Paid WordPress versus Self Hosted: What I wish the guides told me

Welcome to my first of a four-part post series on my move from Paid WordPress to Self-Hosted! These posts will discuss my lessons learned and tips you can use (even on Free WordPress!) to improve your website. 

Paid WP vs. Self-Hosted | How I Went Self-Hosted | Proper Use of Headers | SEO for Book Bloggers

I made the jump from Paid WordPress to Self-Hosted a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve learned a lot since that process. My lessons began about eleven months ago: I wanted to add Google Analytics to my website and found I couldn’t unless I was on the Business plan ($20/month). If I wanted to pay that much I could have gone with managed WordPress. This paid wordpress versus self-hosted guide aims to assist bloggers considering moving from free wordpress to having their own domain.

What’s the Difference Between Paid WordPress and Self-Hosted?

Did you know that there are two WordPresses? Confusing, I know. WordPress as a platform is a free and open-source content management system for publishing on the internet.

  • WordPress.COM is a website based on the software, but it is hosted and maintained by Automattic. You don’t download the software or update plugins.
  • WordPress.ORG is where the open-source software, themes, plugins can be found. There are tons of free options and you have a lot of freedom, but you need to download the software and host it yourself. There is no free website version.

The main difference between the two is the amount of freedom and responsibility you have. If you are new to creating a website or not interested in paying for a domain, a free wordpress.com account is the way to go.

If and when you outgrow the free account and are ready to have your own domain, you will have a choice between the easy upgrade with wordpress.com or moving to self-hosted. This guide is for people considering this step and supplements the WP Beginner WordPress.com vs. WordPress.Org – Which is Better? Pros and Cons guide with the information I learned after the fact.

My Domain Experience

I consulted the guides, talked to friends, and decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle of going self-hosted because my friends said they got everything they needed with paid wordpress. I quickly learned my prior and outside digital management background would lead me to hit that glass ceiling of capability early on.

No Plugins is Limiting

Sure those comparison charts say no plugins, but that doesn’t seem like a big deal. If you have never had access to plugins, you assume they are just extra things like adding a Playbuzz quiz into your post. But EVERYTHING YOU POSSIBLY WOULD WANT TO DO IS A FREAKING PLUGIN. Google Analytics? Plugin. Test preview links of posts before they publish? Plugin. Want to remove the dates from your post permalinks? Gotta be on Business for that.

Basically, I felt trapped in a plan that didn’t allow access to the data I wanted for eleven months. Once you figure out more about the business of blogging and want to implement SEO techniques to improve your blog’s rankings on Google, you realize just how limiting paid wordpress is. The jump from $8 to $25 a month just for plugins is obnoxious and would put me at the same price as going with a managed self-hosted plan, only I would get a lot more self-hosted.

Things I Wanted to Do but Couldn’t

There are a lot of plugins out there that do cool things like add accessibility or allow you to embed a Rafflecopter into your post, but I worked around them while on the WordPress.com platform. I assumed all plugins were nice-to-haves, but a few turned out to be a big deal for me. The problem is when you pay $100 for the year, you feel like you should be able to do some of these things.

  • Google Analytics offers more detailed information about site traffic, link clicks, bounce rates, etc. than the basic suite of data provided by WordPress via Jetpack. The only way to link your account is via a plugin, which you don’t have access to unless you are on the Businss Plan. Some data is better than no data, but it killed my soul!
  • DMCA Protection provides you with content protection and takedown services, registering your content under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I registered my website a year ago after the first plagiarism situation but could not claim the website for DMCA protection without a plugin or a domain email address.
  • Post Previews – when I received a sponsored post opportunity, the person I was working with asked for a preview link to double-check everything before the post went live. This requires a plugin, I used GoogleDocs instead.
  • Post permalink structure – by default, all of the post permalinks have the date in the URL, but that actually hurts your SEO ranking. The only way to remove the dates was to go to Business.
  • Can’t upload themes – if you want to use a theme that isn’t listed in the wordpress.com library, you have to be on the Business plan.
  • Can’t fully customize – even CSS is limiting! It’s baffling that you have to be on the Premium plan to even customize your site with CSS, but you don’t have the ability to directly edit the theme.
  • Not able to add customized buttons for your ko-fi or other Javascript items like Rafflecopter embeds.

