Do you run one or more blogs? Are you planning on launching one? You’ve probably come across some different hosting options to consider including free blog hosts (such as with WordPress.com) and self-hosted blogs (what you get at WordPress.org for example). Which should you use?
First let’s take a quick look at what each of these options are to help clarify them for new or soon-to-be bloggers. Then we’ll look at some factors to consider when making a blog hosting decision for your own situation.
What are Free Blog Hosts?
A free blog host is a company / website that hosts your blog for you at no cost. Usually your blog will be located on their domain name rather than your own. For example, one popular option is Blogspot.com (tied to Google’s Blogger platform). Instead of your blog being located at www.YourBlog.com, it would be located at http://yourblog.blogspot.com.
What are Self-Hosted Blogs?
I’ve had new bloggers approach me with questions about self-hosted blogs, because they assume the term means you host the blog on your own home or business computer, using your private ISP. That’s not the case. Self-hosted means you’ll sign up for a hosting account with a Web hosting company (which you pay for) and you register your own domain (which you can pay to register in yearly increments). You then connect that domain to your hosting account and use the server resources available to you to host your blog.
Which Option is Right for You?
Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should use a free blog host or self-hosted blog installation:
- Do you want to run a blog for your business or to make money, and you need the most professional image possible? Then self-hosted is probably your best option.
- Do you just want a blog to serve as a personal journal? Then a free blog host might be enough.
- Do you want to use your own domain name (for better branding and easier promotion)? Then you should probably go with a self-hosted blog.
- Do you want full control over the design choices and how the blog can be monetized? Then go with self-hosting.
- Do you want to be able to redirect URLs to a new site or server down the road as the blog grows? Then you’ll need to stick to self-hosting.
Clearly I recommend self-hosted blogs for most bloggers. The level of control and flexibility you’ll get make it more than worthwhile. And coming from a marketing and PR background I can tell you it’s much easier to promote your own domain than a subdomain on someone else’s site (where you’re really promoting them as much as yourself).
Some people disagree, especially in the last couple of years. That’s because some free blog hosts have started allowing users to get some of the benefits of self-hosting, such as letting you use your own domain name. Let’s talk about why that isn’t necessarily the best option still.
When “Free” Really Isn’t Free
Here’s the thing. Either you use a free blog host or you pay for hosting. Once you start upgrading features with a “free” blog host, it’s not free anymore. These hosts charge for access to individual features you would normally have included with your own hosting account — like the ability to make it a commercial blog or the ability to add non-standard themes or designs.
My philosophy is this — if you’re going to pay to host your blog and get the features you want anyway, pay for a real Web hosting account. You’ll get full control and your blog will never become stranded if you want to move the site later. Permanently redirecting old files to new ones is easy when you own the original hosting account and have registered the domain in your own name.
It’s not quite as easy when a third party still owns your old blog domain because it’s a subdomain of their own site (and even if you have a domain attached to the account, your posts are still technically tied to that subdomain). The risk of losing links and traffic if you move your site later is too big if you’re a serious blogger and blogs are related to your business.
If you want a simple personal blog, free blog hosts might be a good option for you. But if you plan to blog for your business, it’s strongly suggested that you consider self-hosting your own blog. You can always switch from self-hosting to a free host later if you want to and you won’t have to worry about redirect issues like you would if you moved things the other way around.
What kind of hosting do you use for your blogs and how did you choose that option? Are you happy with it? Leave a comment below to tell us about it.