There are few bigger debates in the blogging world than the question of self-hosting. It’s vital to note that there is no universal right answer- it is completely dependent on your goals and plans for your blog. However, there are important differences that every blogger should at least consider.
First, let’s cover some basics of self hosting.
domain name– A domain is the URL, the address, of your blog. If you have previously been on Blogspot or WordPress.com, you likely had a subdomain URL like yourblog.blogspot.com. If you make the move to self hosted, your blog will be located at yourblog.com (or .org, .biz, .net, etc)
hosting– When we talk about hosting, we are referring to a service offered by companies like Bluehost where you pay to store your blog’s information on a server they own and maintain.
WordPress– WordPress is the framework on which your blog is built, called a Content Management System. It provides the dashboard from which you manage your blog.
themes– Like WordPress.com, self hosted WordPress users have the option to choose among thousands of paid and free themes. Paid themes typically have more built in features (in design, SEO optimization, social media sharing, and user friendly interface). It is important to consider what kind of customization is necessary when choosing a theme and establishing what your comfort level is with customizing yourself or paying someone to do so.
Why go self hosted?
When you have a blog on a site owned by a company, they have control of your content to an extent. In essence, you are “renting” the space. If you are on Blogspot, Google could deem your content unacceptable and delete your blog. The program could be ended like when Google did away with Google Reader. You could lose all that you’ve built. If you are looking to generate income with your blog that is an expensive risk.
Your customization options are only limited by your coding skills or those of the designer you hire. Self hosted blogs offer the ultimate in branding opportunities. There is also the added bonus of tremendous flexibility to grow your blog in any direction.
If you are planning to monetize your blog by working with ad networks or blogging agencies like my friends at MSB New Media, you will need to be self hosted. Many networks and agencies use conversion and tracking plug ins with their campaigns that you can’t install on subdomain blog (blogger or WordPress.com).
When is self hosted not for you?
Commitment- You pay for your hosting either monthly or annually. If you are a casual blogger and frequently take breaks, you might be more comfortable with a free option.
Personal- If your goals for your blog are primarily personal (tracking weight loss, sharing updates with friends and families, etc), Blogspot is a capable, functional platform with minimal investment.
If in the future, you are considering expanding your blogging to include monetization in any form it is worth considering self hosted WordPress.
If you do one thing:
Consider the goals you made for your blog. Does your current platform/hosting give you the capability and tools to fulfill those goals? If not, what do you need?
Tell us what platform you use and what your most useful tool has been!