Hopefully you now know which niche you’re going to build a blog in. If you don’t, then head back to the first update and go through the steps there. In this section we’re going to be getting a domain name (bloggingcasestudy.com is the domain name for this site) for your blog, setting up hosting, and installing the software that will power your blog.

That may sound scary to some of you, but it’s actually a very simple process and once you’ve decided on what your domain is going to be, the rest of the steps don’t take more than 30 minutes of your time to complete. A lot of people following along here run blogs on free platforms like WordPress.com, Google-owned Blogger, Typepad and Tumblr. While there are people who have been successful on those platforms, I strongly urge that you get your own domain and host your own content.

This will give you full control over advertising, your blog posts, community interactions and if you were to sell your blog down the line, it would be a much easier process if you had total ownership of your site.

Keyword Research

Before I get into details about the best options for domain names, I want to talk a little about keyword research. Keyword research basically involves finding phrases that people type into search engines – like Google – which are relevant to your chosen niche. We’re doing this now because there may be a popular phrase in your industry where nobody has purchased a relevant domain for that term, and down the line it could help you get thousands of free visitors to your site each month.

Not all of you will be able to utilise this – I haven’t on my two public blogs – but there’s a chance that it will help some of you, so I do want to cover this first. Even if you don’t use this for finding a domain name, you’re going to want to pick a keyphrase later to “target” so it’s good for you to understand this overall process.

I have a huge keyword research guide on my own site which covers this in-depth, but the two main tools I recommend using for this process are the Google Keyword Tool and the Free Wordtracker Keyword tool. The Google Keyword Tool (GWT) gives you a good estimation as to how many people are searching for certain terms every single month in Google.

When you open the site, click on the small blue ‘Advanced Options’ link and change the countries option to All Countries. Then, start entering terms which are relevant to the industry you’ve decided to blog in. The first thing I recommend you do once you have your search results is to change the setting on the left under Match Types to ‘Exact’.

If I have decided to build a knitting blog, then I’ll put knitting in there. If I’m obsessed with dogs and how to train them, then I would put in phrases like ‘teach your dog’, ‘dog training’ and ‘dog obedience’ to see what comes up. Try to think of phrases that you would search for in Google to find the type of content that your website is going to offer.

Ideally, you’re trying to find relevant phrases which get in excess of 2,000 exact searches per month. Though the higher the figure the more traffic potential there is for that phrase, there is also likely to be a lot more websites competing in search engines to rank for that term.

Continuing with my theme of using examples in lots of different industries, for this one I’ll pretend that I’m building a Womens fashion blog. The way I want to “help people” with the fashion blog is to show the latest style trends and offer unique suggestions for readers.

Women’s fashion is definitely not my thing, but I did type in what I thought would be some relevant keyphrases to that industry. You can see them below, with the exact number of times they are searched for each month in brackets:

  • Womens fashion (12,100)
  • Women style (720)
  • Female design (58)
  • Fashion trends (27,100)

Since the keyword ideas shown below weren’t very relevant to what I was searching for I clicked the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” check box and ran the query again. This time, the results back were far more relevant. Some that came to mind and may make a good domain included:

  • New fashion trends (2,900)
  • Current fashion trends (1,900)
  • Womens fashion online (4,400)
  • Womens fashion clothing (3,900)

If you happen to find phrases which get a few thousand searches and could become a suitable name for your blog, then write them down. We’ll run them through a domain registrar (the place you purchase domains) in a moment.

Finding the Right Domain

There are dozens of domain extensions available, such as .com, .net and .org. There are also country specific extensions like .co.uk and .fr. Unless your blog is only targeting the audience of a specific country, I would refrain from registering a country specific domain. The best extension is .com since it’s more memorable and people are inclined to type that into their address bar when they hear the name of a site. Since the domain you want is not always going to be available, the .net extension would be my second preference.

Though I’m not a huge fan of .net domains, I will say this: If your blog is going to be successful, the fact that it’s a .net is not going to change anything. Some of the biggest blogs in the world have .net domains.

Some people like to use hyphens (-) in their domain names but I’m personally not a fan. Similar to less popular extensions like .info, it makes your domain harder to remember and doesn’t help if people are talking about you offline.

If you couldn’t find relevant phrases that could work as your site name in the various keyword tools then don’t despair. You focus should then be on picking a brandable domain, which is relevant where possible. When I ran a popular personal development blog its name didn’t have anything to do with personal development, and my popular marketing blog, ViperChill, definitely doesn’t have a name which gives you a clue to the content found there.

If you can get a name which is fairly short, relevant and memorable then you’re onto a winner. That being said, don’t stress if the name isn’t entirely related. Being memorable and creating your own brand is more important in my experience. Some popular site names which come to mind include:

  • Zen Habits – The name implies what the website is about
  • The Art of Manliness – Brandable and relevant
  • Fin Slippy – This is actually the name of a popular ‘mom blog’
  • DeSmogBlog – A blog in the green niche
  • Politico – As you may have guessed, a political blog
  • Man Vs Debt – A personal finance blog
  • The Huffington Post – Huffington is simply the surname of the website founder

For Andrea’s case study website, her domain name is short and memorable but isn’t totally relevant to what her site is about. In fact, when you first hear it, it may make you think of a totally different industry altogether. Since we want the site to establish itself on its own I wont say what it is just yet, but will update this section accordingly later on.

Once you have some ideas of what domain you want to use for your blog it’s time to see if the domains are available and, if they are, to register them. There are many places to purchase a domain name but I personally use Namecheap (no affiliate link) since it offers free WhoisGuard (meaning you can block your personal data from showing in ‘domain search engines’) and purchasing .com domains through them is inexpensive at $9.89 (£6.20) per year.

I’m not affiliated with them in any way, but I will be using them as an example when I show you how to set up hosting and actually get your website online, in the next step. So if you’re a total beginner to setting up sites, I recommend that you use them. Other popular domain registrars include GoDaddy and Name.com for those of you who want a few options.

None of the fashion keyphrases were available in any of the main extensions (.com, .org and .net) which may be the case for a few of you, but they do help with inspiration for other names. Things like ‘NewFashionista’, ‘Fashionaholic’ and ‘TrendingDesign’ are just a few ideas that come to mind, all of which are available in various extensions at the time of writing this.

Update Based on Reader Feedback

After each section has been sent out to the thousands of you following along I update certain parts to answer similar questions I receive via email.

What do I do if the domain is taken?

It’s very common that some of your first choice domain names will have been registered by someone else before you. Unfortunately, there’s not always something you can do in these cases but simply focus on another domain. If there is a page that shows when you actually go to the website, perhaps try contacting the owner to see if they would be interested in selling it, though don’t expect too much if the site is already established.

If the site doesn’t seem to be in use but is littered with ads, then look around the page to see if there are any ‘inquire about this domain’ or ‘purchase this domain’ messages which I’ve been fortunate to find now and then. A third option is to use a whois search engine like who.is and type the domain in there. You should be able to find an email address attached to it and you may get lucky.

As for as pricing goes, that really depends on your own budget and how good the domain name is for your blog. Some people will may ask for huge sums (thousands of dollars) while others may be a little more affordable at anything from $10 to a couple of hundred