Tag «self hosting»

SERIESous Discussion: A 3 Year Reflection on Self-Hosting my Blog

I was recently updating the various guides I have on the blog and one of them is my Self-Hosting Guide. And as I was going through it, I realized I’ve been self-hosting my blog since February 2016…

That’s more than 3 years!

It was a big decision for me to go self-hosted back then. It took a lot of time and research; I talked to a lot of fellow bloggers as well. My experience prompted me to compile a guide to help others make the decision (or not to).

For the last 2 years in February, I contemplate whether or not I want to remain self-hosted as my renewal notice comes. I think when money is involved, you always get a little hesitant and take a little extra time to think your decision over. And of course, life changes from year to year so there are many factors at play.

So where do I stand as I enter Year 4?

I seriously considered not renewing my hosting this year for a variety of reasons.

 (1) The Cost to the Usage Ratio

When I started blogging, I was working on my blog everyday but that certainly isn’t the case anymore. I was a student back in university and I had a lot of downtime (and it served as a good stress reliever). Skip ahead a few years to 2018 and there were times where I didn’t touch my blog for days (let alone a book!). It’s a stat that seems unbelievable to me because in theory, I should have more free time since all I do now is work (no school). But it’s my reality so I started to ponder if I was getting enough value from my self-hosted blog ($$) when I have the option to return my free site.

I pay for my domain name annually in November and hosting is paid annually in February. I don’t mind paying for my domain every year because I like the shorter, easy to remember domain. It costs me $13 USD a year but I use my earnings from Branded Surveys (referral link) to pay for it. My hosting costs work out to $10 USD a month which I think isn’t very expensive for a hobby you enjoy and (usually) do multiple times a week. And considering I don’t buy a lot of books (I use my library for the most part or participate in promotional opportunities), I don’t have a lot of other associated costs with my blogging/reading. Even better, I use my earnings from Swagbucks (referral link) for PayPal giftcards and use that to pay for part of my self-hosting invoice so it really doesn’t cost me that much in hindsight.

While I do work more now (and shift work to boot), I no longer have to commute (2 hrs) to work everyday so I have more free time on my hands to spend blogging and reading–and I hope that will be the case shortly.

 (2) Customization

One of the biggest draws to going self-hosted in the first place was the ability to do more with the design of my blog. While the free themes on WordPress.com are great, I wanted more flexibility with colours, feeds and plug-ins and only a self-hosted site could do that for me.

I love my theme and I don’t feel the itching need to change it like I did before on my WordPress.com site. Though I had found a theme for my wordpress.com blog just before I made the switch so I know I could find something that works if need be.

The plugins have been a great addition as well; though I’ll be the first to admit that I probably don’t use them as much as I should. They can be tricky too since they often have limited features until you purchase the premium version; they might not work with your theme; or, I can’t find exactly what I am looking for. While some save me lots of time, others require some troubleshooting that I don’t always have the time to execute.

>> SERIESous Tips: My Favourite WordPress Plugins

(3) Do I Still Enjoy Blogging?

I wrote about this sentiment in my Monthly Inventory: December 2018 edition where adulting seems to have transformed my blogging and reading experience in that last year. But my so-so feelings about the last year and the fact that I have to renew my hosting for another full year made me start to question my blogging experience and if it is something I want to continue going forward.

Perhaps it’s just part of the reflective nature of the new year and new resolutions, but it’s something I often ponder around this time of year. Of course I would still read and I’d probably continue reviewing on Goodreads; but the appeal to have no commitments to regular posting and promotional deadlines is enticing.

My Final Decision?

In April, I’ll be celebrating 6 years of blogging! I can’t believe it myself…but if there is anything I’ve learned about blogging in that time: you can make this experience whatever you want it to be.

I’m having no problem churning out content on a regular basis even if my reading doesn’t always reflect that. Yes, sometimes writing those posts feel like a chore because I get behind, but I still love sharing my thoughts on what I read. I have enough posts scheduled that I have some buffer time before I need to panic about not having enough content; and even then, I can reduce how many times I post in a week. Flexibility is key and I definitely have the ability to execute that.

