Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate. Author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. Former trade newspaper editor.
One of the issues that confuses many new bloggers is hosting. Some don't realize what their options are. Due to their lack of knowledge, some newbies make poor decisions about where their blogs will be hosted—in other words, living!—on the Internet which can impact their blogging future.
What is a Hosted Blog?
A hosted blog is a blog site that is technically owned by someone other than the blogger. The host blog will house the blogs of many writers, although the level of separateness from the host will vary.
In some cases, the blog is a stand alone site that is merely supported by the host. Examples of these sites would be a WordPress.com blog (not to be confused with WordPress.org which will be discussed later) and Blogger.
In other cases, the blog is part of a larger overall blog site, with the blogger's work being housed inside it. HubPages.com is an example of this type of site. On it, bloggers have an individual profile page, but all posts and articles are part of a larger whole.
Lower Cost. Usually the host site absorbs many, if not all, of the costs of hosting and maintenance for its bloggers. This is offered in exchange for the blogger's participation and content which can attract web traffic. The host site avoids having to pay for content development and can realize advertising revenues from ads hosted on site.
Potential for Share of Advertising Revenues. Some hosted blog sites offer a share of advertising revenues to their bloggers, others don't. For those that do, splits of revenues vary from site to site.
Lower Learning Curve for Managing Content. Usually these host sites offer a variety of content creation and management tools that are easy to learn and use. This helps the host by facilitating the development of quality content which, in turn, facilitates greater advertising revenues for themselves.
Traffic Analysis May be Shared. Blogs live and die by the traffic and advertising revenues they generate. So hosts collect a lot of data on the blogs and bloggers they support. Sometimes hosts share some (but maybe not all) data on traffic patterns, keywords, and search analysis with their bloggers. But they are not required to share this information and bloggers may need to do their own analyses.
No Separate Identity. On hosted blog sites, the name of the blogger or the blog is appended to the name of the host. For example, [blog name].wordpress.com. This is awkward for marketing purposes. A workaround that many bloggers use is to purchase a unique domain name and simply forward the domain to their hosted blog URL. However, this increases costs.
Low Level of Control. Bloggers may have little control over the structure and appearance of their hosted blogs. Worse is that it is also possible that a hosted site could close, leaving bloggers' content in limbo or loss.
Moving Content May be Difficult to Impossible and Time Consuming. If a hosted blogger decides he wants more control over his blog's fate, he may choose to move his hosted content over to a self hosted site. First issue he'll face is that the existing fans may not realize the blog has moved and he will lose followers (another reason why some bloggers choose to purchase a unique domain name and URL which forwards to the blog's hosted "home" on the web). Some hosts may even prohibit that action altogether since they assume ownership of the blog content. ALWAYS CHECK THE HOST SITE'S TERMS OF SERVICE FOR COPYRIGHT OWNERSHIP BEFORE SIGNING ON!
No Control Over Advertising Content. Bloggers on hosted sites have no control over what ads are shown on their profiles or posts. Ads that are not appropriate or those of competitors could be shown.
Inability to Contract with Advertisers. The blogger is typically prohibited from running ads on the host site, and may be very limited in terms of what self promotion is allowed.
Businesses May Be Prohibited from Using Hosted Sites. Some hosted blog sites prohibit use of their services by for-profit businesses, including for-profit blogging. They reason that a business can generate their own revenue and shouldn't need support for their content marketing efforts. Check the host site's terms of service to verify prohibited uses.
What is a Self-Hosted Blog?
As the name implies, a self hosted blog is hosted by the blogger himself (or herself). This means that he will assume all costs and risks associated with hosting and maintaining it.
Self hosted blogs may use one of the popular blog platforms such as WordPress.org, Drupal, and Joomla. These platforms merely provide the software for the site's structure and content development functions. Platforms such as WordPress are "open source," meaning that they are built with the collaboration of many developers on a free basis. But that may be all that is free since these platforms provide no hosting whatsoever. Hosting and domain names are purchased through Internet registrar and hosting companies (e.g., GoDaddy, Bluehost, etc.).
Once the basic platform software is loaded, all hosting, content development, management, and risk is the responsibility of the blogger. However, there are significant advantages of a self hosted blog.
Greater Control. Self hosted blogs are not subject to whims of host sites. Bloggers can control every aspect of the site including software, structure, look, domain name, content, and future!
Opportunity to Make an Income from Advertising and Sponsorships. Making money is why most bloggers start blogging in the first place! When the blogger controls the site, he can realize ALL of the revenues from advertising and sponsorships. As well, he can choose his own advertisers and sponsors.
Ownership. Except for the blogging software (such as WordPress, Drupal, etc.) used, the content of the blog is owned by the blogger to do with as he or she sees fit, including repurposing it into other works.
Higher Cost. The first cost a self hosted blog incurs is hosting the domain. In addition to the domain name registration, the blog hosting will also incur a cost. This can run into hundreds of dollars a year. And these costs will go on as long as the blog exists. If an outside contractor is hired to manage the blog, it can get even more expensive, sometimes into the hundreds or thousands of dollars each year.
Responsibility for Management Can Be Time Consuming. Maintaining the blog in terms of comments, plugins (enhancements to the blogging software), traffic analysis, advertising, content development... the list goes on and on. This can be costly in terms of time.
