Going self-hosted is a decision most bloggers will face. Sometimes, at the very beginning, and sometimes further into their journey.
I’ve seen several people on Twitter asking about this, so I thought I’d put together some information to address the issue.
I was self-hosted right from the start. For me, there was a very simple, psychological reason for it: I knew, if I spent some money on it, I’d be more likely to stick with it. It was as simple as that. I didn’t know of any other perks.
What does “going self-hosted” mean?
Self-hosted means you have paid for your domain and a hosting service. A hosting service rents online storage space to you so your website data is stored. Then you have to build your website, and take care of it, ensuring it runs smoothly. Most people use WordPress.org to create their site.
Hosted means you have signed up on a site, been given a free domain (for example, www.yourname.wordpress.com) to start you off, and are hosted through them. They take care of most of the behind the scenes things. Blogs created with WordPress.com and Blogger are considered hosted sites.
And here’s why it’s sometimes confusing: WordPress.com and WordPress.org are different. While they are the same content management system, who owns the content is what differs. If you are hosted on the WordPress.com platform, they own what you put on there. If you are self-hosted, you own your content.
Which one is better?
Self-hosted – Pros
- The power is in your hands – you are in control of your blog.
- You can install custom themes so your blog looks how you want it to.
- It’s possible to add Google Analytics to get in-depth statistics.
- You can use plugins for all sorts – from improving page speed to helping with SEO.
- It’s good for your domain authority.
- You are able to create an online store.
Self-hosted – Cons
- There are costs involved.
- You are responsible for things like backing up your site and installing updates.
Hosted – Pros
- Usually free.
- Hosted sites are generally much easier to use and require less technical knowledge.
- They are low maintenance.
Hosted – Cons
- Unless you purchase a domain, your URL will have their name in it, and looks less professional.
- They can be very limited in terms of functionality.
- There are fewer themes available, so it may be harder to achieve the look you want.
- Ads may be added to your blog by the host.
- You have less options when it comes to monetisation.
- The only stats available to you are those generated by the host.
- Your files are stored on the platform’s servers, meaning your site is technically owned by them. So, if for any reason they deemed your content inappropriate, it would be removed. Worst case scenario, if they went out of business, your blog would disappear, too.
Which one should I go for?
The above pros and cons are facts. As you can see, there are actually more cons to being hosted than there are pros. The biggest benefit, of course, is that it’s free. Sadly, you pay the price in a different way in the lack of control and ownership of your site.
To look at it a different way, it’s like staying in a hotel versus being in your own home. In a hotel, you have access to the things you need, but they’re not yours. You can’t make changes. Whereas, in your own home, everything is yours. You can do what you want (within reason, of course!)
Because of this, a lot of people will encourage you to go self-hosted. I am, for the most part, one of those people. I feel like the pros to going self-hosted are compelling enough to make it worth while.
However, you need to look at your own circumstances.
What do you want from blogging? If you just want to see if it’s for you, definitely try the free version before spending any money! If it’s a hobby, then it’s perhaps not worth putting money into it. Can you afford it? If you want to start a blog but finances are tight, go for the free option. You can always switch to self-hosted later!
Some of the features you get through self-hosting are available on WordPress plans. BUT I’d strongly urge you to go self-hosted rather than spending money on any of the plans on WordPress.com. By all means, try it for free, but don’t get tricked into upgrading. I have made this mistake in the past. They’re expensive for what you get! Self-hosted is a much better use of your money than those plans.
If you’re coming into blogging with the intention to monetise your blog – even in the future – I’d encourage you to go self-hosted at the start. It’s not impossible to make money from a hosted blog, but you do have fewer options. Also, I believe your own URL looks much better to brands, if you’re hoping to work with some once you’ve got started.
Okay! I’m going self-hosted! Which host should I use?
It’s important to do your own research and find a host which feels right for you. Things to consider when choosing a host:
- Price – it goes without saying it should be something you can afford.
- Reliability – the last thing you want is your blog going down if there’s a surge of traffic!
- Speed – a slow site drives an audience away and harms your SEO.
- Security – you want your data to be safe.
That’s just about it. I hope this has helped to clarify things! If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll try my best to answer them.