So you’ve started a blog, you’re using WordPress or Blogger and everything seems to be going well. Then you notice other bloggers talking about going self-hosted – sounds like something you should be getting in on. But what exactly does being self-hosted mean, and why would you want to do it?
I’ve recently moved Toby Goes Bananas to be self-hosted and I’ve had quite a few other bloggers asking me what the benefits are and whether they need to do it too. And then there are people who have taken the plunge and gone self-hosted but then have found themselves floundering in an unknown sea of lost followers, confusing WordPress plugins and nothing is quite how it was before. I’m no technical blog-guru but I know enough to find my way around so I thought I would write a few posts about the self-hosting process and hopefully I can help out a few other bloggers along the way.
First up then:
What exactly does being self-hosted mean?
If you have a blog on WordPress or Blogger (or any other blogging platform) you are using a bit of their web space for free. They are hosting your blog for you. When you sign up for either of these you will be given a blog address, a URL, which is your blog name followed by .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com. There’s nothing wrong with either of these blogging platforms but you might decide that the URL is a bit long and you want something a bit more personal. You’ve then got two options. Either you can keep using the bit of internet that you’ve already got for free and just get your own domain name (more on that later) or you can pay a hosting company to give you your own bit of webspace, with your own domain name, and your blog will become self-hosted. Being self-hosted basically means you are paying to rent space on the internet for your blog and therefore you have complete control over what you do with it.
Which brings us to:
Why do I want to be self-hosted?
If you use Blogger and are happy with how it works then you probably don’t need to be self-hosted. There isn’t much that Blogger doesn’t do. You may want to use your own domain name to make the blog more personal. You can buy a domain name from a number of domain registrars. The easiest thing is to do a Google search for ‘buy domain name’ and see what comes up. It costs from a couple of pounds up to about five pounds for a domain name per year depending what you want. One tip is to choose something relatively short and easy to remember. It makes sense to have the same domain name as your blog name, if this isn’t available then try adding ‘blog’ to the end of it. You can then change your .blogspot.com domain name to your own custom one and Blogger doesn’t charge for this.
The advantages of a self-hosted WordPress blog
If you choose a self-hosted blog then the majority of people choose to use WordPress. When you have set up your hosting package then you can install WordPress on to your new site. If you’ve been using WordPress.com previously you’ll find that initially things look very similar. The main advantages of a self-hosted WordPress blog is that it is entirely customisable. You can still use free themes or buy one and you then have free reign to edit the theme to get the layout and design you want (or pay someone else to do it for you!). The big difference though is the ability to add additional features to your blog using plugins. I’m going to do a blog post devoted to plugins but basically they are add-ons which allow you to do pretty much anything you want from SEO (more on that later too), adding related posts, allowing readers to Pin images directly from your blog to Pinterest and literally hundreds of other things. If you want to boost traffic to your site then going self-hosted and using some of the available plugins can really help.
What does it cost?
This is the big question I suppose, and may ultimately be the deciding factor in whether or not you choose to go self-hosted. If blogging is just a hobby to you and you aren’t really interested in increasing traffic or working with brands then your free Blogger or WordPress blog will probably do you just fine. However, if you want to make your blog a bit more ‘professional’ to make it more appealing to brands and grow your readership then going self-hosted may well be worth it. If you don’t already have your own domain name then you are looking at up to £5 a year to register your domain (and don’t forget to renew it when the time comes or it could be snapped up and used by someone else!) and then anything from £15 to £100 per year for a hosting package. For a standard blog you probably only need a fairly basic package – mine costs £34.99 per year. If you have had your .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com blog address for a while you might also want to pay for readers to be automatically redirected to the new blog, at least for a while. I already had this set up with WordPress – again it costs $13 a year and it means if anyone types my old address or clicks on an old link it will automatically send them to the new blog. You don’t have to do this though – you could just put a post on your old blog (unless you actually delete it, it will still be there on the internet) and let people find their own way to the new one.
If you are a blogger considering going self-hosted then hopefully this information will help you make the decision. If you have any other questions that I haven’t covered then please do leave me a comment or tweet me on @tobygoesbananas and I’ll do my best to answer. And if you’ve decided to go ahead and make the move then you can find out more in my other posts on going self hosted: