15 (Very) FAQs on Starting a Self-Hosted Blog

59 amazing comments

self hosted blog faqs

I always recommend starting a blog on a self-hosted setup.

The reason is pretty simple – if you want to build a blog that is taken seriously by search engines and readers alike you’ll want to avoid free hosts.

They just aren’t robust enough once you get beyond a certain point.

I’ve really wanted to write this post for a while now because I get a lot of emails from new bloggers who are nervous about taking the leap to self-hosting.

I remember how scary it was.

Let’s take a look at the most frequently asked questions and some solutions to those concerns. These are all actual questions that I get via email or blog comments.

PLEASE NOTE: I am an affiliate partner with BlueHost and as such have based the server-side questions on this post around them because that is what people ask me about. You are free to use any host you like (much of the information will still be the same). If you purchase a hosting package through one of the links on this page I will earn a small commission and you will receive a discounted rate. More details below on how this all works and thank you for your support.

What exactly is a self-hosted blog?

When you’re talking about blogs there are usually two options.

The first is a free blog host like Blogger, Tumblr or WordPress.com (WordPress.org is also free but you can only use it on a paid, self-hosted server) which don’t cost anything but also limit you in various ways.

The second is where you sign up for a paid hosting account with a company like BlueHost and host your blog and domain name for yourself. This is a more professional option and really gives you control of your servers and how you design, build and optimise your blog or website.

Here’s a quick overview comparing WordPress.com to WordPress.org:

wordpress.com vs wordpress.org

Getting your own domain name and installing WordPress on your own host is actually extremely simple these days.

Let’s move on.

Some FAQs on starting a self-hosted blog

I’d like to share some of the most common concerns and questions that I hear from people who want to start a blog on a paid server but aren’t really sure if it’s right for them.

In the future I’d like to be able to refer people to this post so that all the information is in one place so if you think I’ve missed anything (or got it wrong!) please leave a comment and I’ll add it to the article.

Question 1 – What blog hosting setup do you recommend?

Answer – For anyone who wants to take their blogging seriously and maybe one day treat it like a business I recommend getting your own domain name and installing WordPress.org on your own web host. You can learn more about that in this blog hosting review.

This combination is very robust, flexible and powerful while still being so simple that almost anyone of any experience-level can set it up in a matter of minutes.

Question 2 – Why do you recommend BlueHost to new bloggers?

Answer – This was where I started my first real blog almost a decade ago and I’ve been impressed with them ever since.

As an affiliate partner, BlueHost has acknowledged the quality of bloggers that begin their journey on Blog Tyrant and thus has “embedded” my affiliate link a special discount rate. This doesn’t influence my decision to recommend them, however, and I promote this particular host because I’ve used them personally, they are reliable, have a money-back guarantee and 24/7 live support chat.

BlueHost is also used by almost 1,000,000 bloggers and is even recommended by WordPress itself – a very important win for bloggers.

Question 3 – Why do you recommend WordPress?

Answer – WordPress is the world’s most popular blogging platform. When you install WordPress on your host you are installing a very powerful engine that allows you to do nearly anything you want with your blog or website.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of free themes/templates, and an equal number of plugins that change the look, feel and function of your blog in seconds. You can run an eCommerce site, blog, website, photo gallery, membership site or a combination of all of them with WordPress and a few plugins! You can keep your blog very simple or choose to delve into the backend code and change it as much as you wish.

WordPress is a very simple platform to use but is still the choice of the some of the biggest websites in the world. It is regularly evolving and the team of developers are constantly adding new features and security updates.

Question 4 – How long does it take to set up a WordPress blog?

Answer – You can follow my step-by-step guide on installing WordPress and the whole process will take you around 5-10 minutes. Once you have purchased your web hosting package it literally only takes a few clicks to install WordPress. You can then write your first post, add images, change the design, etc.

If you choose BlueHost this process can be done yourself or you can actually pay them to set it all up for you. This is a new feature that they offer to help new bloggers get started and costs around $100. Just follow the “Get Help” link once you’ve finished creating an account.

