Going self-hosted // A guide to WordPress plugins for the newly self-hosted

A guide to WordPress plugins for the newly self-hosted

OK. Before we start, I am not claiming to be any kind of expert on WordPress, or plugins but I thought it might be helpful to some people if I share what I have learnt since Toby Goes Bananas became self-hosted.

What are plugins?

First things first then – plugins are basically add-ons to WordPress which allow you to add all sorts of features to your blog. If you’ve recently moved from WordPress.com then you might notice a lot of the features you are used to aren’t there any more – for example stats, sharing posts, subscribing by email and some of the widgets. If you’ve come from Blogger then equally some of the features you might expect from your blog don’t come as standard. All these things are still available but you just need to install a plugin to get them on your new self-hosted blog. Installing a plugin is easy – just go to Plugins on your sidebar menu then Add New, search for the plugin you need, install and activate. Easy peasy!

Which plugins do I need?

The first plugin you’ll definitely need is Jetpack – in fact depending on your hosting company this might also come pre-installed. Jetpack basically gives you a lot of the features of your old WordPress.com blog – stats, comments, sharing. I would just install Jetpack to begin with. You can always disable particular parts of it later if you want to use a different plugin.


Now, there are loads of different options for comments on your blog. The main thing to remember is that if you want people to comment on your blog you need to make it easy for people to comment on your blog. You can use the inbuilt comments in Jetpack which are just like you might have had on your WordPress.com blog and to be honest there isn’t really anything wrong with that. I have chosen to use CommentLuv because it is super simple – it just asks for name, email, URL (if the commenter has one) and the comment. If the commenter enters a URL it then allows them to link to one of their 10 previous posts, which is basically just nice for them! There is no stupid Captcha code to fill in and nothing to put someone off leaving a comment. If you go to Settings/Discussion in your sidebar menu you can choose how you wish to moderate comments – I have mine set up so that if someone has commented on my blog before then any future comments are published immediately. You can also choose options for if you want to receive emails when you get a comment.


Unless you want to moderate all your comments you need something to catch the spam. I was just using a plugin called Akismet which did a great job of catching all the spam comments but it puts them in a list which you have to manually check if you want to make sure no genuine comments have been filtered out. I had got to a point where I was getting upwards of 50 spam comments every day and it was taking ages to check them all. I then heard about a plugin called Anti-Spam. I don’t quite understand the technicalities of it but it seems most spam comments are automated and don’t come from someone actually visiting your site. Anti-Spam automatically blocks these type of comments. There is still a chance that someone might actually visit your site and leave a spam comment but if you leave Akismet running as well then it should catch these. Since installing Anti-Spam I haven’t had a single spam comment. Speaks for itself really!

Yoast SEO

SEO, if you don’t know, stands for Search Engine Optimisation. If you want to make sure your blog reaches the biggest audience you can then SEO is something you really need to be doing. It is basically about making sure your blog posts (including titles, URLs, images and text) contain ‘focus keywords’. What it is trying to do is make your blog appear near the top of search results. So if, for example, someone searched for ‘Mamas & Papas Sola Review’ (a popular post on my blog) then my post appears at the top of the third page on Google. Which isn’t bad out of 36k results! SEO sounds like it’s complicated but it doesn’t need to be. With the Yoast plugin you simply choose your focus keyword (think about what you would Google if you wanted to find the post) then the plugin analyses your post and gives it either red, amber or green for SEO. If you don’t get green then check the Page Analysis tab and it will tell you what you need to change to improve your post’s SEO. You can also used the plugin to write a new meta description for your post – this is the short description that appears alongside search results. A better description can increase the number of people who actually visit your site after seeing it on a search engine. OK. So it does sound a bit complicated but if you get into the habit of doing it at the same time as writing each post it really does drive more traffic to your blog. And if you really aren’t bothered about that then you don’t need to bother!

