What I’ve learned as a self-hosted blog

15th March 2017
Blogging / 18 Comments

What I've learned being a self-hosted blog
What I've learned being a self-hosted blog

On Thursday it was my one year anniversary for Simply Adrift. That’s amazing! I’m so glad I’m still doing this, regardless of the blogging slump I was in over the Christmas and New Year period.

Starting my own self-hosted blog wasn’t as hard as blogging for the first time was, I already felt like I had some experience since I’ve had blogs before and a few years of running them. Making the transition to self-hosted wordpress was a lot easier, I was already familiar with the wordpress dashboard and I already had basic to medium knowledge of HTML.

What I did not have experience with however, was self-hosting and having my own self-hosted blog. You know what? I still don’t feel experienced with self-hosting. Self-hosting is pretty complicated! There are so many things that I’m still learning and I have no idea how to navigate. Half the time I feel like a fish out of water when someone mentions something, like how do I make my blog an https? I’m not 100% sure but I know it’s important. This is on my to do list.

So to commemorate my one year anniversary of Simply Adrift, I thought I would list some things I’ve learned about having a self-hosted blog over the course of this year.


I have more freedom


You have so much more freedom on a self-hosted blog compared to a blog on a free platform. You don’t have to adhere to the terms and conditions of wordpress.com or blogger.

  • If I wanted I could run my own giveaway without breaking any rules (There are restrictions on this on free platforms for giveaways – so do your research people).
  • If I wanted I could have ads on my blog to make a few cents worth of money – but I choose not to do this because personally I feel like blogs with ads are tacky.
  • I could have advertising space on my blog and have people pay me to advertise their own blogs or websites on my blog – My blog readership is no where near big enough for this.
  • I can make money from my blog if I sold products because this isn’t against any terms & conditions – For example you cannot make money on free platforms as this is completely against their terms & conditions. So if you do and you get caught, goodbye blog.
  • I can download a plugin and customise the way my blog works
  • I can edit my layout to make it look the way I want it to.

I have so much more freedom on my self-hosted blog compared to what blogs on free platforms have. I have completely free creative control on everything I post, so I just do whatever the frick I want and no one can tell me otherwise. Unless it’s against the law of course.

I love plugins


Plugins are awesome. My favourite plugin is the Ultimate Book Blogger plugin. It saves me so much time when writing book reviews! It has a review archive option so I don’t have to manually make a review archive, and I have the ‘Post to Goodreads’ extension meaning I have an option for the review to automatically post to my goodreads account too.

I also love the Broken Link Checker plugin, I find it extremely useful, if a link breaks on my blog for whatever reason it’s really easy to find it and fix it with this plugin. No broken links here.

My other plugins I constantly use are listed below:

Instagram Feed – To showcase Simply Adrifts Instagram Feed
Login Lockdown – To protect Simply Adrift from bots/hackers
CommentLuv – To share the commenter’s blog so I can visit them
Easy Content Templates – To make blog templates and access them super fast when writing a new blog post
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – Better Statistics on my WP Dashboard
Yoast SEO – I find this easier for me to focus on the SEO of each post
WP Super Cache – Caches Simply Adrift so it loads faster for repeat visitors

I don’t find I need much more than this, and to be honest even this feels like I have too many plugins for my blog! But I use them all, all the time. So I don’t see how I could cut this list down.

I learned how to code CSS


Knowing CSS or even just the basics of CSS is very important when having a self-hosted blog in my opinion.

The Wikipedia definition of CSS is: Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a style sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document written in a markup language.

What does this mean? CSS is used to code how other code such as HTML presents/looks on the screen.

For example the menu you see on the right of this post (scroll up), the grey buttons listing ‘Book Reviews’, ‘Book Discussions’, ‘Blogging Tips’ so on and so forth? That uses CSS to look that way. If the CSS wasn’t telling those links to have a grey background then it would just appear as words. I’ve also used CSS to tell the grey to turn to a darker grey when the mouse is hovering over the button, giving it a button effect.

The CSS coding I’ve used is below:

.category-button {
background: #948e8e;
color: white;
display: block;
margin-bottom: 5px;
padding: 6px 12px;
text-align: center;
transition: all 0.5s;
}
.category-button:hover {
background: #696565;
}

The above coding is listed in the ‘Custom CSS’ box of my wordpress dashboard.

