If you’ve been around the blogging community for a while, you might have heard about self-hosting – that is, buying and owning your own website for your blog. For a lot of people, self-hosting can be daunting and maybe even a little scary, but in this special guest post, I show you how easy it is to make your website look professional and even more powerful than before!
WordPress vs Blogger
Before we begin – there’s a rift in the blogging community between Google-owned ‘Blogger’ software, and the open-source WordPress blogging software. If you want to self-host, WordPress is your only real option – it’s vastly more powerful than Blogger, has thousands of plugins and themes, and is used to power everything from small blogs to corporate websites and educational institutions.
Protip: If you already have a blog (either Blogger or WordPress.com) and want to self-host, WordPress has a pain-free ‘import’ option that will let you transfer all of your posts to your new site!
If you’re like most bloggers, you probably have a site on WordPress.com or maybe Blogger.com. These sites offer you a blog for free, but unfortunately they come with some limitations.
Subdomain: Your site name will be something like awesomeblogger.wordpress.com, which is fun, but it can make it difficult to get a unique name. Plus, it doesn’t look ‘professional’ like having your own domain.
Scripting Limitations: If you’re a fan of plugins and widgets, you might have noticed that some widgets like Goodreads or Bloglovin’ don’t work on your site. That’s because WordPress removes scripts from your site.
Plugins: Free WordPress won’t let you use plugins, which are some of the most powerful features of all, including fantastic plugins like Disqus for better commenting on your blogs.
File Limits: Both Blogger and WordPress limit the type and sizes of uploads for your blog, because they’re offering the hosting. This can get frustrating quickly and impact the future of your site.
Ads: Nobody likes adverts, and free hosting means your readers will have to suffer through ads just to view your site. For a clean, professional-looking site, you don’t want ads intruding on your GIF-filled posts!
All of these limitations are removed when you self-host!
Protip: You may have noticed that WordPress.com offers domains. Avoid doing this. The price for a domain from WordPress.com is the same price as self-hosting for a year, and you will still be limited by the WordPress.com terms and conditions. The completely open-source variant, WordPress.org is what we want – it gives us complete freedom and better access to plugins and themes.
All Greek to Me…
A lot of bloggers are a little daunted by the prospect of buying a website. There’s a lot of weird phrases that you might have heard of before, but didn’t know too much about. It’s nowhere near as technical as you might think though!
Domain: the ‘web address’ of your blog. Like http://brettmichaelorr.com for instance!
Hosting/Server: a ‘host’ or ‘server’ is another computer somewhere in the world that ‘serves’ content to users who visit a domain.
WordPress.org: the ‘original’ WordPress variant, completely free to use, and unlimited freedom to do as you please.
WordPress.com: the ‘free’ hosting site that optionally offers paid domains; they heavily customize WordPress.org and give you an experience that’s still frustratingly limited. Where possible, support WordPress.org!
Firstly, you need to check if the domain you want is available. I’ll be talking in terms of GoDaddy for this part of the tutorial – there are plenty of other hosting companies out there, and I’m not affiliated with GoDaddy. I do, however, think they’re a good hosting company for bloggers to use.
All good web companies like GoDaddy will let you buy a domain and hosting together. For GoDaddy, your domain is free for the first year when you purchase a new hosting plan with them (as of 2015).
Here I am searching for a new domain. Looks like this one is already taken, but I’ll be choosing an alternative domain to demonstrate.
Protip: If you can, try for a .com address, even as an Australian. It looks more professional to overseas visitors and readers in my opinion. If you’d like to support local and choose a .com.au address, feel free to! You might want to choose both a .com and a .com.au and redirect your visitors – but that’s another post entirely!
Shhh. Let’s be Quiet!
There are a few extra things to consider when purchasing your own website – firstly, by default, your contact details are public for the world to see. It’s worthwhile paying for the base Privacy settings so that you won’t be bothered by telemarketers and web SEO firms!
One Hosting, Please
Now we want the all-important hosting! There are a few options here – companies like GoDaddy provide options of varying scales. For most normal bloggers, starting out with Economy will be absolutely perfect, and you can scale your resources later on if needs be.
Protip: you can safely skip the ‘add an email’ part of the transaction, as you probably have an existing Microsoft or Gmail account; and Economy lets you have 100 free email addresses anyway. The ‘extra’ email is powered by Office 365 (as of 2015), but you likely won’t need that kind of enterprise power!
Now for the purchasing! There are a few options here, so I’ll list the ones that I would recommend for most bloggers:
Protection: As I said earlier, I recommend that you choose the base level privacy so you’re personal contact details aren’t visible to the world.
Term: It’s up to you. You get a discount for longer ‘terms’, and it’s charged annually (rather than monthly as advertised). I tend to use a 2-year term, in case I want to change hosts later.
Hosting Type: Choose Economy to start with, and Linux.
Optional: Skip everything else that you won’t need!
Done! Everything should be ready and waiting to go. Your new account will have been created, and you’re just one click away from having a shiny new blog!
Once you follow the links to your new site, you should see your Control Panel (cPanel) and it will look a little like this:
Don’t panic! There are a lot of awesome things here, but none of which you’ll need to worry about for now. Scroll down until you see the ‘WordPress’ button.
Protip: Notice the ‘resource level’ on your left? If your blog starts doing incredibly well and has many thousands of views per day, then you’ll need to increase your resource level. It amounts to a few dollars extra per month, but will let your website handle more traffic. Keep that in mind when you reach stardom!
There are some other options for blogs here – like Drupal – and even forum systems like phpBB, but we want WordPress!
Protip: When it comes to your database and user settings, make sure you choose a very strong password – something that the system generated is best. Don’t use weak passwords, and never share these passwords with anybody. If you want to collaborate with other users, make a new user account through WordPress itself!
Press My Word
And that’s it! We’re done!
Your WordPress site will be ready for you to login. If you’ve come from WordPress.com, it will look familiar, but have far more options available to you – such as themes, plugins and users.
Protip: Wondering what plugins to get? I recommend activating Jetpack for stat-tracking and Disqus for completely spam-proof social-based commenting.
If you already have a blog, you can import posts under Tools -> Import, so you won’t lose any of your posts!
See You Out There!
Well that’s my tutorial on how to self-host a website. It’s relatively painfree, and with just a few clicks, you can be up and running on your own fancy domain, completely free to do whatever you want with your site – and looking professional while you’re doing it!
Thanks so much for reading, and thanks so much to Aussie Owned and Read for letting me guest post for them – it was an absolute honor.
If you have any questions at all about self-hosting, please leave a comment below and I’ll reply to you!