com. Then if at some point you wish to move away from that, you get charged a higher than normal price for a domain name.
The biggest problem with the free blog approach in my opinion though is that it is not yours. If at anytime the platform that you picked has a policy change, they may deem your particular site inappropriate and delete it. It’s rare, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. There’s also not much you can do about it if it’s something that actually happens, as you are playing in their house.
The Big Boy and Big Girl Way
For those of you thinking about making a, should I say, real blog, you probably want to go the paid route where you actually have a lot more control over your blog. That doesn’t mean a free blog isn’t a real blog, so settle down Blogger users.
The biggest two problems with this approach are that it is not free, and it takes a little tech savvy (very very little since I managed to do it and I am one step removed from a caveman) to set things up. I’ll try and break it down as clearly as possible, but again, if you get confused or if you notice something I either skipped or messed up, contact me.
The Main 3 Things You’ll Need
The easiest way to explain this in my opinion is to think of your soon to be new website as a home. In order to have a fully functioning home where people can send you care packages and love letters, you’ll want to make sure that you indeed have somewhere to build, something to build, and a way for people to find you.
Your address is how people find you. Our’s is www.movetotaiwan.com. The technical name for this is your domain name. Unfortunately these are not free. You buy them, or actually rent them, from a domain registrar. A popular on that you have propbaly heard of before is GoDaddy. We actually prefer to use a cheaper and friendlier registrar named NameCheap.com. They also won’t try to up-sell you and flood you with email like GoDaddy.
You Plot of Land
Now that you have your address, you need your land. Yes, if this were really real estate and not a metaphor, we would need the land first, but just go with flow here. The land is where you will put everything: your posts, pictures, etc. The name for this is called hosting. With the free blogs, they act as your host (which is also why they can just delete your blog on a whim).
A host is basically a company that has a lot of computer servers that store information. You pay a small annual fee to use some of that space. There are lots of hosts of all sorts, down to super cheap discount budget hosts (that usually come with lots of problems) and some really high end hosts. For a starter website like what you’ll be building, a basic shared hosting plan like we use here for Move to Taiwan would be suitable. After doing some research we went with Bluehost.com and they have kept us up and running smoothly for quite awhile. The basic shared hosting package is fine. There is no need for the Pro account.
Connecting Your Address to Your Land
This is probably the most complicated part. Basically, you need to go into the registrar (your Namecheap account if you followed my advice) and change a little info to make sure your domain and your host are working together. The piece of info you need to change is called the Name Server, or the DNS. Here is a quick step-by-step walkthrough to help you get to the correct place:
1. When you enter your Namecheap account, you’ll be at the top of you account page. Namecheap calls it “Member’s Home.” You should be able see a basic list of info labeled account information. The first line you should see is “Number of domains in your account.” Here is where you will want to click “view.”
After clicking there, you will go to a new page that lists your new domain and any other domains that you may have. I have a bit of a list, but you will probably only see the one that you just recently purchased. You will want to click on you domain name.
Now you should be at the “Modify Domain” page:
If you got this far, you are doing great. If you don’t see this at the top of your page, back track and see where you went wrong. Don’t worry, we are close to where we need to be.
On the left side of this Modify Domain page, you should see a General tab in the sidebar. Under that tab you have a few choices. The choice that you want to click on is: Domain Name Server Setup
After clicking there, you will be taken to a page that allows you to tell Namecheap where you want to build your site. This is the page where we can finally join the website name (your new domain name) to the Bluehost hosting account.
Directly in the center of the page you should see a box labeled: Change Existing Domain Name Server Information
Each host uses their own unique server info. You can find information about Bluehost’s DNS info here, but since Move to Taiwan uses Bluehost, you can just do exactly what you see in the picture below. All you need to do is click the radio button Specify Custom DNS Servers and enter the 2 following bits of info:
It should look just like what you see in this picture:
Make sure you click “SAVE CHANGES” at the bottom, and you are all done with this part. You can actually go to your newly purchased domain name in a few minutes and you should see a Bluehost parking page. That’s a good sign. It means so far, so good.(*Note: This is how you would join a Bluehost hosting account to a domain registered with Namecheap. If you are using a different host, the DNS information will be different. If you are using a different registrar, the process will be a little different).
