If you’re starting a blog one of the first choices you will have to make is whether you should have a free hosted blog or a self-hosted blog.
Choosing a blogging platform can be hard, especially if you’re just getting started.
There are many blogging or website building platforms available and the choice can be confusing.
Most people will probably tell you to start a self-hosted blog and but why?
After all, there are free hosted options available, so why not go for one of those?
You will discover what’s the best solution in this post. You will also find the pros and cons of each and I will give you my recommendation.
This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. For more information visit my disclosure page.
What is a Free Hosted Blog?
A hosted or a free hosted platform is free to sign up and open an account. Your website is hosted by the platform and you have to abide by their rules and limits. You will usually have a free subdomain name such as yourwebsite.blogspot.com.
If you want your own top-level domain, yourwebsite.com, this is usually a paid option.
Some free platforms also display ads and you are not permitted to make money, although this varies from platform to platform.
Some Popular Free Blogging Platforms
Offers a free hosting service and is easy to get started. Uses the WordPress software, but can get expensive if you want to use your website to make money.
The free service gives you a wordpress.com subdomain, different themes to choose from, access to the community forums, 3GB of storage space and WordPress.com advertising on your website. You are not allowed to earn money from a free site.
Blogger, also known as Blogspot, is a free blogging platform owned by Google. You just need an account with Google to get started.
Once signed up you have a small selection of themes, a blogspot.com subdomain, and you have up to 15GB of storage (if you need more space you can upgrade to Google One and have 100GB for $20 per year). You can monetize your blog with AdSense.
To get started you sign up with an email address, password, and username. Once signed up you can choose from a selection of themes and change the colors and fonts, your domain name will be a tumblr.com subdomain. You can use a Tumblr blog to earn money with ads (AdSense or similar) or affiliate marketing. Tumblr is also a social network and you can connect to other subscribers blogs.
- Website builders
There are also several website builders that let you install a free website, such as Wix and Weebly. Very easy to get started but they have very little storage space, show ads and your domain name will be a subdomain. However, you can add affiliate links and you have access to their support.
- SiteRubix (a WordPress site builder)
SiteRubix allows you to build 2 free websites and is very easy to get started using their site builder. You have thousands of themes to choose from, there are some restrictions on the plugins you can use and you will have a siterubix.com subdomain. You can use the blog for earning money and there is adequate storage space.
Some added advantages with this platform are the free lessons you get to set up your blog and support from the friendly community of thousands of internet marketers.
Pros and Cons of Free Blogging Platforms
- Free and easy to get started
- Easy to manage
- Useful for beginners who are not tech savvy
- Hosting included, no need to worry about security and speed
- Most free platforms have support forums or extensive knowledge bases
- Your blog can be shut down or suspended whenever the platform decides
- You don’t own your blog domain name
- Limited tools for customization
- A subdomain name is long and hard to remember
- Some platforms don’t allow you to make money
- Your blog may look unprofessional
- Some free platforms show ads
- Many free platforms have limited storage, which is largely insufficient when you need images and videos for your blog posts
- Subdomains may not rank as well as TLDs
- It might be difficult to transfer your blog to another host
Who Are Free Blogging Platforms For?
In my opinion, free blogging platforms are great for people who want to make a personal blog, blog about their hobby or showcase some photos. Although even for a relatively simple blog you could run into storage limitations.
If you hope to make a little money from your blog then choose Blogger or Tumblr, as they allow display ads. Wix, Weebly or SiteRubix allow affiliate marketing and display ads.
However, being accepted for Google AdSense can be difficult for a subdomain. The exception is, of course, Blogger who are part of the Google family.
In general, if you hope to make money from your blog then choose a self-hosted option.
So, the first thing to do is to decide what your blog will be used for. If it has anything to do with an existing business or you intend to make it a business (with affiliate marketing or e-commerce) then a free blog won’t cut it.
On the other hand, if it’s a personal blog with a few photos and videos then a free option could be fine.
