Recently, I’ve been asked a few questions regarding going self-hosted, the upsides, the downsides, best platform etc. So I thought I would share my own experience on going through the process. If you’re considering going self-hosted this might provide you with some of the answers you’re looking for. My blog is self-hosted at WordPress.org
WordPress founder, Matt Mullenweg, sums up the difference between WordPress.com and a self-hosted WordPress blog like this:
Hosting your site on WordPress.com is like renting an apartment, as opposed to a self-hosted WordPress blog that you own outright.
With a self-hosted WordPress blog, you can do anything you want. Knock down walls. Redecorate it any way you want. But you’re responsible for the upkeep as well. (i.e. security update, backups, feature upgrades)
Whereas with WordPress.com everything is done for you. But you lose some control. Can’t have a yard. Can’t tear down walls, etc.
I’d been thinking about starting a beauty and lifestyle blog for some time, in fact, it wasn’t until after around twelve months after I initially decided that I actually took the plunge. I’d started researching platforms for my blog, pros, cons etc. WordPress.com kept on coming up, over and above Blogger.com or Blogspot (those were the other two I properly looked at). I fell into going with WordPress.com as I thought it would fulfil my needs and In the short-term it did; but any blogger will tell you, where you start off is nowhere near where you’re heading now.
I joined WordPress.com on a wintery evening in November 2016, I didn’t have a blind clue what I was doing or what setting up a blog entailed, I just knew I wanted to do it. Fortunately, the set up was surprisingly simple and so there I was, a new blogger at thebeautyspyglass.wordpress.com. I set about tweaking the menus, added a header photo and then published my very first post mid-November 2016 and felt very proud of it.
However, looking back over some of my first posts it’s clear to see that I really didn’t have a clue. Terrible photos and equally awful content, I thought they would do but then having continued to nose around successful blogs out there, it soon became apparent that what I was producing wasn’t going to cut the mustard. That said, We all have to start somewhere and comparing my blog then to how it looks currently, I’ve come along way in just under nine months. I’m not tooting my own horn here by any means as I realise there is always room for improvement. Fast forward and I have a completely different idea about what works and what doesn’t. What works for SEO purposes etc. (I didn’t have a clue about that in the beginning either). I’m still not happy with the images on my blog and certain other aspects but I’m saving for a new camera so hopefully, there will be an improvement there soon!
Taking The Plunge
So I’d been blogging for around 3 months when I started to get itchy feet with my blog, I wasn’t happy with having a limiting free WordPress.com theme anymore, it had kind of run its course and I was out-growing it quickly.
I continued viewing lots of other blogs, looking at the content and photos and started getting a touch of the green-eyed monster. I knew I had to up my game, this meant giving my blog a complete overhaul. I lingered over upgrading to WordPress Premium but again after looking at other blogs and scrolling to the foot of the page and seeing those magic words ‘theme by ‘Pipdig’ time and time again, I was intrigued and I wanted to know more. I didn’t know anything about using an external theme, so after a lot of googling I had my mind set on getting a new theme from Pipdig but this meant going self-hosted.
Before I could go any further with the self-hosting process the next thing to do was purchase my domain. I shopped around between Godaddy and 123 Reg but finally went with Godaddy as they had an offer at the time. Thankfully my chosen domain was available and so it went straight in my basket! Being a bit anal here I also purchased the .co.uk version of my domain. However, I have since purchased yet another domain as I may want to rebrand my blog in the future, I’ve got the new name secured, just in case. (I’m not a serial domain purchaser, honestly).
On To The Next Phase…
As aforementioned, for someone with little or no clue this clearly wasn’t going to be an easy journey but it was one I was going to have to take. I spent some time (about a week) going through different themes on the Pipdig website, viewing live blogs with said themes, seeing how well I could navigate and how they looked etc. Eventually, I settled on the Galvani theme. A ‘luxury magazine style’ theme, very visual with an Instagram feed option. I wanted a sliding header, things moving on websites are more appealing to me than say a static page (but not too much).
Next hurdle was migrating my blog from wp.com over to wp.org so that I could self-host. Bring on tears, tantrums and frustrations I never thought I’d have. You can, of course, do the migration yourself, back then there was no way I was going to attempt it. Ask me to do it now and I would probably take it on myself. Luckily there was a solution offered by Pipdig, use their recommended host ‘Siteground’ and they would do the migration for me free of charge. This sounded like a great idea. The Theme was fairly inexpensive at £49 one-off payment and the hosting (with Siteground) is £82.20 Per year which needed paying in full up front.
