Self-Hosting on WordPress

We recently made the move to self-host our blog! It’s been just about 6 months of ‘Are We Adults Yet’ and there were a few things that WordPress.com just wasn’t delivering for us, so we decided to make the change. Ideally you as a reader only noticed a few design changes (unless you’re getting this through RSS, in which case we have a new feed URL!), but future-thinking we’re excited at what this opens up to us like custom CSS, full control over ads and monetization, and more social and app integrations.

If you’re in the market to move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, I highly recommend the guides at move.wordpress.com. They’re very straight-forward and I only had to put on my “I’m-a-developer” hat a couple times throughout the whole process (side note: if you’re not a developer but looking to make the move and want help, hit us up at hello@areweadultsyet.com!). Beyond that, the developer docs from WordPress.org are also great for troubleshooting, as well as the support forums, and core contributor handbook if you’re looking to give back to the open source world!

Here’s an overview of the tools we’re using, some plugins we’ve enabled, and customizations we’re loving so far in our self-hosted journey!

Tools We’re Using:

  • We chose to go with Bluehost for our web hosting. Beyond their awesome 1-click integration with WordPress.org blogs, I’ve also been very impressed with their support. We had a couple of hiccups along the way, and they truly were fast and efficient in helping me fix the issues. I definitely recommend them, and if you signup with our referral link, you’ll get a 50% discount at just $3.95 per month, a bargain and another reason we chose them!
  • For domain hosting, we use Hover, a service I’ve used for going on 5 years now! Their support is bar-none the best in the biz, and they offer pretty much any TLD you can dream up (…I may or may not be the owner of pants.land!). Sign up with our referral link and you’ll save $2 on your first purchase (which doesn’t sound like much, but when you can grab a domain for $4.99 it makes a difference!). Hover also does a fair number of sales throughout the year, so keep an eye on their pricing grid or signup for their newsletter to stay apprised of discounts!
  • One major reason we switched from free-hosted WordPress.com to self-hosting was to integrate Google Analytics. Stella and I are both huge numbers nerds and love drilling down into user data. It’s been so cool since making the host switch to be able to watch unique visitors, page depth tracking, bounce rates on different posts, and so much more! If you’re new to GA, I love Google’s “Analytics Academy” courses and their YouTube channel, to get started and then to answer more in-depth questions about how to use the tool.

WordPress Plugins We’ve Enabled:

  • First out of the gate, we immediately integrated Jetpack. It combines a lot of WordPress.com-esque features like professionally-created theme options, unlimited image and video CDN, integration with the official WordPress mobile apps, and a super lovely user-friendly interface for all your settings. It definitely has its limits where other, more singularly focused plugins can deliver a more robust solution, but because Jetpack is built and run by the same company that runs WordPress.com, there are a lot of optimizations you won’t find as easily accessible with other plugins.
  • A fast-follow for us was enabling the Akismet Anti-Spam plugin. It requires an API key which involves a little bit of setup, but then gives your blog comments a lot more life. Akismet’s most valuable features, in my opinion, are its comments status history that tracks which comments were caught or flagged, outright displaying URLs in comments to cut back on misleading or harmful links, and its discard abilities that automatically block malicious content.
  • Another leader in its field, Yoast SEO provides advanced search engine optimization abilities, including advanced XML sitemaps, defining your own canonical URLs, and title and meta tag templating. We’re definitely creepers of our own Alexa score and keep a close eye on our Google Search Console results, so boosting our SEO rankings is a top priority!

Customizations We’re Loving:

  • One main reason we switched to self-hosting was for more direct theme control, including having access to adding additional CSS. We chose a theme we really like, but there are certain header sizes, font color choices, and image integrations that we wanted to be able to customize.
  • In the vein of customization, becoming self-hosted gives us even more control over menus, sidebar, and the footer. WordPress.com definitely shoehorns you into certain templates when it comes to those components, so having access to our theme source code makes these infinitely more editable.

We’re super excited at some of our upcoming changes that moving to self-hosting will let us accomplish. We also have some upcoming content goals we’re trying to meet, as well as more analytics-focused goals. Very exciting stuff for the nerds 😉!

Anyone else make the move to self-hosted recently? Have any other tips or tricks you’d like to share?? Let us know in the comments!

5 comments

  1. OH!!! Yay! You have a “like” button now and I am allowed to comment!!! There was an interval where Your site wouldn’t let me. Even though I filled out the forms it thought I was a robot! I’ve remained a fan anyway and am so happy that now I can give a wave when I walk through Y’alls room. Y’all are wonderful and fun! Cheers and I’m happy You’re liking self-hosting! 🙂

  2. I just take it from the top — Bluehost has reputation for terrible support and service in general. Brief Google search reveals most, if not all, positive reviews are from affiliates. This doesn’t inspire confidence and honestly, even with the 50% at $4/month it is expensive for small time blog. I’m not going to post alternatives, there are many varying in parameters and service. I just wouldn’t bet my reputation on them if I were you.

    Where you buy domains is mostly just matter of preference, but I like starting at iwantmyname.com and domainr then comparing prices on tld-list.com is best way to go — you’ll find that hover doesn’t offer WHOIS privacy for lot of domains, while other registrars provide it, some for free.

    Jumping the ship for Google analytics is reasonable, I think only reason automattic doesn’t include option to add GA tracking is because they want to push their jetpack stats.

    Speaking of which, using Jetpack to store images on WP servers puts you in less control, since you can’t really delete cached images from WordPress servers. Effectively once your photos are there, you can’t delete them. I think this is one of the reasons people move away from WordPress hosting.

    Akismet is free only for non–commercial projects, so you might be in licence violation here since you share affiliate links. I have nothing against affiliate, just saying you haven’t even mentioned this fact. On the top of that, it is a massive plugin. My friend wrote a 20kb script that does pretty much the same job, and there are plenty of other solutions that are less heavyweight, less connected back to automattic and sometimes, even more effective.

    Instead of Yoast, I always recommenced The SEO Framework, but I am very biased since I help with the support there. If you want to get better Alexa ranking, just install their toolbar and visit your website a lot — you should see the uptick soon. For the longest time this was their only mean of collecting data, now it uses other extensions but it is still arguably not accurate since it captures only part of Internet audience. Most importantly… Alexa rank only looks at last 3 months of visits (to my knowledge) so good lock constantly worrying about artificial metric that Alexa is. You are much better off focusing your energy on content.

    In the end of the day this all comes down to experience, and I certainly had to learn a lot too (still have to) and I know that not everybody can research every little aspect of working with WordPress. Good luck with WordPress and especially with future challenges!

    • Thanks so much for the thoughtful response! I definitely know that there are cheaper options than Bluehost, but am fine paying extra for the ease and efficiency with which they integrate with WordPress.
      Will definitely check out your other plugin suggestions, thanks!

Comments are closed.