Ashley from Nose Graze has this amazing CSS course. The reason I understand how CSS works is because I did this course. So I definitely recommend Ashley’s course if you’re completely new to self-hosting, or if you want to learn more about CSS and using it on your blog. Her course is worth the price and if you want to get serious about blogging this is a great place to start.

She also has some other awesome courses if you want to learn how to code your own theme and website! Check out her Girls on WordPress website where she sells all of these courses.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Ranking


I should have been more aware about SEO when I ran my other blogs.

However at those times I didn’t run my blogs to gain followers or to make money, I only ran them because I wanted to share my opinions. I had no future thoughts or plans about them. I mean I only had them as hobbies and a way to do something fun. I also feel like over the years blogs have changed and adapted.

Now that I run a self-hosted blog, I’ve realised how important SEO is if you want more people to discover your blog. And to be honest, I’ve been trying to think about Simply Adrift’s future and I have so many ideas once I get to that point.

The higher SEO ranking your blog has, the higher up your blog will appear when someone searches something in a search engine. There are many posts on the internet about how to make your SEO ranking better. I definitely do not know all of them as I still feel like I’m learning a lot.

Each blog post I post I have keywords which I try to use often throughout the post without over doing it, those keywords are also in any images titles and in the Alt tags of the images, as well as the blogs link. I write meta-descriptions for all of my posts so when they show up in search engines, the post has a description of what the page is about.

I still have a lot more to learn about this stuff but I definitely feel like I’m on the way there.

No follow & do follow links – Whaaa?


Okay, for some reason, no follow and do follow links seriously confused me at the beginning. These aren’t even specific to being self-hosted but I didn’t really know much about this HTML until I started self-hosting so I thought I would include these here. You should know about these even if your blog is on a free platform.

I had no idea what these terms were, I didn’t know where to use them, I didn’t know if I had to know about them or what the purpose of them is. To clarify, if you are apart of affiliate programs that you link to on your blog (e.g. Amazon, The Book Depository) then you need to know about no follow and do follow links, because these affiliate links can affect your SEO Ranking negatively.

The HTML attribute is a ‘relationship’ attribute and looks like this rel=”nofollow” for a no follow link, if you don’t have this in your link HTML then the link is automatically a do follow link. A full example below:

Do Follow Link: <a href="http://www.simplyadrift.com">
No Follow Link:
<a href="https://www.twitter.com" rel="nofollow">

Do Follow links allow search engine bots to follow this link, this link will have an impact on your SEO ranking. The more people that link to your website with a dofollow link you get a higher SEO ranking, because people are saying your blog has great content. Therefore, if you want to share the love with a favourite blog, when you link to them, leave them as a do follow link so the search engine bots will follow that link!

No Follow links prevent the search engine bots to follow the link and therefore this link will not have an impact on your SEO ranking.

When should you use a nofollow link?

  • When you’re linking to spam or questionable websites (But I mean, why would you link there in the first place?),
  • All affiliate links,
  • Paid links, Banner ads, Sponsored content,
  • Outgoing links in your comments,
  • Internal links to your contact page (I read somewhere that the contact page isn’t a page you want to rank so when linking there, use a nofollow link),
  • Anything you don’t want to be seen as you’re endorsing it.

When should you use a dofollow link?

  • When you want to share the love to a favourite blogger,
  • Internal linking to other pages on your blog (Just not the contact page),
  • Your social media profiles – they’re associated with your blog.

To be honest, I’m still wrapping my head around all of the above and there’s still so much more I need to learn about self-hosting.

Having a self-hosted blog has taught me a lot and I’ve discovered I really enjoy this type of stuff. Next I would like to learn how to set up mailchimp so I can set up a newsletter and have email subscribers, figure out how to use Google Analytics to my advantage, and then also figure out what on earth Google Search Console is used for. There are so many other things I want to gain more knowledge on.

Having a self-hosted blog is hard work, but it’s also fun and a hobbie that could potentially turn into a business if you decide to head down that route.

What things did you learn when you started your own self-hosted blog? Any tips you could recommend? Are you thinking about making your own blog self-hosted?