Which is Better?
Actually, both hosted and self hosted bloggers can be successful. It all depends on the goals of the individual blogger. Many "hobby" bloggers who are blogging for fun or to connect with other like-minded folks, may be more drawn to a hosted blog opportunity. Those that may be blogging as a business itself, or as part of an overall content marketing program, may be more inclined to use self hosting to have more control over the business aspects of the site. Plus, as discussed earlier, for-profit blogging may be prohibited on hosted blog sites.
One thing is for sure. Know the pros and cons of each option BEFORE signing on!
Why I Moved Back to a Hosted Blog... But Maybe Not Forever
I started my blogging career as many bloggers do on WordPress.com, the hosted version of WordPress. Since I wasn't too sure about this whole adventure, it provided an easy way to get started in the blogosphere at low cost. I actually liked it until blogging became more integral to my business goals of gaining revenues from advertising.
So I moved my blog over to the self hosted WordPress.org platform. I featured Google AdSense ads and blatantly promoted my promotions business since I now owned the right to do so! I also started an additional blog on a related marketing topic. After about four years, I closed both blogs. Costs to maintain, in both time and hard dollars, were not getting covered by the pittance in advertising revenues generated. Plus, my business focus had changed which made it counterproductive to continue.
What to do now? I still wanted to have a home for my blog content which was popular and getting web traffic. I saw a tweet about a hosted blog site where writers could maintain their copyrights to content, plus get a share of advertising revenues. So I moved my blogging operation there.
Of course, I had to rebuild traffic to any posts I republished on the new site. It has proved to be a good move that allowed me to connect with a new audience. Even though the advertising revenue isn't stellar, all the backend tech maintenance and cost is absorbed by the host site. So, except for my time to write posts (which I would have expended even if I kept my self hosted blog), my blog is in the black, instead of in the red.
But will I stay here for the rest of my blog career? I'm not sure. The host site could change or close, requiring me to again make a hosted or self hosted decision. Monitoring of my results, compared with my current business objectives, will be the key determining factor.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Heidi Thorne
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 22, 2020:
You're so welcome, Dale! I would feel weird about sharing anything other than real world experience and observation. I see the "academics" or "gurus" all the time and just shake my head. Sad thing is that people believe them.
Appreciate you reading the post and commenting! Have a great day!
Dale Anderson from The High Seas on September 21, 2020:
This was good. It's always nice to get real feedback from people that actually have experience rather than 'academics' who want to share their theories with you. Thanks for sharing this.
Tammy Winters from Oregon on August 31, 2020:
You too Heidi!
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 31, 2020:
You're welcome, Tammy! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Have a great week!
Tammy Winters from Oregon on August 30, 2020:
Great info... Thanks for sharing
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 19, 2020:
Thanks for reading and the kind words, Shikha! Have a great day!
Shikha Vashisth on June 15, 2020:
Nice post. I agree with you.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 18, 2019:
Hi, John! I agree that going the hosted route is a good way to test the blogging waters. I did that early on and was glad for the experience, even though I did move to a self hosted situation later.
Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! Have a great day!
JOHN MULINDI from Nairobi-Kenya on January 18, 2019:
I think a Hosted blog is good for new bloggers to gain some experience in blogging, then they can move to self hosting, which may require more on the part of the blogger especially with regard to blog maintenance and upkeep.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 01, 2017:
Well, billybuc, they were two posts that were tightly integrated and I wanted to get them out of my head and on to the web before I lost my train of thought. I hope it helps any writers you share it with. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a terrific day!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 01, 2017:
I continue to fall behind and you pick this week for two posts? Thanks a lot, friend! LOL Seriously great information here, and I know quite a few writers who need this information....and I always benefit from your wisdom. Thanks a bunch, Heidi, and Happy Thursday to you.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 01, 2017:
Flourish, glad you found it helpful. I have been able to get some greater insight on my HP experience by connecting it to my Google Analytics account. In fact, it's way, way interesting! For example, I learned that I was getting traffic from Pinterest. I'm barely on Pinterest. But people are pinning my hubs. Go figure.
In all honesty, I believe there is still some money to be made from blogging... just not what it once was. This is, as you note, due to too many blogs. But it's also due to constant changes with Google and paradigm shifts in advertising (no banner ads, ad blockers, more emphasis on influencer marketing, etc.). So if I've helped even one newbie blogger go into it with eyes wide open as to the costs, I've accomplished something.
Thanks, as always, for adding your thoughts and insight to the conversation! Have a beautiful day!
FlourishAnyway from USA on May 31, 2017:
This was very helpful. It's unfortunate that HP doesn't share keyword and other relevant information. They should at least do it as an editing experiment. With all the blogs out there is there still money to be made self-hosting a blog? The costs seem to go on and on.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 31, 2017:
Hi Venkatachari! Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!
Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on May 31, 2017:
Very informative and useful article for all writers and bloggers which will help them in choosing their correct platform.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 31, 2017:
Elizabeth, in simplest terms, self hosted means that you pay for and control all aspects of the blog, including tech maintenance. With hosted sites (like this HubPages site) you do not. It looks like you just joined HubPages a few hours ago. After you've been here a while, I think the difference will become clearer.
Elizabeth000 on May 30, 2017:
I still don't know what self hosted blog means please could you make it easier ?