Great Website and Blog Hosts for Newbies
There are thousands upon thousands of web hosting companies out there. Many of them are excellent, but a lot of them are absolute garbage. And it's very hard to know which are substandard, particularly if you are new to website creation. If you're not careful, you can easily get locked into paying for a substandard host. It's a terrible feeling. You may not be forking out much, but that monthly fee really adds up over time. And you can feel reluctant to leave because you don't want to start all over again.
That's why I recommend using a good free web host to begin with. Then you can tinker with your site at your leisure at no financial cost, and learn heaps in the process. Such a host may be perfectly adequate for all your needs, particularly if you have a small personal site. But if it isn't then you can either upgrade to that host's paid version, or go looking for a quality paid host, since by this stage you'll have a lot more knowledge and can make a really wise choice.
There are several web hosts I've found which are ideal for this approach. They are Weebly (where this site is hosted), as well as Webnode and Yola, which are linked through the banners below. (You should also check out Doomby, a company based in France.) They are all free to use. They have great drag and drop web page builders included and lots of simple but aesthetically pleasing templates to choose from. So if you have enough technical competence to send an e-mail you can build a reasonable looking site in minutes.
Also, they all have blogging tools included. You don't have to do anything remotely geeky to have a site blog attached to your domain (which you might have to do with some other web hosts). The blogging tool is a big plus because a blog is a great way to bring in search engine traffic. Google loves original content, remember. Just keep adding unique, relevant stuff to your blog and that will improve your site SEO all on its own.
Just as incorporating a blog is really simple with these sites, so is buying a unique top-level domain. All but one of them have much the same setup where you choose a domain from within your account and pay for it securely by credit card. Your free site is pretty much instantly published to that domain. And if you have purchased a domain elsewhere you can also publish to it, and still get the hosting free.
If you are looking for a blog all on its own, then of course you can't go past Blogger. You can buy a top level domain through the site if you wish, but it's probably better to buy one direct from a big domain registrar like Godaddy. It's straightforward to map it to your Blogger blog, and purchasing it separately means it's easier to map it to another blog or site if you choose to do so at a later stage.
There are other sites that are similar to Blogger that also offer free hosting and domain mapping. These include Tumblr, Onsugar and Posterous. While they are often categorized as "microblogging" sites, they can be used in different ways as well. Tumblr in particular has some great looking templates, is highly customizable and user friendly. (The only downside is that it seems to take a while to get indexed by Google.)