A few friends of mine want to start a blog. I figured this is a good guide to share with everyone on how to start a blog.
There are two routes: use a service or self-host.
Services for a blog are SquareSpace, WordPress, Ghost, Substack, etc. They’re great options because they have everything set up. Databases, emails, forms, decent designs and are fairly cheap. The downsides are that you’re:
1. tied to one platform
2. Less customization
3. It’s pricier than self-hosting
4. I’ll cover the biggest issue later
Self-hosting options are: build from scratch, WordPress, Drupal, Ghost, etc. You also need to host your site on some cloud provider like AWS, Google Cloud, Digital Ocean, Bluehost, or even your own server.
The upside is more customization, cheaper, and the big point that I’ll get to in a minute. The downsides are more work, less support, and some technical ability.
For most people, I’d say your best bet is to use a service and not think twice.
If you’re technical or care a lot, I’d highly recommend self-hosting. Why? This is the big point: it’s all about root access. When you self host it’s a little bit of a pain, but no one can cancel you. There are no community guidelines, your blog can't be shut down by a site.
Note, that a cloud provider COULD shut you down. But, when you make a backup you can always move to another provider.
Another very solid option is Mirror. It stores your posts on the Ethereum blockchain. But, at the moment it's only for writing.
How to Setup Your Blog
I use Ghost, which is a headless CMS and handles all your blog needs. It’s slick, open-source, and will fit all your needs! To host the blog I use Digital Ocean, it’s cheap, easy to set up with Ghost, and works how you’d expect.
Let’s get started!
Go to Digital Ocean and use this link to get a free $100 in credit (after you spend $25 I’ll get $25). Once you’re all set up, go to this link on Digital Ocean and set up a Ghost Droplet. This does all the work for you of getting the server provisioned and everything set up. It’s $6 a month and will handle all the traffic you can drive to it.
Once that’s done it’s time to get a domain name. You can use CheapDomains, GoDaddy, or use a domain name you have. I like Google Domains, it’s super easy to use and I like having things all in one place.
Once that’s set up, go back to DigitalOcean and select your droplet. Click on Add A Domain:
Type your domain name and everything should fill in!
Next, go to this link to see how to set up your domain on Google Domains. It will point your domain to your Digital Ocean Droplet.
Once that’s all set up you should go to your domain <blahblah>.<blah> (sometimes it takes a few hours) and see this:
Nice! So the last main thing to do is to set up Ghost. Go back to Digital Ocean, and access the console (don’t worry you got this). Click here:
Once you click that the command line will open up and it’ll start installing Ghost.
Then you’ll need to enter an email. It’s for SSL so any will do. Then you need to enter your domain. Make sure it’s your real domain name like <blahblah>.<blah>, not your server’s IP address.
It should be complete and you should be all good to go!
Go to <blahblah>.<blah>/ghost. It’ll ask you to create an account. Keep this secure somewhere, you’ll need it to access the portal.
Time to write!
P.s. if you got stuck, there's another good guide here.
Take your blog to the next level
Mailgun is an essential addition. This will allow people to subscribe to your blog and for you to email them. It is a little confusing and this could be a whole blog post in itself. Instead, I’ll point you to this helpful video:
Your mailing should all be set up!
Google Analytics gives you all the data you need to understand how your site is doing. The best guide is from Ghost itself here. This shouldn’t take very long and you’ll be really happy when you see that people are checking out your site!
Disqus isn’t essential but is a nice touch. It allows you to have comments on your blog and is free. Ghost has their own guide here which is great. This is a little more technical and you can get away without it.
I know I know, it takes a bit to get everything up and running. The nice thing is, from here it’s pretty hands-off.
If you want some more upgrades I wrote about them here!