Why you should NOT move your blog to a self-hosted site

There’s a military saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy… My plan had been to roll out a new website as my author platform, incorporating my existing blog with a whole bunch of extra stuff that I’ve got planned for the future. I want to make the leap from being an online poet to a professional writer, and an all-in-one, all-singing, all-dancing website was part of this.

Well, that was the plan.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

I’d done my research beforehand. Numerous “why you should self-host” articles were consumed… Almost all, incidentally, with affiliate links to self-hosting services (I’ve no problem with this, to be clear – but it’s not an impartial sample, and means that people have made choices that are right for them, and have commented accordingly. They may not be right for you.)

Own your own site.
Room to expand.
WordPress could shut you down at any moment, if the urge took them.
It’s the only way you’ll be taken seriously as a business.
It’s the only way you’ll make money.

It’s exactly what I wanted to hear. My impending redundancy from my job has sharpened my mind about what I want to do in the future, about what I need to do, and ultimately how I put food on my family’s table.

I jumped in with both feet.

 

And then the problems began.

You see, what I hadn’t realised was HOW my readers were accessing my site.

The numbers of people following my site has been growing gradually over my 18 months of blogging to date. Between WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, I have over 2500 followers. I know there are other sites around with far larger followings, and many amazing sites with far fewer (which always baffles me). I’m talking numbers not to brag, but for context.

Of this number, I have a small but vocal minority who regularly take the time and trouble to read, like and comment on my stuff. They are generous with their praise… sometimes they are a little batshit crazy too, but I LOVE that!

(If you’re wondering if this last comment applies to you, by the way, the answer is already yes 🙂 )

I love the energy and the banter.

This interaction is becoming ever more important to me, and my only regret is not having the hours in the day to reciprocate fully on their sites. On your site.

Along the way, I guess I changed from being a compulsive (if middling) poet, to a blogger who happens to be a writer/poet too.

I am a blogger.

I am also a writer.

Then the rollout of the new site hit a speedbump… A sizeable proportion of my followers (although not all) were relying heavily on WordPress Reader to access my site.

They would read my posts, hit “like” (hopefully), and be able to comment (even better), all through the Reader. I always reply to every comment (at least a like), and enjoyed the little chats that sparked off these. The little back-and-forths of wordplay, puns, jokes, anecdotes, lives shared, support offered.

Souls touching, though oceans divide us.

I know owners of other sites who bemoan the lack of comments or interaction on their sites. I am blessed to have this, and don’t take it for granted.

Then I learnt that, although posts from the new site appeared in WP Reader, and people could like them, they could not make or view the comments.

Although the new site is WordPress hosted, this does NOT mean that it’s the same as having a WordPress blog. (That had been my understanding… big learning curve this week.)

People could still leave comments by visiting the site directly, but they wouldn’t get notified of my replies unless checking back in manually.

The back-and-forth element was gone, shuffled off, gone to meet its maker.

Some lovely people persevered regardless, manually checking in. I am not sure I would have the time to do that on anyone else’s blog, so would not ask that of anyone either.

There is no workaround for this. No plug-in to fix the problem. (I contacted WordPress directly to check – their ridiculously titled “happiness engineers” are actually very helpful, even to the technically-challenged like myself.)

There are some other factors in there too.

I hadn’t expected to lose the little green follow button in the bottom right corner… Or the blue “following” icon in WordPress (I found a site claiming to have found a way to set one up… Hours later, it simply didn’t work)…

The emphasis with self-hosted sites is on building up the all-important email list, rather than these “softer” forms of following. Don’t get me wrong, I have plans for that email list, but in my head it’s a different beast to the daily output on here. It needs to be something that warrants the extra effort of jumping through the hoops of filling in your name and email, because I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.

Losing those easy ways to connect is a big thing for me, even if it slows down building up an email list to hawk my wares.

(You are going to buy my stuff, right? Bags of it. Wondering what to get your partner for your anniversary? My stuff. That perfect last minute Christmas gift? Yep, more from me. A leaving gift for that guy at work you never really liked? That too. Right?)

