5 reasons why self-hosted blogs are still the best way to blog
If you decide to start a blog of your own, it all starts with where the blog is physically hosted. A "self-hosted" blog means you have your own dot-com/net/org/whatever, you physically installed the blog engine on your web site, configure it, update it yourself, etc. Is it a pain in the ass to do? Yes, but I have 5 good reasons why it's a good thing to do.
Small note: When I refer to "freebie" blog hosters, I'm referring to services like Blogger, Windows Live Spaces, WordPress.com (but not WordPress.org), and so on.
1. No flag button.
The flag button is something that to the best of my knowledge is on every freebie blog hoster.
What it means in a nutshell is this: "You can post anything you want, but if enough people complain about you, you'll be shut down."
That stupid flag button - which is on every single blog post you make on a freebie - forces you to adjust your content style just so that people don't literally flag you off. That's stupid.
2. You can run any ad service you want.
Let's say your blog has gained a decent following and you want to install an ad service to make a few bucks from the traffic. On a self-hosted blog, you can run any ad service you want. AdBrite, Google AdSense, whatever, doesn't matter. Your hoster doesn't care as long as it's not pornographic. On the freebie blogs, you either can't run any ads at all, or they do offer it but you only get one choice, and of course its their ad system so they get a piece of the pie and you have to play by their rules to boot.
3. You can sell anything you want.
Something that's widely unknown about freebie blog hosters is that on many it's outright forbidden to sell anything on them. Maybe after gaining a following you want to publish a book, so you sign up a CreateSpace or Lulu account, upload your book, set a price, then post a link to it on your blog. You might be able to get away with this for a while, but if the freebie blog hoster admins see it, boom, your blog is gone.
Ridiculous? Yes. But they don't want you to use their free service as an engine to make you any money without them getting some of it, and this includes the prohibiting of selling anything.
I should point out that posting things like one-time eBay links are fine, but if you're attempting to sell something with any sort of regularity business-style, that will raise the eyebrows of the freebie hoster quickly and they will step in to shut you down.
4. You can run anything you want.
The way in which a freebie hoster works is to only offer a very limited set of options as to what you can do with your blog. It is the definition of a caged environment. Want to install plugins? Want to install custom themes? Want to install a forum alongside your blog? You'll get a big fat no, no and no on those with the freebie hosters.
Most of the freebies do, of course, offer paid ways of enabling certain features and other stuff, but the sad truth is that by the time you've enabled everything you want, you will have spent more than you would have with a cheap 5-buck-a-month paid host.
The best way to realize how much the freebies screw you over with their paid offerings is to do some quick math using annual figures.
A cheap 5-buck-a-month hoster like this one is $60 yearly + domain registration free. At most you'll be paying around $75 yearly when it's all put together.
When you add in all the stuff you want to do with the paid options on a freebie hoster, I guarantee it will exceed that amount for the year. Sure, when you look at the feature list you'll see little prices. $15 for this, $20 for that, another $10 for that, and so on. Add all those up. Then realize that even if you bought every single feature in the list, you still don't have the freedom a true self-hosted blog has.
5. Having a self-hosted blog enables a whole bunch of stuff besides the blog itself.
Here's a very, very short list of some of the things you can do on a self-hosted web site:
- Have multiple blogs on multiple domains.
- Have custom email addresses with email@example.com.
- Have an infinite about of forwarding email addresses.
- Have a shopping cart system.
- Run a forum.
- Have NO ADS ANYWHERE, EVER - unless you choose to put them in to make money for yourself.
- Have access to install tons and tons of different stuff.
I could make a five-page list and beyond, but you get the idea. With self-hosted stuff, a blog is only one of many things you can do with your own web site.
Whether you choose to be a personal or problogger, do the self-hosted thing. Yes, it costs money, but anything that's worth doing will require an investment of some kind. Also bear in mind that the investment also requires time. You will be required to learn the basics of PHP, MySQL, possible some graphics editing and so on. If that scares you, it should, but know that the end result is totally worth it because you have total control.