Navigating the C-Panel

As promised, today I’m going to reveal a bit about the very useful but somewhat intimidating C-panel. The name derives from either Command or Control maybe both? Sometimes it feels like I need a Conquest-panel to control the Command-Panel. The C-panel is a piece of hosting software that enables you to manage most aspects on your website from a macro perspective. As far as I know the hosting software is the largest of the lot and allows relatively easy management of your site (if you know which aspects to use).

The first thing to realise is that a lot of the buttons and menus can be ignored. The C-panel is packed with so many weird and wonderful things, but at the start only a few are essential.  The panel can usually be reached via typing in your domain followed by /cpanel (e.g. chriswinterhoff.com/cpanel). Your domain name registrar will have sent you an email with the login details to sign on.

Once you have logged in there are three sections that you need to pay attention to:

Firstly, you will have to install the blog software to your website. After locating the “software/services” tab, you will note a button called “softaculous”. Softaculous is an auto-installer which helps you install apps onto your website. With its help, it is much easier to install apps such as wordpress (imagine programming a blog into your website… urgh!). After clicking on this, follow the steps to install wordpress.

Secondly, and perhaps the most important area once set up is the “backup” area. Since your website is live on the web, it is also vulnerable to systems failures, errors and computer virus attacks. The hosting provider will do its best to thwart many of these failures and attacks, but it is unlikely to resist them all. That’s why it is very important to back up your site regularly. This area will help you do that. And depending on how often you post content, I would schedule a weekly or monthly backup routine, saving the backups to your cloud or hard drive.

Thirdly, the stats page will be one of your regular sections to check out once you have a few posts on your site.  Here you’ll be able to check out historical stats regarding page views for the website as a whole, each separate post, times of the website views, country’s of your viewers locations amongst a few other things. If you experiment a bit, you can judge which topics get the most views and how long people take to read through your content (if they do read through it, that  is). Of course, a lot of this depends on how big your subscriber base is or how easily your website is found via a search engine (more info on Search Engine Optimisation in future posts).

These are broadly the three most important areas you need to pay attention to at this point in time.I will go into more detail about the wordpress settings and initial set up next week.

Happy Monday!

Free blogging services: Pros and Cons

Last week I posted a guide that described how to go about  hosting one’s own blog. After the initial registration, one then needs to set up the software, using a preconfigured software package that can be downloaded for free (such as wordpress.org (which this site uses)). This is fairly easily done and I will write about that and the useful but complex looking “C-panel” next week.

Instead of jumping through all these hoops, there is of course, as I alluded to last week, a much simpler way of setting up a blog. One can accomplish this by signing up to a site such as wordpress.com (not to be confused with wordpress.org), blogger, blog.com, tumblr, blogspot and many more.

What these sites all have in common, is that a new blog will take a mere five minutes or so to set up and will automatically have set up many of the advanced  services and features that I will go through in a few more posts. However, there are some significant drawbacks that one needs to consider as well. One of these drawbacks is that your domain will be a subdomain of the blogging service you sign up to. For example, if chriswinterhoff.com was a blogging service, someone might sign up to this site using the subdomain “mini”, thereby having an address linked to my website. Something along the lines of “mini.chriswinterhoff.com”. Depending on the goal you are trying to reach, this can be a significant or insignificant drawback.

Instead of going through a detailed article of all the Pros and Cons of setting up a self hosted website vs signing up to a free blogging service, I have listed the advantages and disadvantages of using free blogging services in this awesome list:

Advantages
– As the name suggests, free blogging services are free to use
– You won’t need to set up extra widgets such as anti spam commenting filters or email subscription widgets: These are all already included. The service is essentially “plug and blog”

Disadvantages
– Can only be registered as a subdomain (see example of “mini.chriswinterhoff” above) and comes with a longer URL
– If you’re looking to use a blog for commercial purposes, it will not look nearly as professional if you have a subdomain (e.g. luxurious-car-sales.blogspot.com)
– On some free blogging services advertisements pop up on your blog, and you don’t even get the revenue for displaying those ads.
– You don’t get a private email address when you reserve the subdomain, this is only possible when hosting  your own purchased domain
– We’ll go into this in a later post, but you won’t have control with regards to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation  – which essentially describes certain practices of trying to place your website high up on certain internet search machines to attract readers)

Essentially, the free blogging services are great for beginners and casual bloggers. But if you want to have even the slightest control over your blog, you may want to think about self hosting. You’ll have a lot more freedom, and it’s not that much more expensive. The good news is if you start your blog on a free service, you can always migrate your blog and all exisiting content to a self hosting site.

Happy Monday!

Registering a domain

One of the first things one must do when starting a blog is to register a domain. Broadly speaking there are two types of registrations one can choose from. This week I’ll write about one option and next week will be about the other.

The first option is to register a custom domain. An example is chriswinterhoff.com, where I paid a fee to reserve the address, meaning that no one else can use it so long as I own it. There are plenty of services out there that one can choose from to register the domains.  Below are some examples:

Namecheap.com
Godaddy.com
Names.co.uk

Just by typing “domain registration” into google will reveal plenty of other competing services looking for your business.

