When I started blogging at Coffee With Kim in 2009, all I knew about blogging is creating regular and interesting content. Like many other bloggers, I started with free hosting (Blogger, to be exact). It doesn’t cost a penny and it has free templates that are good enough for people who have no idea how to use Photoshop and code pages like myself.
If you are a new blogger testing the waters, I’d say sign up with a free blogging platform first. Top options for you are WordPress.com and Blogger. Setting up a blog with these two platforms are very easy. Just sign up for an account, choose your blog name, choose a template, and start posting. I hosted my blog with Blogger for free for two years until I decided to self-host.
However, if you are serious about blogging (serious = turn your blog into a business), then you might want to consider self-hosting your blog.
First things first. What does ‘self-hosted’ mean, anyway? Tom Ewer differentiates free and paid hosting by looking at how we use personal computers and public computers.
Think of self-hosting as buying your own laptop. You can do anything you wish on your laptop, such as install software, browse the internet without restrictions, etc. You are basically in control because it’s yours. Using a free host through blogging platforms, on the other hand, is like using a public computer–say, from a library. When using a library computer, users operate in a controlled environment. We cannot just download what we want or install whatever software. Site owners with self-hosted blogs, in short, have more freedom and full ownership of the blog.
Despite the limitations, there are actually still a lot of popular blogs that are hosted in free blogging platforms like Kelle Hampton (very inspiring blog, I tell you!), Topaz Horizon and Animetric’s World. If these women are doing an awesome job blogging from a free platform, then why make the switch?
One of my reasons why I made the switch from a free platform to a self-hosted blog is because of content ownership concerns. If you blog from Blogger (like I used to), you must already know that while you own your content, Google owns the storage unit where all your content is. And, according to Google’s terms of service:
When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.
We are constantly changing and improving our Services. We may add or remove functionalities or features, and we may suspend or stop a Service altogether.
You can stop using our Services at any time, although we’ll be sorry to see you go. Google may also stop providing Services to you, or add or create new limits to our Services at any time.
We believe that you own your data and preserving your access to such data is important. If we discontinue a Service, where reasonably possible, we will give you reasonable advance notice and a chance to get information out of that Service.
When I was still blogging from Blogger, I remember there was a time when I couldn’t log into my blog and my readers reported not being able to access it. That gave me a heart attack! Luckily, it worked the next day. After that experience, I started saving up to purchase my own hosting. If you are still in the process of deciding whether you want to stay or migrate, better start backing up your blog design and content!
By purchasing hosting, you buy your own server space–giving you ownership of all your content and exclusive access to your blog most of the time (I say most because there are times when servers fail). If you ask me which hosting provider is best, I’d point you to Siteground’s WordPress Hosting Packages. Their WordPress packages are great for bloggers with can’t-resist offers like free migration, free WordPress set up, etc. Packages start at $3.95 per month, which is just about PHP 178. Moreover, Siteground is known for their five-star customer support, which can be a pain with other hosting providers. If you want to self-host your blog, purchase your Siteground WordPress Hosting Package now!
Blog Design and Plugins
Another reason why Mom On Duty is now a self-hosted blog is because I want to have full control over my design and the plugins I want to use. What I like about being self-hosted is that I have access to my file server, making customizing my blog design much, much easier. Of course, you will need a bit of HTML/CSS/PHP knowledge to do this, but I tell you, it’s not impossible to learn! There are step-by-step guides online so it’s pretty easy to do.
If you purchase blog hosting, I recommend that you get the Genesis Framework as well. By having the Genesis Framework in place, you will have access to hundreds of beautiful StudioPress Themes for WordPress–paid and FREE. The Genesis Framework will also make customizing your blog much easier since it lets you do one-click edits, drag and drop, and use short codes.
Finally, having a self-hosted blog allowed me to download and use plugins that I want to use for my blog. Would you like to create an email sign up form? There’s a plugin for that! Do you want to increase your protection for spam? There’s a plugin for that! Need to resize your images in bulk? There’s a plugin for that, too!
Search Engine Optimization
If you want to rank high in search engines, then you have to have a search engine optimized blog. As I mentioned above, if you purchase a self-hosted WordPress.org (this is different from WordPress.com, FYI) blog, you get access to thousands of plugins. Some of these plugins will enable you to easily optimize your blog. My favorites are All In One SEO Pack and Yoast.
Self-hosted blogs also allow many other customization options such as choosing your permalink structure, which also affects SEO.
With your blog optimized, then it is much easier to get targeted visits; therefore increasing your chances to earn from ads you display. Also, many brands now prefer bloggers with self-hosted blogs so upgrading to one would be a very good investment!
Should you self-host your blog? I don’t want to force you to migrate from free hosting to paid hosting because your choice of hosting really depends on you. If what you are using is working, then keep rockin’ it. :) However, if you are not satisfied with free hosting or you don’t want to risk losing your content, then go on and get yourself a self-hosted blog.
Is it worth it? I’m very happy with my self-hosted blog. I find it much easier to optimize my content and it’s more fun to design since, like I said, I have access to all my files. I feel at ease, too, since I’m sure I won’t lose my content just like that. The ability to install plugins is awesome as well! I like how I can easily add cool widgets just by installing and activating plugins.
Bloggy Mommy–taking the jargon out of the technical side of blogging! This is a section dedicated to tips and tricks that will help fellow bloggers improve and maximize their blogs. And since I am just a blogger who likes to DIY things on the blog, all Bloggy Mommy posts are written in a language that not-so-techy bloggers will (hopefully) understand. If you think I’m talking gibberish, please let me know. :D
If you have questions or topics you’d like me to cover, feel free to email me at email@example.com!