Always,
Jordon

About Jordon

Jordon Author - Simply Adrift

I'm a 27 year old New Zealander that lives in London, England, mainly so I can travel Europe easily. In my spare time I like to read, watch Netflix, drink coffee, travel & explore new places, and dance around because it makes me happy. I love meeting new people and making new friends, so don't be shy, pop on over to my social media profiles and say hi!

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18 responses to “What I’ve learned as a self-hosted blog

  1. I plan to move to a self-hosted blog one day, but at the moment I just don’t have the means. Also the prospect of moving to WordPress is kind of scary, as I’m only comfortable with Blogger, and jumping straight into WordPress.org sounds like a disaster waiting to happen… I’ve known about no follow links for while, but I’ve never had reason to use them. Are you an affiliate of any kind?
    Cassidy @ Quartzfeather recently posted…Diversity for the Win! // Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde Blog Tour + Review + GiveawayMy Profile

    • You could always start a free wordpress account just to get a feel of the wordpress dashboard! It’s super easy once you’ve had a play around, and the free wordpress and self hosted wordpress look identical. I’ve never owned a blogger blog though so I can’t say how different it is.

      I had no idea about the nofollow and dofollow links for years but then when I started Simply Adrift I kept seeing it being mentioned so I had to do some research to understand their function. I am but I keep forgetting to use them. I’ve never really had any luck with affiliate links etc.
      Jordon @ Simply Adrift recently posted…What I’ve learned as a self-hosted blogMy Profile

  2. What I appreciate the most that I’ve learned is definitely CSS and HTML. In spite of having had an awesome theme (TWEAK ME ROCKS DOESN’T IT?), in several instances, I’ve had to tweak things the old-fashioned way through code, because I’ve wanted to go crazy and do some things that weren’t available in the settings panel. So I learned so much through trial and error XD

    And a tip… I guess to not to go crazy with the plugins? I know I did! It’s just there are so many for EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN.
    Pamela recently posted…Where Publishing is Headed in the Next Five YearsMy Profile

    • Tweak Me is definitely an awesome theme, I want to change mine up sometime this year when I have more time to focus on my layout, but you can do so much with this theme! Learning things through trial and error is definitely the best way to learn!

      Yeah, I don’t have any plugins I don’t use, that was the first thing I learnt about plugins.
      Jordon @ Simply Adrift recently posted…What I’ve learned as a self-hosted blogMy Profile

  3. AGREED WITH MOST OF THIS. Though, I’ve never worried about my SEO ranking. I don’t know why, I just don’t care? oops. I don’t use keywords or alt tags for images. I also had no idea about the no follow thing which would be helpful since I use my Molly @ my blog signiture on comments. oops again. haha but I do think self-hosted is SO MUCH BETTER. I like the freedom and YES plugins!
    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook recently posted…Comment on Everything You Do Is Right Day (a discussion) by mikaela @ thewellthumbedreaderMy Profile

    • Haha well I guess your SEO ranking is only important if you care about it! Otherwise, do whatever you want lol. It’s not something you need to stress about I suppose, I’ve only just gotten into the habit of doing those extra things. I’m not sure if they’re actually making much of a difference.

      As far as I’m aware wordpress automatically has the ‘nofollow’ tag applied to any link in your comments! So you don’t need to add the nofollow tag when you link on other people’s blog. It’s pretty handy!
      Jordon @ Simply Adrift recently posted…What I’ve learned as a self-hosted blogMy Profile

  4. As someone who’s looking to self-host soon this post was definitely very helpful! I feel pretty comfortable with HTML/CSS but I don’t really know anything else hahaha. I had no idea about the no follow thing and I definitely haven’t got an understanding on SEO rankings, haha. I really want to self-host for the freedom. As a designer it’s so limiting being on WP.com sometimes. I feel super constricted. I definitely want to be able to use plug ins and JavaScript too. Thanks for a great post, Jordon ♥

    • I’m glad it was helpful!