Once you’ve decided which domain you want to pick, you need to choose a domain name out of hundreds of possibilities. They start from country specific domain names such as “.de” or “.co.uk” to universal domain names such as “.com” or “.net”. Country specific domain names will naturally limit you to a certain country as for example visitors from the US or Canada rarely visit websites with a “.de” ending, whereas visitors from Germany will (since it is a German domain name, as it stands for Deutschland). So this is important when considering who your target audience will be and where they come from. There are notable exceptions such as “.tv” which is the domain name for the island nation of Tuvalu and is nowadays often linked to media outlets around the world for obvious reasons.
Registering a custom domain will come with a cost for the actual name and for the required hosting service (more about that later). Below is a screenshot of namecheap.com, illustrating the different costs for various domain names.

NameCheap screenshot

 

It often pays to shop around a bit once you have decided on your custom domain. In this case, the “.net” domain name is £1.15 cheaper on godaddy than on namecheap.

GoDaddy screenshot

The second step when registering a domain is choosing a hosting service. Competition is big in this space too, so a simple google search will reveal plenty of web hosting providers offering various price plans with a multitude of hosting bandwidths and added services. Often the domain registration websites (such as namecheap) will offer hosting on the back of your registration, and I think this is probably the best way to get started because you circumvent possible complications with linking up your hosting service to your domain. At the start it is very unlikely that you’ll receive hundreds of thousands of visitors, so going for the cheapest price plan will be sufficient whilst you build your content and readership base.

There is also an additional service that is called WhoIs Guard. Often the domain registrar will throw this service in for free for the first year, but it will never cost more than $3 a year. WhoIs Guard protects your personal information (which you need to use when you register your domain) from being viewed online (ie your home address, email and telephone number). To me this is key when operating online, as you will avoid receiving many unsolicited mail and emails and more importantly protect yourself against identity theft.

So all in the costs for my own custom domain ($9.66), hosting service ($9.88) and WhoIs guard ($0.00) came to $19.54 for 1 year. The web hosting service came with hosting from the US, but given recent negative NSA publicity I decided I preferred UK data centers which cost me an additional $12.00 on top of that. I guess in hindsight the UK government institutions will be  sharing the data with the NSA anyway, but one can always hope right?

Please post any questions or comments you might have below. Next week I’ll talk about the free blogging services.

Happy Monday!

First post

So this is the start of what is by now my third attempt to get a blog going in the last two years. Back in 2013, I started a blog reviewing games on mobile phones. I planned for it to be the go to space for anything mobile gaming related and that hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic gamers would scour the web to find the site with the best review and ultimately land on my page. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that one of the prerequisites of focusing on such a narrow topic is that you should have a keen interest in that topic in order to keep up the enthusiasm. Well, I play a few games here and there on my phone, but at the end of the day, I have many other things higher on my priority list of things that I enjoy. In the end the site had a total of two posts and the registration for the domain lapsed back to the domain registrar. However, it was a great learning experience nonetheless as I can now highlight two aspects that I struggled with in particular:

(a) finding enough content to write about (never mind being enthused by it) and
(b) sticking to a regular posting schedule.

If only I had stuck with it,  I would now have hundreds of posts on the page and essentially be an expert in anything mobile gaming related as well as blogging software. Not to forget, I would probably be able to write a blog post in a speed rivalling the very best Olympic Blogging Athletes (a quick google tells me that there are no contenders for the Gold medal…. this may be my chance…). Alas, the old blog has long been abandoned and I have to start a site from scratch again.

What you can expect from me in this latest iteration is that I will tackle this project with unstblogppable enthusiasm!
After a few hiccups in setting this site up (more about that in one of the later posts) I have now, after a week of tinkering and think(er)ing, come up with a topic that this blog will target. What better way to start blogging than to write about how to set up a blog from scratch?

So, the first topic of this blog is going to be everything and anything to do with how to set up a blog, make it look nice whilst flowing nicely and smoothly, and down the line I will focus on how one can get the most out of blogging (attracting web traffic and exposing your blog to a larger audience). The theme I’ve currently selected is bland and boring and illustrates perfectly what I know about blogging: absolutely zilch.
Down the line, I’ll try to adapt a somewhat more professional layout for this blog and by then this site should boast plenty of excellent and useful posts for you all. The aim is that I become more familiar with all the intricacies that come with setting up one’s very own propaganda machine blog. As a result, you, my dear reader, will partake in this journey and become more knowledgeable as well 🙂

Topics to be thoroughly dissected include (but are not limited to) the following:

– Registering a domain
– Going through some of the added software packages available at registration- Setting up a hosting service
– Setting up a blogging page (incl. the themes that can be purchased alongside it)
– Marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
– And much much more

Join me on a journey of magical adventures to the land of wordpress and blogspot!

Happy Monday!