Is It Worth Self-Hosting Your WordPress Blog?

The original plan was to write up a comparison post, a side-by-side analysis of the self-hosted Wales to Wherever of today and that of yesteryear, one month post-jump into the self hosted world. However, as I have no concept of time it’s actually now been more than a month now since I switched over from your bog-standard wordpress.com site to a wordpress.org site, self-hosted through SiteGround. Don’t ask me what any of that means because honestly I don’t even know.

For that reason (because I don’t know what I’m talking about), this isn’t going to be one of those posts preaching how any self-respecting blogger must become self-hosted or one day WordPress will delete your whole site and you’ll be left with nothing but heartache and a deep yearning for those likes and followers you once knew… but more, I’ll just be rambling through my own thoughts on the matter based on my own experiences over the last month almost two months.


The truth is you don’t have to move to self-hosted. Not if you don’t want to.


As with anything, self-hosted does have its perks. The three main benefits are you get more control over the look and design of your site, the world of widgets and plugins really does become your oyster and – the crème de la crème for most – you have the opportunity to monetise your blog.

DESIGN CONTROL

With self-hosted, gone are the days of scouring the entire WordPress free themes archive trying in vain to find something to suit your personality without looking exactly the same as 14,232,331 other blogs out there. You can create your own (apparently – don’t ask me how) or choose from one of the many, many templates available on the ole WWW which, if you shop around, could be as cheap as chips! Basically, you go from renting an apartment with strict rules about not painting the walls or hanging frames to owning your own home and being able to chalkboard paint to your heart’s content.

THE WORLD OF PLUGINS

One of the major downfalls of a standard wordpress.com site is that you can’t install plugins. What’s a plugin? Well, if you want my professional definition it is “a downloadable installable thing that can do, make or add cool things to your site”. WordPress’s professional definition is “Plugins are ways to extend and add to the functionality that already exists in WordPress”. Sounds about right. You see this font that I’m using right now? Plugin. When you switch to self-hosted there are honestly plugins for everything, most of which I don’t understand but hey, at least I know they’re there should I ever feel the need to use them.

MAKING MONEY

There comes a certain point in a lot of bloggers’ blogging lives where they stop and think “hey, this is fun, I wish I could quit my desk job to do this and just this forever and ever amen”, which for most is a dream that will unfortunately never be realised. Because it’s hard to make a living as a blogger. Not that I’ve tried it…yet *insert shifty eyes*.

Monetising your blog in the form of sponsored posts, affiliate links, brand collaborations and the likes is naturally the first step to make when you’re thinking of trying to make it your full-time (or maybe just supplemental) job. But unless you’re self-hosted, you are extremely limited in what you can and can’t do when it comes to monetisation. Specifically with wordpress.com which “is intended for mainly non-profit use”, there are rigorous rules and regulations (check out the alliteration there!) in place when it comes to how you can and can’t monetise your blog. I’m not a lawyer and I really have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, but if you’re interesting you can read all about it here.

With all that being said, if you’re fine with a standard WordPress theme, aren’t bothered about fancy fonts and have no plans to ever monetise your blog then of course there’s very little point in splashing out the cash to switch over to self-hosted for the sake of it.

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SO WHY DID I MOVE TO SELF-HOSTED?


Over time I had actually grown quite fond of my simple but nice WordPress theme. I even had my own header design; check me out! WordPress seemed to have a widget for everything I needed (my fave being the countdown calendars which I probably used a little too much) and blogging for me has never been about making money, merely an enjoyable hobby; a way to keep my creative juices flowing, share my love of travel and cheddar cheese and connect with like-minded people. I sound like a dating ad. Anyway, now that I’m at a point where working with brands and making a bit of money in the process is a possibility I’ll admit that yes, it would be nice to have a little extra rolling into my Lloyds account every now and again. But that’s not why I blog.

So why did I move to self-hosted? I’d like to say it’s because my blog had grown bigger than the cage it was being kept in, that I wanted to move on to bigger and better things, expand my reach outside of WordPress and become an all-seeing, all-knowing blogging extraordinaire.

But the truth is I just wanted to have an Instagram bar across the bottom of the page and different font. Life’s simple pleasures, eh?

