Blogging is now becoming the trendy thing to do. Either everyone has already got their own blogs or are looking to start one. People blog for a variety of reasons. Some do it to earn money, while others do it to opinionate themselves or show their expertise on a particular topic. Some others use it as an advertising platform, while some others do it purely for fun.
Whatever be the reason, the truth is that blogging is now a national, or rather an international phenomenon. If you are new to blogging, one of the most important decisions that you have to make is whether to go with a free hosted blog, or whether to opt for a self hosted blog.
Why is that so important, you may ask? It is hugely important for a variety of reasons. But first, you need to understand the difference between the two.
A free hosted blog is one in which you sign up with an existing blog service, and they put together an account free of charge which you can start using straight away. Although great for beginners, you may experience problems with it as you become a more experienced blogger. Some of their basic services are limiting.
For example, you can’t monetize most free blogs. Banners and other ads are not allowed. However, there are some paid upgrades available for features such as domain name, custom CSS design, additional space, and upload of audio and video files.
Self Hosted Blog
Having a self hosted blog means that you have bought your own web hosting, your own domain and installed the blogging software of your choice, from a host of choices available (content management services or programs). You will have more control over the design and content of your site.
Pros of a free blog
This is great for beginner bloggers who are just testing the waters to learn how they should be running a blog as it is completely free. Free hosted blogs are great for amateur bloggers, who blog only for fun and sharing experiences.
You need far lesser technical skills to set up and run a free blog, as the blogging service does all the technical things in the backend. You also choose from predefined templates, so no technical knowledge is required for installing themes or plugins.
Pros of self-hosting a blog
Self hosting a blog gives a blogger a lot more control over the design and content of the blog. It’s more versatile. In addition to adding pre-made themes and plugins, you can also install your choice of themes. Self-hosted blogs are great for brand building.
They give you more visibility. Suppose that you need to blog to promote your company or a product, you can achieve this purpose better if you have a self-hosted blog. Having your own domain name gives you better visibility as it offers you better search engine optimization (SEO) in comparison to free hosted blogs.
Most self-hosted blogging services are based on open source content management services, so they are constantly updated. A domain name costs less than $10 a year and one can get a good shared hosting account for only $7 to $10 a month. So why wouldn’t a professional blogger or a writer representing any organization go for a self-hosted blogs?
Cons of free hosting a blog
The downside is that the blogger has to accept some terms of services before being allowed to use the service. If a blogger doesn’t abide by these terms, he/she stands the risk of having their service terminated.
It is difficult to retrieve articles once lost this way. In addition, the free templates on offer can be limiting. You may have to hire a HTML savvy person to further customize your blog as per your requirement.
The biggest drawback is that a blog, run by you, on a free hosted site, doesn’t belong to you. All the content is added, indexed and credited to the free blog site, and not credited as content to the main company website. The most you can do is to place back-links to your company site on your blog. But this does not give your main site any SEO benefits.
Cons of self-hosting a blog
One of the cons is usually the cost involved but it shouldn’t be so bad if the right blogging software is chosen. And in the long run the costs involved can usually be offset if the right blogging strategy is implemented.
Another factor is that running a self-hosted blog requires a person to be HTML savvy. However most CMS come with an in-built visual editor, and with some exploration and playing with the backend, familiarity with the blogging service comes with time.
In conclusion, if you have any aspirations of taking your blog past the hobby stage, or if you are blogging for a professional organization, you should start out with a self hosted site. If you have any intentions to move from a free hosted site to a self hosted site later on, it is better to avoid all the transition fuss and start with a self hosted blog.
SEO should also be considered when you decide which option to start with. Ultimately, the aim must be to increase brand visibility, whether you choose the free option or the self-hosted option.
Some bloggers may go for the flexibility that a free site has to offer and live with some of its downsides. Others may choose more design flexibility and opt for a self-hosted blog. Having a flexible mind will help you to decide which option to go for after carefully weighing the pros and cons of each.