As fun, fulfilling and profitable a blog can be, the unfortunate truth is, many blogs fail. But before we continue with this post, let's define failure first. As subjective as success can be, failure is rather objective. Failure in terms of a blog has two parts to it.
One, it's not fulfilling because your content isn't being shared or found. You don't have traffic, nor do you have a readership.
Two, it's not profitable because your content is either not being found or your content has not been monetised.
The result of both of these failures make blogging horribly tiresome. So now, a blog isn't fun, isn't fulfilling nor is it profitable. At this point there's little to no motivation to keep going. That's when bloggers give up, and blogs fail.
Now that you understand the above, you can start to understand how to avoid blog failure. You need to get traffic and you need to monetise your content. Easier said than done, if you're a new blogger that has no experience or knowledge in both areas.
That's where this post comes in.
By the time a new blogger begins to understand the basics of traffic generation and how to monetise, they might have already made a big mistake.
They chose to start their blog on a third party blogging platform instead of self-hosting. Making this one decision will effect both your ability to monetise your content as well a generate traffic. Let me explain this is further detail
What is a third party blogging platform?
A third party blogging platform is simply a place where you can blog with an account associated with the platform. Think, blogger, Wix, Tumblr. You can build a website from scratch in Wix and let them host it, or publish content and let the platform curate it like Tumblr.
A third party blogging platform is a simple way to get started in publishing content online, and most of the time it's free to use. A lot of people new to blogging make the mistake and go with a third party blogging platform instead of self hosting because of these reasons.
Most of these platforms make blogging as simple as possible. You can start within a few minutes and you don't need any technical knowledge whatsoever. It's a very attractive option for beginners because it promises quick results. You don't need to learn anything before you start typing away, nor do you actually have to pay anything.
But going with a platform will leave you hugely restricted on what you can and cannot do.
Why is a third party platform bad for traffic?
Blogging on a third party platform means your pages and urls are only sub-extensions to the platform's main domain. This is bad news for your content's SEO (search engine optimisation), where even great content that is fully optimised won't see all of Google's love. And we all know what happens to websites that don't receive Google's love...they die off.
Instead, your content is actually helping the platform's overall SEO.
Another huge limitation with third party platforms are the restrictions of plugins, apps and customisation through code. All of these platforms have pre-defined settings and a limited network of partners they work with. This results in huge restrictions to optimise user experience.
I'm talking about email integration, sign-up forms, social media buttons and many more elements a good blog needs to improve traffic and readership.
Why is a third party platform bad for monetisation?
The same thing apples to your restrictions to monetise. The restrictions and limitations of platforms may carry rules and regulations preventing you from using certain monetisation methods. OR, you are simply unable to even create your desired monetisation method because you cannot customise or integrate the necessary elements into your site.
A great example would be wordpress.com (it's different from wordpress.org), the platform doesn't allow bloggers to run their own ads and actually use your blog to run their own ads! Ads are the most common and easy way to start making money for a blogger and wordpress.com doesn't allow you to do it.
What is self-hosting?
A self-hosted site is a website that is retained on a server the site owner owns. With this definition, most websites aren't actually self-hosted since bloggers pay for a hosting service provider instead. (buying and maintaining a server is actually very expensive and technical, paying for the service makes more sense) This site included. So when most people say self-hosting for blogging terms, they actually mean do you have control over the location and structure of your website.
In order to have control over these elements of your website, you must use an open source website interface such as wordpress.org along with a hosting service provider like Siteground. Most hosting service providers will provide you a whole array of customisation ability depending on which plan you choose to pay for. With these two elements, you have ultimate control.
Why is self-hosting good for traffic?
Self-hosted blogs can fully benefit from their own SEO efforts. You don't need to split your SEO efforts with anyone else and this makes your progress a lot faster and a lot easier.
Not only that, but self-hosted sites give you access to customising the structure of the website, where you can actively tweak it to be more SEO friendly. You can allow your posts to have tags, meta-data, and organise your media for example. All of these activities are easy to do with self-hosting but might not even exist on a third party platform.
This high level of customisation also means you optimise your blog to increase and manipulate user experience. Add in lead pages, landing pages, sign-up form, social media widgets etc. The possibilities are endless.
Why is self-hosting good for monetisation?
You have full control over your website. There are no rules or regulations other than the actual laws you have to follow, but other than that you don't have any restrictions on what you can and cannot do from another organisation.
You want to run ads on your site? By all means apply to ad networks.
You want to sell a product on your site? By all means sell it.
This level of control and freedom makes making money from a blog a lot easier than using a third party platform.
self-hosting is the only smart choice for any blogger that isn't doing it just as a hobby to share with friends and family. If you're looking to actually share your content and build an audience as well as build an income stream, then self-hosting is the best option. Self-hosting helps you avoid the two pitfalls that cause a blog to fail by making it easier to gain traffic and easier to make money.