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Self-Hosted WordPress Website’s Explained

By | First Published: | Last Updated: 21 September, 2021

If you are a small business, individual or non-profit and you want a new website, then the self-hosted WordPress option is a great choice.

But, if you are like most business owners, you may not even be aware of what a self-hosted WordPress website is, let along why it is a great choice.

If that is you, then read on. In this article, I explain:

  • What a self-hosted WordPress website is
  • The difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
  • Why such a site may be perfect for your small business
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What is a Self-Hosted WordPress Website?

I’ve broken this question down into 3 parts. What is:

  • A self-hosted website?
  • WordPress?
  • A self-hosted WordPress website

What is a Self-Hosted Website?

A self-hosted website is one where you, the site owner, is responsible for organising and paying for your site to be hosted on a computer server. Being hosted on a computer server refers to your websites coding and image files physically sitting on a specially configured computer.

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All websites, both hosted and self-hosted, sits on a computer server – even your social media platforms. The difference is with:

  • Hosted websites (e.g., Wix), someone looks after the hosting for you, often charging you a monthly fee for doing so
  • Self-hosted websites, you choose a hosting provider and pay them a lower monthly fee to hostyour site

What is WordPress?

WordPress is software that helps people create and manage their websites.

Using the correct jargon, it is a Content Management System or CMS. A content management system allows you to make changes (manage) your website content without having to know HTML or CSS code.

WordPress is by far the most popular Content Management System used on the internet. In fact, it powers over 42% of the internet, with its closest rival, Shopify powering only 3.9%.

And the best thing is that the WordPress software itself is free.

What is a Self-Hosted WordPress Website?

A self-hosted WordPress website is a website that:

  • Sits on a server from a host of your choice
  • Has WordPress software as its foundation

For example, this website sits on a server from an Australian company VentraIP (no affiliation). And it runs using WordPress software.

Yet, there is more to a website than its foundation. If you think about your website as a house, WordPress is like your:

  • Slab of concrete
  • Wall frames
  • Electrical wiring
  • Plumbing

From this foundation, you may want to add functionality such as air-conditioning, heating or a spa. Within WordPress, functionality is largely added through plugins. Developers code plugins using PHP and JS to perform specific functions. For example, there are several choices of plugins for contact forms.

WordPress has over 58,000 plugins, giving you the flexibility to add nearly any functionality you want to your website. Many of the plugins are free, but most use a freemium model. That is where you get certain features for free but pay for more advanced features.

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Yet homes are not just functional. You also want them to look great. Web designers use the computer languages CSS and HTML to create websites that look the way you want them to look.

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WordPress.org vs WordPress.com

WordPress has two domain names. And this sometimes causes confusion. So, what is the difference?

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is the site where you (or your designer) can download the WordPress software for free. It also houses WordPress plugins that independent coders have developed.

If you run a self-hosted WordPress website, there are only two reasons you or your designer need to access WordPress.org. To download the:

  • Core WordPress software
  • Plugins you wish to use

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a hosted service that offers non-coders easy to build websites. If you go with a self-hosted WordPress website, you do not need WordPress.com.

The owners of WordPress use the same software available on WordPress.org to power WordPress.com. But they restrict what you can do to make it all simpler for you.

Personal sites such as blogs are free, however, for more advanced features you have to sign-up for Premium or Business plans. Yet, even with these paid plans, you do not get the same flexibility that you do with a self-hosted WordPress website.

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Why a Self-Hosted WordPress Website May be Right for You?

Personally, I use self-hosted WordPress for all my websites, business and personal. And, for most (not all), small businesses it is my recommended solution.

The key reason is that it gives you tremendous flexibility for a fraction of the cost of using a custom-coded CMS.

Cost Savings

I paid a company $15,000 for a custom-coded business website about 15 years ago. It looked great and worked well, but today I could build the same website using WordPress for $1,500.

Flexibility

Self-hosted WordPress sites offer far more flexibility than hosted options such as Wix and Shopify.

To start with the obvious, you have 99% control over how your site looks. A self-hosted WordPress website gives you a unique, professional online presence that matches the nature of your business. By contrast, hosted solutions give you limited, cookie-cutter websites.

But the vast array of plugins gives tremendous flexibility with functionality as well. For example, plugins allow you to:

  • Create contact forms (from simple to complex)
  • Have potential clients make appointments online
  • Run an online store
  • Sell online courses with self-graded quizzes
  • Create membership sites
  • Display image galleries
  • Connect your website to different email marketing services

Another reason to go with a self-hosted WordPress website is there is also flexibility in backend functionality as well, such as:

  • Search engine optimisation options (i.e., getting found on Google)
  • Options for speeding up page loading times (i.e., avoiding annoying both potential customers + Google)
  • Choice of payment gateway options when selling things online
  • Alternative choices for beefing up your website security
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Things to Be Aware Of

There are downsides to every choice you make in life and WordPress is no different.

Personally, I’d still go with a self-hosted WordPress website every time. But there are things you should be aware of.

Design Cost

The biggest thing to be aware of is that unless you have a lot of time and love learning, you will need to hire a web designer to create your website. This will likely be your largest single cost.

Simple WordPress websites can cost as little as $1,000 to design. More complex sites should not cost more than $3,000 in most cases.

Flexibility Comes with Responsibility

Hosted websites are like a Hello Fresh food kit. They are convenient and come with all you need to cook a meal.

Self-hosted WordPress sites are like shopping for the ingredients yourself. You get far more choice, but you are responsible for choosing each ingredient.

Website ingredients include things like design options but also making choices about:

  • Backup and security options
  • Hosting plans
  • Domain name options

Other Costs

With all self-hosted WordPress websites, you need to pay for your own:

  • Domain name (typically budget $20 per year)
  • Hosting (typically budget $20 per month)

Exact prices may vary according to your needs.

Another common cost relates to premium plugins. With extensive experience with WordPress, I try to recommend free or low-cost plugins when they will achieve the result you are after. But, sometimes, a premium option is best.

Finally, there may be services connected to but not directly associated with your website. For example, if you want to do email marketing, you pay an email marketing service. Your designer simply connects this to your website.

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Self-Hosted WordPress Websites In a Nutshell

A self-hosted WordPress website is great for individuals who want a unique, professional presence online at a fraction of the cost of custom-coded CMS.

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SHAUN KILLIAN

Shaun Killian (me) is a small business owner, who is passionate about helping other small businesses succeed. He has been working with website design since 2008. He is also an expert in digital marketing, including SEO, content marketing and email marketing. In a former life, Shaun was a school teacher and principal before a heart transplant and bilateral leg amputation led him in other directions.