Self-Hosting: Why, How and Resources Galore

Happy Patriots’ Day! (Fun fact: I looked up the spelling to make sure I apostrophized appropriately and learned that in Massachusetts, today is known as PatriotsDay, while in Maine, it’s Patriots Day. I was born in Maine but raised in Massachusetts…what’s a girl to do?)

This is one holiday that meant a lot as a kid. Everything in the state shuts down and everyone is encouraged to mark the Boston Marathon, whether by actually standing along the route to cheer, or to watch on TV. Schools, banks, etc. are closed. Sigh.

Well, I’ll be tracking as best I can from work today!

I love hearing from my readers — whether it’s for compliments, critiques or questions, knowing that you’re out there and enjoying this site means the world to me.

So what is the #1 question I get?

WHY SHOULD I SELF-HOST MY BLOG?

What follows are my thoughts, recommendations for getting started and a few words of wisdom.

What:

Self-hosting is when you pay for storage/hosting/server space for your blog, rather than let the blogging platform pay for the space.

Self-hosting is NOT the same as owning your own domain. You can buy http://myawesomesite.com and use the Blogger, Tumblr or WordPress.com platforms but NOT be self-hosted; only WordPress.org allows you to be self-hosted.*

An easier way to explain?

If you have a website that includes WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr in the URL, you are NOT self-hosted. If you have your own domain but run Blogger or Tumblr software, you are NOT self-hosted. If you have your own domain and have installed a WordPress.org platform and you pay a monthly/annual hosting fee, have access to your files via FTP/cPanel, you ARE self-hosted.

(Confused? Don’t worry. After I lay out the pros and cons, I’ll give you the names of plenty of people who can help if you’re interested in making the transition!)

*This is not completely true. Advanced platforms like Drupal and Joomla may be self-hosted, but if you know that you don’t need this post. :)

Why:

There are dozens of reasons that it makes sense, for business and branding, to self-host. But a few of the standouts are:

  • Advertising
  • Access to plugins and other customization tools
  • Analytics
  • Security/Stability
  • Branding

Basically, all of the things that make blogging super cool.

How I wish I could help you look in the crystal ball and talk to your future selves, because the truth is…once you start self-hosting, you’ll wonder what took you so long. The ability to select from hundreds of themes (paid and premium), to install plugins (my Top Picks are here!) and to enjoy unrestricted access to ad networks (including Foodbuzz, which limits your options unless you are self-hosted) is worth the relatively small fee you’ll pay for the move.

With self-hosting, YOU truly own your work — and are not immune to the whims of your particular blogging company, and you can also take control of your own SEO (search engine optimization).

And, as silly as it seems, you will be taken much more seriously. Even if blogging is just a hobby, if you have any interest in building traffic, attracting sponsors or building your brand, cut out the stuff that makes you look small time.

How:

It’s easy. And it’s hard.

Have I done it? Yup, several times. And if *I* can do it, so can you.

The first thing to consider is

Easy/Expensive Option A:

  • Hire someone to help you buy and set up your own domain, install and set up your WordPress installation, design the website, select and activate plugins, etc.

Less Easy/Less Expensive Option B:

  • Buy and set up your own domain, install and set up your WordPress installation and hire someone to design the website and select/activate plugins, etc.

Advanced/Cheap Option C:

  • Buy and set up your own domain, install and set up your WordPress installation and do your own design, customization, etc.

I PROMISE…if you have the time and the desire to learn, you can make an amazing blog all by yourself. In fact, I highly recommend taking on at least some of the projects yourself. It’s not going to do you much good to hire someone to create a masterpiece if you don’t know how to change the furniture after a few weeks. But if you have years of work that you need moved (say, from Blogger to self-hosted WordPress), it’s worth the small investment to get a professional’s help. Put it this way: if you lost everything, would you be sad but ready to start over or devastated enough to leave blogging altogether? Your answer will tell you how much help you need.

Who:

(Note: none of the following are affiliate links, or will help me make a profit in any way. They’re just the resources that I’ve come across in my many blogging adventures!)

Domain Registrations

There are more sites, but these are the big ones. And if you decide to sign up for your hosting service first, you can often purchase the domain through them (although I always prefer to buy my own and usually find a discount code first!)

Even if you’re on the fence about self-hosting, or think it’s something you want to do evenntually but not now, PLEASE spend the $10 (often less) to buy your blog name at the very least. You see my post on why I think it’s important to buy several other domains, too, but you’re looking at a teeny investment now and potentially big heartbreak later if you discover someone already owns a domain for your brand.

{Estimated cost: $5-15}

Platform

What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? .com=NOT self-hosted. .org=self-hosted, among other things. Here’s a good breakdown.

{Estimated cost: $0}

Hosting

Recommended by WordPress:

Other options:

Want to support a fellow blogger? Many are hosting resellers, which means they get a cut of whatever plan you buy IF you buy through them. It’s generally the same price for you, but your buddies get a commission.

