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Archives vs The Smackdown

First, a few updates:

It’s not too late to win some BlogHer ’13 swag and an ebook copy of Guy Kawasaki’s APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. Just leave a comment here (You must be subscribed to Writerland to participate–you can do that by entering your email address over there in the right sidebar–>) by midnight Sunday. I will draw a name using and announce the winner on Tuesday.

This fall I will be offering two classes at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto: Blogging for Beginners and Intermediate Blogging. Email me at if you’d like information about enrolling.

One question my blogging students always have is whether to self-host their blogs using or to go the “free” route using As someone who self-hosts, I always encourage people who are serious about blogging to self-host as well. “But WHY?” new bloggers ask. My friend Alta Peterson, a web designer who specializes in WordPress, answers this question much better than I do. So here she is, in pixels, Alta Peterson:


To self-host or not to self-host .. that is the question …

This post assumes you know the general difference between and sites. If you don’t, the links at the bottom discuss.

You can redirect a custom domain that you own to get rid of the “” in your URL, which looks more professional. You can do this with Tumblr, Google Blogger, and various other services as well.

More and more people are figuring this out and are wondering “Why should I go with a self-hosted site when is free and I can redirect my URL to look more professional? What’s the dif?”

Here are some of the important considerations:

1. Just start something already

Firstly, you don’t really need to worry about being locked into your decision because you can export the database with the click of a few buttons with all the posts, pages, comments, tags, categories etc. and import it to a self-hosted WordPress site at a later time.

Although you can allegedly bring images over seamlessly as well, it seems like for a lot of people the images don’t reconnect correctly, so if you have a ton of images you may want to plan on spending an afternoon manually plugging them back in when/if you move to self-hosted. This is much less of an issue for bloggers who don’t have many images.

It is always .. shall we say .. a bit hair-raising to move a website, but if you do it when the site is fairly small and new still, it’s not a terribly big deal.

Regardless, going with a site is a great way for people to get started blogging and also learn WordPress.

The thing to understand is that if you start to build up a blog with tags and comments and whatnot, you can export all of this. You may have to hire someone for a few hours to help you BUT .. you can take it with you to self-host.

So if you just want to get started with something totally free by all means go for Oh but not so fast! is not really free….

2. Not Free

You have to pay to get rid of the ads they will run on your site. You have to pay for a custom URL and the redirect as well.

You also have to pay if you want any video on your site and if you want a theme (template) that is anything other than extremely plain and basic.

They also charge for storage space, so if you have a lot of images you will hit the free limit pretty quickly.’s paid packages addons

So! A basic and truly free site will be too limiting for most people fairly quickly. Which brings us to …

3. Functionality

A self-hosted blog allows for ENDLESS plugins and much more control over everything. It’s definitely the way to go if you want more of a traditional business site as opposed to a personal blog. As with themes, the free plugins for are pretty basic and limited. There are thousands and thousands of plugins, and more all the time, which are only available for self-hosted sites.

You can have a sign-up box that lets people add their email directly to your Constant Contact/MailChimp/EventBrite lists, you can have all your social media channels integrated however you want, you can sell stuff with ecommerce plugins, you can monetize the site for yourself rather than for WordPress, etc.

The biggest consideration:

4. Maintaining a self-hosted site

I’ve seen other people say that is actually cheaper compared to a site with a paid URL, custom theme, no ads , etc. This is only the case if you can manage your own site and do backups and updates on your own. This is not for the faint of heart. You must be willing to learn a bit (or pay someone).

Everything … absolutely everything on the internet is always changing and improving and coming out with new versions. There are new versions of WordPress core multiple times per year, new versions of themes, plugins, and even of HTML and PHP and the other stuff making it all work behind the scenes.

Probably the main reason to go with is that they do the updating and backing up for you, and you don’t have to worry about losing everything or getting hacked.

Lots of people have self-hosted sites with out-of-date software and no backups. These people are in danger of losing the whole site and having to completely redo everything. This can be quite heartbreaking if you have built up a following with lots of posts and comments, or a site with a lot of pages and links.

My advice when you go the self-hosted route is to pay a web person to do a full backup and update quarterly and have them set you up with something that backs you up weekly (or more) as well. This will cost $500 per year minimum for a relatively small and simple site. Also, go with a host that offers weekly backups (not evil GoDaddy which charges $150 to restore your site.) No host will give you any guarantees they can restore everything, BUT many will at least try to help you out.

hmmm trying to keep this short …

In conclusion!

The most important thing is just starting something. Blogging is an ongoing process, and it’s a lot of work to create half-decent writing and to engage with people. If you are wondering where to begin, just go with

Who knows if you will even end up blogging regularly? The fact is most blogs die off, so why go through the trouble of self-hosting before you know if you will even use it? Or maybe it will take you a year (or ten) to blog more than once every four months, (cough .. that’s me : > ) or maybe you will end up wanting a different type of blog/site than you think you want now. So if you are totally new, why not just start out with the easier thing?

Chances are you will want to move to self-hosted eventually, and unless you know you will always just want a basic blog, you should do so sooner than later once you are actually doing something.

Longer/Better info on all of this:

Tons of good info here: vs A Definitive Guide For 2013

Great post here: “.. it’s always important to recognize a simple truth — you get what you pay for — period.” vs. — What’s the Difference?

Here’s a post on a site. It has a lot of comments that provide various experiences and viewpoints on this topic. WordPress.COM vs. WordPress.ORG — Which Is Better for Writers?

From the source: on Moving WordPress

How to Properly Move Your Blog from to

What about you? Do you use,, Blogger, or another blogging platform? Why?