Question 5 – How much does BlueHost specifically cost?

Answer – BlueHost is currently offering Blog Tyrant readers a discount rate of $3.49 per month on the 12 month starter package. This comes with free domain name registration for one year and is billed annually. After that term it re-bills at the regular rate.

There are also some add ons (like privacy protection) which each bloggers can choose to purchase or ignore.

If you purchase for 24 or 48 months you get different levels of discount. You can get all the details on their site by talking to a sales representative to make sure it’s exactly what you need.

Question 6 – What exactly is a self-hosted server?

Answer – Blogs are hosted on servers which contain all of your files, databases, images, etc. These servers are literally just PC towers that are housed in big, cold warehouses somewhere usually in the USA. Here’s what Google’s servers look like and you can even take a video walking tour!

When someone types in your domain name (the www.yourblog.com part) your server gets called up and shows them your blog with all it’s text, design, etc.

The particular hosting companies that we are dealing with specialize in shared servers which means you share those towers with other bloggers. They now also offer VPS (Virtual Private Server) which is like the next step up in terms of speed, server access, and resource allocation.

Question 7 – What is the bare minimum that I need to start a self-hosted blog?

Answer – The absolute bare minimum is a domain name (also called a URL or web address), a server and a blogging platform like WordPress. Here’s a quick video on how that all works together:

If, however, you want to take your blogging to the next level you’ll also want some added security, a place for readers to subscribe, etc. You can find out about all that here.

Question 8 – What do I do if my self-hosted blog is broken?

Answer – Sometimes I get emails from people telling me that their new blog is broken and that their web host sucks. When I look into it for them, however, it’s often the case that the blogger has installed a broken theme or there is a conflicting plugin which has nothing to do with their servers.

Think of your servers as being like a car. If you put the wrong petrol in it, or attach the wrong tires, you’re going to have problems which aren’t the fault of the car itself.

If your blog is not loading, super slow or appears to be offline then first see if it’s just you, try turning off plugins one at a time, and then if the issue persists contact your host’s support. This one reason I recommend BlueHost as they have 24/7 live support chat for such issues.

If there is an element of your design that isn’t working it’s likely a coding issue which is on the WordPress side of things. Ask the wonderful community on the WordPress forums for help or ask a qualified coder for advice.

Question 9 – I know nothing about coding or the net in general. Will self-hosting be too complicated for me?

I have seen people from all over the world of different ages and experience levels start a self-hosted blog. There are even a few bloggers in the 75+ age range who email me now and then and are successfully blogging! I don’t mean to sound patronising but that is a huge achievement given how quickly technology changes.

Generally speaking I’d say that if you can navigate your way around Google, send emails and have opened your own Facebook account then you have more than enough experience to start a blog (assuming you have something good to talk about!).

If you can’t do that without feeling overwhelmed then it might be better to just get a free blog and build up your confidence. These days self-hosted blogs require zero coding knowledge but it can still be a bit overwhelming if the internet is new to you.

Question 10 – What do I do if I don’t want to pay for anything?

Answer – Unfortunately there is not much you can do. I understand that money is tight for a lot of people, but starting a blog is much like starting a business – it is an investment in your future. If you don’t want to pay for anything at all out of principle then starting a business might not be for you.

If, however, you don’t want to pay for it because money is really tight and you’re on a budget then perhaps consider starting a WordPress.com blog and building up a content base and experience before migrating over to a self-hosted blog when you have the money.

Question 11 – I already have a free blog and want to migrate, what do I do?

Answer – If you already have a blog and want to migrate it to a self-hosting environment then you’ll need to be a bit careful.

It sounds like a cop out but the safest thing to do is talk to the support staff at your destination host and ask for advice for your particular situation. Most companies will offer a migration service for either a small fee or for free.

The main thing to consider is that your permalink structure is likely to change. For example, if you have a post called www.yourblog.blogspot.com/hello/ and you migrate it to your own domain name it will then be something like wwww.yourblog.com/hello/ which means that people who visit the old link will see an error. Each individual will have to weigh up the pros and cons of such a migration.