Admittedly it was a bit of a risk jumping into the dark for the sake of a freaking Instagram bar. Especially seeing as I’ve become somewhat absent on the old ‘Gram recently, thanks to my life being nothing more than a hotel room and the occasional visit to the local arcade to play air hockey.


THE PROS & CONS


I did quite a bit of research beforehand about making the switch and weighed up the pros and cons for a lot longer than I’m willing to admit.

One of the main downsides that I’d read about is that when you move over from wordpress.com to wordpress.org you will keep all of your WordPress followers and will continue appearing on their Reader although there may be a lag of a few hours.

If that’s true it actually works in my favour at the moment.

According to my stats, my blog’s most popular time is 10am on a Wednesday. Other than that anomaly the majority of my views come between 5pm-9pm GMT. The main chunk of my readers are based in Europe, mostly the UK. I’m currently in India and tend to publish posts any time between 7pm-midnight. There’s a 5.5 hour time difference between here and UK, meaning that if posts appear on the WP Reader as and when they’re published it would be between 1:30pm and 6:30pm.

Even with a few hours lag, they would still be published within the blog’s ‘prime reading time’.

So even if there is a lag in appearing on WP Reader, given my current timezone it actually makes no difference whatsoever stats-wise.

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On the subject of stats, let’s take a deeper analysis…

FOLLOWERS

All followers were transferred over when I switched to self-hosted and as far as I’m aware I haven’t lost any along the way. In fact, I’ve gained a random few through WP although follower count doesn’t feature as prominently anymore so this isn’t something I’m fully conscious of.
Overall I’d say there’s been no change on the WP front, although I have almost doubled my Bloglovin’ count although I’m still very much a baby over there.

VIEWS

They. Have. Exploded.
In a good way, of course. I’m getting traffic coming from sites and forums I didn’t even know existed, views from countries that haven’t really shown an interest before and judging by the search engine terms, the blog is featuring a lot higher in Google search results than previously and my weekly views have more than tripled. Also, very randomly somebody linked my post about getting to Great Wall of China on a budget to the Great Wall’s wikitravel page meaning I now get scores of visitors checking that out weekly. I don’t know if this is linked to the self-hosting move but either way I like it.

ENGAGEMENT (Likes, Comments etc.)

Likes have diminished into absolute nothingness but that’s something I’m more than okay with. A like count doesn’t even feature on my posts anymore and unless I get a notification saying so-and-so has liked this or that, I don’t actually know how to check. I am getting more comments than before but this may be more to do with me spreading my social butterfly wings than anything. One form of engagement that has blasted off from nothing into well, something, is email.

As long as this blog has been alive I’ve been using my personal email address as my principal form of external communication. And you know what? It’s done the job well. Probably a good thing that I’ve never been a sxcgrl1993 or iluv1d at Hotmail dot com kind of person and my email addresses have pretty much always been your boring first name followed by surname at whatever host dot com wouldn’t you think? However, as it turns out with the self-hosting package I chose for my blog there also came the opportunity to create a set of personal self-hosted email addresses – enter contact@walestowherever.com.

Since then I’ve been absolutely inundated (okay slight exaggeration – I got five) with emails from brands and websites and accommodations with inquiries about collaborating or working together bla bla bla. I guess branching out from Hotmail or Gmail gives you that added flare of professionalism that makes people want to email you.

Now, moving on from the stats and onto the downside of self-hosted WordPress that bugs me more than anything!

As a person with a blog and a person who reads blogs without a doubt the biggest inconvenience about moving to a self-hosted wordpress.org site as opposed to your free wordpress.com site is that it’s so much more difficult to keep up with my favourite blogs.

You know how when you log on to WordPress.com it goes straight to your WP Reader, with a nifty little button in the top corner to access your site, stats and dashboard? Yep, that’s not the case with self-hosted WordPress. The dashboard is accessed via a whole different URL (yourwebsite.com/wp-admin) and so to catch up on all your favourite blogs you have to open another tab, open WordPress and sign into your accounts all over again because ‘your account is currently being used by somebody not recognised as you’ or something along those lines. And – most annoyingly – when you log onto both your Dashboard and traditional WP Reader at the same time, more often than not it periodically signs you out of one or the other.