Alta is a Los Angeles-based web designer, web consultant and project manager.

Her current philosophy is this: As the bar gets lower for everyone to have a web presence and publishing platform, it becomes more and more about consistent, quality content, often in the form of a blog well integrated with branded social media.

When not working on WordPress sites she loves urban hiking and checking out art gallery openings. She has been freelancing for nine years and a good friend of this blog’s author for even longer.

61 comments to vs The Smackdown

  • Anthony Lee Collins

    It was never much of a question for me, since I was putting up websites before WordPress existed, but there are times when I think it would be nice not to have to worry so much about spam. I just had to install two new plugins to block spam registrations, in addition to the ones I already had. My blog has been up for seven years, and more and more spammers seem to find it.

    Backups aren't a problem — I have a plugin that creates a database backup and emails it to me once a week. I also back up the customized parts of the site (the theme and so on), and my hosting company makes good backups and has excellent customer support.

    As an experiment, I tried uploading my database to a free site once, and everything came in fine (around 300 posts at that time), except for the categories and tags, which always came in wrong (multiple tags and categories with the same name). I've also uploaded multiple databases (from different blogs) into the same site with no problems, other than the categories and tags. (I don't have hardly any images, so that isn't a problem for me.)

    I agree about keeping things up to date, I had a friend who neglected her blog for a while, and it got hacked and filled with ads and so on. She had to have the hosting company restore an earlier copy, and then she updated everything. has the advantage of people already having accounts – rather than having to register for a specific blog (I've had several users get confused because they don't realize I'm self-hosted and they can't figure out why their wp credentials don't work). But that's not as important to me as some of these other factors.

    • meghancward

      Anthony, I have NEVER backed up my blog and don't even know how. I just assumed it was all safe with GoDaddy, but after reading Alta's post, I'm worried. What plugins do you use for backup? I have so many domains with GoDaddy, I don't feel up to switching hosting companies. I've been getting a ton of spam comments lately, too. What plugins do you use for that? I use Intense Debate, so I don't know if your plugins will work for me, but worth a try.

      • Anthony Lee Collins

        The plugin I use for database backups is WordPress Database Backup. You can set it to back up according to whatever schedule you want, and it will save them to the server or email them to you. You can also download a backup manually whenever you want.

        But this is just the database. If you want to download everything else, you'll need FTP access to the server. Then you can copy the entire blog (probably not including the database — that's usually stored elsewhere ) to your computer. This is particularly important if you have a lot of images (I don't), since the database contains all the text for your posts (and your settings), but not images. You can get FTP access to your site at GoDaddy, but if you've never done it you might need to look up the procedures on their website. You'll also need to install an FTP program on your computer (FIleZilla is a good choice, and it's free).

        It's probably not necessary to download the entire blog from the server — if you ever had to restore or move it, you'd install a fresh copy of WordPress and start from there — but you will want to download the contents of the "wp-content" folder, because that's where your plugins, images, and themes are stored.

        As for spam, I use Akismet to sort out the spam comments, and it works pretty well. My bigger problem is spam registrations (I don't know how this works with IntenseDebate). Sometimes there are ten or twenty in a day.

        I use User Registration Aide, which allows you to add extra fields to the registration process. The additional information isn't saved, but the extra fields make automated registrations more difficult. I also use User Spam Remover. There are plugins which try to block spam registrations, but they can also inconvenience legit users (one is so powerful that it sometimes locks bloggers out of their own blogs). User Spam Remover just goes through the user list once a day and deletes any users who have been registered for ten days and who have never posted a comment. Since real users mostly don't register until they have something to say, this works pretty well.

        • meghancward


          Thanks so much for all this information! I do have FTP access, so I'll talk to my husband about backing up my database for me. I have no idea how to do it myself!

      • Alta

        Meghan .. You should be worried! We will discuss and I will write another post or you! : >

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  • I've thought about moving my blog from Blogger to WordPress many times. I've done all the research and have a plan, but I stopped short when I began to think about the cost and headaches associated with it. I use Blogger and have found few plug-ins that I can't install. I think if I believed my blog could deliver the monetary rewards that could justify the cost, I'd go for it. Right now, I'm not there, and I'm not sure I ever will be.

    • meghancward

      That makes sense, Christine. I started this blog on, so I never had to switch. I was envious at first of my friends because some plugins were so much easier to install for them (like adding a Twitter feed). But now I think has caught up with JetPack. Still, sometimes I need my computer programmer husband to help me install things in my sidebar – like my photo! I needed him to do that for me.

  • annerallen

    Lots of stuff here I didn't know. I just have a free Blogger site, and I don't do much but post text, so I didn't realize how much was involved with other types of blogging. Thanks for all the info!

    • meghancward

      Have you ever thought about switching to, Anne? Or is that taken?

      • annerallen

        I've never felt the need. I think it would probably cost a fortune to buy my own domain and move my blog (and I'd lose thousands of followers and four years of work building my audience) and I don't see the benefit. I think I'm not enough of a techie to notice what other people's urls are.

  • Alta

    Even though I am a WordPress (.org) person, when comparing and Google Blogger, there's some things I see as advantages for blogger. I like the separate comments page for one. Also one would assume that there might be a bit of a page rank and indexing advantage, at least within Google for a Google-based site. These comments are inspiring me to write two more posts, one on backing up and one on moving your blog and not losing all your followers!

    • meghancward

      Alta, I'm so glad we are giving you blog post ideas! I definitely need info on backing up. Martin has FTP access, so that's not an issue, but I'd love any advice you can provide!

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