“Should I host my own blog?” is a question asked aspiring bloggers, organizations, businesses, and website owners alike.
That’s because blogs and content-heavy websites have requirements that a static, unchanging website or ecommerce website does not have.
- Sometimes it’s better to run your entire website with software that also runs your blog (like WordPress).
- Sometimes it’s better to run your blog with the same software that powers your website (like Shopify or Wix).
- Sometimes your website software will be self-hosted (like Gator or GoDaddy), and sometimes it will be hosted (like Weebly or Jimdo or WordPress.com).
Either way, making a decision can be an all-around hot mess.
Here’s the list of 8 Pros & 8 Cons that I share with my readers & clients to help you decide whether you should host your own blog.*
*I include a website with a blog because almost all the considerations are the same. In fact, synchronizing an existing website with a blog will be in the con section.
Pros / Advantages of Hosting Your Own Blog or Website
I generally default to blog self-hosting for my own and my client’s properties. There are plenty of downsides (see next section), but here are the primary upsides for self-hosting your own blog / website.
Self-hosting gives you total control over your website. My favorite analogy compares hosting with real estate.
Using a hosted blog (Blogger, WordPress.com, etc.) is like owning a condominium. You own everything inside your walls. But you have shared ownership of the structure and common area. You can’t add an awning or build a garden without permission.
Using a self-hosted blog is like owning a house on your own land. You own and control everything. If you want to do something, your only limits are the natural limits of your property, budget, and expertise.
It’s hard to value control until you don’t have it. But time and time again, I see readers and clients reach out about transferring / moving a blog to a self-hosted setup because they hit an unanticipated obstacle with their hosted platform.
Hosting your own blog gives you total control over how it works, what it does, and how it operates. Your data is never locked up because the platform doesn’t have an export tool. And you have total freedom to do whatever you want.
Hosting your own blog means that you can customize features based on your priorities instead of the priorities of a platform.
Hosted platforms are serving a lot of users. They have to prioritize new features and customizations based on what most users want if you are not in the “most users” group, that also means that you have to wait.
With self-hosting, if you have some random feature that you want, you just do it. For example, a client of mine wanted a before / after slider on his portfolio pictures.
Since his blog was self-hosted, I could install a quick plugin and implement the feature. If he had been on a hosted platform, I may or may not have been able to implement that specific feature.
When you self-host your blog, you can isolate and control costs based on what you need and don’t need. You almost always keep website costs lower than with hosted platforms.
With self-hosting, you can just pay for hosting at one company, use free software like WordPress, and then only buy add-ons as needed (or use free versions). Here’s example pricing from Bluehost for WordPress hosting.
The difference for a single website can be huge. But costs come down dramatically if you own multiple blogs.
That’s because hosted platforms require a new, separate subscription for each website.
If you self-host, you can use the same plan for multiple websites. For example, many hosting plans will allow you to host several websites at once. I run 12 small websites on a single plan at InMotion.
Most plugins & themes will also allow multiple uses. I have a premium StudioPress theme that I’ve been able to use on 5 personal websites 3 client websites…all from a one-time $49 purchase.
Self-hosting your blog allows you to choose the exact services you want for your blog / website. You aren’t locked into a single set of features.
For this website, I have a –
- domain name at NameCheap
- hosting at InMotion Hosting
- theme template from StudioPress
- plugin suite from JetPack
My clients have a different setup based on their needs, and my other small sites also have their own custom setup.
When you self-host, you can pick and choose your website software choices based on what you want rather than what is bundled with your subscription. Additionally, you have the control to *change* your choices if you want to.
The Web changes over time. Just a few years ago, everybody wanted Google+ share buttons. Now everybody needs TikTok embeds.
RSS feeds used to be huge. Now API integrations are all the rage.
Running a blog on your own hosting allows you to upgrade with the times whenever you want. If you are on a hosted platform, you are on their timeline.
When I see people blogging on Medium or Substack or Tumblr, I worry about where their work will be in 5 years.
At some point in the life of every blog, you’ll want some help. It might be for design or development, but either way, you’ll need a contractor.
When your blog is self-hosted, you can have your pick of contractors. Your pool of talent is more comprehensive when you can hire based on skills rather than a platform. You can use large gig platforms like Fiverr and UpWork.
Additionally, since you have root access to a hosting server, you can be much more flexible with access compared to a hosted platform.
It might be odd to think about your blog as an asset, but it absolutely is. It’s an asset that can raise (or lower) the value of your website / business.
Even if you aren’t running your blog as part of a website / business, it’s still useful to view it as an asset you can invest & store value in.
I know many institutions that started a content effort as goodwill or internal effort that evolved into a core part of the institution’s mission (i.e., see all the doctor blogs on hospital websites that have popped up during the COVID-19 pandemic).
As with house vs. condo, any asset that you own free, clear, and “unencumbered” will be more valuable than one that even minor restrictions.
A blog that is self-hosted will usually be free, clear, and unencumbered, whereas blogs on hosted platforms may have all sorts of restrictions. For example, see all the digital magazines that started on Medium that are transitioning back to self-hosted because of this issue.
