I always recommend that you start 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.
Disclosure – 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 site 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:
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. I am not shy about disclosing my partnership with them as I believe they are an excellent option for new bloggers, and I was recommending them to people well before I joined their affiliate program.
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 with a special discount rate. I earn a commission whenever someone signs up through one of those links and thus Bluehost is the only hosting recommendation you’ll see on Blog Tyrant.
Please know that I will never recommend an affiliate product unless I have used it myself, genuinely enjoyed the service, they have a money-back-guarantee, and excellent live support. 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 start 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.
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 email@example.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.