As a company that works with over 750 food blog partners, we regularly get questions that fall outside of our scope of service, per se. But we love the opportunity to learn more about blogging. Plus, we're lucky enough to have team of engineers sitting right across the table so whenever you have tech questions about your blog, we consult them to get the best possible answer. In this new blog series, we're going to share the most common or puzzling "tech support" questions we get about blogging in order to help you all become superstar site owners.
Have a question you'd like to submit? Send it to us using the form below and we may use it for an upcoming piece. By submitting this form, you're giving us permission to potentially publish your name and question in an upcoming blog post.
I want to change my blog site, as I am working to switch from a wordpress.com based domain to my own domain (via Wordpress). How can I change that?
- Bhumika Mehta, The Writer Eats
There are a few points to address in Bhumika's question, but ultimately what she's looking to do is become self-hosted with her food blog. Below we're going to take you through the steps to self-hosting your blog as well as talk about some tools to get you there, but first let's talk about why a blogger would want to become self-hosted.
Why Should You Self-Host Your Blog?
There are a few reasons you'd want to go self-hosted. Basically it comes down to ownership. At the most cosmetic level, the URL you and your readers see in your browser address bar will go from saying something like foodblog.blogspot.com or foodblog.wordpress.com or foodblog.tumblr.com to just being foodblog.com. From a branding perspective, tidying up your URL in this way will help build credibility among your readers.
Similarly, you'll want to think about additional customization options and control. When you go self-hosted, you then have the ability to fully customize the look of your site and theme. Plus, in the case of Wordpress, once you move off of Wordpress.com into a self-hosted situation, you have the ability to explore and install the world of Wordpress plugins. (There is the option to map your custom domain to your wordpress.com site, but you won't get the customization options that you'll get--like the ability to add plugins--on Wordpress.org.)
Control also means, though, that you're in charge in bad times too. For example, should your site overload servers or be the subject of a malicious attack, it's on you and whatever team/hosting company you work with to help you get everything back up and running. Additionally, self-hosting comes with costs. When you move from a free hosted site to a self-hosted one, your costs could be anywhere from $8 a month to nearly $2,500 if you're the size of a site like Pinch of Yum.
Ultimately, though, if you're getting serious about running your blog as a business, self-hosting is the way to go.
How do I start the Process?
Now that you're convinced that you're going to self-host your site, let's talk about how to get there. There are a few things you'll need to get set up. Those include:
- Domain Name Registration
- CMS Installation/Back End Setup
- Content Restore
- Front End Setup
- Security and Site Backup Procedures
Domain Name Registration
First things first, register your domain. In order to own foodblog.com, you need to, well, buy foodblog.com. Pretty straightforward, right? However, chances are a domain like foodblog.com is already taken. You'll need to do some research to see if the name you want to register is available. Chances are your first choice of domain name will not be available--that's when you need to get creative or you need to be willing to shell out some cash for that perfect domain name.
You can search to see if you're domain name is available using registrars like Domain.com or Namecheap. If your name is not available, you can use public Whois records to find the owner and potentially contact that person. In many cases, there are people or companies that buy up domains in order to sell them back to others at a profit. (Here's an interesting story about how that works.)
Once you decide on the domain you'll buy, you can register it using a domain name registrar (again, like Domain.com) or in many cases, you can bundle domain registration with your hosting package. Note that your domain name is registered for a finite period of time, so choose a year, two years, etc. and remember to renew that registration when the time comes.
Ultimately, this is what we're after. Now that you own your name, you have to find the space for your site. Literally you are purchasing up server space on a computer somewhere where all of your content and data will be stored. And you need to pay rent for that space.
There are a variety of hosting solutions that vary from hands-off type setups (this is what developers like since they can really do what they want with their server space--Amazon or Google are two options) to setups that are specifically geared toward bloggers' or small businesses' needs. If you're the kind of person who wants a real live person on the other end, should your site have an outage (sometimes servers will crash if traffic spikes, or your site could be subjected to malware), look for a host in this latter category. Companies like BlueHost or A Small Orange are great options.
CMS Installation/Back End Setup
Most food bloggers are interested in using Wordpress as their content management system. When we talk about "Wordpress.org," this means you're moving away from Wordpress(.com) as your host and moving instead to installing Wordpress's free content management software on your site. Companies like BlueHost can help you through this setup, or you can hire a friend with some IT know-how to set up your server space and properly install Wordpress for you. Ask blogger friends for recommendations if you aren't sure who can help you with these more technical steps.
In some cases, too, you can set your site up on a cloud service like Amazon Web Services and host your site on a server that already has Wordpress installed. In this case, when you make your AWS account, you'll then go to the marketplace and look for a server setup with Wordpress. Some of these are paid integrations--look for a free one. This will basically install a "snapshot" of someone else's setup that will reflect the settings you need. Wordpress will be installed, your database will be set up, etc.
Similarly, you can use a variety of other tools to set up your site, though most food bloggers like the plugins that Wordpress offers. A Small Orange enables for a simple Weebly integration, or should you use a service like Squarespace, all of your registration, hosting, and content transfer can be handled through their setup tools.
Also ask your IT/tech help--or potentially your hosting provider if they offer more hands-on services--to make sure that your DNS is properly configured. A DNS is kind of like an old school phone book: to set it up properly means that when someone types in your URL, it's routed to the right land line (aka your server).
Perhaps you want to start fresh--by all means, go for it! But in most cases you'll probably want to transfer over some of your posts from your previous site. Blogger has a quick guide for doing this, and there are lots of resources for doing this on Wordpress. If you hire someone to help you out, they can assist with this process as well. Basically, you'll need to download all of your content (often referred to as a site backup) according to their recommended methods and then upload that content to your new site.
Again, if you use an all-around solution like Squarespace, you can import all of your content with the click of a button!
By "front end" we mean anything that your users see, so in terms of setting up your site, now's the time to think about your design. There are tons of free Wordpress templates, tons of templates you can buy and install, or, again, any CMS system that you use will probably come with a number of themes that you can customize and play with.
In some cases, you may wish to hire a designer of some sort to either customize a theme like Foodie Pro for your brand or come up with something completely custom. For the best designers, consult your food blogger friends in Facebook groups or use a service like Upwork to scout front end designers.
Security and Site Backup Procedures
Once you're happy with the look of your site and you have all of the "pipes" set up, make sure to take some precautions to protect your site and your content. There are a number of Wordpress plugins you can use to do things like back up your site on a regular basis. VaultPress is a popular one that many blogger trust.
You can also outsource your site monitoring, security and backup. Andrew Wilder, aka The Blog Tutor, is an good person to get in contact with. His services range from $390 to $1,890 per year and are an amazing option if you want the assurance that your site will be protected... or that there will be a patient, knowledgable person to consult if the worst should happen.
And that's the basics! You might run into snafus along the way, in which case you can always email us for some more help. I'm firstname.lastname@example.org and our Marketing Associate is email@example.com. Also, leave any questions you have in the comments and we'll get back to you as soon as possible!