Tweet Old Post

This is a really simple plugin that automatically tweets old posts for you. You can set how often it posts (mine just does one a day) and any text you want to include in each tweet. You can also exclude categories or individual posts if you don’t want the plugin to tweet them. I find that every old post that is tweeted gets at least a few views to it all helps.

Updraft Plus

Backing up your blog regularly is really important. You wouldn’t want to lose everything if there was a problem with your site. You can do this manually but it’s easy to forget. This plugin automatically saves a back up copy of everything on your blog. You can choose how often the back up is done and where it saves to. Mine is done weekly and saves to my Dropbox and the plugin only keeps the last two backups to prevent my Dropbox getting full. You can save to all sorts of different cloud storage services, or you can just choose to have the files emailed to you.


I use this plugin to add sharing buttons on each post – so people can share posts they like on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and by email (you can also use Jetpack to do this). I also use Shareaholic to put links to related posts at the bottom of each post. The plugin automatically works out the related posts and you can customise how they appear. Using this feature can encourage people to stay on your site for longer and look at more posts.

jQuery Pin It Button For Images

I use this plugin to put a ‘Pin it’ button on all my blog post images. I use this myself to Pin the images on my own Pinterest boards but it also means anyone visiting the site can easily Pin an image if they want. (I should admit here I still don’t really ‘get’ Pinterest but I know loads of people love it, so I am trying!).

Add Post Footer

If you want something to appear at the bottom of every post without having to manually add it every time you can use this plugin. I use it for my Bloglovin’ badge and I also used it temporarily when I was asking people to nominate me for the MADs.

Phew! That was quite a lot of information so well done if you got through it all! These are just a few plugins that I’ve found useful. There are literally thousands of plugins available so if you think of something that you want to do on your blog then search the plugins and you’re bound to find something!

I hope you’ve found this post useful – if you have any plugins that you use and can’t do without then please do leave me comment and let me know.

You can read my other blog posts about going self-hosted here:

Part 1 – Going self-hosted – Why should I do it?

Part 2 – Going self-hosted – How do I do it?

Going self-hosted // How do I do it?

how to go self hosted

Right then. You’ve decided to go self-hosted. Maybe you read the first post in my series, you know what going self-hosted means and you’ve decided it’s the right move for you. So the next step then – how to go self-hosted. What do you need to do?

Your own domain name

As with all these things there are a couple of different scenarios. The first thing you are going to need is your own domain name. If you already have your own domain then you can skip right on to the next part. If you don’t have your own domain you’re going to need to buy one before you can have a self-hosted blog. It makes things a bit easier if you buy your domain name from the same provider as your web-hosting so you might want to decide who you are going to go with for hosting first. Domain registration is a little like the hosting in that you have to pay annual fee to which allows you to use the domain name you have chosen and stops anyone else from using it. You can usually pay for anything from 1 year to 5 years. You have to remember to renew the registration of your domain name (or set it to renew automatically). If you don’t there is a chance that someone else might snap it up when your registration expires and then you’re going to be in a bit of a pickle!

When choosing your domain name I would definitely recommend using your blog name if it is available. If it isn’t then you could try adding ‘blog’ on the end or something similar. As for choosing .com, .co.uk, .net or whatever, it’s really up to you. Some people think having .com is best; I decided to go for .co.uk for my blog as I thought it showed that I was based in the UK. Some people also recommend that you actually register all the variations of your domain name to stop other people using them – you can imagine it would get confusing if your blog was mummyblog.com but there was also someone else who had mummyblog.co.uk. I think it depends how unique your blog or domain name is. If there’s a chance other people might want to use the same name then it might be worth it, but if your blog name is more unique then it’s less likely. I took the risk that no-one else would want to use tobygoesbananas and so only registered the .co.uk domain name.

