26 August 2019

Should You Go Self-Hosted With Your Blog?

By Vix
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You’ve just very excitedly set up your first blog on a free blogging platform because you’re eager to get your thoughts, opinions and experiences out into the world.

Then suddenly you hear terms such as, ‘DA’, ‘back-links’, ‘self-hosted’ and your eyebrows raise. Is this what I have to think about when it comes to blogging? I just want to write!

I totally get it. When I first started blogging I had no expendable income. My money went on supplies for my class, train fare and extortionate London rent.

So I started on Blogger. A free hosting platform. And vixmeldrew.blogspot.com was born.

I threw myself into the UK blogging community – like you’ve done if you’ve joined Grow & Glow, and soon I coveted my fellow bloggers’ gorgeous themes, personalised logos and fancy customisations.

Luckily, I had a community of supportive people around to ask how I could get those things too. I also was then in a position where I decided that if I wanted to take my blog seriously – even still as a hobby – I’d need to put a little investment in. The answer lied in self-hosting.

In this blog post, I’ll break down the differences between hosted and self hosted and why I believe, if you’re serious about growing your blog and glowing for an audience, WordPress is the way to go.

I’ll also help you compare the other blogging platforms out there AND give you a juicy lil 10% discount off a self-hosted plan.

Furthermore, I’ll detail the exact process you’ll go through, when you decide to self-host (it’s not as tricky as you think!)

self hosted blog graphic

What is a HOSTED (free) blogging platform?

Blogger, WordPress.com, Wix (not free), Weebly, Squarespace (not free)

A free blogging platform like Blogger means you can start your blog with 0 initial costs and be up and running in moments.

However, it also means you don’t ‘OWN’ your blog, the files or your content.

The pros of having a free blog on Blogger or WordPress.com are;

  • Ease of set up
  • No initial costs
  • No technical knowledge required at all

The cons however are;

  • You don’t own your blog
  • It’s seen as less professional
  • You have less control over customisation
  • Brands don’t regard hosted blogs as an asset to work with compared with self-hosted blogs because you don’t offer them any sexy back-links or SEO juice, which is what they’re after!
  • There still might be costs incurred if you want to upgrade your theme.

Who should have a ‘free’ blog?

Bloggers who JUST want to write. If at any point you think you’d like to consider monetising through sponsorships or advertising, a free blog, in my experience, is not the best way to go.

I didn’t get my first sponsored post until I transferred to WordPress, 14 months in. I could’ve monetised earlier if I had gone self-hosted earlier.

But I have a domain AND I pay for Squarespace, is that self-hosted?

I also thought that when I transferred from free Blogger to Squarespace.

At first I loved the ease of use and could write and publish blog posts from the mobile app. After a while though, I realised I wanted more control over SEO and as my blog became a bigger part of my life, I wanted ultimate control over it.

Squarespace is a website builder, requiring absolutely no coding knowledge AT ALL whilst providing sleek and easy to use templates and user interface.

However, you still don’t OWN your blog as all of your files are stored on Squarespace’s server.

Squarespace is aimed at those who want something ‘set up and go’ and with everything – SEO, content creation, website building – all in one place.

It’s ideal for small businesses or ‘solopreneurs’ who are already wearing a billion hats in their business.

For bloggers though, I still believe self-hosted WordPress is king and this is from experience!

Within 3 months of transferring from Squarespace to WordPress and implementing my new SEO knowledge, my traffic had gone from 5-6k page views per month to an average of 18k – it’s continued to grow since then on WordPress.

I also found as my expertise with blogging grew, I need more control over what I wanted to customise – such as certain plugins, to get the functionality I needed. I outgrew Squarespace.

So what IS a self-hosted blog then?

WordPress.org

A self-hosted blog is one that you could host on your own server – most of us don’t have one of those kicking about, so we choose to host it on a third-party server.

A strong blogger favourite is Lyrical Host* who I’ve partnered with to bring you 10% off your first month (if you choose the self-hosted route) – just use the code: growglowco at checkout!

Their plans start at £9.99 per month and only increase when your traffic goes over 25k a month – by that time your blog will definitely be paying for itself!

They’re the favourite of many bloggers due to their high level of support and an extremely high percentage of ‘up-time’ (basically keeping your blog running!).

Furthermore, they also offer migration services so if your blog is currently on Blogger, WordPress.com or Squarespace they can transfer over your files, photos and posts for you!

By going ‘self-hosted’, it essentially means you own the full use of the WordPress.org software – all of the customisations, plugins and control is handed to you, because you own the software. Then you just need a host to give it a home!

The pros of a self-hosted blog are;

  • You own everything – files, content, software, it’s yours!
  • It’s seen as more professional
  • It’s a valuable asset to brands wanting to partner with bloggers who can offer them good links back to their websites (and why you’ll often see opportunities posted that say, ‘DA over 25 only!’)
  • Your own domain can cost as little as 99p
  • Hosting can cost as littles as a tenner a month with full support included
  • Customisations are endless – fonts, colours, layout – it’s all up to you!
  • Plugins make your site run exactly as you want – recipe builders, contents tables, galleries, portfolios, directories – it’s endless!

Of course, going self-hosted isn’t for everyone and the cons can be;

  • Initial start up cost – hosting, theme, domain, some plugins etc
  • Some technical knowledge needed – but in the Grow & Glow hub we have a WordPress guide AND now with the Gutenberg editor, writing a blog post, adding an image, adjusting headings and customising settings couldn’t be easier.

Who should go self-hosted?

Any blogger looking to grow their traffic and eventually monetise through sponsorships or advertising.

What is the process of going self-hosted?

Whether you already have a blog on another platform or you’re starting completely from scratch, the process is simple.

Choose a hosting provider

Let’s use Lyrical Host* as our example.

Click the link above and you’ll find the option to choose WordPress hosting.

Then choose your plan – I recommend the ‘Tiny’ for new blogs or those still working on growing their traffic.

Registering a domain

Then register a domain if you don’t already have one – how great is it that Lyrical Host help you with that? Or select to transfer your current domain if you’ve already got one.

Book a website migration with them.

Wait the allotted time for your website to transfer – usually 24-48 hours and use that time to read our WordPress guide or watch some YouTube tutorials (see how easy it is to set up and create your first blog post!)

Upgrading a theme

Sure, WordPress have their own free, basic themes that absolutely do the job and with self-hosted, the customisation options are endless.

And as a Grow & Glow member, website designer Cat from Gatto Web put together a whole training on the easy customisations you can make to get you started.

But if you want something a bit more ‘out of the box’, buying a WordPress theme is the way to go.

If your budget is £10-£40 I recommend browsing Etsy or Creative Market.

Be aware of ones that need the Genesis framework to work. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for beginners to WordPress but absolutely go for it in the future if you choose.

If your budget is bigger, I’d really recommend BluChic themes* (this one here is BluChic). They cost around £70-£150 but come with some amazing features and the support I received when installing and customising the theme was excellent.

Or I’d recommend Snug Designs who have beautiful themes for £175 (there’s a discount for Grow & Glow members).

And there you go!

Going self-hosted can seem like a scary leap to take if you’re just starting out with your blog. If you feel more comfortable using a free hosted platform, or opting with something more ‘done for you’, like Squarespace, then I completely get you – that’s exactly how I started out.

However, if you’ve decided that you want hit the ground running, to grow your blog, implement SEO, customise it to feel like you, begin to court brand relationships and be taken more seriously – self-hosted WordPress is definitely the way to go.

It really isn’t as complicated as you’d think, is it?

Does this answer your self-hosting questions? Let me know if I can add anything!

Vix x

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