So you want to take your blog to the next level…
You have had a school counseling blog for some time now – or perhaps you took the advice of some of the presentations at #ASCA14 and have started down that road recently. Either way, you will reach a point when it is time to expand, grow, and work with more scalability. As a beginner – you too could use these tips, but it will most likely take some investment on your part (both time and money).
While people have blogs on many different platforms – the most popular are WordPress and Blogger. These two platforms are fairly different but accomplish much the same thing. Blogger, a Google service, is a more simple and easy to use tool that focuses on getting the content out in a simple and efficient manner. That is not to say you cannot customize Blogger, but the options are more limited.
WordPress (where we will focus more of our time in this series) comes in two flavors – the free* WordPress.com and the more do-it-yourself and have full control WordPress.org. For another write up that goes into depth on both visit this article by diythemes. With the free* WordPress.com, you have basic usage of the WordPress platform – this would be considered similar to Blogger. We are wanting to Build A Better School Counseling Blog though and it is time to play with the big kid web tools! (One note and word of caution – read all documentation and BACKUP before making any changes to your current site. I am not responsible for any lost content or broken sites)
[Tweet “I’m learning about upping my blogging game w/ @counselinggeek #scchat”]
Decision #1 – Domain Name
Since we are taking our blog to the next level – many times we want to brand our site in a defining way. The best time to do this is either before you start your blog or when you are making it over.
Domains are what your URL (I purchased www.thecounselinggeek.com) is and it is something you have to purchase (and renew yearly). Most domains cost between $10-$20/year but be sure you think about what you would like your new URL to be. If you are coming from a free site (i.e. thecounselinggeek.blogger.com or thecounselinggeek.wordpress.com), you may be able to find your URL similar to what you have been using – but you also may need to change the URL if it is already taken.
One of the more popular domain registrars is GoDaddy.com where many people will purchase their domain names. GoDaddy also offers hosting (that is next!), but my experience and research says don’t go with their hosting plans. Many hosting providers also either have an option to register a domain through them or it will come with a free domain registration with the hosting package.
Building a Better School Counseling Blog and moving to a more customizable blog platform usually will require web hosting. Web hosting is purchasing (really leasing) some space and bandwidth on a web server and with a WordPress.org install – you will need your own hosting plan. Most plans range between $4-$15/month depending on the features, company, and plan.
When I was doing my research – I went with BlueHost. BlueHost had good reviews and also a good integration with WordPress installs. It also was at the right price. This plan comes with a free domain name. Another hosting provider is HostGator and I have heard decent things about them as well. You have many options out there – these are just two to begin your research with. I would venture to say nearly all of the larger hosting providers have a one click install of the actual WordPress platform within their sign up process. This will get you past having to manually setup any of the files on the server or know anything about FTP or other fancy acronyms.
One note to make about pricing – when looking at the prices, most providers list their price (i.e. $3.95/month), but that is the price per month when you sign up and pay for 3 years in advance. The yearly rate you would pay would be closer to $7/month.
In the Next Installment of Building a Better School Counseling Blog
We will look at options you have to move from your old blog to your new site, importing your old posts, and how to get started with your new WordPress install. A teaser for the posts following include my favorite plugins (i.e. super awesome tools!), sprucing up your site with themes – I suggest Elegant Themes (not free…but worth it), and how to find resources (free if possible) for enhancing your content.
Share this article with your friends and colleagues and please comment or email me with your success stories and questions!