Paid WordPress is more expensive

I wanted the capability to remove advertisements from my website, so I chose the Premium plan.

Breakdown of the 4 Paid WordPress.com Plans

I was completely content with the amount of space that I had, the premium themes that I had access to for free, and the ability to customize my themes with CSS is just what I wanted. But I quickly figured out no plugins really limited me in ways I didn’t expect.

To use Google Analytics and register my site with DMCA, both things important to me as a content creator, I would have to pay over $20 a month. When you look at the cost of going self-hosted, even the $8/month Premium plan is more expensive and you have less freedom.

Final Thoughts

I think it is obvious that if I knew then what I know now, I would have gone straight to self-hosted WordPress. The biggest downer is that the post likes and statistics reset when I moved to self-hosted (more on that in the next post, but it would have been $120 extra to Automattic. Nope). I wish I had made the jump back when I decided to take my blog to the next level a year ago.

Going self-hosted sounds really scary, but I promise you with a good host it’s really seamless! Self-hosted plans are as low as $3-$5 a month and offer you a LOT more flexibility than the $8 per month you would pay to WordPress.com… save your coins, friends.

The next post in my Lessons Series will be the actual process of moving from Paid WordPress to Self-Hosted WordPress, including links and information about who I decided to go with for hosting. If you have any specific questions about the process you want to be sure I cover, please let me know!


💖 If you like the work that I do here at Reader Voracious, consider fueling my pumpkin spice latte and black tie addiction by buying me a ko-fi or joining my Patreon! ☕

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!

58 Comments

  1. Kayla @ Books and Blends

    July 9, 2019 at 8:20 AM

    Great post Kaleena! I can’t wait for the next part of this series. I’ve been seriously thinking about going self hosted.

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 11:27 AM

      Thank you so much, Kayla! I am really happy that I took the plunge, and it isn’t as scary as we think it is!

      1. Kayla @ Books and Blends

        July 10, 2019 at 6:24 PM

        That’s good to hear because I will be learning through your posts!

  2. Clo @ Book Dragons

    July 9, 2019 at 8:26 AM

    Ah this was so insightful and I’m here for the rest of this series Kal! *pets my free WP blog* honestly the dates in the links are really annoying, I hate having them but alas the cons of being on free as is having stupid ads like I get it we’re on free. But we barely get anything for it and a lot of us have to do so many work arounds to get things looking/working how we want its absurd.

    Is there a way for to keep your likes and stats though without paying for it? Like surely there’s a way…. *huffs* we’re not made of money ppl

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 11:29 AM

      The ads are the worst some of them are REALLY GROSS to look at. I think the thing that sucks is you are forced to have the ads but don’t get any of the revenue… but honestly, when I tried for 3 months I earned like 37 cents total. So it isn’t really worth it to try and monetize that way!

      No there isn’t, I looked. You get to keep your comments but the views and like don’t transfer.

  3. Jenna @ Bookmark Your Thoughts

    July 9, 2019 at 8:31 AM

    This is a great post — one I plan to re-read and think over. I have SO many things I want to do with my blog but I don’t have the options due to the limited plan I’m on. I’ve been looking into this and I still feel so hesitant with what I want to do. So thank you for the in-depth post!

    1. Susan

      July 9, 2019 at 1:05 PM

      It’s like you’ve been watching me curse wordpress on twitter everyday or something….

    2. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 11:31 AM

      You’re welcome, I am glad you found it useful! I was really shocked and annoyed with the limitations that I hit when I went paid, which stemmed from not understanding common things like GA are only accessible by a plugin. Good luck with what you decide!

      1. Jenna @ Bookmark Your Thoughts

        July 10, 2019 at 11:44 AM

        Thank you! I think I’m honestly going to wait and review your series, since you have experience and I think it will help me with my decision and what to consider 🙂

        1. Kal

          July 11, 2019 at 8:53 PM

          Awe, that means so much to me!!! I hope the series lives up to your needs, and please let me know if you have ANY questions that you want me to cover!