Question 12 – I want to start a self-hosted blog, what should I blog about?

Answer – I get really surprised at how often this question comes up. I think it shows how much people relate to blogs – they want to start their own without even having a topic in mind! That’s great!

However, there is no point paying for hosting and spending all that time getting set up and writing articles if you’re not going to stick at it. You might find that you get disillusioned.

I’d recommend following my checklist for starting a blog and this guide on what to blog about which will help you brainstorm ideas, strategies, etc.

Question 13 – Is the self-hosted WordPress setup secure?

Answer – Despite what some people say, WordPress is pretty secure by default. And as a hosting company, BlueHost regularly updates servers and is remarkably quick at emailing customers if there is an obvious security threat.

That being said, everything on the web is open to abuse. Even big websites run by top companies or politicians have problems occasionally.

There are dozens (if not hundreds) of ways you can secure your WordPress website. Start by using a complicated username and password (something like AJSADONON##*@*!110811), installing anti-virus protection on your computer, adding some security plugins and following these basic tips. Always make sure you keep your WordPress sofware and plugins up to date. It only takes one click!

Question 14 – Can I have my own self-hosted email address?

Answer – Yes that is super easy. If you want to have an email address like name@yourblog.com you just go to your cPanel and click Emails and then create a new email address. You can then add this to Outlook or Gmail or your smartphone using the instructions on that page.

Question 15 – If I want to start a second blog do I need a new hosting account?

Answer – Most of the plans that you can buy with decent web hosting companies allow you to host an “unlimited” amount of websites.

Of course, that definition has limits because over time the amount of storage space you use will begin to slow things down, but for the most part you are free to add new websites within the one existing hosting account.

To do this you need to add a new domain to your cPanel and then install WordPress again on the new website. You simply do this by going to your cPanel within your web host and finding the Add ON Domains link and following the prompts.

A final word on starting a self-hosted WordPress blog

Starting a blog is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. The initial confusion around using a self-hosted setup is well worth it in the long run because you’ll fully own the asset that you’re building up.

That is so important.

If, however, you don’t feel ready for it that is totally fine as well. Don’t feel guilty, just go and start a free blog somewhere until you are ready to take the leap. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

What have I missed?

Almost all of the Tyrant Troops are on a self-hosted setup running pretty bloody amazing blogs. I’d be really curious to know if I’ve missed a particular concern or problem that you had when you were getting started. Please leave a comment and I’ll consider adding it to the post if it’s a common one.

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59 Comments. Join in. *Closed after 30 days*

  • Chris Catris

    Hey Ramsay, great post! This article can also be called Blogology 101: Don’t Be Afraid To Leap. Seriously great article for beginners and a refresher for all of those who have been blogging for a period of time. I think we tend to forget how nerve wracking it was for all of us the first time we decided to blog. Your insight provides value to all levels of bloggers. Keep killin’ it!


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks mate! Yeah, I remember being really scared about the move to shared hosting, and even more so when it came to a big VPS leap. Hope this helps some people out there.


      1. malcolm b

        Will I still be able to sell my website/blog if I am using a site like wealthy affilliate?


        1. Ramsay

          I’m not sure what wealthy affiliate it, sorry.


  • Aman

    Here’s one more that you should consider adding,

    What should I select shared or VPS or Dedicated or Managed WordPress?


    1. Ramsay

      Good question. I thought about this but decided to focus only on shared hosting because it was mostly for beginners. Perhaps some beginners would like to start on a VPS though, I’m not sure?


  • Alexis

    This is more of a comment based on my own growth/learning with a self-hosted blog which I don’t share to dissuade anybody (I fully agree that self-hosting is the right idea for anybody who is remotely serious) but just to make sure people have clarity on this:

    Self-hosting is more expensive than you might think at first. Introductory rates are just that, introductory. Shared hosting is slow and if your site is successful, this poor performance will hurt you and you’ll need to upgrade to more expensive options. Also as you’re managing your own site you’ll likely find yourself investing in paid WP plugins to keep your site healthy (I consider backupbuddy a must at minimum). My own site expenses (not including MailChimp) probably run close to $500 a year.

