Should You Self-Host Your Blog or Website?

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Update: I’ve written more advice on this topic at Self-Hosting Your Author Website: How and Why to Do It.


Recently I was asked why authors should self-host their own blog or website.

First, what does self-host mean?

It means that you don’t use a free service to run your blog or website. The most popular free services are Blogger and WordPress.com. What confuses a lot of people is that you can run a website or blog that is based on the WordPress system, but is self-hosted. (That describes THIS site.)

So what are the big reasons NOT to use a free service?

  • Free services limit the functionality and options for your site.
  • Free services limit how much you can customize the look and feel of the site.
  • Sometimes you are working on proprietary systems that could be abandoned at any time. They might not be supported in the way you need them to be.
  • Free services might not offer the kind of metrics and analytics you need to see what’s working.
  • It’s more difficult to make money from a free service (it can be impossible to add eCommerce/shopping cart functionality or to run ads)

When you’re self-hosted, you really own your website and have full control. And for serious, professional authors, who are building a longterm online presence, that’s what I recommend. (If you are doing a very short-lived site, or if you’re just “fooling around,” then yes, do use a free service!)

You can read more of my opinion at Roz Morris’s blog.

To learn how to self-host your site in 10 minutes or less, here’s my free tutorial showing how to set up your site at Bluehost.

Disclosure: I am a Bluehost affiliate marketing partner. This means that if you end up clicking one of my links to Bluehost and sign up for a hosting package, I receive a commission. However, I recommend Bluehost because I’ve used them and think they offer good value, along with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.


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Posted in Digital Media.
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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68 Comments on "Should You Self-Host Your Blog or Website?"

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ag.

I find I’m just so intimidated by the sounds of this! Any tips on where to begin?

Maureen Ogle
I could not disagree more (sorry!) I’m on my sixth site and the one I have now, from WordPress.COM is, hands down, the best and most hassle free AND offers more flexibility for design and structure than any other that I’ve had. Self-hosting is great IF, and this is a big IF, you want to learn code, scrimmage with hosting services and/or web designers (the used car salespeople of the digital world), and deal with hacked sites. (ALL of my self-hosted sites were hacked. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. I feel much safer w/WP.com) I’ve had to do all of… Read more »
Katherine Sears
As another point in favor of Jane’s suggestion, in particular with Blogger in my experience, they determine when to label your blog as “adult content”. You may have a bad day, shoot off some colorful language, and voila – warning label before folks can get to your site forever. They may decide at any point that you have violated their terms of service in some way (did you read those?) and shut you down altogether. I have been working with authors and WordPress sites for the last couple of years (even our corporate site Booktrope.com is based one one). I… Read more »
Deborah Lucas
Jane, I’m a bit confused, but that’s not unusual when it comes to computer lingo. I use BlueHost, so that means I’m not self-hosted, right? I believe self-hosting is using your own computer as a server, but I’m not even sure how that would happen, unless I learned a lot about code, which I just don’t have time for right now. I’m pretty happy with BlueHost (never been hacked) but know I have lots to learn about using their services–especially about plug-ins. I’d love to take a class just on those. Like how to get them to work and which… Read more »
Nadine Feldman

I’m so glad to see these discussions. I am not self-hosted at the moment, and I’ve started to feel frustrated by the limitations. I’ve read both the pro and con blog posts, and I’ve also been listening to some recorded sessions from Blog World, and I think that (for me) self-hosting is the way to go.

Terry Hadaway

I am self-hosted and love the control it gives me. My blog has some functionality that wouldn’t otherwise be available. My site (http://liveyourwhy.net) and my store (http://terryhadaway.com) are self-hosted blogs and work wonderfully.

Lisa Angle

Thank you, Jane for posting this. Lot’s of people are asking me about this and it’s great to have this post to send them. I say wordpress.com is good to start with if you have nothing. If you learn to use that dashboard it makes it easier to use the self hosted dashboard. I set my clients up on Bluehost.

Those who need lessons on using WordPress can go to http://www.lynda.com

Roz Morris

Thanks so much for your contribution to my piece, Jane – and it’s great to see the discussion widened here. I think the biggest takeaway is that there are ways to do this in stages, and that wasn’t possible before. So we can start blogging at a manageable level and upgrade without too much disruption as and when we feel it’s necessary. In the past it seemed to be either/or.

Dipika Kohli

Thanks for this post! I was just asking in #blogchat about this, as I have a free WP site up for my new writing blog, and there are some ads starting to appear on there when I check it out through Incognito. Weird, and a little awkward. I love the social side of the WP community, and would hate to lose it, though–also I don’t want to have to keep upgrading my site. Can you speak to these concerns? Really appreciate it! Thanks! Dipika

San0670

Thanks for the post and advice it is indeed helpful. I’ll add that bloggers unable to self host now for financial reasons should have a backup for their published posts so, if for any reason they are shutdown they can always recover and republish.

loriculwell
Just to add ANOTHER point in support of Jane’s excellent post– I’ve had this happen to several clients and there is always much crying involved– Blogger and/ or WordPress.com can take away your site at any time, for any reason, and they don’t have to give you an explanation because, as they say, “You get what you pay for.” I’ve also had an author client have copyright issues with a free platform when she tried to turn the blog into a book. I just say if you’re going to take a chance and use a free platform, make sure you… Read more »
loriculwell

Dipika Kohli makes a great point that I actually forgot about– when you put your work on a free platform, they are going to use your site to make money, so you could end up with advertising that you don’t approve of and that is not within your control. Again, treat your writing like a business– WordPress.com and Blogger certainly are!

