Going Self-Hosted – Maybe It SHOULDN’T Be Your Goals

Before we even start this post, let me just say . . . I am sorry. This overran; it’s long as hell, so get yourself some green tea and settle on in.

Hello, you wonderful, interesting, brilliant human beings . . . how are we all today? Feeling fine? Feeling happy? Feeling like, for once, maybe life is going your way? Maybe 2018 is going to be your year? Maybe all the stars are going to align and all those goals you’ve set, all those aims, are going to magically happen?

Let me shatter that illusion for you real quick.

A lot of bloggers I follow seem to have their one of their biggest blogging goals as going self-hosted; it’s a stepping stone on their way to professionalism and wider success! Now, while I absolutely love that goal, as someone who has been self-hosted and come running back, I wanted to toss my opinion and experiences into the ring. Because I don’t think it’s for everyone.

Let’s take it from the top!

What Is Self-Hosted?

For those people who haven’t the foggiest what I’m on about, self-hosted is when you move your website from WordPress.com (which hosts your site for you) to another host (which you organise) and you do everything yourself. Essentially, it’s the difference between running a WordPress/Blogger blog and running your own website.

So Why Do So Many Bloggers Want To Go Self-Hosted?

If you’ve ever tried to experiment with your site, you’ll likely have hit a few roadblocks. Things like you can’t add in Google Analytics, you can’t install custom themes . . . Javascript plugins don’t work either, so a lot of widgets and things you may want to add in (like embedded Pinterest widgets) don’t function. When you start thinking about taking your blog to the next level in terms of professionalism, trust me, you start feeling the constraints of good old WordPress.com.

Being self-hosted essentially removes all WordPress’s restraints; they literally don’t own your site anymore. It’s yours to do as you wish!

On top of this, there’s a sense of professionalism that comes with being self-hosted – and some brands see it that way too. If you’ve ever signed up to any sites that connect bloggers and brands, you may have noticed that they some brands specifically request to work with self-hosted websites.

In Your Experience, What Were The Benefits Of Self-Hosted?

Oh . . . there are many.

  • Google Ads, baby.

  • First of all, WordAds (the WordPress ad system) pays pretty poorly in comparison to Google Ads and it’s very location-specific, so you might not even be viable to earn off your audience. So immediately, if you want to earn of your site through Ad money, self-hosted allows you to utilise Google Ads and you’re immediately earning a lot more.
  • Way more technical control.

  • So most of you won’t know, but I actually had an old blog (that someone bought off me last year . . . that’s still so surreal!). I built it up on WordPress.com, started getting some really good SEO traffic and earning money off it through affiliate marketing, but one of the things that let me down? Site speed.
  • My site was pretty media heavy, unoptimised and had loads of content . . . so it could run slowly, which is terrible for SEO. This is actually why I made the switch, so I could get faster hosting, use a CDN etc. If your site is running slowly on WordPress.com . . . there’s not much you can do. Which leads me nicely to my next point:
  • Plugins.

  • Plugins are kind of like apps for your phone; they make your site do cool things. You can have drag-and-drop webpage builders where you can build the site of your absolute dreams; you can change your gallery settings so your site automatically uploads galleries in polaroid photo style; you can get plugins that speed your site up and help with security . . .
  • Design! Oh, sweet jesus the design.

  • Do I need to go on? There are so many free and paid beautiful themes you can utilise!
  • You legit own your site.

  • Now, I know it’s obviously a scary idea that WordPress could, potentially, pull the plug on your website, (if you didn’t know that, yeah, that’s a thing. WordPress.com has the right to just delete your site) but this honestly isn’t too big a concern. A. it rarely if ever happens. B. it’s the same way that Youtube can always delete your channel. It’s their platform and they reserve the right to pull things down if you violate their rules . . . doesn’t mean that they will.
  • However, I do agree that owning your site yourself is a great thing. It means you can sell it! *Wink*
  • Google Analytics.

  • Google Analytics . . . oh sweet Jesus, where to begin? Google Analytics is possibly the best software a website owner can ever use. It’s useful for everything from SEO to making new content . . . and you can’t use it on WordPress.com unless you pay for a business account.

What Were The Drawbacks To Being Self-Hosted?

