Last week I wrote a short post about the thoughts I’d had about my blog hosting arrangements. Briefly to recap, I’ve been thinking about moving my site away from the umbrella of wordpress.com and moving to a self-hosted wordpress.org site on a Digital Ocean virtual server where I would have more control.
Well, after a few days thought I’ve decided to stick with wordpress.com, at least for the next year and these are my reasons.
It’s mainly to do with the amount of work I’d need to do to maintain the server & the wordpress environment and to ensure that I had full, up-to-date backups of the site. Digital Ocean is not a conventional hosting arrangement; it’s a virtual server system. For a set amount every month you get a complete virtual server which you can use for any purpose you want, i.e. WordPress, Drupal, Joomala, email server etc but with this flexibility comes the need to update and maintain the system yourself. Although I’m happy enough to do that from a technical point of view, it would take an amount of time which, at the moment, I don’t feel I want to commit to. As someone who commented on my original post said, ‘I want to be out taking photographs, not sat in front of a PC’.
An alternative to the virtual server environment offered by Digital Ocean, would be to look for a conventional C-Panel style hosting arrangement, but when I looked at these it was difficult to find one which I think would be reliable and would offer the level of service I would want at a price that matched the WordPress.com service.
When I thought about the things that attract me to a self-hosted system, the top item is a proper analytical tool to get data on visitor numbers and to find where the traffic to my site comes from. For that reason I decided the way to go for this year is to upgrade to a WordPress business account and use the google analytics tool provided with that account to try to maximize my traffic from organic search rather than from the WordPress community.
A couple of points about that: Firstly it sounds an expensive option but, I would need to buy a disk space upgrade in the next couple of months anyway because I’m very close to the limit of my allowed disk usage. Since that would bring the total cost to $149 for my current premium service and the upgrade to the business service for the first year is $199 it isn’t that much more. Secondly, it sounds as if I’m being picky about traffic from the wordpress community but that isn’t the impression I’m trying to give. What I would like is for my vintage camera articles to be found in search as well as being driven by the wordpress blogging community since search is such a huge audience to educate about the joys of vintage camera use and ownership!
So I think my strategy for the next year is to use google analytics to improve my site’s search rating & increase traffic from organic search and try to grow my following from email. Another comment from my original post by Steve pointed out the one of the biggest disadvantages of moving to self hosting is that it’s more difficult to grow your readership.
I’ve been looking at some tutorials on using google analytics and although I initially thought it was far too complex for my needs, if you ignore the articles which are driven by marketing sites which talk about increasing sales etc and concentrate on how to use it as a tool it looks like it can be useful. Initially I’ve set up a couple of goals which are appropriate for a site such as mine. The first is to measure the number of readers who follow the site via email and the other is to count the number of readers who stay on the site long enough to read one of the posts, for which I’ve set a time of 5 minutes. I think those are reasonable goals for a site which isn’t driven by a commercial aim.
While I’m doing that I plan to try to work out a strategy over the course of 2016 which will enable me to move to a self hosted environment so I can get to the nirvana of a site which is as easy to maintain as the current wordpress site, with the advantages of being able to install plugins and configure the site as I want.