I started writing a blog in 2009, with hardly a clue as to what it entails. My scribblings were random, almost like a diary to self. I was not perturbed by the fact that hardly anyone read it; just writing it was important for me. Over a period of time, it evolved into a travel diary as some of my friends (who actually did read it) started applauding them. Bolstered, I wrote more. But I was still aeons away from the true blue techniques of blogging and plugged away irrespective of SEO, coding, marketing…….
Cut to 2016 when a blogger friend posted beautiful arty posts on a blogging challenge called AtoZ. It entailed blogging for entire month of April, themed around the English alphabet. I was hooked and earmarked to participate in 2017 (which I did). Thats when I stumbled on to few blogging communities where I met some awesome bloggers and made some good friends for life too.
It was through one such community that I heard of self hosted and went in to turn my blog into one as well. Let me share with you my journey as a self hosted blog with all its learnings!
Various blogging platforms offer free templates and space to create a blog/online diary which is how I started. I created an account on WordPress and stayed there for almost seven years before I bought a Domain name and rented space on a hosting server to create my blog’s e-home. I was hooked by a low introductory offer from a newly launched hosting company and signed up with them without checking a whole load of technicalities (something I urge every newbie blogger to not to do). This year while renewing my blog hosting, I discovered some discrepancies with the host and decided to move it to a more professional and helpful host.
Choosing a host
After a lot of deliberation (read advise from fellow bloggers and google search), I narrowed it down to GoDaddy, BlueHost and Siteground. I went on live chat with each and found the latter to be the most upfront and helpful and decided to host with them. An added advantage with Siteground is that they moved the blog by themselves; with the first two I would have had to do the technical bit myself.
I learnt that Domain could be registered and renewed annually with a different platform while the actual blog hosting can be done with another. (Yes there is a difference between just a domain name and hosting the blog) Siteground has the policy of transferring only those domains which are at least 15 days from expiry. Since I was left with only a week on the renewal, I decided to renew with the first host and only moved my blog. Check with your hosts on things like this if you are moving from one host to another. GoDaddy seems to be popular option for registering the domain name; something I will do next year.
I learnt that when you go self hosted, there are a few technicalities which are imperative for the blog. These help the SEO, traffic, etc of the blog – things which help the blog become noticeable in the blog-o-sphere.
- Access to control panel is imperative as that enables you to take backup of your blog.
- Secure certificates are great for making your website reliable and trustworthy for your readers. Lets Encrypt SSL gives you this feature for free. (Its great for blogs where payment modes are implemented as it secures the user information)
- There is no such thing as UNLIMITED server space unless yours is a private server. So basically when you host your blog on a shared server, you get a limited bandwidth and if you exceed it, the host informs you to upgrade and buy more.
- With my old host, I was unable to use the WP Backup plugin but on Siteground, this is a breeze.I read the plugin FAQ to know the difference between good and cheap servers. (Another reason to not fall for low-cost promotional offers)
- Make sure your blog host has MYSQL and PHP features – two things very important for running your blog. Double check whats included in this even if the package mentions them. There are finer points on this which can be omitted and land you in trouble.
- Storage space are of two kinds – one is just for the blog content with the pictures, etc, called the Database ( 10 GB on my new account) and the other is to keep secure important info like user profiles,etc and can be up to 1 GB which is more than sufficient for the purpose. Check with your host for clarity on this.
Plugins are the lifelines for your blog that help it run smoothly by enabling certain blog support functions that one needn’t get into manually. So one can schedule a lot of the blog maintainance work, protect content, beautify graphics, etc through plugins.Check with your host for installing the best supported plugins on your blogs. When in doubt, check reviews and also with other blogger friends. Some of the essential plugins I have on my blog are:
- Yoast SEO – maintains and perpetuates the SEO
- No right-click – allows copyright protection
- Akismet – prevents spamming
- Alexa – helps to log in the Alexa ranking of the blog
- Jetpack – a very powerful WP tool with some awesome features
- Shareholics – to help your readers share your posts on social media
- W3 total cache – to delete cache and keep your content free
- WP backup – to schedule regular backups of the blog
Should you go self hosted?
Ever since I had a falling out with my host server, I was at my wits end with the technical bit of moving the blog. You see, I consider myself a tech retard as I simply am unable to grasp the technical terms and ways to implement them. In my depths of despair, I even considered shutting down my blog completely and going back to free WP – basically where I started from. My two bit of self hosted will be that its for folks who are planning to monetize via blogging and need to/know-how-to customise their blog layout/look etc. If the technicalities baffle you, I would suggest you abort the decision then and there.
In my case, I wished I had never heard of it and stayed where I was 🙂 Last one year of blogging has rammed one big lesson home – blogging does not pay, much!
I am still learning the nuances of blogging and this is just a teeny bit of my learnings as a self hosted blog. If you feel I can help you unravel this mystery more, feel free to ping me. Do share what plug-ins you favour for your blog and why.