Since apple picking trumped recipe development this week, I thought it might be helpful to address a few questions I often receive about starting a blog. Namely, what services I use for hosting, backup, and design.
My background is in SEO, so I had some understanding of Blogger versus WordPress and the various hosting providers before I created Pickles & Honey, but mostly I just did a little research, looked at my favorite blogs to see what they were using (you can check the source code and do a quick scan) and asked around to see what people liked and didn’t like. Here’s a breakdown…
My blog is self-hosted on Bluehost and I use WordPress as the content management system. I purchased the domain name through BlueHost, and also set up the WordPress account with them, rather than doing everything separately. One of the benefits of being self-hosted, rather than simply hosting on WordPress, is that you own your content. If you do a free account with WordPress, they technically own anything you publish (same goes for Blogger). If you’re not self-hosted, you also can’t join an advertising network, like BlogHer, for example, or post ads to monetize your site.
Sidenote: the revenue I make through BlogHer is very minimal, but it does cover my blogging expenses.
I have a twelve month plan with Bluehost, and right now I have the cheapest option, which is something like $150 per year for the domain and hosting. The cost for hosting goes up significantly if you need or decide to use a dedicated server rather than sharing one with other sites, but I don’t have the traffic to warrant that (yet!).
One thing I made sure to purchase is WhoIs Security for my domain name. It’s only a few dollars a year and you do NOT want people to be able to look up your home address. So creepy.
For a few months, I actually didn’t back up my blog, but it gave me serious anxiety and it’s just plain silly not to take the time to do that. I ultimately decided to go with VaultPress, which is a WordPress plugin that literally backs up the blog every time anything changes (someone comments, you change a post title, etc.). In addition to having really good customer support, you can also login and choose which backup to install on your own if something goes wrong. Like when your EasyRecipe plugin decides to crash your entire site. VaultPress is $15 per month, but it’s so, so worth it. It takes me hours just to do one recipe post (cook time, photos, editing, writing the post). I would be beyond devastated if I lost all of my work.
As far as site design, WordPress offers a number of “themes” that you can use for your site, but I purchased something called Thesis through DIY Themes for $87 so I could easily customize everything without having to mess with any of the coding. It has an extremely intuitive user interface that lets you control every aspect of the website’s design (fonts, colors, columns, and so on). I’ve used Blogger in the past when I was writing my previous employer’s company blogs, and although it’s simple, I found it to be too basic. WordPress has tons of features and everything is customizable. Plus, lots of my favorite blogs use Thesis, and that’s only available with WordPress. If you’re just getting started, however, you may not need to be spending close to $100 on a theme. There are lots of really nice, free templates available.
The header is courtesy of my very talented husband. I told him I wanted a girly and pretty font and he actually drew this by hand for me. I’ve considered swapping out the background image, but I’m still too attached to the original. Maybe when my blog turns one next month?
Anyway, this is what works for me for now. Admittedly, Bluehost can be spotty at times, and there is nothing more frustrating than having your site go down and having zero control over fixing it. However, that seems to be the case with most hosting providers, especially when you’re paying less than $10 a month. If anyone has found hosting that’s awesome all the time – please share! For now, I will just remind myself that it’s not the end of the world when my latest hummus recipe is temporarily unavailable.