Some of you may have noticed that my blog looks a little different and that some adverts have snuck in. Well I managed to go ‘self hosted,’ I was so scared about doing it, losing my content, redoing the whole blog, loads of issues! So, was it that bad? I’m definitely not an expert or a computer whizz although I’m learning all the time. I don’t know much about code or web design so if I can do it, you can too!
What does it mean to go self hosted?
Most people, like me, when they start blogging do so on a free to use platform such as WordPress.com, Blogger or BlogSpot where you use their software to edit and upload your blog posts onto a website hosted by the company. I was with WordPress.com. I had no idea when I started that I’d ever need to make any changes, it was only when I considered that I’d actually like to make some money out of my new, all consuming hobby that I realised I couldn’t do it on the wordpress.com platform. It doesn’t let you place adds, affiliate links and the customisation options are very basic. You can pay them to upgrade to a premium plan which allows more freedom to customise or pay for a premium theme but then you’re still limited as to what you can do on your site, plus they have adverts on your site that other people see and they benefit from. If you just want to share your thoughts and keep a record of events then stay on the free platform. If you want to ‘monetise,’ and are looking to go professional, then you need to go self hosted. I decided early on in my blogging life that I wanted to make money and partner with brands, I bought my domain from WordPress when I was still on the .com site for £15 per year. I also own the .co.uk (with godaddy) which is a parked site so if someone types in midwifeandlife.co.uk they get redirected to the .com version.
What do I need to do?
You need to find a hosting company that you like first of all. WordPress recommend bluehost, siteground or pressable as they partner with them. I had a look at bluehost and siteground and was tempted by both, especially as it seemed easy to do the transfer, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I had decided to go with bluehost but then I read a post by a UK blogger (I can’t remember who now!) who had done it with TSOhost and I decided to go with them.
They’re a UK company
Their pricing was transparent
They have different plans you can go on depending on your needs
If you need to upgrade as your traffic increases they let you know if you need to upgrade
One off price per year of £14.99 (on the lite plan)
Free phone support (which boy did I make use of)
They offered free migration
So I had picked my host, I decided on their lite plan which was £14.99 per year knowing I could change it as time went on. I then asked them to migrate my site to them. I thought originally that once it was done I’d have a site that looked weird for a while until I’d edited it, but they were able to create a preview for me so I could work on it and then when I was ready, point the servers over to them (wait, what does that mean? I’ll explain later). This was essential to me and I was so grateful for that time and nobody rushed me, it took me about a week before I was ready. From WordPress.com they can only migrate the posts, comments and feature images, so I had to put back in the post images which took a while, but they were still there in my media file so it was just a matter of selecting them again. Now I have more content, I’m now on the professional plan at £4.99 a month, but that took a year to get to.
I’d heard about themes and had a look at the WordPress free ones but weren’t sure that they would fit in with what I wanted. I had a look on Etsy, as I know there are some on there – there are so many! I found it overwhelming and without recommendations I wasn’t sure which one would be the best. My friend Laura over on Mummy La La recommended Pipdig for themes and after checking them out I decided to pay £39 for a theme with them. That might seem a lot to some people, but I believe it’s worth it, they’re SEO optimised, mobile responsive and you get lifetime updates. It was very straight forward and looks great. They are on hand for support too, and they have a section on their website for help with wordpress and blogger themes and technical issues. I had trouble getting the social icons to display where I wanted them to and they helped me out. You can stick with the free themes on WordPress too if you’re light on funds.
Once I had the theme and the images back in place there were the plug ins!! These are extra software add ons you can get when you’re on wordpress.org. I’m still discovering new things but here’s what I’ve installed:
Jetpack – to connect with wordpress.com for stats
Sumome – for share icons, to connect google analytics and to gain traffic by allowing recommendations for other sites and in return you share one of your posts to do the same on other sites (you can only choose one at a time unless you upgrade of course). You can also set up a subscription form pop up for a newsletter that you set up via mailchimp or similar.
Social warfare – for the colourful share buttons at the top and bottom of posts
Tweetily – a great one that you can edit to send out tweets of your content, I’ve set it to 2 hourly and it randomly selects a post and tweets it out with a message of my choice. I’m not sure yet whether it’s annoying to my followers or not but I’ve had some interaction from it and I think it works well.
Affilinet – I’ve signed up to affilinet which means I can apply for advertising partners and their plug in lets me place different size ads from their partners wherever I like in posts, like this:
Easy Google Fonts – this was recommended to me by pipdig but I don’t understand how it works! I wanted it so I could change the size, style and colour of my text as needed, so I searched around (I had more confidence now) and found –
FontsForWeb – this allows me to do what I wanted, I can change the text via the customiser or directly in post without writing any code, yay! It means I can do This or This or even This whenever I fancy it!
Yoast – I’m still getting to grips with it, but it helps you with SEO (search engine optimisation), you can set a focus keyword and make sure it’s mentioned in key areas, and probably more that I don’t know about. There’s a useful series of posts on Live Love Blog that goes through how to get the most out of your Yoast Plugin. It’s on my to do list to go through it and make notes and take action! You get a little red, amber or green light when your post has gone through an SEO check according to how well you’ve done.
Akismet – prevents spam comments, although I occasionally check as it spams some that aren’t spam.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – does what it says on the tin, lets you connect with google analytics. I still don’t look at it much and prefer to look at the jetpack site stats as it’s what I’m used to.
Instagram Feed – so you can show your latest photos from Instagram and people can click through to follow you. You can edit the amount of photos it displays.
Meta Box – This is so you can easily edit the meta description (the text under the title when you share the post or it appears on search engines).
What else can I do once self hosted?
I’ve also been able to verify my site with Google and Pinterest, and register for sponsored post opportunities with Tots100 and Blogher (Sheknows). I’m feeling a tad more professional, my photos look 100 times better and bigger and I love the text and look of the posts. I’m still tinkering away and can spend ages going off on tangents but as you know such is the life of a blogger!
Are there any Drawbacks to going self hosted?
None so far, but I am now responsible for my site! Also I didn’t realise my subscribers weren’t migrated until recently, so if you were following me on wordpress.com via the Reader, Pretty Please sign up to my newsletter so you can still get the latest posts and info from me.
Have you made the leap? Ask me anything if you haven’t and I’ll try and help. What are your favourite plug-ins?