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INTRODUCTION

So you want to start a blog?  First, you will need to understand the difference between a blog and a website. In addition, you will want to use this checklist! It is all so confusing at first…blogs are websites and websites have blogs…but once you finish this article you will understand the difference. In addition, do you want to be on a hosted site or a self-hosted site?  These questions will all be answered in this lesson.

Blogging and Websites books with keyboard and person typing.

Blog History

Let’s get a little history on how blogs were created.  In the 1990’s many people were using the internet to create their personal diaries.  These journals were created by people to write on a regular basis about their personal lives, their thoughts, and their social/political commentary.  These personal journals became know as “weblogs” and then the writers started saying, “we blog” and then it just became “blog”. Since not everyone was computer savvy, and there was an increase in these daily journals or blogs, there was a need to create tools to develop an easier way for the  “blogger” to create these sites. In 1999, along came Blogger.com and blogging became easier for the average person. Then in 2003, Google purchased Blogger.com. WordPress came along later that same year and is now the most popular blogging platform. WordPress has become the most widely used platform on the internet for blogging.  

A computer screen with Web Code for Blogging History.

Website History

Whereas, websites have an early history than blogs.  Websites first appeared on the world wide web all the way back in 1991!  In the beginning, all websites were static pages that had no movement and were created using HTML code.  In 1993, the birth of the landing page was created, then a year later JavaScript was created and along came motion in web pages.  It wasn’t until Flash was introduced to the WWW that motion was included in websites. Google wasn’t the first search engine, but when it hit the WWW in 1998, Google became the most popular search engine.  The rest, of course, is history.

Do You Want a Blog or a Website?

A blog is a personal journal or diary that gives us the insights of a person’s thoughts, what they are doing, or their personal beliefs and opinions.  It is generally updated on a regular basis, daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. When entering a blog the user will be presented with the newest content showing first and the oldest content is presented later and even older posts are archived.  Another feature of the blog is the comment section. With the comment section, the reader and writer can have a conversation, making a blog conversational in nature.

A website is a tool used by businesses/people and is created by using pages that are static and do not change on a regular basis.  Generally, a website is to provide information to the consumer. A website is not updated on a regular basis, once the pages are created they remain the same for a long period of time. A website has a landing page in which people will enter their site and then be directed to other pages from the landing page.  

The similarities between a website and a blog can create some confusion, but it is relatively easy to understand.  A website can have a blog attached to their landing page and the blog will be written in a blog format. And a blog can have pages, like a website, that are static and rarely change.  In fact, blogs should have some pages and we will talk about these later.

A picture to help remind you to take notes on hosted vs self-hosted sites

Hosted vs Self-Hosted Platform

So, you have decided on whether you want a blog or a website, now you will need to decide if you want to be on a hosted or self-host platform.  

Hosted:

A hosted platform is generally a free platform like WordPress.com or Blogger.  In a hosted platform you do not own your domain, the URL will look like this: http://www.yoursite.wordpress.com.  If you would like to take the WordPress subdomain off, you can, but you will have to purchase a wordpress.com plan. If you are looking for an easy platform to create a blog this will be a good choice.  You can manage your content and never worry about the back end of blogging such updates, security, and all those technical and maintenance issues.  

The biggest drawback to a free WordPress.com site is the fact that you do not own your site.  You are writing content for the hosted site. They give you the server space for free and in return, they will advertise on your site to make money. So, as you can see, they will not want you to advertise and take money out of their pockets.  Furthermore, you do not own your site on a hosted platform, you write the content, but if you go against their terms of use they can shut you down and you lose all your content.

A support person on a self-hosted site helping a customer

The host also maintains the themes and plugins used on their platform.  Because they manage all the updates and security for your site, they will not allow you to upload to their site, this will limit the themes and plugins you can use on your site.  In addition, a hosted site has little to no customer support. In general, most hosted support is provided by other users in a question and answer forum.  Since you won’t be monetizing or using your site as a business you will not need to add pages such as Terms of Use, Disclosure, or Work With Me.  If you chose to use the e-mail feature on the hosted site you will still need a Privacy Policy.

A hosted site is a great choice for someone that just wants to write and share content.  There is little to no maintenance or worry involved with a hosted site. You can be up and writing in a short amount of time.  However, in the future, if you decide you want more choices and want to monetize, it is difficult to transfer the hosted platform to a self-hosted platform.  

Self-Hosted Platform

When we use the term self-hosted it is generally associated with a platform that you pay for monthly or pay your monthly fee up front for a year.  In return for being paid, the host will sell you space on their server.  Since you actually own this space, it is easier to do what you want with your site.

In this scenario, when you pay for the service they will allow you to purchase one domain for free.  You will own your domain (your first domain is generally free when you sign up with the self-hosted platform like Bluehost or Siteground) and it will look like this: http://www.yoursite.com (we recommend using a .com when you chose your domain, but it could be .net, .org and so on).  Notice, there is no sub-domain like wordpress.com or blog.com. In other words, you own your URL, your site and everything you do is up to you.  

It is important to own your own site if you would like to advertise and use affiliate links.  A self-hosted platform is paid for by you so, the self-hosted service will not use your site to advertise. You have more freedom to monetize your site.  

Marketing a Self Hosted Site is Easy

Other advantages of a self-hosted site are the ability to find and upload your own plugins and themes.  If you want to turn your website into a business, it is important to be able to choose a theme that reflects your vision and plugins that support your business. Support for the self-hosted plan generally includes 24/7 support with a professional staff,  The support staff is trained to answer all of your technical questions and they provide this support free through e-mail, phone, or an online chat.  Also, you should know, if you chose a self-hosted site you will need to create pages on Terms of Service, Privacy, Disclosure, and Work With Us.  

A paid, self-hosted site, is best if you are expecting to use your site as a business in the future with monetizing and writing sponsored (paid) content. There are cons of owning your own site, you will be responsible for maintenance of the plugin and theme updates and understanding the technical side of your site  I can assure you there will be a learning curve for understanding all the technical language.   Generally, it will take you a while to get your site up and running. In the long run, it will be worth the effort and cost if you want to become a business. 

A person reviewing self hosted versus hosted sites

Review

If you want to write articles that are conversational and converse with your readers, then a blog would be your choice.  If you just want to get information out there to the public and won’t be changing your pages often, you will want a website.  However, if you want to have a static, informational landing page, but also want to have a conversation with your customers, you can have a blog on your website

A hosted site like WordPress.com is a great choice if you want to start creating content for family and friends to read.  However, you will not own your site and will not be able to monetize with affiliates in the future.

A self-hosted site like Bluehost or Siteground will supply you with WordPress.org.  This site is owned by you and you can monetize and run it as a business.  However, it requires more maintenance and technical knowledge.

It is easier to make the choice at startup as it is difficult to transfer a free site to a paid site in the future.  Yes, you will need to come up with money to start your site, but in the future, it will be so much easier to monetize when you are ready.

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