You don’t have a budget?
You may be reading this and the idea of earning money from a blog sounds good but you don’t have a budget or aren’t sure if you’re cut out for blogging.
In that case, I recommend that you start with one of the platforms that allow you to start a free blog using the WordPress software. Either WordPress.com or SiteRubix.com.
Choose WordPress.com and as you progress you will be enticed to upgrade. Buy a domain name, get more storage space or to remove the ads. Don’t do this!
In a while, you will be in a position where you need to upgrade again and then again.
This can become expensive and you will still have restrictions.
If you do decide to continue, it’s best to get your own hosting as soon as possible. It only costs $3 to $8 per month.
The other choice mentioned above is SiteRubix. This site building platform is part of the Wealthy Affiliate training platform and allows you to create 2 FREE WordPress blogs.
If you’ve never started a website or blog, the advantage of this platform is that you get some free lessons on setting up your site.
Not only that but if you intend creating a business you get some training on choosing your niche, creating content and keyword selection.
Yes, there are some limitations on the plugins you can use and you have a siterubix.com subdomain.
However, this would be my choice for starting you can keep your free subdomain as long as you like. And the free training thrown in is invaluable.
Start with either of these 2 alternatives, get some experience with WordPress, get used to the dashboard and writing content. Then you’re ready or when you have some money you can switch over to a self-hosted blog.
Why use WordPress software?
If you start with another site builder and you will have to learn how to use their editor. Then when you change to WordPress you will start the learning process all over again.
This will be confusing, frustrating and time wasting. Better to start directly with WordPress! Another point to consider is that transferring your blog from a non-WordPress hosted platform to your own hosting will be more challenging.
Here are some more reasons to use WordPress:
- The software is FREE
- Open source – developed by a large number of contributors which means a large community
- Versatile you can make almost any sort of website with WordPress
- Affiliate Marketing websites
- E-commerce websites
- Membership websites
- Portfolio websites
- + many more
- You have complete control of your website
- Easy to learn
- 1000s of themes to choose from
- Change the look of your site easily by changing themes
- Add functionality by adding plugins
- Easy to manage
- Good for SEO
Transferring your free hosted blog to a self-hosted platform
Before you start transferring your blog you will need two things, hosting and a domain name.
I recommend Bluehost, they are a large hosting company and they are officially recommended by WordPress.
They offer a free domain name and hosting starts at $3.95 per month although they often have special offers that can reduce the price to as little as $2.65 per month. These low prices are applicable for the first term of up to 60 months, after that the price renews at the regular rate.
If you have trouble transferring your site or want a step by step guide, wpbeginner.com has an excellent tutorial on transferring your blog from WordPress.com to your own hosting.
If you are using SiteRubix, you can either transfer your blog to another host or upgrade to a Premium membership. Premium membership allows you to transfer your siterubix subdomain to your own domain with the click of a button. It also gives you full training, all the tools you need and support from an active community.
Suggested resource: Important First Steps After Creating A Blog With WordPress
What is a Self-Hosted Blog?
Now you understand what a hosted blog is, let’s now consider a self-hosted blog.
A self-hosted blog is where you sign up and YOU pay for hosting. You will also purchase your own domain name. This gives your blog a more professional look and you have complete control over your blog – the features you add, the design, monetization, and optimization.
There are many hosting platforms that allow you to start a self-hosted blog:
- For a small site platforms such as Bluehost, SiteGround, Hostgator or Dreamhost provide reasonably priced hosting. If your site is growing fast and it’s your primary source of revenue then managed hosting from Kinsta or Cloudways may be a good choice. The choice of hosting companies is vast! Once you have selected your web host you will need to install the WordPress.org software
- The same hosting platforms with different software installed such as Joomla or Drupal
Another alternative is to install some website building software such as Dreamweaver, Xara or Kompozer on your own computer and then upload your website via FTP to your web host. That’s how I started years ago but today, I wouldn’t consider this method.
What Should You Choose?