          1. Jenna @ Bookmark Your Thoughts

            July 12, 2019 at 5:06 AM

            Of course!! My BIG questions are most likely going to be answered in your next post 😀

  4. Jenna @ Bookmark Your Thoughts

    July 9, 2019 at 8:37 AM

    I was JUST about to ask about how to go to self-hosted since I’m SERIOUSLY considering it. But it looks like you’re doing a series … THANK YOU!!!!

  5. Beware Of The Reader

    July 9, 2019 at 9:28 AM

    I love this post! I chose self hosting right from the start following my man’s advice as he works in IT. I had to learn so many things that I too shared some of my experience. That comparison is so useful!

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 11:35 AM

      Thank you so much, and you made the right choice in my opinion! (Past Kal is jealous lol.)

  6. Aubrey @ The Shelf Life Chronicles

    July 9, 2019 at 10:13 AM

    I am still super new to blogging so it’s nice to know what limits I have using a free site. Super informational thanks!

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 11:37 AM

      You’re welcome, glad you found the post useful! Just know that the limits of free for the most part extend on the paid WordPress plans through the $8/month ones. The main difference is you get a domain, access to more themes, can turn off adds, more space, and you can customize the look with CSS.

  7. daxmunro

    July 9, 2019 at 11:47 AM

    Awesome post. I recently came back to Self hosted WordPress and am much happier with it. 🙂
    I find your guide much more helpful than the others I saw prior to going self hosted.

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 11:38 AM

      I am also a lot happier with sef-hosted, and thanks so much for the compliment — I am glad you found it useful!

  8. Alex Masegian

    July 9, 2019 at 2:07 PM

    Great post, thank you so much! I’ve been debating if/when I want to make an upgrade to my site, and I have no doubt this series will be super useful in helping me do that. Can’t wait to see the other three parts 😀

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 8:42 PM

      You’re welcome, and I hope the series helps you make the best decision for your needs!~

  9. May @ Forever and Everly

    July 9, 2019 at 3:46 PM

    This was such an informative and helpful post, Kal! I’m definitely hoping to go self-hosted in the future (though not any time soon), but I thought I would go with paid WordPress before self-hosting and I won’t be doing that now after your advice!! Can’t wait to see the rest of your posts about self-hosting 💖

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 8:43 PM

      Yea, I wouldn’t recommend going paid WordPress if your ultimate goal is self-hosted, you’ll pay more for significantly less! I am so glad you found this post useful, May!

  10. Tammy

    July 9, 2019 at 5:46 PM

    Great post😁 There are lots of freedoms with self hosted. The biggest one for me is I don’t have WordPress monitoring my content or “trigger” words that go against their policies. My free WP blog was shut down because I had the words “blog tour” in a post (I mean seriously?) They said blog tour implied that you were simply posting copied unoriginal content (which wasn’t the case at all but they were just a**holes about the whole thing.) I’m so glad I was forced to switch😁

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 8:45 PM

      I didn’t run into any issues with WordPress before moving to self-hosted, but I have heard HORROR STORIES! I am sorry that happened to you, but you are definitely better off. The only thing that sucks is pingbacks tend to not work for some reason *glares at jetpack*

  11. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer

    July 9, 2019 at 9:10 PM

    GAHHH this would have saved me so much angst and research when I went self hosted. I didn’t know about DMCA so that was really informative to me now! So I’m going to check it out. 😀

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 8:49 PM

      ME TOO, believe me! At least I am able to help others with what I learned through the frustrating year I’ve had, haha! Glad I was able to get DMCA on your radar!

  12. Destiny @ Howling Libraries

    July 9, 2019 at 9:24 PM

    Amazing post, and I can’t wait to see the other posts in this series! I’m still trying to decide when I want to take my hiatus to transfer over, but it looks like it’s going to be sooner rather than later — probably August or September. Even my spouse is constantly talking about how excited they are for me to make the switch, lmao!

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 8:52 PM

      Thank you so much, love! It is honestly hard to not take the plunge once you decide to do it, I was so excited for MONTHS! heheh. and your spouse is precious.

