With hundreds of different content management systems, website builders and blogging platforms out there, it can be hard to decide what to use. The first decision to make is, ‘What kind of hosting do I choose for my blog – and why?’
What is a self-hosted blog?
When we say ‘self-hosted blog’, we’re not suggesting you go out and buy a server and configure everything yourself; we’re simply referring to using a company offering web hosting (the hardware and network nuts and bolts behind the running of your website) rather than an account tied to a particular platform (such as Tumblr or Blogger).
If you’re thinking about creating/moving your own blog or explaining to a friend or client why they should go self-hosted, check out our top ten reasons to have your own install:
1. More control
Choosing a web hosting company for your blog instantly gives you a lot more control over your data and website than a service like Tumblr or Blogger. As well as having more features, it’s much easier to export your whole blog to a different content management system, so if you decide you want to move from WordPress to Drupal later on, you’ll still be working with the same company.
Arguably the biggest benefit of a self-hosted blog is having true ownership of your website. If the platform you’re using introduces features/costs that you don’t like or even closes down (like GeoCities, Vox, Posterous and many more), you can be in trouble. Choosing a reputable, long-standing web hosting company or reseller minimises the risk and reduces the chances that you’ll need to move and learn a whole new system.
2. Improve your reputation
Even if you buy a domain name to mask the address, there are always clear giveaways that you’re using a free host. Having a fully hosted site looks a lot more professional and shows people that you’re serious about your website and you’re sticking around.
This helps you attract return visitors, links, and advertisers, and will automatically instil confidence in your content and presentation whether you’re creating a hobby site or a business blog.
3. Better features
Choosing a dedicated web host for your site immediately opens up a broader range of possibilities. Instead of having a restricted range of features to choose from, you can create a completely custom website and make any changes you like.
You can install any plugins, extensions and themes you like, add custom functionality and control exactly what your visitors see. To put it into context, WordPress.com allows you to choose from around 100 plugins; the self-hosted WordPress plugin directory currently has almost 26,000 to choose from (and that doesn’t even take into account all the ones available elsewhere on the web!).
When you have your own website, you’re not relying on a company to make upgrades to their platform or software. You can expand further in the future if you need to without worrying about having too many pages or visitors, and the versatility of properly hosted websites means you can quickly and easily upgrade if you begin to outgrow your solution.
Dedicated web hosts are tailored for scaling and success, and you can easily export your blog to run on alternative software if you change your mind further down the line.
5. No adverts
One of the ways free hosts fund your site is by sticking advertising on it. The problem is that you have no control over the types of adverts shown, including what they’re offering, where they’re displayed, and the format they’re displayed in. This can result in some embarrassingly ironic situations and also detracts from the professionalism of your website.
Opting for a self-hosted blog means there are no adverts unless you put them there, and they’ll be making money for you, not someone else.
6. Still easy to manage
If you already have a blog on a free platform and you’re thinking of moving to a paid web host, it’s unlikely you’ll have to worry about a learning curve. In many cases, the dashboard and admin panel of your self-hosted blog will be similar to (or in the case of WordPress, almost identical to) your existing blog.
You’ll still be able to write, draft and publish posts quickly and easily – and an extra advantage is that there will be lots more features to improve your blog further. It’s just as easy to get set up as well, thanks to our one-click install.
7. Allows you to develop skills
Many of the popular blogging platforms, including WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal, have both ‘what you see is what you get’ (WYSIWYG) editors and code editors in addition to full back-end access. This means that when you’re ready to move on, you can switch back and forth between code and visual editing as you learn.
As you have a lot more flexibility with your own install, you can develop your own skills to industry-standard level if you wish; your website editor grows with you. On the flip side, if you don’t want to learn coding or design skills (or don’t have the time), you can still use templates or hire a designer/developer.
8. Enjoy a bespoke site
Whether your focus is on appearance, functionality, or both, with a self-hosted site you can have the exact website you want without compromise. If you’ve ever thought, ‘I wish my website had X feature’, you can make it happen because you have complete control.
Many general blog sites just offer basic functionality and theme options, but with a self-hosted website you can create a community, build in your blog as a feature (for example you can create an online shop or portfolio andseamlessly integrate your blog into it), and style every detail exactly as you like. Check out our post 10 fantastic examples of websites using WordPress for much more than just a blog for inspiration.
9. Get much more than just a blog
With a self-hosted blog, you can take advantage of plenty of additional services at little or no extra cost. For example, having an email address like email@example.com looks a lot more professional and is easier for people to remember than a Hotmail or Yahoo one, and you can set your own up in seconds using a web hosting company.
Other features will depend on the company you use, but examples include search engine optimisation services, additional security and virus scanning, SSL certificates and much more.
10. SEO benefits
Hosted websites tend to attract more links as other website owners are more inclined to trust them, which means it’s easier for you to improve your rankings in the search engines from the start. Furthermore, the added control you have over your website and the fact that you don’t have to share a domain with all kinds of other sites means you can do a lot more to improve your search engine optimisation.
Control internal and external links, install your choice of SEO plugins and software, work on improving your page speed and reap the resulting benefit of more visitors to your website.
(Side note: Check out 31 fresh flat design reads & resources to download the images used in this blog post).
What’s your top reason for going self-hosted? Let us know in the comments!