Ah . . . but I wouldn’t be writing this post if the other side was all sunshine and daisies, would I? Hell, I wouldn’t even be here. I’d be on my self-hosted website! So what are the drawbacks to going self-hosted?

  • The cost. 

  • I know, I know – “Mia, hosting is only a couple of pounds a month!”. No.First of all, your hosting has limits – whether that’s capacity, upload sizes, traffic limits, etc. As your site gets bigger and more people find it, you may find yourself needing better hosting and upgrading and trying new servers etc.
  • I chose a relatively harmless host (I thought) and ended up having a slow site speed and needing to pay £260 to switch for a yearly contract with A2 (turbo servers). This may not be an issue for you; my traffic came through my gift guides, which somehow did really well on Google and I would receive around 1million hits a year – most of that over the three month Christmas period. Obviously, these were very image heavy posts (slows site loading speed considerably) and that many users can easily put any server under stress.
  • But it wasn’t just this. As you can control everything, you’re responsible for everything. You’d be surprised how much I ended up having to spend on plugins, or security etc. just to keep my site running well.
  • Transferring your files is hard and . . . not great . . . for larger websites

  • If you’ve researched into going self-hosted, you’ll know that you have to export your current site as an .xml (it’s something like that; I haven’t done this since like two years ago, give me a break) and upload it to the new one. Sounds easy, right?
  • No. No, it’s fucking not.
  • First of all, WordPress’s export is pretty well known to fail and incorrectly or only partially export data for large websites. So I ended up having to delete a lot of my old posts and media and all my old comments just to export my site . . . and even then the file was kind of buggy. All of which made it very difficult to transfer to a new one. And, I later found out, caused a lot of issues with my actual site – which kind of ties in with my next point.
  • So. Much. Site. Downtime.

  • Look, I consider myself pretty good with WordPress. I use it somewhat professionally; my job is content marketing so I write articles and work on website design and content for businesses using WordPress. I’ve used it for years on my own sites. A lot of you guys are probably the same; we’ve got this shit, right?
  • Oh . . . oh, no. Do you guys know about coding? How different plugins interact with each other? (And potentially destroy your entire fucking site – oh yeah, that was fun.) How about with your themes? Minimising Javascript? Name servers? Do you know how to look at your theme’s code and assess whether it’s clean or not? Do you know what “clean” code is? (God knows, I don’t.) CDNs? Security? Transferring files via FTP? Huh? Huh?

    I apologise for sounding arsey; it’s just everyone makes out that going self-hosted is so easy and, while it may be for some, I want to make it clear there is so much that can (and does) go wrong. It’s technical shit you’re dealing with (the kind of technical shit we are shielded from on WordPress.com) and you don’t get the chance to learn it from the ground up . . . you’re thrown straight in the deep end. I lost so much money because I upgraded in October (I mainly earned Oct-Dec) and I had so much downtime just trying to sort everything out. And that, in turn, docked my search rankings too.
  • Where’s the fun in plugins if every time you install one it breaks your site and you have to spend hours trying to fix it?

  • Time spent.

  • You can imagine by my previous points that running a self-hosted site, for me at least, was very time intensive – and stressful. One of the things that most annoyed me was the lack of time I was getting for producing content (the part I actually enjoy!) because I had to focus on so many other things.
  • Loss of community.

  • This one is the biggest drawback, in my opinion. The rest I could have learnt to deal with; taken as a challenge, used to motivate myself to learn more about the technical side of blogging. I enjoy that; more skills and experience to add to the bank! But losing my community made it harder to want to blog.
  • So we already know that going self-hosted means leaving WordPress.com; you still have an account and (using the JetPack plugin) you can migrate your blog followers and people can follow your blog, so you don’t technically lose your readers . . .
  • But you can’t be found in the reader, so it’s harder for people to discover your blog. (You know how you tag your posts with “fashion”, “food”, etc. and people can find your posts under those tags? Not anymore.)
  • People can’t comment on your blog through the reader; they have to go through to your site. (I think this has changed, some self-hosted blogs I follow let you comment through the reader.) Some people only read on their readers, so it becomes a lot harder to engage – and a lot of people then won’t. The thing that really killed my engagement, though?
  • Your posts usually come up delayed on the reader – so when you publish something, it’ll go onto the reader hours later . . . but it will be on the reader as a post from 18 hours ago, so your audience often won’t even see it.
  • Not only does this kill a lot of brand opportunities (they want to see engagement!), but it also takes a lot of the fun out of blogging. After all, who wants to sit there and talk to themselves?
  • Broken. Fucking. Links.

