Should I choose a Free or a self-hosted blogging platform?

If you’ve considered starting a blog, you’ve probably run across the term self-hosted blog. Most people will tell you that a self-hosted blog is the way to go, especially if you’re looking to create a professional image.

But what is a self-hosted blog? And why do you need one if you can just start a blog for free through other services? Below, we explain the details of free and self-hosted blogging platforms, the pros and cons of each, and which one you should choose.

Free Blogging Platform

What is it? A free blogging platform is one that is just that: it’s free to sign up for an account, get a domain (such as www.example.com), and set up your site. You can start your free blog with services like Blogger.com and WordPress.com.

The thing about a free account is that your website’s files are stored—or hosted—on your blogging platform’s servers. While there can be costs involved after the initial set up—which we’ll get to in a moment—this simple fact is what differentiates a free blog from a self-hosted blog.

Pros of a free blog:

  1. There are no initial start-up costs.
  2. Free programs like WordPress and Blogger are easy to set up and maintain without any prior website design knowledge.

Cons of a free blog:

  1. Unless you pay for your own domain, you’ll have the WordPress or Blogger domain tacked onto yours, such as www.example.blogspot.com.
  2. Free blogs appear less professional than self-hosted ones.
  3. You have less control over your blog. For instance, people who self-host their blog with the WordPress software can download plugins to expand their website’s capabilities. A free WordPress blog doesn’t allow this, limiting you to only a few options. CSS functions and theme selections are also limited on free blogging platforms.
  4. You have a limited amount of bandwidth, video time, and memory space.
  5. Free platforms usually limit your advertising options, meaning that it’s harder to make money from your blog.

What types of costs are involved?

A free blog can be completely free if you want it to. However, if you’re looking to get rid of the “Blogger” or “WordPress” in your domain name, you’ll have to buy and assign your own custom domain. These can be as low as $10 depending on what you pick.

You may also choose to buy stock photos, hire a designer, or purchase an upgraded theme, which can all add to the cost of your blog.

Who should use free blogs?

Free blogs are best for people who are just exploring the blogging world or are not very serious about blogging. If you’re just blogging for fun, then by all means start with a free blog!

Self-Hosted Blogging Platform

What is it? A self-hosted blog is one that resides on your own server. Most people, however, pay a third-party to host their blog, which opens them to all the benefits of a self-hosted blog. Sites like HostGator and Bluehost are among some of the popular companies that provide hosting services. Essentially, these companies rent out digital storage space to users to make running a website possible.

Pros of a self-hosted blog:

  1. You have full control over your blog, including in its layout, search engine optimization, advertising revenue, additional functions, and more.
  2. You can install custom themes to brand your blog.
  3. You have complete access to your backend files, which allows you to make any necessary code changes.
  4. Using a third-party host usually costs only a few dollars per month.

Cons of a self-hosted blog:

  1. It requires an initial investment.
  2. It can be intimidating to new bloggers.

What types of costs are involved?

Like with a free blog, any photos, domain names, and themes that you purchase will add to your costs. With self-hosting, you also have to invest in the cost of using a third-party host. The good news is that hosting can cost under $5 per month. Certain plugins—which is a piece of software that you can install on your site to expand its functionality—can cost money, too.

Who should use self-hosted blogs?

Since self-hosted blogs look more professional and perform more functions, they are best for businesses. They are also ideal for the individual who wants to improve his or her professional appearance and boost the functions available on his or her website.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

One issue that often comes up when looking at free sites versus self-hosted sites is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

selfhosted_vs_free

What is WordPress?

WordPress is an open source platform that has been developed by tens of thousands of people. Essentially, WordPress was created by a community of developers, and it is now a free blogging platform that can be used on a free or self-hosted basis.

WordPress.com

To get a free WordPress site, all you have to do is visit WordPress.com to start designing your site within minutes. WordPress.com is run by Automattic, a company created by WordPress’s co-founding developer Matt Mullenweg. Here, you can use a restricted version of the WordPress software, and your site will be hosted on their servers.

WordPress.org

WordPress.org, on the other hand, offers the full extent of the software. However, in order to use it, you’ll need somewhere to store your website’s files. That is where a third-party host comes in handy.

If you’re not sure which way you want to go, it’s worth starting a blog at WordPress.com and then later upgrading to a self-hosted blog while still using WordPress’s software. The good news is that once you find a host, they can usually help you install WordPress on your site, and then you can enjoy the easy-to-use software with full control over your site.

Still confused? Leave us a comment with your question.

 

4 Responses

  1. mannequin August 12, 2009 / 8:12 am

    I think that is sage advice. Getting your bearings and finding which direction you’re going with your blog can take awhile. In the meanwhile, using Blogger allows you to focus more on content and building your audience. After awhile, you may want to customize more than Blogger allows and decide to make the switch.

    You’re just so dang smart and helpful!

  2. Jody Halsted August 12, 2009 / 10:03 pm

    Great advice. Blogger is the greatest platform to learn on, in my opinion. Yet another post worth passing around.

  3. Sarah March 30, 2014 / 8:42 pm

    Will I be able to keep my blogger name and get it into a URL later if I start out with this blogger platform? I’m just curious if that’s difficult to do beings names can be taken so quickly. Thanks in advance for your response.

  4. Bill Schroder June 26, 2014 / 6:51 am

    I am new to blogging. However, the blog I want involves both text and original artwork. Am I correct in thinking that a hosted website actually takes ownership of all materials as part of whatever agreement is involved? How does copyright law work in this electronic medium?

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