Blogs that are self-hosted are inherently more versatile. They can even transition to becoming a stand-alone static website rather than a blog.
Cons / Tradeoffs of Self-Hosting Your Own Blog or Website
I will be the first to mention that the choice to self-host has a rabid cult following. Researching the tradeoffs of self-hosting can be a bit like reading about Apple vs. Android or PC Gaming vs. Console Gaming. People get intense about their choices and opinions.
I’m a fan of self-hosting, but I’ll also admit that it has some major downsides. The key is to not choose the “Best” route but to understand what *you* are trying to do and match your choice with the right options.
Here are some downsides of hosting your own blog.
Synchronizing with Existing Website
If you have an existing hosted website that you love and want to integrate a blog with it, then synchronizing a blog can be frustrating.
Here are 4 example scenarios –
- Shopify-powered ecommerce website that prefers a WordPress-powered blog
- Drupal-powered non-profit website that wants a WordPress.com blog
- Custom / bootstrap software company website that likes publishing on Medium
- Squarespace artist website that wants to publish on Tumblr
Getting the design / branding to match, the Analytics to track, and the user experience to mesh is an absolute pain. I’ve done it for many clients. It’s truly awful.
There is no correct answer here. Also, there’s usually a different possible solution. My rules of thumb are to 1. Build your website for your primary function. 2. Maintain a single website / domain. 3. Be open to a sub-optimal choice for a secondary function…if it means you can keep Rule #1.
Here’s how I’d answer those 4 example scenarios –
- Just use Shopify’s blog functionality even if you don’t prefer it. If you are more of a blog that happens to have a store, then move your whole site to WordPress and use the WooCommerce plugin for selling.
- Either use Drupal’s blog module or move your entire website over to self-hosted WordPress. Don’t use WordPress.com with a self-hosted Drupal site.
- Create a /blog/ subfolder and install a self-hosted WordPress blog there. Syndicate content to Medium (with a canonical), but don’t publish there.
- Either use Squarespace’s blog functionality or move your whole website to Tumblr, WordPress.com, or self-hosted WordPress…depending on other pros / cons.
Now – this obviously only applies to people with an existing website.
Let’s move on to tradeoffs that also include anyone starting out.
Hosting your own blog means that you are the one ultimately responsible for maintenance. Just like a house, you can outsource the tasks or do it yourself.
Most of the tasks are simple (like clicking “Update Plugin”) but you are still the one responsible for making sure it gets done.
Like owning a house, sometimes there are major issues that come up when you wish you had a landlord or condo association.
Websites get hacked. User error accidentally disables the site. Plugins conflict with each other. Logos refuse to line up with the header menu. Contact form emails go to spam.
Hosting your own blog means that you may have to pay an unexpected lump sum for help solving a specific issue that customer support at a hosted platform would just fix.
There are ways to reduce your risk of an unexpected cost.
- Use a hosting company with good support and a willingness to help with blog issues.
- Be diligent about basic maintenance (keep those plugins updated!).
- Pay for premium plugins with support (one reason I use the JetPack suite).
- Pay for a backup and security plugin.
- Create a demo, test, or staging site to play around with design or plugin changes before making them on your live site.
Either way you look at it, if you self-host your own blog, you always have a chance of an unexpected cost.
Initial Learning Curve
Blog software developers and hosting companies have improved “onboarding” and initial blog setup by leaps and bounds in the past few years – like this example from Bluehost.
But a self-hosted blog will never be as seamless or as simple as a hosted blog platform.
As with most tools, there is a tradeoff between convenience and control. As you gain more control, you usually give up more convenience.
Hosting your own blog means that you have to stay somewhat up to date on software changes & changes to the Internet. For example, back in 2016 there was a mad scramble to make all websites HTTPS / SSL when Chrome announced that non-secure websites would be red-flagged.
A hosted platform performed those upgrades automatically. Everyone who self-hosted had to learn the ins and outs and risks of SSL and then switch their blog to HTTPS.
When you self-host your own blog or website, you have to be broadly familiar with how to make it better. You need to generally understand how speed and security work, how HTML/CSS work, etc. Even though you can use blog software that handles all that for you – you still need to know broadly how it works so that you can be a smart consumer.
Since you are ultimately responsible for running your blog, you are also ultimately responsible for choosing contractors to help you fix it. And choosing a good web developer / designer is kind of like choosing a good plumber or good doctor.
You have to know a bit to even start qualifying them, otherwise you are dependent on word of mouth or their professionalism.
Too Many Tasks
Lastly, when you self-host your own blog, you need to really think about what your end goals and resources are. Even though running a self-hosted blog really is not a lot of work in the grand scheme of things…there are enough knobs to turn and dials to adjust that you can be distracted from your original purpose.
Plenty of people love that freedom and control, but others just want it done for them so that they can focus on the one thing that they care about – creating content.
There are quite a few considerations to host your own blog or not. However, it pays to do a bit of research upfront and make sure you have the right choice.
Here are a few other relevant posts –