Another big resolution: I also plan on reducing the number of promotional opportunities I undertake this year. I love promoting all the books I request but I’m at the stage in my blogging career where less is more. And I hope that by reducing those deadlines, I can take a lighter approach to blogging and reading.

So in the end? I’ve decided to renew my self-hosting for another year. While January has been a dicey month, I’m hoping the rest of the year will be smoother in all things.


Check out my mini-guide to self-hosting complete with help links!

Check it out here:

selfhost


What are your thoughts on Self-Hosting?

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SERIESous Tips: My Favourite WordPress Plugins

One of the biggest draws to being a self-hosted blog (besides the graphics freedom) was the ability to add plugins. Plugins are these great little add-ins or apps you can use to make your site easier to run and/or have really cool features. While a lot of the plugins I use are the basic foundations of keeping my site running (like Jetpack and Akismet), there are a few that make my blogging experience super efficient and save me a lot of blog maintenance time.

Below you’ll find some of my favourite plugins, what they do, what I love and what I dislike. When you click on the title, you will be taken to the Plugin homepage where you can learn more.

**These links and comments are not affiliated with the respective plugin creators/companies! It is simply my take on using the services over the last year! I found posts like this extremely helpful for finding plugins for my blog in the past and wanted to contribute in my own way.**

My Favourite WordPress.org Plugins

(in alphabetical order)

CommentLuv

What it Does: Allows comment-ers to link-back to their most recent posts when they enter their URL when commenting.

What I Love: I totally thought you had to pay for this plugin and so it was always on the back-burner for what to add next. But it is free for a basic version with minimal features. It’s great for a blogger like me who comments back on blogs who comment on mine so I can immediately jump to their most recent post.

What I Dislike: I get a ton of spam in my comment spam folder now. Which isn’t a huge deal because it is easy to clear but it’s a little annoying.

Featured Image from URL

What it Does: Instead of uploading an image to your own site for your featured image (what appears in the blog roll page), you can use a URL from another site (like Goodreads).

What I Love: Now that my blog theme actually requires me to set a featured image for my blog roll page, I had to find a plugin that would save me time and not require me to upload a ton of cover images daily. I know that there are a lot of reasons why you should upload book covers yourself instead of using the image URL from another site but I find it tedious! Because I already add the image in my review post, it’s so easy to paste it in the side widget on my post creation page.

What I Dislike: I have noticed that the image I set as my featured doesn’t show up when I view my blog on the WordPress Reader. I’m not sure if that is just WordPress itself picking an image at random but I find my featured image varies on my out-sourcing platforms. It also doesn’t format nicely on my blog roll page once I did an update but I think I just have to play with the code a little more.

Hello Bar

What it Does: Creates a pop-up link bar on your blog.

What I Love: One of the biggest learning curves to my self-hosted blog was trying to figure out ways to make it easy for people to follow. Eventually I got a WordPress widget but when you go into the world of self-hosted, email subscribers are your main “follower” crew. But I find few people actually use emails to follow blogs, especially when you have sites like Bloglovin that create a nice feed for you to scroll through. The Hello Bar is created for email subscriptions but it does let you customize it for whatever link you like and so I choose Bloglovin! And since I started using it, I’ve noticed an increase in my Bloglovin’ followers.

What I Dislike: Not much really. It’s super customizable, they send me weekly updates on my stats (which you can unsubscribe to) and it’s FREE!

Revive Old Post

What it Does: Reposts old posts on Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, etc. with hashtags.

What I Love: I’m all for a little self-promotion on social media but I don’t want to bombard my followers with old posts every hour on the hour. I love Revive Old Post because you can set how many tweets (what I use it for) go out and how many hours between them. You can add hashtags, select what categories get sent out and more.

What I Dislike: You gotta play around with it a bit to get what you want but it’s very easy to customize.

Smooth Slider

What it Does: Creates an image slide show that can be a widget or a feature on your site.

What I Love: I originally had this on my old theme as a way to feature my recent posts on my homepage. Now, it’s a widget on my site for the same thing. I really like that I can set it up when I create the post and it lets me set a date when it will automatically expire from the slider so my most recent content is always on display. It also works really well with my Feature Image from a URL plugin which I worried about at the start as some plugins clash.

