Should I Self-Host or Blog for Free?

Beginning bloggers want an easy setup that gets their writing up quickly. You’ll hear terms like “self hosting” and “server space” thrown around and probably want nothing to do with them.

Free blogging is a nice intro to the blog world, but after a short while you’ll find yourself limited. Then comes the onerous task of transferring all your content to another place. I did this, but in retrospect truly recommend getting hosting right when you get your domain name.

If you’re just getting started, read my post A Complete Guide for Setting Up WordPress. It’ll walk you through getting domain and hosting, and will have your blog up on the internet for readers to see in a matter of minutes.

Where I Started My Journey

For my first blog, I started up on wordpress.com for free. I had bought WordPress for Dummies and thought I’d conquer the world. Soon I became frustrated with the limitations of wordpress.com (this is the free version where you don’t need hosting).

So I jumped over to blogger.com. I had my site up quickly, and blogger was great. Easy to maneuver, and it taught me beginners web design with html and css. But then things really slowed down. My blog had so many posts, images, and readers than pages would take up to 20 seconds (!!) to load.

So, I had to make a big decision. I consulted Thomas Frank. He said my blog stunk. Ok no he didn’t say that.

He did say that the best option for blogging is WordPress.org, with self hosting. Why? Because when you self host, you own the space your blog exists on, as opposed to having someone else manage it, or neglect to manage it. You pay about $6/month for it, making it a good investment.

Things to Consider For Your Own Blogging Efforts

I was inevitably convinced to switch over from blogger to wordpress.org. Your needs may be different, or you may just have a more casual approach to blogging. Either way, you ought to know about some things that separate self-hosting blogs from free blogs:

1) The load times- WordPress.org is lightning quick when clicking around and can withstand lots of content and traffic easily.

2) The plugins- What’s a plugin? It’s a feature, like a new comments box, a subscribe button, a social media share station, a new template, anything really! With wordpress, you just search their directory, or search what you want on Google, and chances are someone has built a pluging that does exactly what you want.

3) The horror stories- I’ve heard of bloggers starting free blogs and expanding them to become profitable to the point where they make their living. Then, they get accused of something awful. Like duplicate content, or copywright. Their blog gets taken down, and years of effort are jeopardized. When you host your own blog, this can’t happen.

When you host your own blog, you own the space on which your blog exists somewhere out in cyberspace.

It is literally like subletting in an apartment vs owning your own. You can do some similar things in both cases, but you can’t exactly walk around naked eating frosted flakes when someone else is in charge of your space.

Downsides of Free Blogging 

Let me outline the downsides of WordPress.com and Blogger.com, the two largest free blogging platforms.

WordPress.com downsides

  • You can’t use adsense, it’s prohibited
  • You can’t edit code unless you pay for it
  • No nice looking (premium) themes allowed
  • WordPress runs their own advertising on your blog!
  • Won’t have custom analytics to track who’s visiting your blog

Blogger.com downsides

  • Adding features to the template like a “like” button requires you to know HTML and/or CSS
  • You get an annoying nav bar that links to random other blogs you won’t like
  • Your blog will always look like a blog, and not an authoritative website.

Correct, unfortunately Blogger is not viewed as a tool that respected bloggers use anymore. If you want your blog to actually be read and taken seriously, you’ll have to get your own hosting.

I recommened HostGator for all this, and in this video I’ll show you how to get setup with HostGator and have your blog on the internet in a matter of minutes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZGhIrhbbNI&feature=youtube_gdata

Free Blogging Loses Users Just Like Blackberry

Like Blackberry, one day Blogger and other free blog platforms were the bomb, the next, they was dwarfed. Maybe everyone just realized that paying a tiny amount per month meant enjoying everything about blogging so much more.

Believe me, I was upset and annoyed when I learned this because I had invested so much time in Blogger. I eventually realized I was fighting an uphill battle though and switch over. Google is a great company and built something amazing with Blogger (actually Google bought Blogger from Pyra Labs) but their blog platform just isn’t what Bloggers want anymore. It may even transition to become part of Google Plus.

Geronimo!

Is it time for you to take the plunge into blogging? You could wait until tomorrow, but tomorrow turns into a week. If you’re ready to invest some time and money into a project hundreds of thousands of people love, go get your domain and hosting.

Blogging with different platforms has been a journey I’ve mostly enjoyed and that has sometimes drove me crazy, but now that I am blogging every day with my own hosting and wordpress.org I am truly a happy camper.

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