      Self-hosting definitely gives you options and is an investment I recommend if you’re serious about blogging 😀 I love having the freedom. I feel like I haven’t used self hosting to it’s full capacity but that’s mainly because I’m still learning how things work. And because my blogging time has been reduced a lot the past month. I would love to be able to work on my blog during work hours. That’s the dream.
      Jordon @ Simply Adrift recently posted…What I’ve learned as a self-hosted blogMy Profile

  5. I feel like I understand all these things but I don’t, haha.

    I’ve done the self-hosted thing before, but not really? (Solo-wise I don’t remember it and coblogger-wise I wasn’t in control of it so really I didn’t pick up as much as you did. I just kept using the blogs as a typical WordPress site without taking full advantage of the perks of being self-hosted. It just didn’t feel necessary to me at the time.)

    I think if I were to use a self-hosted site now though, I would definitely pay more attention to all of these things. I mean, if you’re paying money for a service, you might as well use it to its fullest potential, right? Especially as it can really affect the success of your blog!

    I don’t think I’ll transition to one any time soon though. I’ve thought about it prior to launching atypicalnarrative but I feel like if I were to pay for self-hosting I’d feel the need for professionalism and that’s not really what I want my blog to be right now. You know what I mean? Like, if I’m putting money into it, I’d feel like I’d want to find a way to pull money out of it, and while that’s a possibility for down the road right now I just want to blog for the sake of blogging without thinking about finances.

    Do you feel that going the self-hosted route makes you feel the need to be more professional with this blog? Like, do you feel a need to think about the money side of things since you’re putting money into it? I feel like it’s such a silly thing that my mind focuses on it so much now since it didn’t bother me with previous blogs, but now I can’t help but think about it. (I guess part of the blame is the fact I’m unemployed right now though, so any expense needs to be justified for me to feel comfortable.)

    Anyways, congrats again on the year of blogging! I’m glad it’s been a good one for you! 🙂
    Asti || atypicalnarrative recently posted…I admit it, I have man hairsMy Profile

    • That’s fair enough! Co-blogger wise you didn’t have to worry about it.

      Yeah, I completely understand what you mean.

      I feel like my whole end game is to make something of Simply Adrift, to turn it into something that could produce revenue. That was what I had in mind when I started this. So when I started Simply Adrift professionalism was already a given. However in saying that, I do think it depends on your niche and on your readers. I try and put my personality into Simply Adrift so I don’t always think about professionalism but I don’t feel like I’ve ever crossed an unprofessional line. This space is my space.

      While for the time being I’ve put money into Simply Adrift and haven’t gotten any back out of it, it doesn’t bother me because I really love this space. I’m still trying to figure out ways of making something more of Simply Adrift so it doesn’t feel like an expense to worry about. If that makes sense!
      Jordon @ Simply Adrift recently posted…Revenger: A solid Sci-FiMy Profile

  6. So many congratulations on a year of blogging, dear Jordon – what an incredible accomplishment! I couldn’t agree more that self-hosting holds so much more freedom than free hosting; for that reason alone I wouldn’t go back to free hosting, not to mention all of the other lovely perks that come along with self-hosting (hello, complete control over my blog + peace of mind that a company can’t shut it down!). SEO is a tough beast to handle, but it’s one that I plan to research much more into very soon – thank you so much for the introduction to that, & for sharing your thoughts in general. Wonderful post. <3
    Topaz (Six Impossible Things) recently posted…Little Horoscopes for MarchMy Profile

    • Thank you Topaz!

      I agree, now that I’ve had a taste of being self hosted I could never go back to free hosting! Self hosting opens up a whole lot more opportunities and thus more ideas. I love it!

      I definitely have so much more to learn but I’m enjoying learning all of these things. I just wish I had more time to learn them!
      Jordon @ Simply Adrift recently posted…How to write kick-ass content for your blogMy Profile

  7. You basically listed everything! The freedom and the plugins are amazing, the fact that you can customize your blog and do whatever you want it’s great and something free hosting doesn’t allow. I only moved my blog from free to self hosted when I was sure I new what it took and it was a hard thing to do since I had been blogging for years and the move wasn’t easy but amost a year later and it’s the best thing I could have done for my blog. Great post!
    Kei @ The Lovely Pages Reviews recently posted…THESE FANDOMS ARE CONSUMING MY LIFE RIGHT NOWMy Profile

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