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.
Here’s my story…
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.
SEO was completely overlooked as I had no idea about that either.
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
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 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. Update: My hosting has increased considerably and is now around £130 for the year.
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 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. This isn’t FOC, the 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 handy thing about self-hosting is being able to use Google analytics, this is addictive and more accurate than the WordPress stats’ although, I do find the stats are a little lower than those of WordPress. You can get a 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 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.
It’s all about 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 layouts 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.
If you want to have a look at the SiteGround hosting packages click the banner below
Are you self-hosted or plan to? If you have any questions I’ll be happy to help if I can.
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I’ve been thinking about going self hosted for awhile but I’ve held off due to the time needed to set up a new site (between work, study and family I just don’t have a lot of time) and the loss of traffic to my blog. This is a really informative post about doing the switch and I’ll refer back when I do take the plunge.
So glad you found it useful! Yes it’s time consuming for sure. Does put you off but you will be fine when you decide to go for it. If I can assist at all just let me know. Thanks lovely!
Thank you so much for offering. It will be after this semester of uni. I’ve got about 3 months off then and a bit more time to invest in it.
I will definitely refer back to your post and ask questions if I need to. I really appreciate your offer ?
No problem at all lovely! Xx
I really really need to do the same Samantha!!! Ive been putting it off for about a year. Im useless and I wouldn’t know where to start! This has given me some insight although I’m still confused haha xx
Yes you should do it. The longer you put it off the more you’ll have to start again with your stats. If you’re still confused or if decide to do it Ii’m always happy to help. If I can. Thanks for reading Cally xx
Pipdig designs are just the cutest, aren’t they? I’m currently struggling with Google Analytics because it seems like it’s not working on my blog for some reason.
Yes they are! That’s the good thing about it, you can buy a new theme anytime and install it.
I had the same problem with my analytics to start with, so frustrating. You linked it ok? Did you paste the code in the right place?
Thanks for reading lovely x
Where is your pink slouchy jumper/sweater from? Looks comfy!
It’s from Primark! Last year though. X
thanks sm for this post, i found it helpful!
I’m glad you found it helpful. Thanks for reading and good luck if you go self-hosted!
I really need to take the plunge and go self hosted but I’m so scared I’ll mess it up and then won’t get any traffic to my blog! It’s so expensive too when you do the domain, self-hosting and theme all at the same time! This was such a great post though
Thanks for reading, glad my post helped! The longer you leave it though the more you’ll need to start working on your site to get google ranking it again. I was the worst freaking out all the time but I did it and I’m so glad I did. You can too!!
It is expensive paying for it all at once but maybe you could buy your domain soon, it’s not usually too much for the year. At least you’ll have it ready and one less thing to pay out for all at once. If you do decide to go ahead sometime you can always message me if you need a hand 🙂 xx
I know I just feel like it’s gunna make me feel rubbish when my views drop down loads without the wordpress reader! I’m already confused about how I get my domain on to my site. I nearly bought one the other month but was confused as to what would actually happen? Does it just sit in the cloud attached to me without doing anything ? I don’t get it! thank you lovely xx
Here’s what you do. ( I should add this too the post as it’s quite important) purchase your domain first. Then choose the host for your new site, ( mine is Siteground) Ask your host to change the DNS server to point to your new site. You can do this yourself but easier to just get them to do it. I would really recommend using Pipdig and siteground as they will do all the difficult stuff for you. Once you start the process they will help you. I had a good experience with both of them. There will always be a few teething troubles to start with! Your views will go down but mine are averaging over 4,000 a month ( not great, but not too bad for nine months) You can build it back up. Just need to promote on twitter! Xx
Right okay I think I get it! Would it be different if I was to purchase the domain in advance or would it be the same when I choose a host just ask them to do the same thing? Oh god I feel like I have too many questions haha. I love twitter for promoting anyway so hopefully it will be okay xx
It’s fine to purchase in advance. I confused everything because I bought my domain from Godaddy but used siteground to host my new site. That was because Siteground was linked to the Pipdig and I just let them do all the complicated stuff between them!
You can buy your domain anytime just so you have your chosen domain name safe before anyone else picks it! Then you can use it when you’re ready to start the self-hosting process. If you go With siteground you can buy a domain from them and keep it all with the same host. Depends what you prefer to do! Xx
Ah okay I totally get it now thank you! Sorry about that ? xx
Hope so! It is quite confusing. Anytime lovely. Xx
Samantha thank you so much for this…i’m in exactly the same situation – lusting after Pipdig themes and plucking up the courage to make the move! I got myself all set up on wordpress.com before I realised there was a difference from wordpress.org! It’s lovely to hear someone elses experience as it’s all so confusing! xx
| http://www.jessicarhoades.co.uk |
Aw that’s what I did initially, I didn’t really know about WordPress.org or using an external theme. I just thought I was doing the right thing going with WP.com. It’s all very confusing. Just go for it! I reckon you’ll be glad you did. It’s a great leaning curve too. I’ve learned SO much about the set up now. If you need any other help don’t hesitate to message me. I’m always happy to help.
Thanks for reading lovely! Xx
I love this post and your blog! Funnily enough I was just trying to sort out the Google Analytics but I gave up for tonight because I got stuck 🙁 I’ll just have to try again soon. It made me smile about the migration and how it made you feel, in a good way of course because I felt the exact same way!! Looking back I can’t remember how I managed to set mine up because I remember getting so stressed. This post was really useful about explaining the difference as I wish I had known all this back then. Keep up the great work, it looks so professional and I really love your photography so you don’t have to worry. xxx
Thank you so much for your kind comment. Means a lot that you can relate! Google Analytics aren’t easy are they, I can’t get the numbers on my wp stats to tally up with GA numbers even now. I’m just glad I decided to do it early on when I started out. Got it over and done with. I’d be better equipped to tackle it now as you would too I expect but whatever it’s done. I seem to spend so much time tweaking things and not actually get on with the writing!
Thanks again lovely lady xxx
Thank you for such an informative post! I’ve been contemplating on self-hosting and went to shop for my domain, which was available as at last year, but the last I searched it’s been taken ): I feel like time is ticking and I should take the plunge soon! Also because I write content for my company (hosted by wordpress) and I see all the restrictions gone and the personalisations I can have. Then I get stuck at the fact that I can’t devote as much time to my blog as I’d like, and get scared by the maintenance of a self-hosted blog. Arghhhh the struggles!
Debbie | http://www.sumnsubstance.wordpress.com
Hi Sam. Such a through and helpful post. I wa tvto move over to WP but stuck in the safety net of Blogger. Your post does help shed light on the world of moving to WP in a honest way. Your blog is so lovely which is credit to you’re hard work! xx
Thanks lovely. Maybe just go for it in the new year! It’s daunting but once it’s done I’m sure you’ll feel better. I don’t know about Blogger as a platform as I’ve always been with WP but it’s easy to get stuck in a comfort zone. It does give you freedom though! Love to know how you get on if you decide to do it x
I was reading so many articles about wordpress.com vs wordpress.org, but it was impossible to understand how it will eventually work. Samantha, thank you for this post! Now it is 100% clear for me. Finally 🙂
So glad it helped. If you ever want any any other help or advice please don’t hesitate to be in touch!x