Again it depends on what you want to do with your blog.
A personal or hobby blog
For a personal blog, you could use one of the free options that we mentioned earlier.
If you have a small budget, a better idea is to get some cheap hosting, a domain name and install WordPress. You can find many free resources online that will take you through the steps of posting your first content or many hosting companies show you how to get started.
Yes, there is a small cost but you’re free to take your blog in the direction you like in the future.
Creating a blog to earn money
On the other hand, if you intend building an online business, whichever option you choose, a website builder or hosting with the WordPress software, you will only learn how to build a website!
The advertising may say it’s easy to create a blog and this is true. But don’t be misled! Yes, building a website or blog is easy but building a website with the intention to earn money is a different matter.
It’s worth remembering the vast majority of people who start a blog with the hope of making money, end up failing. If it was really easy to earn money online we would all be successful.
The chart below shows results from active bloggers, many others give up after just a few weeks or months so they don’t enter into these statistics.
There is much more to starting an online business. You will need to learn how to:
- Choose a good niche
- Carry out keyword research
- Pick a good domain name
- Write and structure your content
- Get traffic
- Structure your website
- Monetize your website
- Use calls to action
- Use social media
- Outsource writing or other tasks
- Start an email list
- Optimize your blog to get ranked in the search engines and keep up to date with any changes
As you can see there is a lot to learn!
Suggested resource: The Difference Between A blog and a Website
Online training platforms
Training platforms can help you to get started with a solid foundation. They take you step by step through the business building process. Additionally, you get all the tools you need and importantly you also get help and support.
Nevertheless, even with some good training, you should know that building a real, legitimate, sustainable business takes time.
Training platforms such as Solo Build It! (SBI!) or Wealthy Affiliate (WA) offer hosting with their own site building software or WordPress. They teach you not only to create a website (which is the easy part) but also how to build an online business.
- SBI! offers a hosted solution with an HTML site builder or you can opt to follow the training and have a self-hosted WordPress blog
- WA offers hosting for up to 25 WordPress sites with your own domain and 25 free subdomain sites. They take care of backups and security. This is similar to having a self-hosted blog with managed WordPress hosting. This is what I recommend.
Pros and Cons of a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog
- You have complete control of your blog
- Customize and add functionality as you want
- WordPress software is free
- You own your website. It will not be taken offline because you have broken some strange rules
- Make money from your blog as you want – ads, affiliate marketing…
- Create an e-commerce store if you like, no extra cost
- Your blog will look professional with no ads from your host
- Many tutorials can be found online to help you set up and optimize your blog
- Large WordPress community with documentation and a support forum
- Have to pay for a domain name and hosting
- You are responsible for the security of your blog – there are plugins to help with this so it’s quite easy
- You have to keep everything up to date – not much work just a few clicks
- No or very little training on creating a website that earns money
- You are responsible for backing up your site
Still Confused about WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
Although they are both called WordPress the .com and .org are very different. Beginners are often confused and choose the wrong platform. Choosing the right platform from the start could affect your success.
The main difference is who hosts your website.
WordPress.com is the hosted solution. WordPress.com hosts your blog and they can provide you with a free website. You will have a domain name yourwebsite.wordpress.com It’s easy to set up but you have many restrictions. Some restrictions can be removed by paying for upgrades but this can get quite expensive.
WordPress.org is the self-hosted solution. YOU buy a domain name (yourwebsite.com), pay for hosting and install the WordPress software which is quite easy with most hosts. Using this method you have complete control and no restrictions.
Conclusion – Do You Now Know the Difference Between a Hosted and a Self-Hosted Blog?
Choosing between a hosted and self-hosted blog might be a little tricky.
If you’re blogging for fun or only intend having a small site then you can use a free hosted platform.
Want to make money from your blog? Then a self-hosted solution is a better choice.
Never blogged before and want to build a blog to earn money? An online training program will be your best course of action.
Any thoughts, comments or questions let me know below.