    But please note, I definitely agree that if you’re serious about building an online presence, self-hosted is the way to go!


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Alexis.

      Good points and I made sure to mention that introductory rate information in the part about how much it costs. You’re right about plugins and so on though, sometimes premium stuff is a must.

      I really like to think that if you’re spending decent money on it in a methodical way it’s because you’re either making money already or building an asset that will.

      Thanks again. Great comment.


  • Kirsten Oliphant

    Great list! One question I don’t know that people know they have is: how can you find support when you have a self-hosted blog? For me, switching over came with so many questions and the need to be involved in blogger groups on FB so I could have somewhere to post my questions! Most of the time, someone in the group had an answer and we traded favors so we didn’t have to pay people to help us.

    Also! It would be amazing to answer what plugins are your MUST HAVES. 🙂


    1. Ramsay

      Reckon the must-have plugins is a good one. It can be so varied. Maybe I’ll poll everyone on here and compile the most common?


  • chris

    “If my site gets hacked, do I have access to a backup copy?”

    I use backup buddy for scheduled backups to a remote site. I don’t know bluehosts policy but if they only do a nightly backup, if you don’t notice the hack in time, you might only have a backup of a hacked site.

    Other questions I’ve heard from people…

    “Should I purchase an SEO package the hosting company offers?”

    “Will they let me upload videos?” and “Do I have to worry about Bandwidth…what is bandwidth?”

    “How do you get massive amounts of blood out of a carpet?”


    1. Ramsay

      Jeez that is a heavy comment. ha.


  • Yatin Khulbe

    Great list Ramsay. It is really beneficial for all the beginners. I am adding six free plugins which are really beneficial for starters.

    Akismet plugin
    It helps to avoid your site being protected by spam comments. This plugin is pre-installed with your WordPress. You just need to sign up to activate this plugin on your site
    BackWPup
    This plugin keeps back up of your files. So, you don’t have to worry about malicious attacks on your site. You can schedule and automically deliver your backups to Dropbox, S3, Sugarsync or an FTP
    W3 Total Cache
    This plugin speeds up the loading time of your website. The readers are able to load pages quickly.
    WP Smush.it
    This plugin compresses the blog images to decrease the page loading timing. You just have to activate the plugin. Then, your images will be optimized automatically.
    SEO By Yoast
    This plugin comes with lots of features. It address all the problem for optimization for your website. It optimize your site’s titles and descriptions for Google. It Automatically generate XML Sitemaps, streamline permalinks, and offer options for robot.txt files.
    Contact Form 7
    This plugin provides a simple contact form for the visitors. This is really essential for any blog. Through this form, readers are able to ask for your services.


    1. Ramsay

      Great list! Legendary plugins.


  • Santanu

    Blogging has become a trend and people started realizing the power of self hosted WordPress blog. I think this article answer every query of a beginner who want to kick start blogging in 2015.
    To make it more simple
    1) Choose the niche you are expert
    2) Buy your domain name
    3) Buy a hosting plan, preferably bluehost shared hosting plan
    4) Install WordPress, nothing else is accepted
    5) Complete all essential settings of WordPress & all must needed plugins
    6) Choose a best WordPress theme, my choice is Genesis theme

    I think your blog is ready. Now start writing at least 1 article a day and start commenting on other blogs on similar niche to spread about your blog.

    Good luck and Happy blogging. 🙂


    1. Ramsay

      Sounds like a great start! Although I’m not personally a fan of writing one post per day. Thanks for sharing.


  • Linda

    When I moved from WordPress.com to a self hosted I got seriously hacked the very first week and it took me ages to get everything back up and running so I would always say sort the security right from the start or go to a good host that has excellent security and backs up all your work – Site Ground have been brilliant and people are always commenting on how fast my site loads etc.