  • Again, this one may not bother other people as much, but the broken links – for me – were killer. On WordPress (self-hosted version), you tend to change your permalinks to the far more SEO friendly domain.com/post-title or even domain.com/category/post-title as opposed to WordPress.com’s SEO unfriendly date-based URL.
  • Now, this permalink switching sounds great, but what actually happens is a lot of your image URLs stop working; your inbound links stop working and all links to your content stop too. So all that lovely Pinterest traffic? Say buh-bye. (This only applies if you choose to switch your permalink structure, which a lot of people do for the SEO benefits.)

Do You Recommend Self-Hosted?

It depends.

I don’t want to put people off going self-hosted; it can be a great stepping stone for your site and it definitely was for mine! That being said, I think a lot of bloggers may depend on their audience for their income – and going self-hosted, for me, essentially took that away. It’s difficult to feel like you’ve upgraded your site when you effectively lose the audience you’ve built.

My honest opinion is that for a blog, hosted is more than fine for me. I don’t want/need all the technical upgrades; the part of blogging that I love is the content creation – being hosted means all my time is freed up for that.

If I wanted a fully functioning website, self-hosted all the way. The freedom and creativity you have with self-hosted is unparalleled.

I really want to be clear on this point too – most of my issues with going self-hosted you likely won’t experience and a lot of people become a lot more successful after going self-hosted. Most of my problems were because my site was somewhat already established – and I fucked up by not understanding how that was going to impact the switch. A large thing that inspired me to write this post was Olivia’s post where she shared some of her blogging goals (linked, check it out), one of which being to go self-hosted. I think this is great – if you’re a newer blogger, there is no better time to upgrade.

Just before we wrap up, really sorry about being so absent over the past week – I have no idea why, but I’ve been feeling really drained and unwell and have just been getting home and conking out. Hopefully back to normal soon!

Okay, my friends, I apologise for how painfully long this post was – but I hope you got something useful out of it! Have you gone self-hosted? What’s your experience been? Have you ever considered the switch? Let me know your thoughts down below!


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71 thoughts on “Going Self-Hosted – Maybe It SHOULDN’T Be Your Goals”

  1. 🙂 I will leave the self-hosted blogs for those tech-savvy bloggers.

    I had a friend who experienced a bit of downtime because two of her plugins were clashing with each other.

    I prefer to spend my time writing and not figuring out technical issues.

    However, when it comes to absolute freedom, the self-hosted version of WordPress is the best.

  2. This was so useful, thank you for sharing and I’m sorry to hear you had problems when you went self-hosted ❤ it’s nice to hear about switching to self-hosted from a different perspective and I hope things are sorted for you now!

    1. Thank you for reading lovely! It’s all fine now, I sold the site that was self-hosted started this one on one of WordPress’s paid plans so no more self-hosting (on my personal blogs at least) for me! <3

  3. Nice informative breakdown… I considered briefly then the thought went poof after I realised how much just the initial start up cost would be. Every dollar is time three for me and not to mention pounds which is x 5… I have to see the feaaibility and right now Im not seeing it… esp. Since Im blogging for fun.

  4. The universe is literally going crazy right now – I was talking about upgrading or maybe going self hosted with my mum the other day and said, I swear to god “I should chat to Mia about it, she’d know her shit.” Jesus Christ. I don’t know if self hosting is for me, but I want to start monetising and making some spare cash from You Should Hear if it’s possible so I’m exploring options and this came at a whack as heck, coincidental time x

    1. Ahaha you ask, I shall provide! (Even if it is before you actually get round to asking LOL) Honestly, I’d say if you’re going to upgrade do it ASAP. Your blog isn’t as image heavy as mine was (and my old one has years worth of content) so the file size problem might not be such an issue – like I said, most of my issues really were because of the specifics of my site, so if it’s something you’re interested in definitely give it a go! xx

  5. I’m curious as to whether you just used a hosting site or if you also switched over to wordpress.org, You won’t lose your community with wordpress.org and you can still self host. Plus there’s some good sites that will transfer for free and give you good deals on hosting sites like blue host.

