Give Yourself the Gift of a Self-Hosted Blog

BlogHer Original Post

You've been thinking about it, I know you have. You eye those people's blogs who have a url sans Wordpress or Blogspot, and you wonder if you should do the same. You know, self-host. Maybe it's just low on your priorities list and you're busy. Maybe you're overwhelmed with the idea of self-hosting. But this is the time of year to give yourself a gift, and I'm going to encourage you with this gift guide to give yourself the gift of self-hosting.

Having a blog on free Wordpress or Tumblr or Blogger is sort of like apartment living. It gives you a place to put your things, but you don't own it. Which means that you can technically be evicted. And you can only fuss with the set-up so much because there are limitations in place. At the same time, it's sometimes easier to rent instead of own. Maybe you don't have the money for a down payment on a house... or a self-hosted blog. Maybe you're not certain if you're staying in the city (or in that neck of the blogosphere). Sometimes people want to try out living in a neighbourhood (or blogging in a neighbourhood) for a bit before they commit to owning a space.

But going with the assumption that you're in an emotional space to take that plunge and buy a url, owning a blog is a lot like owning a house. When something breaks, you need to fix it. You need to do all the maintenance on it. It can be overwhelming to realize that you now own your own place and have no idea how to repair things (either housewise or blogwise). But ownership has its privileges. You can decorate your space any way you want. You have room to hold all of your things -- physical items in the house and sound files on the blog. And more than that, you own it. It's yours. No one can take it away from you.

And that is a pretty powerful thought.

Self-hosting isn't nearly as difficult as you think it might be, and the blogosphere is full of helpful people who will answer your questions as they come up (as well as tutorials that can pretty much help you do anything you might want to do on your blog if you take the time to read them and follow the steps).

First Steps

Choose a blog name and blog url. You will be able to change the name in the future, but not the url. So choose something general that applies to many facets of life since you'll hopefully have this blog for a long period of time.

Choose a Hosting Site

There are dozens of reliable hosting sites out there. A while back, Lifehacker compiled their 5 favourite web hosting services. BlueHost, DreamHost, and HostGator are all commonly-used web hosting sites. Ask bloggers who self-host which company they're using. Other questions to ask friends: Is the company reliable or do the servers go down a lot? Is it user-friendly? Can you get helpful people on the phone when you have a question?

Import Your Site and Build It

This is one of those times when a little money spent may be worth it, especially if you're easily frustrated when you hit roadblocks. The moving of the blog and getting your site to look how you want it will be the hardest part of self-hosting (I promise, once you're done with this initial phase, it's smoother sailing). There are plenty of bloggers who moonlight doing Web design, and they can help you move over your blog and get it set up for a fee. Again, ask people who self-host for recommendations if they used someone to help them set up their site.

If you're more of a DIY person, with a bit of Googling, you will see that the good people of the blogosphere have put all the information you'll need in handy tutorials. For instance, Digital Inspiration has a great how-to guide for moving your blog from Blogger to self-hosted Wordpress without losing your Google links (even Lifehacker recommends it).

Be prepared if you do it yourself that it will take time. It took me weeks to move over all of my content and comments, design the site, and I had people helping me. It's best to move your blog without a mental timeline in place, and to take a step back and deep breathe when you realize how much there is to learn.

Like owning a house, you will always find little things you want to fix and clean-up. But also, like owning a house, once you're settled, you're going to look up and smile at how far you've come. When we first moved into our house, I had no idea that there was a proper way to paint a wall, or how to fix chipped enamel on a tub. Now when I complete housekeeping tasks, I smile at how self-sufficient I feel. And the same goes for self-hosting a blog. No, I didn't know HTML or how to read a line of code and figure out what to tweak. But since jumping into self-hosting and getting my hands dirty, I now smile at how much I've learned. Self-hosting brings a greater level of satisfaction with my blog.

And that's why it should be the gift you give yourself this season.

Photo Credit: Servers and Hardware via Shutterstock.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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