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Jan Deelstra, Author
This is good information that I only wish had come into my peripherals earlier. I had my site disabled for adding some “kindred” links. It’s not that I was trying to get rich, I just like the idea of promoting others along with building my platform. And adding an Amazon link to my books seemed like a fair bargain too. Now I am a bit concerned that the website names/domains (yes plural) will be tied up if I leave. That would be decidedly uncool as a few are the names of my books. It seems the only solution is to… Read more »
Chris Ronan

Hi this is a great thread. We work with custom WordPress websites all the time. Love WordPress. Also over lately personally become intrigued with squarespace. It’s easy, good looking, and you pay for the service plus 24/7 support. Curious your thoughts on this platform? It seems kind of a hybrid of your recommendation.

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chibinikki
In ways this post reassures me a lot I guess, I had recently switched from Blogger to my own self hosted site using GoDaddy. Whilst I can completely agree with the control and ad placement, I had lost so much traffic. I thought I would be able to improve my rankings in search engines through meta tags, alt tags and the many other head tags. I placed a strong focus on exact keyword research, it has been almost a month and my site is indexed but on pages where I used to appear in the top 3 results I now… Read more »
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[…] Should You Self-Host Your Blog? by Jane Friedman […]

BlogTyrant
Hi Jane. Great write up! One of the things I think new bloggers forget is that, although it seems more complicated, the amount of knowledge and experience you get from starting your own blog on your own host is priceless. Learning about plugins and themes and all those things is pretty valuable if you are going to make a go of it. I did a video about why I think self hosted is better than free: http://youtu.be/cleaquT6OiA The main thing, as you said, is that you want to fully own that asset. Migrating from free to paid after you have… Read more »
Helge Sverre

If you are looking for a personal web host, that is not run by a big evil corporation you should take a look at http://cloudbeast.net, low prices and all around great support 🙂

Abdul

I am a new blogger and I am using self hosted wordpress. Still I am developing my website. It’s all about personal experience and sharing that all. 🙂 http://ajbozdar.me

Daniel Kwok

ghf

Izrada web stranica

Both will be great to host 🙂
http://www.xhosting.hr

Lynn S.

Hi Jane, Guess I’m a slow learner, but I’m still trying to figure out what self-hosting is. I’m using Fatcow (considering changing) with free WordPress.com install. My understanding when starting was that you need to use a host company to set up a domain name, etc.

nivil vk

thank you for the information.i am looking some information about website hosting service?

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Mildred Race

When starting out as a beginner, this question comes in everyone’s mind. Which one is better? Is it better to pick the Self Hosted WordPress.org, or is it better to go with Free WordPress.com?

Kelsey M

Thank you so much for this post!! The video was great. Just what I was looking for! Such a great walkthrough, and explanation. I’m excited to get started.

Chester C

Hello Jane, I am getting started with Whiz, for businesses. I am just beginning a career with internet marketing and I am reading the material, which is a lot. I came across Self Hoster which I didn’t have much of a definition for. So, I started looking around and wound up seeing your post with a simple, but very clear definition. Thank you.

Sara

Jane what are the real ways of getting good ROI on the self hosted website?

Hammo
I totally agree with Jane on this one, self-hosting is a much better option for serious bloggers. Self-hosting gives you the total control of making your blog EXACTLY what you need rather than it being something that is limited by the options available to you. There are a lot of one-click setups for WordPress now, so it’s not really that hard as it was when this article was written. Let’s put it another way. People that start with self-hosted blogs, rarely migrate to a free blogging solution afterwards, and yet people move from free services to self-hosted regularly. You just… Read more »
maifate

Hello, nice article.
I have a question though.

Can you place ads to self-hosted blog from services like Adsense, Revenuehits, Propeller ads media, popads, Chitika, Adversal, Infolink, etc ??

I was very dissapointed when I found out that wordpress.com really restrict placing ads. I want to get earning from blogging.

So I hope you can tell me, because that might change me to self-hosted my blog via bluehost.

Thank you

Lauren

Hello, do you have to pay for the wordpress premium or business package to get your own domain on top of the self hosting fee from bluehost?

satyendra pratap singh
There are plenty of sites that allow you to start your own blog for free, most notably WordPress.com & Blogger. But these free blogs are only useful in certain circumstances. Free blogs are great if you want a personal blog to share your pictures and videos with your friends and family. People also use free blogs as an outlet for their writing, whether it be a way to express their personal opinions, comment on the news or even writing short stories. There are many uses that a free blog can be used for, but all would fall under the ‘amateur’… Read more »
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Brendan Kerchoff

Thank you Jane. Your detailed explanations aforementioned cleared a lot of confusion I once had.

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