What I Dislike: I was having some issues with the expiry aspect but it just took some playing around. I also had to play around with the image sizing but the code is pretty easy to figure out.

Post Index

What it Does: Creates an archive of posts for a particular category on a page.

What I Love: I’m not sure how many people used my old post archive back in the day but it was something I did manually using both cover images and text. It was so tedious to update and one of the first plugins I looked for was an archiving one. This one does everything itself, creating a beautiful list with anchored links throughout the page.

What I Dislike: I title my posts with a “Series Review” or “Fresh Fridays”, etc heading, and in an ideal world, the plugin I use would be able to omit that and sort whatever follows the colon. I did find one that did that, but it was more of a search result listing order than an actual page with the full list of my posts.

404 Page

What it Does: Creates a “broken link” page where readers can learn why that page is unavailable.

What I Love: My old theme had the ability to create my own 404 page but my new one doesn’t. I do keep an eye on broken links but they happen. Especially when you move post scheduling dates around a lot like I do. I think it’s just a nice way to tell people what’s up and why something they want to read may not be available right away.

What I Dislike: This is super easy to use and set up so no complaints.


What plugins do you love?

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Self-Hosting: A 6 Month Reflection

tipsSELFHOST

In February 2016, I made the decision to move my blog to a self-hosted site. It was a big decision for me and one that came with a lot of learning curves.

Which is why I thought it would be a good idea to do a 6-month reflection and see if I am happy with my choice.

What I Love

–Manipulating my Theme–

One of the biggest reasons I switched was the desire to have full control over my theme. I really wanted to be able to customize it however I wanted and after a lot of searching I found the theme that works.

I’m not sure if I totally love it but it’s pretty close to what I want. Over the last few months, I’ve had to work out some kinks (like a grid system that cuts off images or why my images weren’t lining up straight) but I think I’ve got a good handle on it all now.

–The Plug-ins–

There are SO MANY PLUG-INS! It’s a little overwhelming! And trying to find what I’m looking for exactly can be difficult. I’ve tested out quite a few until I found the ones that work best but sometimes, it’s touch and go.

I don’t really have any plug-ins that help with my actual blog-posts though. One reason is the fact that the good ones cost money that I don’t really want to spend. The other is that I enjoy inputting the meta data for my posts and because I follow a pretty specific format, the ones currently out there don’t meet my needs.

–I can have HTML Sliding Galleries!!!–

You might have seen it on my home page but I am super excited I have more freedom with embedded features like video, slideshows and the like!

The Bummers

–Getting Followers–

One thing I wish I thought a little more about was “follow” buttons. I really took for granted the fact that as a blog on WordPress.com, it automatically pops up for users when they view my blog.

Yeah–not so much on a self-hosted blog!

I learned how to get a WordPress.com follow widget and now I have that. I’ve also promoted following my blog on Bloglovin’ more.

Since I made the switch, my follower numbers have stayed the same. Honestly, it sucks. However, I’ve seen growth on my Bloglovin’ followers which is great. But my main concern is that my blog lacks the options for people to follow.

–I Forgot my WordPress.com Blog Still Exists!–

My domain was originally purchased through WordPress.com where domain mapping (essentially rerouted people from my wordpress.com address to my .com address) was a part of my package. So in April (when it expired), my old wordpress.com blog was popping up! What really sucked was that I had a form for contacts and people had contacted me on that and I didn’t know!

So I scrambled to make sure everything was rerouted so people weren’t following a “dead” blog!

–Issues with CommentLUV–

While CommentLUV seems to work on my blog for commenters, I’ve run into issues while commenting on other blogs because of how my blog feed is set on my page. Because my blog opens on a home page and not my feed, sometimes CommentLUV struggles to find my latest post.

Am I Sticking With It?

Well, I paid for a year so yes 😛

Honestly, I’m a little on the fence. We’ll see how the last half of my year goes (I’m going to adulting soon by joining the workforce) and how much of my time I can allot to blogging and reading.

I know I don’t use self-hosting to its max in terms of the tools available for book bloggers so that influences my experience. I’m also really cheap and would rather spend my money on books (especially once I lose my library card for where I go to school).

But at this time it’s a wait and see.


I’m happy to say, I’ve (finally) launched my mini-guide to self-hosting complete with help links!