    1. Ramsay

      Very interesting. Seems there is a window during migration when it can happen more easily.


  • Bob

    Learn some basics about WordPress. Things like change your login from Admin. How to choose a plugin (how often updated and such). What affects performance such as load time.


    1. Ramsay

      Yep, good points.


  • Jennifer

    Hi Ramsay,
    My biggest question as a fairly new blogger, (less than a year), is this:
    How important is my domain name?

    As an author, I am simply using my first and last name, but I’ve often wondered if a catchy title for my site or blog would be a good idea.

    Thanks,
    Jennifer

    Thanks,
    Jennifer


    1. Ramsay

      The domain name is very important. It could be because of keywords or it could be because you’re trying to build a distinctive brand. Using your name is actually often a good idea but it’s important that you track your own results, get client feedback, etc.


  • Geoffrey Mkar

    Thanks Ramsey. I am clear about this. Now can u send me an article that states Ways to Make Money With Your Blog?


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Geoffrey. Lots of those types of articles in the archives here. 🙂


  • africaintels

    Your article is always helpful like it and keep churning it out .looking forward to reading another article


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks.


  • jill brock

    Hi Ramsey, I started my website about 3 years ago on a self hosting server. I found them very difficult to work with so I switched to another one. This one seems to be alright to a point but not super helpful. The problem with it is that it doesn’t support .ca domains so I had to settle for having my original host redirect through the new hosts servers. I am not very comfortable with this. Does Blue Host support .ca domains?


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Jill.

      Yes they do, but you cannot register it with them. But running a blog on a .ca domain is fine with BlueHost.


      1. jill brock

        Thanks Ramsay, I have to review a few things first before I change.


  • Deborah Harper

    This is a seriously good document for any one of us. We can all contribute and benefit from reading it! Win win. Thanks Ramsay. Brilliant:-)


    1. Ramsay

      Thank you!


  • Jyll Graney

    I’ve read many of your posts/articles on starting blogs and they are super helpful! I’ve not started yet, still in planning stages and doing lots of research first. My question is, how do people make money exactly? As far as ads, or product/brand mentions, do companies pay bloggers cash for mentioning or indorsing their stuff? or do bloggers only get paid for ads? Sorry if this is very beginner, I just don’t know how this works? Thanks, J.


    1. Ramsay

      There are so many different ways.

      You can build a paid membership site and sell subscriptions.

      You can use Adsense and get paid for ad clicks.

      You can sell advertising or you can promote affiliates whereby companies pay you a fee every time you refer someone who buys their product.

      The options are limitless and it’s about being creative.


  • Leah

    I transferred to WP after I’d been blogging for a year and a half. My only regret is that I didn’t go with WP from day 1. Don’t learn the hard way like I did!


    1. Ramsay

      I hear this all the time. So common.


  • Eyal

    Love the post Ramsy,

    All that’s left is to start monetizing but I’m sure you’ve already written about that.


    1. Ramsay

      Yep, lots of stuff around here on that.


  • Davis

    I love reading your blog entries! Consider
    yourself added tto my favorites!


    1. Ramsay

      Thank you!


  • Cathy Mayhue

    Great tips Ramsay! These days self hosting has become a lot easier and because of immense competition among web hosting companies, they are very competitive, offer great rates and support. You should not be surprised, if a support sets up the entire website for you.


    1. Ramsay

      Yep. It’s a very competitive market the old hosting one.


  • Maria Geronico

    Hi Ramsay, I’m very thankful to you for writing these kind of posts! You are actually going to save me the money I was going to pay to a designer.
    However, I started the procedure of Blue Hosting, and suddenly they asked me to pay 36 months in advance… which was like $260. Is that normal?

    By the way, I leave the link to my latest post “How to reach your objectives” – Discover 4 tips that’ll help you reaching your dreams and objectives by click in the following link

    http://www.mgluxurynews.com/posts

    Bests!


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Maria.