Finding a web-hosting provider

Once you have your domain name registration you need to choose who will host your blog for you (if you haven’t decided already). There are lots of different web-hosting providers to choose from. I use Tsohost as they were recommended to me by a few other bloggers and I haven’t had any problems with them. You could also try Go Daddy, 123-reg, bluehost or Host Gator to name a few. It may seem daunting to choose a hosting provider with so many out there but the best thing to do is probably ask other bloggers for recommendations and compare the prices. You probably want to choose the mid-range option. If you go for the cheapest package available you might find that you use up your storage allowance further down the line, especially if you have a lot of photographs on your blog. As a rough guide my hosting package costs £34.99 a year and I wouldn’t have thought you need to pay much more than that.

Moving your blog

So, you’ve registered your domain name, you’ve paid for your web-hosting. Now comes perhaps the most daunting part, particularly if you aren’t especially technically minded! It really isn’t too tricky though. And remember – your old blog isn’t going to disappear so it really isn’t possible to lose anything. Some web-hosting companies provide a free migration service – you simply give them the log in details of your old blog and they will transfer everything for you. If you want to do it yourself it is also pretty straightforward. If you already use WordPress, Sara at mumturnedmom has a great step-by-step guide on her blog. If you use Blogger it’s a similar process it’s just that you won’t already be familiar with the WordPress dashboard. If you get stuck at any point in the process your hosting company should have a helpline you can call and they will be able to talk you through what you need to do.

Just a note at this point – if you are already using your own domain name on free WordPress or Blogger then this might make the process of moving your blog slightly trickier. I couldn’t log in to my new WordPress dashboard because it automatically redirected me to my old one. This was quite easily solved in the end – I contacted my hosting company who set up an extra temporary domain alias where I could set up my new blog before completely switching everything over. It sounds complicated but actually they did everything for me.

I’ve moved my blog // Now what?

Once the content of your blog has been transferred you can start looking at appearance and layout. It’s worth noting that if you had widgets (blog badges, links etc) in your sidebar or footer on your old blog these won’t have transferred from the old blog. You will need to manually copy the code from your old site to the new one. As for appearance – if you used WordPress before then you might find the same theme is available and you can keep your blog looking pretty similar. If you were previously using Blogger then you get the fun of searching through all the themes to find one you like. Remember you can always change the colours, fonts and header later – I would go with trying to find a layout you like first of all.

After the that the blogging world really is your oyster! The big difference that you will have to get to grips with, whether you used WordPress before or not, is that only a few basic features (i.e. write a blog post and add a photo) are included when you initially install WordPress. Everything else, whether it’s finding out stats, sharing posts on social media, or pretty much anything else you can think of, comes via a plugin. These are essentially programs written by other people to perform specific functions and you can choose whether to add them to your blog. I know the world of plugins can be very confusing so that’s what we’ll be looking at in part 3 of my ‘How to be a self-hosted blogger’ series.

As always, if you have any questions pop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer or point you in the direction of the information you need. You can find out more about going self-hosted in my other posts in the series:

Going self-hosted – Why should I do it?

Going self-hosted – A guide to WordPress plugins for the newly self-hosted

Going self-hosted // Why should I do it?

Why should I go self-hosted?

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?

That depends.


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.


If you have a blog on WordPress.com then there are some things you can’t do. If you don’t want to do any of these things then again, you probably don’t need to move your blog to be self-hosted. A few of the things that you can’t do on WordPress.com are; have any advertising, use javascript (which means you can host giveaways using Rafflecopter or host a linky), you also have very limited options for customising the look of your blog although there are lots of themes available for free or to buy. If you are happy without these features but want your own domain name then again you can do this with WordPress.com but in addition to buying your domain name WordPress also charge $13 a year to use your own domain name. You can also buy upgrades from WordPress which allow you to customise your theme but to be honest, if you are going down that road then it will work out cheaper in the long run to make the move to a self-hosted blog.

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:

Going self-hosted – How do I do it?

Going self-hosted – A guide to WordPress plugins for the newly self-hosted