    1. I went over to WordPress.org, my audience transferred but because the posts were delayed in the reader they never saw and interacted with posts so I still ended up losing them 🙁

  6. Oh my goodness this was SOOO helpful you have no idea. There’s always this big pressure for bloggers to go self hosted in order to look like they’re making progress and / or taking their blog seriously, but I’ve seen so many people lose half of their blog by being unable to transfer it all over onto their new website and I’ve also (unfortunately) lost contact with so many people due to the fact they’ve gone self hosted, therefore I can’t interact with them in the reader anymore which is where I do 99% of my reading / browsing. GREAT POST xxx

    1. Thank you so much girl! That’s exactly what I think too: it’s almost like the goal of having a WP blog is seen to be to get it big enough to need to transfer to WordPress.org, which I really don’t agree with tbh. And EXACTLY! Everyone talks about the pros and the people it works for, but like you I know a lot of people it didn’twork for xxx

  7. This post is so incredibly helpful. I have been considering self-hosted for a while but I really don’t know if I want all that hassle right now (or ever?) But as someone who wants to be considered a ‘serious’ blogger, I feel quite pressured into making the switch at some point. This has made me feel better about maybe not changing just because everyone else does. Thanks for sharing this lovely, it’s nice to be able to learn from your experiences!

    1. Thank you so much for reading, Alys – I’m really glad you found it useful. That’s EXACTLY why I wanted to post: so many people seem to feel that “must upgrade to be professional” pressure and sometimes I think the whole picture about going self-hosted isn’t quite shown xx

  8. I’ve always wanted to go self-hosted, but I want to wait till I hit atleast 500 if not 1000 followers on my blog.The amount of time I’ll have to put in, whilst dealing with school and external diplomas kinda scares me.I love this though, this gives me a clearer, more explained reason to go self osted and to wait before I do it.great post!xx

  9. This post was so informative and insightful! I really liked this one a lot. One of my university course projects forced me to spend a lot of time researching going self hosted, the benefits of it, the cost (and I also had to look at the different servers in detail, analyse the price+value, the functions..)

    What I learned about it is that a lot can go wrong, but if you know your shit, you’ll be fine. Also, research the crap out of the deals you find online. With a lot of them the servers can actually be down a couple of days a year, sometimes even more. Just out of interest… What do you think about shared hosting?

    Loved this post as always xxxx

    1. Thank you so much girl, I’m glad you enjoyed it! And yep that’s the general consensus – but it takes a shit-ton of time and, if you’re busy or working full time etc, it might not be worth all the hassle. If I remember correctly, most hosting is shared because buying a private server is far more expensive. Honestly, I think it works fine (but don’t take my word for it, I don’t remember much about shared hosting – what I think it is is probably wrong LOL) xxxx

  10. This is a super helpful post coming from someone who has a bigger following!
    Now I know I’m not the only one who has their posts published hours later or sometimes not even at all!
    Wordpress has been a huge pain in the but when it comes to the reader for me too. first of all, I don’t even know who to blame, wordpress or my web hosting ??
    Tbh, I’m just winging it at this point.

    1. Thank you lovely! And yep honestly that’s the BIGGEST factor that led to me deciding against self-hosting this blog, the engagement is just awful. I think it’s an integration problem with the Jetpack plugin, but I’m not sure 🙁 xx

  11. I know a lot of people have going self-hosted as a goal but I have never had it as one of mine. I like wordpress and the community on wordpress and I have never felt the need to go self-hosted. It’s a hobby of mine to blog not a career – I guess it would be different if the situation were reversed. xx

  12. Mate this was so interesting. I have been tossing and turning with going self hosted for a while because you only hear the brilliant side of it – I’m glad to read something realistic ! I think I’ll leave it for now xxx

      1. It was just so refreshing to read something real about it, rather than all the good stuff! I’m not ready to invest that much time into managing the website so I’m glad I know just what goes into it xxx

    1. Yes Mia!!! This is so well-written, informative + so incredibly useful. I’ve always wondered about the pros & cons of hosted vs. self-hosted, so bless you for sharing your experience 🙌🏼 You’re awesome boo xox

    2. I’ve been waiting for someone to write about those things because I don’t even know where to search for that kind of information. Thank you for doing this! Finally got some answers.xx