Getting There Slowly
The migration process took 5 days by which time I had an email from Phil at Pipdig to tell me my new blog was up and running. Excited much!! Pipdig then moved my followers over to my new site. I continued to gain followers but occasional they seemed to be following my old site, Help Phil!! No problem, he sent me a link so that I could use it to move the new followers over myself.
Making It MIne
Next, I had to personalise my new theme and make it my own! I set about messing up the menus (yes I really did)! I fiddled around with the colour scheme, adding widgets and plugins etc. A huge learning curve with many a pantomime – style sharp intake of breath when something didn’t quite go right.
Although the migration (the hard bit) was done for me, the personalisation was down to me. I have to say, setting up the menus was tricky for a layman like me but I was determined to make it work; figuring out the parents from the children, linking posts to the correct category on the drop-downs etc. all very time-consuming and frustrating at times. There are plenty of tutorials out there to help but our internet doesn’t really allow such luxury as watching videos as waiting for them to load was just too slow and painful! So for me, it was more trial and error. I feel like something of an expert these days!
Fast forward five months or so and of course it’s old-hat to me now, I’m a widget pro!! Initially though, I struggled. I must’ve driven Phil at Pipdig bonkers with question after question about this and that! It would take a day or two for an answer to come through as the Pipdig guys are very busy!
I did have a few teething troubles with my posts duplicating to my old site and my followers seeing and commenting on said post, I use the WP.com app (still do) and I think this possibly confuses the issue, even though my app is set up as self-hosted or external, I Eventually had to make my old site private and hide it to stop it showing up in the WordPress.com reader.
Onwards And Upwards
I’m proud of The Beauty Spyglass nowadays, although I do tend to spend hours tweaking this and that and likely I will continue to do so as taste changes and evolves over time. To me, my blog now looks more professional, I want to be taken seriously as a blogger so recently I decided to get myself a matching email address for my blog, this was an option when I purchased my domain but for some reason I didn’t take it at the time. I wanted to have my name followed by my domain name, email@example.com is now my email. Again, this isn’t FOC total cost per year is around £60 but worth it for me as I love having a matching email address. Again, it just looks more professional. However, I love to confuse things by having Godaddy as my domain provider, using Siteground for hosting my site but then purchase my email through Godaddy instead of my site host Siteground. Yes, I know!! This really caused a couple of issues with settings my new email account so if you’re planning on getting a matching domain email I would definitely stick with your blog site host.
A couple of things to bear in mind is that when you switch to WordPress.org to self-host, your posts will no longer show up in the WP.com reader, so it’s much harder to grow your following as unless you promote your posts on social media you’ll find your views go down. I have around 320 followers on my actual blog, but honestly the number goes up VERY slowly as there isn’t a ‘Follow’ button as such anymore as there is on WP.com. You’ll need an email subscription box on your site and obviously, your other social media follow buttons. Twitter is crucial as the majority of my site traffic comes from there.
Also if you’re wanting to run ads or use affiliate links on your site going forward this is fine if you’re self-hosted but not allowed on WP.com.
The other fab thing about self-hosting is being able to use Google analytics, this is very addictive and more accurate than the WordPress stats’ although I do find the stats are a little lower than the WordPress stats. You can get a much clearer picture of what’s going on with your site traffic. It’s great being able to look at google analytics in real-time and see how many people are viewing my site, It’s very detailed, you can even see which post they are looking at and which country they are in. My blog gets views from all over the world from London to Ukraine. I’m proud to say my blog now has over 4,000 views a month and I’m aiming for 5,000 by the end of this month. Makes it feel all worth while that people are actually reading the content I write. I’ve worked with some fabulous brands too! long may it continue.
I’m learning all the time, analysing my SEO to see how I can improve my ranking and hopefully my content is ever improving. I try to blog between two and three times a week, personally, I don’t feel it’s necessary to post every day, I tried this in the early days as I thought that was what I should be doing but just burned out. I’d rather spend more time creating great content and photography than churning out a post every day which may be below par. Consistency is the key.
Keeping A Balance
I really don’t have the time to write enough content to post every day as I have a family life, a husband, a child, dogs and bunnies which all keep me busy! My blog has to fit around my life, not the other way around, that said, I absolutely love blogging and really enjoy what I get from it. The blogging community is so supportive, friendly and helpful, I couldn’t imagine not doing it now. I haven’t lost the enthusiasm I started with and I still get that same buzz from finishing a post and hitting publish.
One day I hope to get a bespoke theme from Pipdig where I can design some of the layout and features myself as I see this is what some of the big bloggers do but for now, I will keep on trying to grow my blog and readership and continue with my belief that something wonderful is about to happen!
You can see all the Pipdig themes here.
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Have you gone self-hosted or plan to? If you have any questions I’ll be happy to help if I can.
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