This blogger is starting to paddle in the marketer’s sea, but I’m doing it my own way. The way that feels right to me.

One thing that I really hadn’t expected was for there to be fewer WordPress options at start-up, when going self-hosted. For example, I couldn’t replicate my existing blog theme, and there were only a small number of free theme options. This may be a case of the blind man wandering into the new kingdom and not understanding what he sees – there are scores of plug-ins for almost every situation, for one – but first impressions were … guarded. This place just wants my money…

Maybe if my blog had fewer followers or commenters, or I’d done this a year ago, all of this would be less of an issue. No point in regrets or what-ifs – I need to deal with what’s right for me, right now.

So those plans, two sites in one, have had to change.

Two into one don’t go.

Maybe part of the problem is me wanting two fundamentally different things at the same time – the static site plus the dynamic blog; the “hey look at me” with the “hey talk to me“. Software is good , but people are always more complicated.

I need to respect my writer yin and blogger yang.

The two sites will remain as two entities, bridged by a workaround that I’ll blog about separately. (Go to the main site – http://www.alistairlanewrites.com/ – and click on “Al’s Blog” at the top. See what happens. Cool, eh? That took me half a day to work out!)

The writer site will develop slowly as I learn more about how I can use that, and present myself best. I’ll post some longer articles there, less often – maybe a couple of times a month at most. I hope some of the readers of this will take the time to go and check it out…

(Hey, most of you have been dragged that side and back already, like a reluctant child on a family trip to a stately home… Sorry ’bout all that. And in case you’re wondering, I’ve now transferred all of my followers back to this blog – courtesy of WordPress again being helpful.)

This blog has been given a stay of execution, and will live on, changing and growing all the time.

Thank you for being, and continuing to be, a part of this journey with me.

Now, who wants to chat below the line? 🙂

 

7688812482_1f9aa2b6f2_z

Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/davidkingham/7688812482

Advertisements

126 thoughts on “Why you should NOT move your blog to a self-hosted site

  1. Whew! Learning as you go. Anything worth something requires some hard work. I’m taking some time off writing, but staying in touch with what interest me. I appreciate your thought & care for the reader.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Al, I have a WordPress blog on a self-hosted site (with Bluehost) and have the Hemingway theme. Isn’t that the one you have? I can do anything I want on the site with plugins or whatever they are called. Now, I have to add that I started from scratch, so no followers to move and I had my husband (IT “specialist”) to help. It is all very technical and I am sorry to hear that you struggled so hard trying to merge the sites. As my husband says: everything has been made too complicated for the average person to use, from computers to websites to phones. Companies try to be smarter than everyone else, but often that is to our disadvantage when we want to simplify things… Or, when we are in an area with sketchy Internet.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I forgot to say that I – and I don’t think I use the WordPress reader since I don’t have a WordPress.com blog – could mark a button to get notified of new comments on your other blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do get notified of most comments in the reader… have no idea why some don’t get flagged, or arbitrarily blocked. Hopefully just teething problems.

      Incidentally, this barrier also applies for comments I make on external self-hosted sites – I don’t get notified in my reader if you reply (so apologies if it seems I’ve just walked out of a conversation over at yours!). I get enough emails in a day as it is, so prefer not to check that box for an email notification when comments are made. Unless I remember to manually go and check back on all the comments I make on other blogs, this means conversations are very limited.

      If I had the knowledge from this post at the start of the week, I’d have still got the self-hosted site, but I’d have just saved myself some time and frustration in how it was set-up, and what I was trying to achieve with it.

      Now… back to haiku silliness!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey, you had me at the pika! Yes, that cute little screaming fellow is a pika (and you indirectly 😄).

    Wow…I never knew that self hosting after you already have a following would be such a pain. I merely redirected my domain name to this blog (well, one of my domain names…the other points to my website which is hosted by Weebly).