      You can pay 12 months, 36 or more it’s up to you, as far as I know.


  • Franklin

    Great post. Very helpful for people looking to start a website etc. I didn’t know Bluehost went as low as $2.95.


    1. Ramsay

      Yeah, it’s a rate just for my readers for June-only. Very good price.


  • Nishant

    Thanks a lot. You have definitely put yourselves in shoes of a beginner like me before posting this. Thanks again.


    1. Ramsay

      Glad you like it!


  • Eva

    Hi Ramsay,

    I’m quite new to this, so this may or may not be a stupid question. I started a blog a while ago ( a free one at wordpress.com), unaware that I might actually want to get serious about it (aka not considering such things as self-hosting). As I’m now thinking about taking things a step further, but don’t have the money to invest, I’m wondering about domains and permalinks:

    If I start by buying my own domain name from wordpress.com (for only 15$), how will it work out if I later want to move my blog to another host? Will the permalinks still stay the same, as I already had my own domain? And is such a moving-arrangement possible altogether?

    Best regards,

    Eva


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Eva.

      As far as I know you can keep your permalinks the same. I recommend setting them to /post-name/ which you can do on any self host later on. That’s what I use here.

      In term of the domain itself, you might want to register it at a separate registrar like Namecheap and then you can use it anywhere.


  • Kitwana

    Hi Ramsay. I am so new to the idea of blogging. I have been reading your blogs about starting my own. I had no idea I mean none, that you could make money blogging. Interested! The information that you provided, the questions you asked, all formed more questions bout creating my very own site. The email I received after subscribing can i contact you from there as well? Do you do like…um one on one Life coach classes for blogging? Did that make sense? I am really scared and nervous about the whole thing now. I still wanna put my all into it. I want the best blog this town (Tulsa, Ok) has ever seen or read, as well as making A profit. I just want tell you my idae and see what you think and where you think I might be able to take it. how big can my blog become????? ;#happyface
    hmmm. what exactly is a plug in?


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Kitwana.

      Nice to see you are enthusiastic!

      Blogging is a lot of hard work and not a quick fix. I recommend reading as much as you can on this site and other sites and get an idea on how it works and whether it’s for you before you jump into it head first.

      Good luck.

      Ramsay


  • Akaahan Terungwa

    Hello Ramsay,

    You’ve got a pretty amazing site running here and it seems I missed the action for some time 🙂

    As an experienced blogger, I can authoritatively say that you’ve got all the basics newbies are confused on…things they usually need clarification – except the one that matters to many: monetization.

    It would be an awesome idea to indicate how a blog makes money and how newbies can particularly make money online with their blogs; since I get tons of emails in respect to this, I can only figure out that your community here would also appreciate such awesome info.

    What do you think?

    Enjoy the day!

    Always,
    Akaahan Terungwa


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks mate. Maybe I do need to add more about this issue.


  • Camilla Carboni

    Another great post Ramsay!
    It’s awesome to see Question 12 in there…I think it’s all too common that people like the idea of blogging but don’t realize how much work it really is to maintain a great blog like yours.
    My advice to anyone not sure of what to blog about is: follow your true passion and be yourself.
    Thanks for another great read,
    Camilla Carboni


    1. Ramsay

      Agree totally. Thanks for sharing.


  • Lynnsy Logue

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas and how to’s. I started a blog ten or so years ago and a podcast. Love hearing your recommendation for Audacity and for Libsyn because that is where I started. And it was simple and I enjoy writing and broadcasting and now feel the urge to take a turn to see if I can focus on real estate, more specifically, condominiums and find some coins in the couch.
    I just ordered the mic you recommended and will read through everything you offer. I like the idea of self-hosting because I want control of who is on my blog as advertiser.
    I have a blog as I mentioned with over 150 blogs in archives and would like to migrate same with podcast on Libsyn.
    Mostly I want to say thank you…I have been looking for choice and believe you offer good ones.
    Thank you,
    Lynnsy Logue, The Real Estate Lady®


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