    3. Real talk Mia ,this is so helpful, yes I want to go self- hosted ,maybe when I’m a bit techy or learn from the techy people and when I can get to being consistent and own money to do so for now I’ll just stick to being consistent on my blog

      1. Thank you so much girly, I’m so glad you found it helpful! I think earning via affiliate money can be just as profitable so you can try that until you make the switch 🙂 x

      2. Great post! I only ever see posts encouraging to go self-hosted so it’s great to read the other side of the story! Really helps you weigh up the pros and cons, thanks for sharing

        1. That’s exactly what I was setting out to do girl, just try to paint a more accurate and well rounded picture. There are a lot of pros – but there are definitely cons too 🙂 x

      3. I’ve been thinking about going self-hosted for a while now since I know a lot of bloggers rave about it, but it’s nice reading the other side of things & how going self-hosted isn’t all sunshine & rainbows. Definitely something else for me to think about!

      4. Oh my gosh, Mia! Thank you for writing this post. It was so informative & easy to read. I would never go self-hosted obviously, my blog is not that type lol but I’ve always wondered what it even meant & why everyone wants to switch over. I actually cringe everytime I see one of the bloggers I follow say they’re going to go self-hosted because I know I will no longer be reading their posts. I do follow a few people that are self-hosted because I really like them but sometimes I still have the urge to unfollow them because I can’t read the posts in my Reader & it ruins my reading groove.

        Hope you’re feeling better soon! ♡♡♡

        1. Thank you so much for reading it my love, I’m so glad you found it informative! (I was definitely worried about the bloody wordcount being so long ;-;) And same here! I still follow them, but I already know I’m hardly going to see their posts and commenting on them is unlikely because it’s so much effort (especially on the phone) to comment off the reader.

          Thanks, Hunida! I’m trying to get back into my groove, going for a new tattoo today so hopefully that’ll boost my mood a bit! <3 <3

      5. Thank you for weighing up the pros and cons of self hosting!! Personally, I think going self hosted would be too much work for me and possibly costly and I’m quite happy with where my blog is at the moment. However I’m sure there are bloggers who’d love to go self hosted so I guess it’s just personal preference xx

      6. Thank you so much for your thoughts! I literally know nothing about coding and website stuff etc. so going self-hosted really isn’t right for me.

      7. When I had my old blog that I started in 2005, I was self-hosted. When I came back to the blogging world last year, I chose to just be hosted on WordPress. I feel that is best for me at this point in time, and I don’t have any plans to go self-hosted again in the near future. It does have its benefits, like you mentioned, but I really like the community aspect of WordPress. It’s easier to follow bloggers and have them follow you. Like you also mentioned, I love how people can discover my blog through the WordPress search/reader. That’s actually how I developed most of my audience.

      8. This is honestly so helpful because one of my goals is to become self hosted so it’s good to see both the good and bad so that I can weigh the pros and cons for my particular situation!

      9. This is such a great post ❤️ I alwayd thought about how bloggers always talk about how amazing being self-hosted is. It feels like it’s the most important goal here. I’m glad you could tell us the truth. I also saw some bloggers going self-hosted which I love and now I can’t interact with them anymore in my reader. I can’t comment anymore. I use the reader so much. I think if I ever go self-hosted I can use the option of WordPress which is save right? Feel better soon girl ❤️

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      11. Ah! I wish I had seen this post before. I’ve recently gone self-hosted too, and the loss of community has been the hardest thing to work with. My site looks so much better now because the options for customisation are amazing, but the loss of community/followers/people finding my blog, etc. has gotten me down. I love your honesty with this post, so many things I was like, ‘oh hell yeah!’ I’m still trying to come to terms with this Jetpack plugin! I’ve heard mixed feelings on it so I’m not using it for now, but it’s such a learning curve creating your own site from scratch. But, onwards and upwards.

        Your blog is stunning btw, I’m definitely going to subscribe 😀

        Diandra x


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      13. I loved reading this post! Other bloggers made it sound like self hosting is a dream come true but thank you for breaking down the pros and cons. Btw is self hosting the business upgrade on WordPress or another upgrade?

        1. Self hosting actually takes you off WordPress.com, so you use an external siteground or bluehost, buy your hosting and a domain from them and install WordPress on their hosting space, then copy your existing site over to there using an exported .xml file you get from here x

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