Blogs are a great way to share your ideas, expertise and experiences with others online, and can be an effective tool for building your digital presence. There are millions of blogs on the Web, covering just about every subject matter you can think of – from travel and photography to parenting and technology. Perhaps the biggest advantage of setting up a blog is that you have complete control over it – you can choose the look and feel, as well as the content. While social networks have their place, they are the equivalent to living on rented land – your landlord can change the rules at any time without notice. They may tweak an algorithm, or choose to limit your reach unless you pay. A blog is different – it’s a digital property that you own. You are the landlord, and you are in charge.
If you’re toying with the idea of starting a blog, whether for fun or profit, it’s important to know your options for setting one up. Basically, you have two choices:
- Third party blogging platforms
- Self-hosted blogs
Each has its pros and cons, and part one of this post will look at both. In part two, I’ll give you a step by step guide on how to set each.
So, let’s get started…
Third party blogging platforms (hosted websites)
- Easy and quick to set up ✔
- Easier for others to find directly, as millions of users are already there ✔
- Easier for others to discover through search engines, as the site is optimised out of the box and carries a credible domain authority ✔
- Generally free or low cost ✔
- Most have a mobile app available, making it easy to create or update content on the go ✔
- No technical knowledge required ✔
- Easy interfaces for users ✔
- Limited control over design, features and functions ✘
- The platform could one day be closed down, putting you at risk of losing your content ✘
- Limited analytics data ✘
- You can’t use your own custom domain, like mycompany.com – you can only choose your username, which is essentially a subdomain of the service e.g. medium.com/mycompany ✘
Some big companies, including Slack, use Medium for their blog.
Contrary to the name, a ‘self-hosted’ blog still usually relies on a third party hosting company (unless of course, you have your own server). I use GoDaddy to host my site and WordPress.org as my blog platform.
The big difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is who’s hosting your website. WordPress.org requires a hosting service. WordPress.com, on the other hand, takes care of all of the hosting for you.
- Virtually unlimited control over every element – design, features, loading speed etc ✔
- Thousands of plugins available, making it easy to add / tweak features and functions without needing to know any code ✔
- Choose your own domain name ✔
- You can keep your site up and running forever ✔
- You can configure more sophisticated analytics, which helps you better understand your audience ✔
- Takes longer to get up and running ✘
- No helpdesk/support ✘
- Since you’re starting from scratch, it’ll take a while to optimise your site for search engines, and build authority ✘
- Potential to break parts of your site ✘
WordPress.org powers 31% of the world’s websites.
Third party or self-hosted?
Choosing the best option for you will depend predominantly on three key factors:
- Your goals
- Your budget
- Your time and resources
- Why do you want to start a blog? For fun? For-profit? To raise your digital profile? To build trust and authority for your brand?
- What’s the purpose of your blog? Who’s your audience? What do you want to provide that other blogs don’t? How will you deliver this?
Self-hosted blogs generally cost a bit more to set up and maintain, however, they’re still relatively cheap. Some of the costs, aside from hosting fees, may include:
- Buying a domain name
- Paying a developer to build/maintain your site (unless you do this yourself)
- Purchasing premium themes and plugins
- Buying an SSL certificate so your site is secure for users
These things can add up, so it’s important to think about your budget.
Your time and resources
A self-hosted blog takes time, effort, and money. If you plan to do everything yourself (like I do), you need to consider what you have at your disposal. Third party blogging platforms, on the other hand, take no more than a few minutes to get started and you don’t ever have to worry about things like hosting, security etc because they’re baked in.
There’s a lot to consider when starting a blog, but giving some careful thought to what you want to do and why you want to do it is definitely worthwhile.
Why I blog
I blog mainly because I love writing. I also have a keen interest in digital marketing and technology. Blogging gives me the opportunity to bring these things together and share my thoughts, ideas and insights. I am not, at least right now, interested in trying to monetise my blog – I do it for the love.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll delve deep into how to set up your blog on your preferred platform…
Content marketer, blogger, author and tech geek.