Building Your House
You now have an address (your domain or website name) and some land (your hosting account), but now you need a house. By building a house you will have a place to safely store and organize all of your thoughts and photos.
In the old days we had to mess around with computer coding called HTML to manually build out a website. There was some software that would help, but it still made for a giant headache. Luckily, you don’t need to mess with that if you don’t want to. About a decade ago a really amazing content management system (CMS) arose from the ether to make blogging and building website infinitely easier.
They name of this CMS, which is the one we use here at MTT is WordPress (They actually offer a very toned down version of their CMS on their free platform that we discussed earlier). You will want to install WordPress onto your hosting account at Bluehost. This is actually pretty simple because Bluehost has a built-in easy install feature, but I’ll do my best to walk you through it below as well.
To get started with this you need to login to your Bluehost account. Make sure that you log in to the hosting account and not the webmail account.
After logging in, you should automatically get bounced right to the cPanel, which is your hosting control panel. You will know if you are there by looking at the menu bar at the top of the page. It should have both hosting and cPanel highlighted in an odd lime green like you can see in this picture.
On that same page you should see a heading Website Builders and under that there should be some icons. The very first icon is for WordPress. Click that and a new page will open (You will see something called Mojo Marketplace for a few seconds before the actual install pages loads. Don’t worry, you are in the right place).
The install page will look like the picture below. Just click the Install button and not the Import button because this is a new site.
Next, simply choose your domain from the drop down menu.
Click Check Domain and you will see a little movement. This is just the host checking to see if everything is working OK.
Once that is all done, and it should only take a few seconds, you are ready to get ahead with the install.
You will want to make sure you check all the boxes. You can also change the title of your site now, but don’t worry, you can change it later too. So just pick something quickly to get the install going. Also, make sure you enter your email correctly and pick a password you will remember. Then, click INSTALL NOW.
While WordPress is installing Bluehost will hit you up with some up-sells. Just sit back or click on any no thanks buttons that pop up and after a minute or two your install will be done and you will see this at the very top of your web browser.
Click on the small View Processes link that I circled in red and a small drop down box will appear that looks like this:
Now you are almost done. We just want to click on View Credentials to make sure everything is set up OK. You will get taken to a new page that has all the info you need. It will show you your domain name, your administrator url (this is just your domain name plus /wp-admin: www.yournewsite.com/wp-admin), your user name and your password. (I smudged out the info on the pic below because it is actually for a different site, but you can still see the headings.)
If you see this, you are ready to go. Just click on the link next to Admin URL which will take you to the WordPress log in page. Enter your username and password that are shown on the above photo, and you are inside your own personal website.
How to use and what you can do with WordPress is a whole different animal, but to get started I suggest you mess around with finding a theme that you like, and then write your first post.
If you really want to go crazy and run a bunch of different website, you can use reseller hosting to help you keep things separate but at the same time all manageable under one control panel. A very well respected host for that type of service is HostNine (affiliate link). We use them for some of our other sites, and cannot say enough good things.
To go the free route, just head over to Blogger, WordPress, or Weebly and sign up for an account.
To get a more professional looking site that you own, you need a few things. It looks like a lot of work from all the pics I posted, but it actually only takes a few minutes. I just wanted to be as detailed as possible. To get started you need to:
- Sign up for and buy your domain name from Namecheap by clicking here.
- Sign up for a hosting account from Bluehost by clicking here.
- Change the name server in your Namecheap account to Bluehost.
- Install the WordPress content management system in Bluehost.
- Start posting your stories and pictures.
I hope you found this step-by-step guide useful. If you run into any trouble or have any other questions, just send it on over to me through our contact page. And, if you do set up your own blog, definitely let us know about it. We would love to read about your experiences.