Now, if you haven’t ever blogged or had a website before, you probably just thought – “er, what?” because you don’t have a clue what I mean by hosting.
Hosting is simply the place where your blog files are saved. A web hosting company has a bunch of very fast computers called ‘servers’ that have a high speed connection to the internet. When someone types in YourBlogName.com, they will be accessing the files that you have stored on the servers.
So your first decision will be whether you want to go with a free blogging platform which is hosted on a company server or if you want to pay for hosting your own blog. And this is where just about every single blogger I’ve ever known makes their first mistake. If you plan on creating a successful, profitable blog, a self hosted blog isn’t just the best option, it’s THE option.
I know I’m probably going to get some hardcore Blogger fans who are going to shake a fist at me for dissin’ their blogging choices. And I’m not saying that it’s impossible to do well on free sites – I know some people who’re doing great. But I always wonder, when I look at those blogs… how much better could they be doing if they were on a self-hosted site?
Let me go over some of the differences.
A free host is a place like Blogger, WordPress.com or Tumblr. These are sites that allow you to build a blog on their platform. The advantage of these web hosting platforms is that they are generally VERY easy to get started with. They walk you through everything and some of them have step by step tutorials to get you set right up.
I started with a Blogger blog – I actually had several of them, and they’re all still active! They were so easy to get started and use, and I had no idea at that point that there was another option for blogging (this was a VERY long time ago!). If you’re blogging for fun, or just to keep a journal or share your art or whatever, a free blog can be fine. But when it comes to creating a site that you plan on monetizing, they do have some disadvantages.
Many of the free sites don’t allow you to use ads or affiliate links, so that can put a big damper on your money making efforts right there. Make sure you read the terms of service thoroughly to know what is and is not permitted – more than one blogger has lost their blog because they did something they didn’t realize was breaking the rules.
Another problem with free sites is the URL. If someone wants to come to my blog, they just have to know the name… and then add “dot com” to the end. But when you use a free site, part of the deal is using their name. You get to personalize some of it – but you’ll generally have something like MyBlogName.wordpress.com or MyBlogName.blogger.com.
There are two problems with this – first, it’s harder for people to remember. People remember your blog name, but they don’t necessarily remember the place where you’re hosting it. Second, and maybe more importantly, it can be a turn off for some brands who you may want to work with further down the line. Using a free blog makes you look like someone who isn’t ready to be serious about blogging.
But the worst thing about free blogging sites is that you don’t have control over what happens with your content. It’s like renting a home; you can put all your stuff there, but you don’t get to make the rules. Just ask the tens of thousands of people who had created pages on Squidoo – the entire site is now gone, and most of the content was moved to HubPages. Or going further back – does anyone remember GeoCities? It was one of the biggest communities online – and then it was gone.
Now of course, those sites gave warning and allowed people to download their content to save it before they moved. But holy cow – who wants to go through that with their blog? Do you really want to move a year’s worth (or two, or five…) of blogging?
That’s why I always recommend – just start at the beginning with a self hosted WordPress blog. It costs so little to get started, and it’s such a headache to switch later – there’s really not much of an excuse not to do it right from the start.
The biggest pro is that you avoid all the issues I’ve mentioned above! You get your own sweet, personalized URL; you have total control over everything that goes on with your blog; your content is yours and no one else’s – you make all the rules!
And so many more design options! There are literally 1000s of themes out there – both free and premium. Most of the newest themes have quite a few customization options so you can really make them look the way you want. Or, take a giant step and have a custom theme designed for you (although in my post on themes, I do recommend waiting a while for that)! There are also all sorts of plug-ins and widgets you can install on your blog to add even more customization.
Finally, it let’s readers and potential partners know that you take your blog seriously and are willing to invest in your business.
The learning curve with WordPress is a bit steeper than with a free blog. As I mentioned, the free ones generally have tutorials to walk you through the set-up. Self-hosted blogs, not so much. You’ll have to be prepared to figure out things on your own and with the help of Google, although most of it is pretty intuitive.
Self-hosting, obviously, isn’t free. You need to purchase your URL (around $10-15 a year) and pay for your hosting (under $5/month for a shared hosting account). So, say $75/year – I bet you spend more than that at Starbucks in a year!
Finally, because you own your blog, you are responsible for its maintenance. You’ll need to make sure that you back it up regularly, even if your hosting provider says they do so. You’ll need to make sure that your WordPress program, your theme and your plugins are kept updated. Fortunately, all those things are WAY easier to do than they sound and I walk you through most of it here – WordPress Maintenance
So, that brings you to the next question: Which hosting company should you go with?
My strongest recommendation for a beginning blogger is HostGator. They’ve been doing this since 2002 and are pretty darned good at it. I’ve been using HostGator since 2008-ish, when I started my first self hosted blog and have never had any reason to change.
In all that time, I’ve never had a problem with down time on my blog. Their uptime record is excellent and I don’t think there’s any other company out there that does better.
They have a wide variety of pricing and plan options, so they can cover you as your blog grows and your needs change.
My experiences with their customer service have been consistently excellent, although I have noticed that wait times for their live chat representatives have gotten longer. I would attribute that to the fact that the company was acquired by Endurance International Group (EIG), a holding company that also owns several other web hosting companies.
But wait time aside, their customer service personnel are extremely well trained and have always been able to help me with any problem I’ve had on my blog.
I think what I love the most is how easy they make it to install WordPress – It’s really as simple as a couple of clicks.
Once you get your hosting, you’ll log in to your control panel (Cpanel). When you get there, scroll down until you see this –
Click on QuickInstall, and it will take you to a page where you’ll see this on the left; just click on “WordPress and you’ll be on your way!
You may be confused by which hosting package to choose – When you go to HostGator, here are your main options:
If you plan on having one blog and that’s it, choose the Hatchling plan. If you plan on creating a lot of niche blogs, or would like to let your spouse or kids create their own blogs, you can use the Baby plan which allows unlimited domains. If you’re creating your blog for a business (say if you own a store and are creating a blog for it), then go with the Business plan.
You may notice, that those say the price is 20% off – but as my blog reader, you get a better deal than that – use my discount code TAKEACTIONHOSTING to get 25% off when you sign up for your account.
So, if you plan on starting a blog, you’ve now got the information you need to take that first step! There’s no need to let fear of the unknown hold you back – if you can handle Facebook, you can figure out a blog. Let’s start taking action!