What I Learned Switching To A Self-Hosted Blog

Note: This post originally appeared on the blog for 20 Something Bloggers, Twenty Twenty. You may find the original post here.

It was time.

After nine years of blogging across four personal blogs hosted across Xanga, Blogspot, and WordPress.com, I finally made the choice to transition to a self-hosted blog. Despite my love for my free WordPress.com blog (not to mention a rather passionate post I once wrote about why blogging for free is nothing to be ashamed of), I felt it was time for me to start my own website in the form of a self-hosted blog.

I’ve had my own self-hosted blog (found here!) for a little over two months now, so I figured now would be as good of a time as any to share with you the things I’ve learned from this whole experience. While these experiences may not apply to everyone wanting to start their own self-hosted blog, I point them out for the fact that they were either completely unexpected on my part, or the impact these items had were large enough to be worth sharing.

There are lots of hidden costs with hosting

My hosting company is A Small Orange, a relatively small (from what I can tell) hosting company that allows you to host websites on either shared or dedicated servers. ASO was widely touted as being an affordable hosting option with great customer service, so I went with them. To be clear, their hosting solution was affordable. The problem is that the hosting cost typically doesn’t include the cost of your domain…or a SSL certificate…or any setup. This appears to be the case with nearly any hosting company. While I expected to handle the setup myself, I wrongfully assumed that domain and SSL costs would be included. Whatever your hosting price is, you should fully expect to pay at least an additional $40 for SSL and domain costs.

WordPress.org is both easier and more difficult to use than WordPress.com

One of my big gripes with WordPress.com blogs was the lack of customization features available for free. I didn’t really want much — just to be able to use Disqus as my comment system and adjust the menu location/colors of my themes. The problem is that the former doesn’t work (at least to my knowledge) on WordPress.com, while the latter requires you to pay extra for a premium theme or premium features. Having my own self-hosted WordPress.org site allowed me to move directly to Disqus and be able to customize any of the WordPress themes available to me. Of course, one of the major downsides is that any time the theme makers do an update, your changes will be reset unless you create a child theme…which isn’t exactly for the faint of heart, as I’m learning currently.

With the right host, security is light years better

I ran into a bit of a problem on one of my previous WordPress.com blogs with spam. Not the “buy penis pills for top SEO hits in my bad grammar and spellings English” kind, but the rage filled vitriol of someone maliciously writing hateful comments kind of spam. On WordPress.com blogs, you can limit who can comment on your posts, but not much else. WordPress.org partners with plug-in programs like Wordfence and WordPress-HTTPS to bolster any security you can build in with a SSL certificate, giving you greater control over who can see and access your website and its data.

People immediately take you a bit more seriously, even if they shouldn’t

Would you like to gain instant credibility with your readers as a new blogger? Shell out the money for a domain. I have very little explanation for why this happens, but it does. Having your own domain makes your content pop to internet audiences.

I’m not advocating that you go out and by a domain and begin self-hosting straight out of the gate, especially if you’re not sure if you want to continue blogging. Save yourself the time and money and just stick with a free blog through WordPress.com, Blogspot, or Medium. But if you’ve been blogging for a few years and are looking to expand the footprint of your blog’s influence, don’t be afraid to spend the money to start your own self-hosted blog.

  1. I tried Child themes and the things I wanted to customise I couldn’t or at least I couldn’t figure it out to my satisfaction. Then I thought, hey, I should write my own theme. But I was kidding myself, the little coding experience I have is not enough to let me create a theme in the way I wish I could. Plus, I don’t have the time to devot lots of time to learning HTML and such. In short, I’ll be sticking with free themes for now.

    I’m not sure anyone has ever taken me more serious in the past year since I had my own domain etc. 😀

    1. See, I made a child theme as soon as my theme updated…and I still haven’t used it. I’ve only made one major modification to my theme, and it’s merely a color swap. As a result, every time it updates, I just go through and swap out every teal hex code for monarch orange. Once I get a couple of other pages created (one is book related, so that may be a while yet), I’ll have a couple of other modifications I’ll need to make, but those aren’t high priority yet.

      1. Okay, for that, using a child theme is probably rather easy whereas the things I wanted to change were a bit more complicated and every time I tried touching the footer on my old theme, it didn’t work out. I guess it mostly was because the original theme was coded weirdly but still. I’m still not a 100% happy with my current theme but it’s got the basics and is easy to use.

        1. I think the fact that what I’m changing is fairly simple is a big reason why I haven’t cared much about the child theme to this point. It takes me 10 minutes at most to make the changes. That said, I’ll have some more complex things I’m looking to do with my theme’s slider feature that may cause me some coding headaches. I’ll need to develop additional content before I’m ready to do that though.

  2. I think you’ve done really well with the look and feel and TTW Tim. I think I like it more than your previous blog. It’s clean and white and lovely.
    By the way, that photo of you is priceless!

    1. I’m happy you like it. You have a bit more of an artistic eye than I do (okay, a significantly more artistic eye), so I’m happy to hear this. That picture was taken while I was on a work trip to Boston. I had been up since 5 in the morning and was exceptionally tired.

  3. Curious to hear more about your decision to go with an SSL certificate – I don’t think I’ve heard many, if any, bloggers talk about having one?

    Love ASO. Love, love, love. I’ve only ever had a self-hosted domain and ASO is by far the best host I’ve had in my 6+ years of blogging.

    1. I didn’t realize you were on ASO too. They’ve been pretty fantastic to this point. I decided to sign up with them thanks to their stellar reviews from pretty much anyone hosted with them, and I’ve yet to see anyone who dislikes them.

      My choice to have a SSL cert is mostly for something that I’ll be adding to my site in the future, however it’s also for additional security until then as well. Security is a paramount item in my mind for my website.

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