  13. northernplunder

    July 10, 2019 at 5:02 AM

    im glad i never did the paid wordpress and jumped straight to self hosting, it definitely seems the better option of the two.

    v handy post for those who don’t know the differences, i lookforward to your upcoming lessons posts even more tho! 🙂

    1. Kal

      July 11, 2019 at 8:41 PM

      Yea, you did it right in my opinion! But I was able to learn a valuable lesson & can now share with everyone, so I guess it’s okay.

  14. waytoofantasy

    July 10, 2019 at 8:00 AM

    I’m not that tech savvy so the process of going self hosted has always felt terrifying to me. Not sure how to go about the actual set up. For the most part I’m happy with what I get from WP.com, but sometimes I think about all the extras you can do with self hosting. I do enjoy the seo aspects (I know a little about seo from my work–a ecommerce company) but concentrating so much on that stuff may also make blogging feel more like a job to me and Idk if I want to do that at this stage lol. Excellent post, Kal!

    1. Kal

      July 11, 2019 at 8:51 PM

      I know what you mean, and honestly the horror stories a few of my friends told me about their accidentally breaking their self-hosted site scared me! I knew I *could* do it, but I just didn’t want to have to, if that made sense? SEO is nice, but I get how it can feel like work… thankfully I just connected my GA account and haven’t really looked at it since. I will probably assess yearly and that’s it – I am more interested in bounce rates and improving the visitor experience. Thanks for reading, Lisa!

      1. waytoofantasy

        July 12, 2019 at 4:50 AM

        That makes sense!

  15. Christine

    July 10, 2019 at 2:30 PM

    I completely agree with all of this, and I hope that you are happy with SiteGround. I’d feel SO responsible if you aren’t…but I did renew for THREE more years with them because they have been so good to me. Can I just tell you that I dished out way too much money with WP .com and their dang themes and plans. What a waste. It was much cheaper to go self-hosted, and like you say: have the plugins I want. Plus, affiliate marketing is at a whole new level now. I love that hosts like SiteGround offer a year of really cheap plans too–they let you experiment with little financial obligation. This year, they added free backups to all plans, and I was SOLD again. I am LOVING your site so I am thrilled for you. Xxxx.

    1. Kal

      July 11, 2019 at 8:55 PM

      Christine, I LOVE SiteGound so much! You are the only blogger who talks about them and I am so glad we are buddies because I probably wouldn’t have gone with them otherwise! WP.com is a freaking money sink and it pisses me off. Thanks so much for all your love and support! xoxo

  16. Paid WordPress versus Self Hosted: What I wish the guides told me — Reader Voracious | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

    July 10, 2019 at 3:05 PM

    […] via Paid WordPress versus Self Hosted: What I wish the guides told me — Reader Voracious. […]

  17. Sophie Li

    July 10, 2019 at 6:29 PM

    Hey Kal,
    Love this post! I’ve been doing paid wordpress for a while now. To be honest I didn’t really have the chance to look into self-hosting. This was really useful info and I will have to think about transitioning to self-hosting in the future 🙂

    1. Kal

      July 11, 2019 at 8:56 PM

      I am so glad you enjoyed the post, Sophie, and I hope this & the rest of the series help you when it comes time to renew so you can make the best decision for YOU, easily!

  18. Scrill

    July 11, 2019 at 7:35 AM

    Kal, this series is going to be amazing! I am so glad that I did end up going self-hosted this year instead of the paid wp after all these things you pointed out. You are so amazing and thorough with your help on these posts. Seriously, these posts are going to help so many people!

    1. Kal

      July 11, 2019 at 8:59 PM

      Aww thank you so much, Scrill! (and yes, you def made the right choice haha!)

  19. #2019BookBloggerAwards Nominations

    July 11, 2019 at 8:01 AM

    […] don’t think anyone can object that Kal at Reader Voracious has some of the best discussion posts and guidelines for bloggers out there. I always look forward […]

  20. Kristina

    July 11, 2019 at 1:11 PM

    One of the main things I wanted was commentluv. I’m baffled that even the « perfect for bloggers » option DONT EVEN HAVE PLUGINS!! That’s basically all I wanted – and i’d need to pay 24$ a month ?! It is insane. I got bluebost for what, 10$ a month ?? Quite the gap. 🙄

    Very informative post, Kal! I didn’t knew we could register for DMCA protection, id need to check that once id be home.