This, coupled with my apparent inability to save as I go has resulted in me losing whole blog posts on more than one occasion. Sad face. But more importantly, it also means I’ve missed out on a lot of new posts from my favourite bloggers. Sadder face.

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THE VERDICT: IS MOVING TO SELF-HOSTED WORTH IT?


It’s quite difficult to give a definitive answer to this question, especially when the only things I wanted out of it was an Instagram bar, fancy font and the opportunity to slightly grow my itty bitty blog.

With that in mind has it been worth it? Yes. I’ve got my Instagram bar, change my font pretty much daily and have seen an obvious growth in my blog. So yes, it was worth it.

From a stats-only point of view has it been worth it? Yes. Absolutely yes. My follower count and number of hits are increasing daily and I’m getting more and more new traffic sources as time goes on.

With all that being said, it’s only been about two months. I should probably wait a little longer before I start properly singing self-hosting’s praises from the rooftop of my hotel, but I will say so far so good.

Have you recently switched to self-hosted? Or have you been thinking about it? If you’d like to ask anything that hasn’t already been touched upon in this post, feel free to comment below or shoot me an email if you don’t want the whole world knowing your beeswax!

* all images in this post are stock images from www.rekitanicole.com because hey, my camera hates me
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6 Comments

  1. 13th November 2016 / 12:41 pm

    Ah this doesn’t help. Still so torn… I’m trying to get the Mrs to convert as she has much higher readership than me and is soon releasing a book, so I can use her as a guinea pig! Haha however we both use WordPress very differently. I love the WP Reader and I enjoy getting the (very few) likes but I’d also love to play with SEO and see a higher readership. Paying to host also grinds my gears a little bit but I suppose if you look at it as a hobby then 6.99 p/m isn’t too shabby really.

    I’m sure I’ll take the plunge one day as it does seem to be a natural progression. Unfortunately most websites comparing the two are selling via their affiliated links. Damnit!

    Thanks for the update.

    • rhiydwi
      16th November 2016 / 3:16 pm

      Oh wow she’s releasing a book?! Crikey that’s a bit of a big deal!
      I kind of miss the WP Reader. It’s still there lurking in the shadows but too much of a faff to find it all the time so these days I tend to just head straight for direct URLs. I promise the link in this post isn’t an affiliate haha, just for reference 😉 And there was a pretty good deal on at the time with SiteGround so it was £3.95 a month. Anything more and I wouldn’t have bothered tbh, but it’s definitely worth checking back the various host websites every now and again as there are random price drops every now and again!

  2. 13th November 2016 / 2:24 pm

    I found this post very helpful! I’ve been wanting to make the switch for a while now, but have been afraid to pull the trigger. However, I’m hoping to use the time off over the upcoming holiday season and make the switch. I’ll be saving this post for that time! Wish me luck and thanks again for sharing!

    • rhiydwi
      16th November 2016 / 3:12 pm

      Ooh, exciting! Good luck and thanks so much for reading; glad to have been of help 😀

  3. 12th February 2017 / 7:39 pm

    I love this post! I am on wordpress.com and I’ve been thinking about switching over, but I barely have time to blog at the moment and I’m a small-time ex-expat blogger with a nebulous blogging identity (omg this should be my new bio), so I haven’t invested in the move. (I basically just want to have more control over my blog design – I have changed themes a billion times and I can’t get it to look the way I want!) I’m glad to know that you can stay connected to the wordpress.com community because I would hate to lose that! Do your wordpress.com followers still leave comments and everything? I do like how commenting is so easy between wordpress.com blogs.

    • rhiydwi
      19th February 2017 / 11:05 pm

      Thanks, I’m glad it was somewhat useful to somebody 😀 And so sorry for how long it’s taken me to reply… I’m useless. Anyway, to answer your question yep, WP followers still comment! Probably more than they used to tbh, I think because the blog looks a lot more unique than it would with one of the WP.com themes, and I don’t know about you but when things look pretty I tend to stick around longer!
      I can still comment on other blogs within the Reader just as I did before too, but I’m not sure if it works the same the other way around.
      And also, that should definitely be your new bio haha, it sounds great!

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