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A free blog vs a self hosted blog – Which is better?

 

Free Blog vs Self Hosted Blog

Free Blog vs Self Hosted Blog

You have decided to stat a blog. You have done your keyword research and analysis, and narrowed down on a niche for your blog.

Now comes the important step of actually starting the blog!

And that’s where you are confused – should you use the many free options to host and run your blog, or should you have a self hosted blog with your own domain name and hosting?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each option, so that you can take the right decision.

 

A Free Blog

Since this option seems quite tempting, let’s see the advantages and disadvantages of a free blog first.

 

A free blog - WordPress.com Blogger Tumblr

A free blog - WordPress.com Blogger Tumblr

Advantage – No cost

A free blog is, well, free!

So there is absolutely no cost involved with starting the blog. This means that you don’t pay anything for a domain name registration or for web hosting.

However, please note that if you ever decide to switch from a free blog to a self hosted blog at a later date, there can be a huge cost to you in terms of time required, programmers to be hired, etc.

 

Advantage – Less Involved Process

A free blog is also less involved – you can get away with learning fewer things when you opt for one of the free blogging services.

You need far lesser technical knowledge knowledge to set up and run the blog, because the blogging service does all the technical things behind the scenes.

You also choose from predefined templates, so there is no technical knowledge required for installing themes or plugins. It also takes care of updating them periodically.

 

Disadvantage – Less Control

The main disadvantage of a self hosted blog is lack of control.

  1. You provide all your content to another company. Your content and its publication is guided by the rules formed by that company. What if the blogging service provider changes rules? Would you go and change all your content? What if the company shuts shop or becomes obsolete (hint: Orkut, MySpace)?
  2. You don’t have a domain name, so you don’t control it either. You work through a sub-domain (yourname.wordpress.com, for example). This means you get lesser opportunities for branding yourself.
  3. Since you are using a solution that is supposed to be easy to use for everyone, you don’t get many choices when it comes to the look and feel of your blog. You have to be limited to the templates the blogging service provides you.

 

Disadvantage – Very Few Monetization Options

Many good advertising networks expect your blog to be hosted on its own domain name – if you don’t have a domain name, your blog would not be accepted in the advertising network. This limits your opportunities to earn from your blog.

Most of us start blogging because we are passionate about our niche. However, we should keep in mind that if the blog is successful, selling the blog to someone is always a possibility. In fact, there are bloggers who have sold their blog for over $20,000 in just 8 months!

If you don’t use your own domain name, selling your blog becomes REALLY difficult. By opting for a free blog, you might be shutting yourself from a great opportunity!

 

Your Options for Starting a Free Blog

 

A self hosted blog with own domain name

A self hosted blog with own domain name

Self Hosted Blog

Now that we have seen what you get when you choose a free blog, let’s see  the pros and cons of a self hosted blog as well.

 

Advantage – Full Control

This is the biggest advantage of a self hosted blog – you own everything, and therefore, you control everything.

  • You control the content, so you can be sure that it would remain with you till you choose to take it down
  • You own the domain name, so you can choose the perfect domain name and use it for branding your blog.
  • You have unlimited options open to you in terms of the look and feel of your blog – you can choose from the 1000′s of themes available, or you can hire a programmer to create a custom theme for your blog.
  • You also have unlimited freedom to extend the functionality of your blog by installing any number of free and paid plugins.

 

Advantage – Many Monetization Options

When you have a self hosted blog running on its own domain name, you have unlimited monetization options open to you. As we saw earlier, you would not be debarred from any ad network.

The option of selling your blog and making a killing also remains open, and the process of transferring the ownership of the content becomes really easy if you are running a self hosted blog.

 

Disadvantage – Some Cost

Yes, a self hosted blog has some costs associated with it. However, these days, these costs have become minimal.

  • Your first expense would be for domain name registration. However, domain name registrars like GoDaddy make it really easy and cheap for you – it starts at just $6.99 per year.
  • Your next expense would be for the web hosting of your blog. Again, good hosting service providers like HostGator and BlueHost have made reliable hosting really cheap these days – it starts at just $3.96 per month.
  • You can have some expense for a theme and plugins as well, but you can definitely start with a free theme and numerous great free plugins to minimize your starting costs.

As you can see, you can start a self hosted blog for as low as $54.51 per year – now that is hardly any cost for the benefits you get!

 

Disadvantage – Slightly More Involved

When you have a self hosted blog, you get more control. But that control comes with more work – you have to do everything on your own.

You have to install WordPress, install the theme, install the plugins… There tasks are not difficult, but yes, you might need to learn a thing or two.

However, please note that the technical knowledge required to run a self hosted blog is reducing with each passing day. If your hosting provider has a service like Fantastico available, you can install WordPress in just a few clicks. Installing themes and plugins has also reduced to just a few clicks these days, thanks to one-click installation and one-click upgrade process made available by WordPress.

 

The Verdict – Should You Choose a Free Blog or a Self Hosted Blog?

Choose a Self Hosted Blog

As you can see from the above comparison, it is clear that a self hosted blog is definitely a better choice compared to a free blog.

If your goal is to make a good name for yourself or to make money online, it is a no-brainer – a self hosted blog is the way to go.

After all, how many successful bloggers do you see running a blog on a free blogging service? Now that says a lot!

 

My Recommendations While Starting a Blog

  • Blogging Platform: Well, there is no need for any discussion here – WordPresss is the blogging platform of choice. You can download the latest version of this blogging software from WordPress.org. However, if your web host has a service like Fantastico, you don’t need to download it at all!
  • Domain Name Registration: I would recommend GoDaddy.com. They are cheap, reliable and have a excellent customer support team.
  • Hosting: Although there are many hosting providers available, I would recommend HostGator.com for reliable hosting at an affordable price.
  • Theme: You don’t have to spend on a theme when you are just starting out – there are many good free themes available. However, if you want a professional looking theme that is also search engine optimized, you can look at the Genesis theme.
  • Plugins: Again, you don’t have to spend on any plugins when you are starting out. But if you must, I would definitely recommend the SEOPressor plugin – it is an awesome SEO plugin that tells you about the changes you should make to your posts to make them rank better in search engines.

Remember, I use all these personally, and highly recommend them from my own personal experience. If you want to see all the services and tools that I use, please check out “Tools & Services Trusted And Recommended By Me“.

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My blogs are hosted reliably at HostGator

I run 20+ blogs, and each of these is hosted at HostGator. I have been using their service for a long time, and have never experienced any downtime. They also have a very responsive customer service team.
 
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