One warning: if you’re even semi-serious about blogging, don’t make your decision on price alone. Sure, getting hosting for $3/month sounds cool, until you find yourself calling the host and filing daily tickets because of downtime or other issues. Make sure you’re comfortable with the support options before you sign up. You CAN change, but take it from me…it’s not fun.

{Estimated cost: $5-15/month}

Design/Customization

There are a million others. Those listed above happen to be good buddies with great portfolios. If you know of someone that does good work, let me know and I’ll add them to the list!

{Estimated cost: $50-$500, depending on the work; if you add on any other work like logo design, Facebook/Twitter customization, etc., expect this to be higher}

Words of Widsom:

I have tried to be as neutral as possible with the above details. Now is my time to drop it all and BEG and PLEAD for you to consider the following lineup:

  • WordPress
  • Your Own Domain
  • Self-Hosted

I think that given the small amount of financial investment (you can do all of this for under $100/year), it’s worth the major upside.

Are there cons? Are there people that should NOT try self-hosting? Absolutely. If you blog for fun and have no interest in branding, advertising, etc., it may not be worth the time to change. And especially with WordPress.com, there are benefits to sticking with free hosting: backups and spam protection are done for you; you get the stability of pretty consistent uptimes for your site; you can do SOME basic customization.

What, you want wiser words than that? Check out this bevy of links I found and vetted for you.

Many thanks to Ryan of Revive My Blog and No More Bacon, who came to my rescue on Twitter when I had questions about the details of self-hosting!

IMPORTANT: Much like everything else that is my blog, this post is a result of my own experience, a lot of research, some desperate pleas to bigger brains than mine and some educated guesses. But if you see any mistakes, have questions about the resources or want me to add any resources to the page, please let me know!

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Comments

  1. says

    Once again, thanks so much for the wealth of info! This couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been hesitant on buying a domain because it would be for a future business plan that has a lot, a lot of developing to do. But I’d definitely be upset if it was taken when the time came. This was the perfect push to at least start making moves.

  2. says

    Thanks for this. I’m trying to figure out if I want to self host and there is just so much info out there. I like that you put it all together and made it clear b/c I was overwhelmed!!!
    Oh, and today is one of my most favorite days of the year! I can’t wait to head into town to watch the marathon!

  3. says

    LOVE this post- thank you so much for covering this topic!! I’ve been thinking about making the switch for awhile now, and this is just the push I need to get started on it. It’s overwhelming, but definitely necessary!

  4. says

    Great post, Katy – in fact, I’ve been looking for recs for good design / customization companies, so this is perfect! Please do add to the list if you get more tips from readers – much appreciated.

    (And yes, point taken, I’ll get to the self-hosting eventually… but first I want someone to help me with the fun stuff!)

    Happy Patriot’s Day!

  5. says

    Thank you for the information! My blog is self-hosted but, in all honesty, it’s mostly that way because my boyfriend is a software engineer and worked with me to do all the set-up :) It’s helpful know a bit more about the “why” behind it! I’m about to go from having a Drupal-based blog to a WordPress blog (I think the WordPress has the bells & whistles that commenters like and are familiar with), so it will be a bit of an adventure.

  6. says

    Happy Patriots’ Day. I hope you were able to get some time to enjoy the Marathon.

    Self-Hosting is on my schedule for late fall or the New Year but this post is marked and I’m going to look into the basics before I start.

  7. says

    This is a great blog!! I will definitely recommend this to anyone interested in self-hosting. I have been self-hosting for 7 years and really enjoy the freedom. One important thing as a heads up to anyone that hires someone to design their site or that buys a site template, is to make sure to replace all stock images and use your own images. My company had someone design our site about 5 years ago and last month we received a letter from GettyImages stating that their images were being used illegally without a license and that we owed them $1,500. Further Google research found that this is very common among those that don’t design their own site. We also found out that we are liable and not the person that designed the site.

  8. says

    Great post! Thank you. I am self-hosted and agree with everything you said.

    However, I have some questions for our business URL/site. We currently have http://www.skillofstrength.com and have a blog at http://www.skillofstrength.blogspot.com. What I want to do is switch hosts for our URL, install WP, move all the blog posts over and then build my website on wordpress. I’m confused about the order in which to do all of this…I want to be able to take my time building my new site before cutting over, but not sure if I should just build it on another URL or what needs to be done.

    • says

      Hey Amanda!

      I’d start with this post: http://fitbloggersguide.com/2010/11/the-ultimate-blogger-to-self-hosted-wordpress-transition-guide/

      Since you want to move over your posts without losing the existing links and keep things as normal as possible, you definitely want to do this carefully.

      You may also want to hire someone to help, since it’s a pretty tricky maneuver.

      You don’t have to publicize the change until all the design is done, but I would definitely get all of the technical stuff done ASAP so you don’t waste any of your time.