    I’m so glad this blog is back for now!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so glad I’m technologically disabled. That bit of self-awareness kept me from ever considering a self-hosted site. So, I’m figuring that I don’t need to do anything on my end – just watch your blog pop up in my reader or email, right? Thanks for the lesson in what not to do! Ha ha. Have a great weekend 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Sorry it didn’t work out as well as you would have liked. I found the same to be true when I tried it once also with another blog I had. And.. I ended up doing exactly as you are doing keeping both blogs😊. Best wishes to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, I always was able to see your comments to me in my reader, but had to go to your site to reply. It was a bit of an effort, but for you and your humour… what one wouldn’t do 😉

    I laughed at your comment that if I was wondering whether it applied to me, then it did. So I guess you understand me pretty well. Batshit crazy is as good a description as any 🙂

    As for the chance of WP closing your site… I think it applies more to people like me. And I made sure the risks were as low as possible by hiding it from searches. People who do find me had heard about me before hand and came looking for me, knowing what to expect. It means that my number of followers is not even a tenth of yours, but… I don’t have to worry that a random person accessing my site will feel compelled to report me to WP. I already reported myself, they know exactly what to expect 🙂

    Yes, blogging is tricky, and a website offers less opportunities for feedback. I’m not sure I’ll get to see your articles now that you’ve brought us all back here. Maybe I’ll try and sign up for emails when I have more time to read 🙂

    Look on the bright side of this: you learnt something this week. That’s all we can hope in life 🙂
    XO

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh Al. I am really sorry that it hasn’t worked out the way you anticipated. I have gone the self-hosting route for exactly the same reasons as you, and am halfway through the move already.
    I will still be over to your blog regardless of where it is and commenting as usual. I really hope everything gets sorted out soon x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Really petrtinent post for me.
    Im in the same boat, wanting to retain followers but have a self hosting site with all the plugins at my disposal. This blog version ia fantastix but i yearn for .org
    Or do i?
    Youve highlighted the issue of self hosting. And frankly im happy as is for now. Yeah it is crap not having traffic boosting plugin, but maybe its not so bad?

    Youve help allay my fears over sticking with WP blog. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Short version of my parallel self-torturing trip last year. 1. Created The Obligatory Eponymous Author Site in Squarespace, Pretty cool, I thought. 2. Used it for a new 12-month blog called Boot Camp for the Bonus Years. Pretty cool, I thought … except nobody came. Ever. 3. Watched my writing buddy set up in WordPress and gather followers and comments within weeks. 4. Swallowed pride and started a WordPress-hosted blog. 5. Grew to love the active, friendly, brainy WordPress community and even plan to host an online course there. (What!!!?) Meanwhile The Obligatory Eponymous Author Site languishes in all its groovy glory over in Squarespace land, just too cool for school. Like you, I’m keeping them both, but but but (as my mother would say) But really!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sorry to hear about the problems you’ve encountered, Al. I’ve never considered going self-hosted, but if I ever do then I’ll remember the problems you’ve highlighted.
    I do know quite a few bloggers who have gone self-hosted and from what I can see, all seems well. I’ve never trusted the WP Reader or their notifications box (in the top right-hand corner of my blog). I’ve witnessed missing posts on the reader (even my own) and comments that never appear in the notifications box. I stick to email notifications. I know it blocks up the inbox, but ,at least, I know I’m getting everything, and that makes me happy. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for sharing your experiences! The downsides you listed was what has always deterred me from even thinking about self-hosted (other thing everything being so damn pricey…), and I always found it very strange that I read article upon article, post upon post, that had no such concerns.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Oloriel – this was exactly why I wrote this! It is an expensive option, and for the committed, engaged blogger, they need to hear a more balanced account before going into it, if it’s right for them

      Liked by 1 person

  13. You poor dear, at least it seems as though maybe the storm clouds have cleared out over your house for now. I get it, and if I were you I would have probably thrown my computer out the window if…you know, I didn’t need it and whatnot. I am also highly offended by this post. Just putting that out there. I guess I’ll have to thank-you later for telling me of some of these pitfalls. It’s why I gave up trying to have my blog on my own business website as well. Carry on sir, carry on. Sending flowers.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Up until now I thought it was my fault, having trouble with those who changed to self-hosted sites. I usually read most postings via email. If I want to read more I then go to the site. ALL non-WordPress hosted sites take far too long to load – and there are usually over 100 emails to get through. So I try to avoid those WordPress blogs not hosted by WordPress!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not you at all… I don’t even bother to read 90% of blogspot blogs that I come across now, as the system throws a hissy fit if I try and leave a comment, and there’s no way to leave a simple “like” to show that you’ve enjoyed something. Blogging is all about engagement, and if we can’t engage…

