Blogging for Expats

WordPress logoWelcome to the first tutorial in our new series, Blogging for Expats.

As we’ve discussed previously, you can use a blog as a business platform to develop an income while you’re overseas. It’s not rocket science, but don’t naively expect you can just start writing and watch the money roll in.

You’ll need some basic skills which fall into three broad categories:

  • Writing
  • Marketing
  • Technical

Blogging for Expats will cover mostly the third category, technical skills.

(Don’t worry — there are lots of resources available to help you hone your writing skills and learn about marketing, and I’ll point you to them.)

Starting Your Blog

Just as you need a physical space for a retail store, your blog needs its own real estate on the World Wide Web. There are places that offer to host your blog for free, but if you want to earn a living from your blog, skip right past Blogger and WordPress hosting. You need something that you, and you alone, control.

To set up your blog, you’ll need a domain name and a host. Most hosting providers will let you register your domain as part of the process, and often at a reduced fee.

Choose a Domain Name

Your domain name is what the reader types into the browser window to go to your blog. My domain name is FutureExpats.com. Names ending in .com are the most popular, but there are other extensions available, including .info, .biz, .net and .org. Country extensions are also available, like .us for the United States and .fr for France.

Step 1

Ideally your domain name should describe what your blog is about, and be easy to remember and to spell. It’s possible to create a memorable domain that’s not a real word (Google.com leaps to mind), but you need a lot of expertise and some deep pockets to make those work.

Some of my favorite expat sites with descriptive domain names include

  • boomersabroad.com
  • internationalliving.com
  • theaccidentalexpats.com

For purposes of illustration, let’s say you plan to lead guided tours in Paris and your blog will be about famous and not-so-famous landmarks, restaurants and things to do in the City of Light. Possible domain names might include

  • ParisExpatTours
  • TourPariswithMe
  • ParisBehindtheScenes

Step 2

Once you decide on a few domain names you like, you need to find out if they’re available. There are lots of sites that offer this service. I always like to go to the source, so I recommend a “whois” search at InterNic.

Type “parisexpattours.com” into the search box, and click Submit.

search for a domain on InterNic

That domain name is available. Here’s the message you’ll see.

domain available

When a domain is not available, the database will show you some basic information about it. I typed in “futureexpats.com” to show you an example.
domain name is taken

Wash, rinse and repeat as needed.

Choose a Web Host

There are thousands of companies that will host your website for a monthly or annual fee. Cutting through the competing claims to find a host who’ll do a good job at a reasonable price may seem a daunting task, but it’s not all that difficult.

Here are the most important features to look for:

  1. stellar reputation hosting WordPress blogs
  2. servers running Linux (not Windows!)
  3. 99% (or better) uptime
  4. accessible, competent and prompt customer service
  5. unlimited disk space and traffic allowances
  6. multiple e-mail accounts
  7. multiple FTP accounts
  8. multiple SQL databases

We’ll discuss items 2-7 later, but for now let’s focus on #1. The host you choose must be top-notch at hosting WordPress blogs.

WordPress is the most popular — and best — blogging platform available. It’s a robust content management system which gives you the technical ability to do anything you could possibly want with your website — without having to program or code.

When your host is experienced with WordPress, your job (technically at least) goes pretty smoothly. Unfortunately, if you’re hosting with a company that isn’t experienced with WordPress, you could be in for a very bumpy ride.

To avoid unnecessary aggravation and frustration, get recommendations from experienced bloggers you trust.

Here are some hosts I recommend:

Sadly, I’m deleting the link to a service I was previously hosted with for more than a decade due to their cavalier attitude about an infection on their server.

Instead, I’ll refer you to DreamHost (where I just moved this site to). They have a top reputation for WordPress hosting, they allow an unlimited number of domains on a single account, and the price is reasonable (thought not the very cheapest).

Web Hosting Hub was recently named the Best Blog Hosting Website Provider in 2010 by Web Hosting Geeks.

Host Gator has an excellent reputation with WordPress bloggers.

Blue Host is another enormous company that has a top reputation among WordPress bloggers.

Coming Up Next. . .

I’ll walk you through the process of signing up with a hosting service and registering your domain name. Then I’ll guide you through the steps to install WordPress on your new website. Stay tuned!

If you found this information helpful, you might also enjoy my free e-book, Untether Yourself: 5 Portable Careers to Support You Overseas.

Comments

  1. Excellent post — I wish I’d seen this before I started my blog. I’m looking forward to the remaining posts in the series. You might actually be the person who can make me understand what SQL means (and why I need to know)!

    • Thanks, Maria. I wanted to make it really basic — I think a lot of tutorials assume an intermediate level of expertise. So it may be too basic for some, but that’s ok. 🙂

      Have a wonderful Christmas.

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