      • says

        Hi Katy –
        Thanks for the speedy reply the other day! I moved my blog from blogger to self-hosted wordpress and it was no problem…I am a marketing manager so I am semi-familiar with websites, etc. However, where I am stuck is on the URL. Right now our URL is our website which is separate from the blog. If I wanted to move the posts over to self-hosted wordpress but have some time to work on it, I wouldn’t want it to be our actually URL just yet. How can I do this? (Does this make sense??)
        Thanks so much!

  9. says

    I am one of those people – the one who doesn’t know why it took me so long (6 months) before going self-hosted! And honestly, I probably never would’ve if it wasn’t for you + Jess. It has taken my blog to a whole new level and now I am finding so much more passion in what I write and really want to fill my blog with good/decent content. It’s not always great, and I know my blog isn’t very big, but to me, it was money well spent – and I really got lucky to have you guys (and Rita w/ Blog Genie) help me get to this level. It’s a work in progress, and it probably always will be, but I love my blog and it is my pride and joy at the moment.

  10. says

    Great post (again — I keep saying this in your comments – ha ha).

    I JUST switched to self-hosted 2 weeks ago and I really could have used this information! I think I did OK – I did everything myself and honestly, it wasn’t that bad. I really do love the freedom it’s given me and the plugins I’ve been able to add (which was a whole science experiment by itself). It’s definitely worth the effort! I feel like my pageviews are up and I’m more confident in my blog.

    Oh -and where in MA are you from? You probably have this somewhere on your blog. I’m from the North Shore myself (specifically Peabody). Yay for displaced Northerners!

  11. says

    Thanks for the love Katie! We’ve found that most folks who go self host fall in love with the freedom of it.

    I particularly like what you said about owning your blog. When you self host, you have an asset. You control your intellectual property, it’s a big thing and often something people don’t consider. Owning a website is like owning a building. And a free service is like renting (for free ;)) Ultimately, your blogging goals will lead you to the right answer, I think you summed that up beautifully.

  12. says

    I changed my blog over to self hosting myself, have my own domain and bought thesis themes which I highly recommend (too bad they don’t pay me to recommend it!).

    It was a HUGE headache and I honestly don’t even remember how I did it. But if you are a blogger with a little extra time on your hands you too can switch your blog to self hosting on your own without paying someone else oodles of money and waiting a long time for them to do it. I switched my blog over in one weekend. If you have more money on your hands then definitely pay someone else. If you have extra cash it’s probably not worth the headache.

  13. says

    I love this post. It is beyond helpful. I really want to try this out and semi do it on my own. But I an deathly afraid if losing my writing. Plus I looked up my name and it is already a website. Now what to do… thank you so much for all the information you shared! :)

  14. says

    Love this!! I just switched to Dreamhost and had someone move my content for me b/c I was CLUELESS. Totally psyched to look through the plugins now. THANKS!!!! :)

  15. says

    Amazing post! So glad I found it as I’ve been pondering The Big Move to self-hosting. This post has a nice succinct style to it, and breaks down what seems to be a rather intimidating task. I’ll be hopefully moving to self-hosting when I have some time off this summer, so thanks for the tips and recs!

  16. says

    As always thanks for an informative blogging post! I started up my self-hosted blog beginning of this year and couldn’t be happier. It felt like a real investment, both in my so-called hobby and my dedication to making the blog something more. At first I thought I should wait till I become a “big time” blog to make the move, but realize it didn’t matter how many readers I had I wanted to do it for myself.

  17. says

    Ooooh…this is exactly what I need right now! I am so overwhelmed by the options and I just can’t decide if I want to follow through with it! Taking my blogging hobby from free to paid has become a huge decision for me!

  18. says

    This is just what I needed! I bought a domain name a week ago and I am waiting for the semester to end before I “play” with it. I was wondering what the next step was. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

  19. says

    This is a great post! I wanted to add a plug for Verve hosting – I’ve used them for years and absolutely LOVE them. They’re affordable, reliable, and the customer service is absolutely fantastic. Packages range in price, but I was paying about $5/month for their entry-level package, which should be sufficient for most bloggers.

  20. says

    Hi Katy,

    I saw your tweet about this and decided to stop by. I’ve been helping people to transfer from WordPress.com and Blogger to self-hosting, and I’d be happy for you to pass my info along to these people that have questions about it. They can find out more about my services here: http://www.blog-tweaks.com/services.

    Let me know if you (or they) have any questions.

    Good luck!

    Joseph

  21. says

    Hey! Do you know if they make any plugins to help with Search Engine Optimization?
    I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains.
    If you know of any please share. Appreciate it!

  22. says

    I know this is an older post but hopefully you’ll still see it. I was wondering what hosting do you personally use? I currently use iPower and my traffic has been steadily increasing and my blog has been loading slower and slower and I know I need to change web hosting servers. I’ve decided that shared hosting is probably not the way to go for me since I’m planning on focusing on getting my traffic even higher… I’d love to get your insight into what are some great web hostings for WordPress blogs that are good value but also fast and reliable?

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