      Thanks for your comment, Bruce

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This is simply superb post and I share most of your experience. Previously I had self-hosted wordpress website and blog (not poetry related) and I know how is hard to get noticed among billions of similar blogs. You really have to have a fantastic SEO done in order to overcome this. It’s true that websites like these are maybe not looking that professional, but in my opinion nothing can’t replace the community that is forming here, and how people are eager to further share posts through social media. As bloggers we should never neglect that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Maja. The challenge for me is that I want the professional looking, self-hosted site, but I also want the engagement of the blogging community. I am going to try and develop my self-hosted site over the longer term with blogger interviews and articles on blogging/writing, but unfortunately the way that WordPress operates means that I will need to keep the two separate, as I don’t want to lose what I’m building on my blog

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi. Commenting here to prove that I did follow you (back?) after your self-hosting combustion. I’m hoping my site works as well as I set it up to. Time and followers (hopefully!) will be the unwitting guinea pigs as I tweak and caress my website to sparkling perfection.

    Oh, the writer who dares to dream!

    Diana
    @dianahirsch from
    D.W. Hirsch

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just replied to you on t’other side! I’m running both self-hosted and the free WordPress blog. I’m going to use the self-hosted for less frequent, longer posts, and the free blog for the daily poetry. That seems to play to the “strengths” of both sides!
      Keep on dreaming. Always 🙂

      Like

  17. Very interesting post. As someone who has a self-hosted site that I don’t use (just pay the fee to keep it registered every couple of years!), I’ve often thought about moving my blog over. But couldn’t quite be arsed…I knew it would be tricky as your experience proves!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Barb, thanks for commenting. If you have a reasonable level of engagement on your blog as it stands, then your “can’t-be-arsed-ness” might be the best approach… I think there are strengths and weaknesses on either side of the self-hosting/ blog approach… glad to have provided some affirmation for you! 🙂

      Like

  18. I think if you just get the upgrade package from WordPress, it’s kind of the best of both worlds. You get the dot wordpress removed from your url, more customizations, and you still retain all the fun functions of the standard WP blog, like the follow button, reader, and all that.

    Like you said, it’s about finding what works best for you. 🙂 Best of luck on your search!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did look at that briefly, but it seemed to be sniffily dismissed by the “you should self-host” lobby… I was also looking to change my url… I think I probably agree with you now, but I’ve already paid out for the self-hosting. Ain’t hindsight a wonderful thing!

      Thanks for stopping to comment x

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is dismissed by the self-host lobby. I never understood why – it’s not like they know what works best for a person or their blog, right? For me, for the amount of headache and cost that self-hosting is, I think I’d stick with the WP package thing. You may still be able to get a partial refund on your self-host package.

        Hindsight – yeah, she’s a brat sometimes, lol. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m really glad I found this post, I’ve been toying with the idea of moving for some time now in order to keep up with the pack and grow my numbers. So many things to consider plugins, monetisation, ads, hostings… my brain is fried and I don’t have enough hours in the day to focus on this aspect at all as much as I would love to. Its nice to find someone who is open to sharing the downfalls they found, they are such simple ones, but I like the WordPress Reader myself (it’s handy in the office). As is the liking and commenting function. Looking forward to checking out more of your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment 🙂 I wrote this post largely as most blogs on this topic were all saying the same thing – you must self-host, you must self-host… well, it’s not without its challenges, and might not be appropriate for everyone. I still haven’t worked out how to use my self-hosted site, and tend to do everything through the free site (this one).

      If you do work out how to keep up with the pack and grow your numbers, feel free to share that! 🙂

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s