If you’re considering starting a blog on your own domain but you’re not sure what a self-hosted blog costs, this post may give you an idea.
If you’re thinking about starting a blog or moving your blog to your own site, it’s good to know the expected blog costs upfront. So I decided to write up this post to give you an idea of what costs you will likely encounter.
This blog began way back in 2004 on America Online’s now-defunct AOL Journals blogging platform. Back then, having an AOL Journal was free; but you paid a monthly membership — something like $10 — to be an AOL member. When I left AOL in 2005, I moved to Blogger, which was also free. But users of both AOL and Blogger had blog URLs that included the platform names. You couldn’t get a custom URL back then.
In March of 2007, I moved this site to its current home. I can’t believe it’s been 13 years! I’ll break down the costs for moving from a free service to true self-hosting here.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to come up with a domain you like. I’ve used GoDaddy for this, but there are other services to select from. When you first buy a domain, you’ll usually get some discount for the first year. You can probably snag the domain you want (assuming it’s available) for about $10 that first year. After that, the price will go up to about $18 or so.
You’ll probably want to add on some security and privacy features. That helps protect your site from hacking and gives you a certain amount of privacy protection from malicious agents. If you go with those options, you could see that first-year bill move up to about $15.
Most URL registrars like GoDaddy want you to pay for a year upfront. Some give you a discount for a multi-year registration. But if you’re new to blogging, you need to think about how long you think you can sustain your site. You may want to start conservatively, paying for only the first year.
The domain gets you the web space. It doesn’t include the cost of getting content from your blog to that space. For that, you need web hosting.
I’ve tried a variety of web hosts over 13 years. I tend to be very brand-loyal. What makes me leave a host is a lack of good customer service.
I’ll give you an example. I once had a host shut down my blog for a few days because of what it described as an overuse of resources on their server. I had done nothing differently in the days leading up to the sudden shutdown. They couldn’t explain what was causing that overuse. They just decided that something I was doing was slowing down their server. Essentially, they elected to hold my blog hostage for several days until I agreed to switch to a higher tier of service.
I agreed to that higher tier so they would restore my access to my site. And as soon as I had that access, I immediately switched hosts.
I currently use FastComet for web hosting. They’re very responsive when there’s a problem. The few times I’ver had a problem with them, they respond quickly when I file a ticket. They also help with things like transferring hosts from someone else to them. (I’m not an IT guy; I’m a content guy.)
So how much does hosting cost? It’s complicated.
Hosting models have changed over the years. It used to be that you could buy hosting for a short time. But perhaps out of frustration of people like me switching hosts when there were unresolvable problems, the industry shifted towards a more strict pre-paid model. That means you’ll be prepaying for at least a year and in some cases two or three years. You have a window during which you can cancel if you aren’t satisfied, but with some hosts, that’s only about a month or two. If you suddenly start encountering problems six months down the road, you may be out of luck unless you upgrade to a higher tier of service to burn out the money you’ve prepaid.
As you consider your blog costs, you also need to decide on the type of hosting. Shared hosting is the lowest service tier. As the name implies, you’re sharing a server with other websites. The security plugins you have on your WordPress installation — combined with those on the server — should protect you from problems. But if another site on a shared server starts taking up a lot of bandwidth or starts getting a lot of traffic, it could slow down your site.
Shared hosting service can cost anywhere from about $5 per month on up to about $15, depending on options. That’s an average. The length of the agreement — one year vs. three years, for example — can also change the monthly price (that you prepay in advance).
Some hosting services then offer virtual private servers. A VPS gives you the speed of having a server dedicated to your site alone, even though that little V implies it’s not truly dedicated solely to your site. You’ll pay a lot more for that level of service. I’ve seen monthly VPS fees start at an average of about $30. I’ve seen them go up to $75.
Do you really need VPS? If you’re selling products and have a lot more traffic than most bloggers, you probably don’t.
We all want our sites to load fast. But you have to have the money to be able to afford it. Sometimes, if the budget doesn’t allow that kind of expenditure, you learn to settle for a slightly “slower” site.
If you have a really large site with outrageous traffic, there are other options. You can find dedicated servers that are truly dedicated to your site alone. But you could end up paying anywhere from $100 to $350 per month for that “luxury.”
Especially if you’re starting out, go for the shared hosting. Anything more would be a major waste of your money.
Your blog will need some kind of layout, so as you consider your blog costs for a self-hosted site, you should consider a theme.
Yes, there are an extraordinary number of free themes available in the WordPress Theme Repository. You can probably find something there that will work for what you want. This is especially true if you’re just starting out.
Over the years, I decided I needed a theme that did a bit more. I wanted the site to look like more of a magazine with the key topics I cover right up front in a top menu. And I also wanted color coding to help reinforce which sections were which.
Therefore, I ended up buying a prebuilt theme. Mine cost about $70 and then I went in and made modifications.
You can pay more for prebuilt themes.
You can also work with the developer of a prebuilt theme for additional customization. This can cost a few hundred bucks.
Or, you can even go the completely custom route, having a web designer build a custom theme just for you. But if you go this route, you’ll need to plan for an additional $1,000 to $2,000 in your blog costs list. If you’re starting off, don’t bother with customization on that degree.
Until you know that you can maintain your site, you’ll want to spend conservatively. As your site grows, that’s when you can worry about upgrades.
The majority of the plugins you’ll want to use on your WordPress site are free. You can find them in the WordPress Plugin Repository. (Make use of these repositories: Never download a free theme or plugin from a site that’s not officially WordPress. You never know which ones might have malware hidden in the code!)
There are handful of useful plugins you might want to pay for that go a bit further. Most premium plugins, though, only carry a one time fee or a lesser yearly fee. That helps some. Without looking, I don’t think I have more than two premium plugins running at the moment.
That’s not going to be a major expenditure.
Shop around, spend wisely.
There’s no way to get around buying a domain and web hosting. But once you’ve done those, you can get by with a free WordPress theme and plugins — there are thousands to choose from.
Other expenses may come along, like licensing images for use. You can get around this, too, with Creative Commons licenses and the like.
But just know that the more you want to have it your way, the more it’s likely to cost you.
A first year’s blog costs could be as low as $135. That’s if you figure about $15 for the first year of your domain and about $120 for hosting, prepaid. That also assumes you’ll use free themes and plugins and focus instead on the content.
Let’s face it: that’s still the more important part.
No matter where you place your blog or what you make it look like, your item at the top of your list of blog costs should always be this: Time for quality posts.