Check it out here:

selfhost


What are your thoughts on Self-Hosting?

What problems have you run into?

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Self-Hosting: Why I Finally Made the Leap

So I finally did it! I made the jump to self-hosting and while it is too early to say if it was the right choice, it sure feels amazing! It took me a long time to get this point so I thought I would share a little bit of that with you because I’m sure there are others out there thinking about making the leap.

At this Time Last Year…

I contemplated making the move to self-hosting but opted to just buy my domain name instead. It was definitely cheaper and I wasn’t confident that I would still be blogging that much once school started in the Fall. I didn’t really want to pay for something that I would only be doing in passing. So I held it off and was really happy with that decision until…

About a Month Ago…

I got a reminder that my domain would be auto-renewing and I started to think…do I just want a domain name or do I want to make the leap to self-hosting?

I’ve always loved graphics/html/css. I love designing things in Photoshop and I really enjoyed coding my own webpage when I used to play Neopets years ago (anyone else play that?). So it killed me a little with all the limitations I had on WordPress.com and the appeal of WordPress.org and all its freedoms was super, super tempting.

My only hesitation was the cost but I had some Paypal money from Swagbucks saved so that would cut the price in half (the only crappy thing was most sites price in USD and the CAD is wayyy below par).

And so the search began…

Where to Start?

I wrote a mini-guide (soon to be posted!) to help point those looking to make the switch in the right direction, but I’ll share a bit about my “journey” here.

I had no idea where to start looking for a host, though I had a few leads. Nosegraze is a popular choice among book bloggers but the price wasn’t one I was comfortable with and I wanted more freedom when it came to designing and downloading plug-ins than it offered. Blue Hosting is recommended by WordPress.org but again, the price is a little steep (from what I could see; honestly their packages confused me :S ) and I heard mixed reviews on their services. Site Ground comes highly recommended and the price for the first year is fantastic (and on par for the 2nd year onwards) so it was a top contender.

Lucky for me, I participated in the Blog Hop Party Chat (#BHPChat) in January and I was able to ask some people who they hosted with and if they had any tips. Safe Shark Hosting was a name that came highly recommended from that chat, as were Nosegraze’s various guides on self-hosting and using WordPress.org.

And so, I was between Safe Shark Hosting and Site Ground. In the end, I went with Safe Shark Hosting because they have a great package and the pricing was comparable to what I would be paying elsewhere once everything was said and done. The domain was included in the pricing and I didn’t have to pay extra for ID protection OR migration to the new server. They also had great reviews when it came to customer service, took Paypal, and boasted fast speeds and little downtime. I also like the fact that they are a smaller company and not some larger one that worries more about profit at the end of the day than customer satisfaction.

Making the Switch

Because I owned my domain name already and wanted to transfer it over to my new host, I had to wait 5 days for the transfer to be accepted. A bit of a bummer because I was eager to get things started! But once a week had past, my site was able to transfer to my new host.

At first I thought I could handle the transfer myself but I didn’t really have the time nor did I want to screw something up and so I got my site transferred over by Adam, my domain host. It was a super easy and relatively painless on my end and I am so thankful for that.

Setting Up My Site

I’m still in the midst of getting my site up to the place I want it to be. There are so many cool themes out there and so many plug-ins. My blog will be revamped a lot over the next few weeks as I try to balance blogging and my school work while finding that perfect theme for my vision.

What Does the Future Have In-Store?

I really want to make my blog top notch. I always pictured my blog as more of a website resource than a blog but blogging really has a solid grasp on my heart and I love it so much. But with the options I now have available, I can make this site the best of two worlds: a resource for series reviews and an interactive blog. I am also contemplating offering a cheap graphics making service this summer for fellow bloggers who don’t have the time or desire to make their own graphics. I still have to plan out all the logistics but I’m really excited about the whole thing and think it would be a lot of fun.

Any Questions?

While I may not be an expert (TBH I did crash my site one night while editing my code…oops), I am more than willing to share my experience and be completely honest when it comes to any questions you may have. My mini-guide will be up sometime in the next few weeks so keep an eye out for that.

Feel free to leave a comment below, tweet or email me 🙂

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