Blogger, Google's hosted blogging platform, offers what is probably the cheapest cost of entry into blogging. Free blog hosting, and you can still make money from the ads if you manage to find a large enough audience to make it worth while. While that doesn't mean you'll be rolling in millions tomorrow, it means that you're not stuck trying to recoup hosting fees and other costs.
Blogger offers another professional perk for a low cost. You can use them to get a low cost custom domain for you blog.
Blogger has allowed custom URLs for quite some time. And as it turns out, registering your URL through Blogger is a bargain. A custom URL with WordPress.com is $12-$24 as of this writing - and they still force you to serve their ads on it. A custom URL with Blogger is $10, and you don't have to put any ads on your site. If you do put ads there, they're ads you profit from (if you have a lot of traffic.)
- To get started, register a blog at www.blogger.com.
- Go to Settings
- Click on Basic
- Under Blog Address, you'll see a link marked Buy a domain for your blog.
- You can enter a domain and select from the drop-down box to choose a different top level domain (.com is the default.)
- Click Check availability.
- If the domain you're requesting is available, you can choose a registrar (when I did this, the choices were GoDaddy or eNom).
- Payment will be made through Google Wallet.
That's it. An easy $10 domain, and it includes Google Apps, so you can give yourself an email account from your custom domain. You could even use this trick if you wanted the domain for a regular website, but you'd have to go back to the registrar and tweak things.
What if You Already Own a Domain?
If you already registered a domain at some other time, you can still point it to your Blogger blog. You won't get a discount on the domain you've already registered, and you won't get the ease of instantly having all the settings pre-configured for Blogger, but you can still get a hosted blog on a server you don't have to maintain or pay a hosting fee to rent.
Unfortunately, Google's instructions for redirecting the domain are incomplete and rather technical if you're unfamiliar with the back end of a registrar and words like "A-Records" and "CNAMES" sound like a foreign language. They have instructions that work for GoDaddy domains, but if you registered that domain with someone else, you'll have to ask your registrar for support.
Going the Other Way- Google Apps Domains
Your hosted Blogger domain gets you Google Apps access, but you can go in the other direction, too. You get the same $10 domain deal when you create a new Google Apps account. Once you've created the account, you can then turn around and use the Google Apps control panel to redirect a page to a Blogger site. In many ways, you might prefer going in this direction for a larger site. You can use Google Sites to form the framework for your website and then a subdomain (blogs.WheverMySiteNameIs.com) to point to the blog portion.
If you started from Blogger, not to worry. You can still circle around and set up your Google Apps account later.