    1. Kal

      July 12, 2019 at 10:47 AM

      Yea, $24 a month is obnoxiously overpriced. I got three years with SiteGround for $6 a month. I thought about getting CommentLuv but opted to stick with the Jetpack form for comments. Glad you found the post informative, Kristina!

  21. Alys

    July 11, 2019 at 1:40 PM

    Great post! I’m not sure if I want to be self-hosted now, but I’ll keep in mind that you have this post if ever my decision changed.

    1. Kal

      July 12, 2019 at 10:48 AM

      Thank you, and I hope this post helps you make the best decision when you are ready to take that step!

  22. Becky

    July 11, 2019 at 1:45 PM

    Like I said in Discord! This is a really helpful post (once I read it properly😉) ❤️

    1. Kal

      July 12, 2019 at 10:49 AM

      Hehehe, thanks so much Becky! It means a lot from the QUEEN of blogging advice! 💖

  23. adeleisreading

    July 11, 2019 at 1:56 PM

    Great post, Kal! I’ve been thinking about moving to self-hosted myself. So your 4-part series is coming at the perfect time!!! I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of this series. 😀

    What I enjoyed most about this first part of the series was how easy it was to follow.💖

    1. Kal

      July 12, 2019 at 10:51 AM

      Awww I am so glad this series is timed well for you, and I think the next post will help alleviate a lot of concerns / fears people have about self-hosted! I am really happy to hear you found this easy to follow, thank you!

      1. adeleisreading

        July 12, 2019 at 3:30 PM

        You’re so welcome♡

  24. Camilla @ Reader in the Attic

    July 12, 2019 at 2:11 PM

    This was very nice and reassuring to read about. I plan to go self hosted one day (mayeb next year?) and I’ll probably pass by and pester you about it. I cannot wait to read your next post, because wow, I really need a guide for this. I feel like I could break my blog very easily. Also, I can totally see my path being full of questions, stopping every second to ask myself “wtf you doing, Cam?”

    1. Kal

      July 15, 2019 at 9:57 PM

      I look forward to your “pestering” and am happy to help!!!

  25. Kelly | Another Book in the Wall

    July 13, 2019 at 1:30 AM

    AH KALEENA I HAVE MISSED READING YOUR POSTS! (But, do not fear, I will be reading through all that I’ve missed and will spam you with my comments very soon. 😉) When I made the jump to self hosted, I had researched a lot into the differences between WP .com and WP .org. It’s crazy how much more affordable, flexible, and practical the latter is! I can’t wait to read the other posts in this series!

    (Also your blog’s aesthetic is SO STUNNING! It was beautiful before, but now it’s like marriage material. I love the design and colors so much! ❤️❤️)

  26. Marie

    July 13, 2019 at 9:14 AM

    Thank you so, so much for this very informative, amazing post, Kal, I’ll be looking forward to reading more of this series and to learn more, too. This is so helpful, thank you <3

  27. Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites

    July 13, 2019 at 2:56 PM

    WP is RUDE and no longer puts your posts in my reader, but I’m in the middle of switching to Feedly so I guess for now I’ll have to keep checking manually so I don’t miss any of your posts! (you’re worth it, obviously.)

    going self-hosted is probably a good ways out for me but definitely something I want to do if I stick with blogging – so this is also super useful information that answers probably all the questions I never knew I had. definitely looking forward to the rest of this series as you share your wisdom and experience with us in classic Kal fashion 💕

  28. TheCaffeinatedReader

    July 14, 2019 at 12:01 PM

    I am so so so thankful that you wrote this. My goal is, if I make it to a year on bookblogging (which I don’t foresee not doing but hey, shit happens) then I will consider moving over to self hosted if I’ve done the research and am ready for it…looks like I’m saving this series of posts in my faves bar!

  29. Sam || Fictionally Sam

    July 17, 2019 at 10:09 AM

    This is the series I have been waiting for! YES YES YES! I am so grateful that you decided to document your process of going self hosted and to share them with us. I have been heavily considering switching to self hosted since April, but am waiting until my current plan finishes (not about that wasting money life) before I waddle toward this abyss; so this series is definitely being bookmarked for research/science purposes.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: