Nigel Ramsay

Software Engineer from Wellington, New Zealand

Motivations for self hosting

13 March 2020

I’ve recently migrated from a Medium-hosted blog to a new self-hosted blog using Jekyll. In this post, I outline my motivations for the move, and highlight some of the benefits and drawbacks.

Some of the benefits of using Medium include:

  1. They take care of the infrastructure, and software updates
  2. An app for creating/editing posts from your phone
  3. A clean, professional looking design template
  4. Easy syndication between blogs

But, there are some downsides as well.

Ownership

It has slowly been dawning on me that the posts are owned by Medium, rather than by myself. Take a look at the URL scheme for posts:

https://medium.com/@nigelramsay/moved-to-https-nigel-ramsay-org-nz-54441f368f6

Yes, it has my name in the URL - but the page is firmly locked on the medium.com domain. I am unable to migrate the pages from Medium to another host without loosing the reputation my posts have gathered from Google Search, DuckDuckGo and other search engines.

In the past, Medium have offered bloggers the ability to use their own domain (such as stories.abletech.nz), but this is not an option at this time.

Page rank with Search Engines

My posts are primarily contributing to Medium’s reputation within Google Search. A popular post will inflate the search rank of other Medium posts. My other posts are not substantially influenced by the popular post.

But, when all of my content is hosted together under my own domain - then popular posts contibute to the overall page rank of the entire site. Over time, Google and other search engines will see my posts as having a higher importance, and consequently appear higher in search results.

Syndicated posts

I’ve noticed that my syndicated posts have had their URL changed. When I share a post with the Abletech blog, the URL of the original post is altered to now refer to the Abletech domain.

For example, I wrote a post in January about a trip we made to Whakapapa in our EV. I then shared the post with the Abletech blog. The URL was changed to:

https://stories.abletech.nz/driving-from-taupo-to-wellington-in-an-ev-3438684e86

So, did I really share the post? In reality, the post was gifted to the Abletech blog. This wasn’t my intention. My preference would have been for the URL to remain unchanged, and for the Abletech blog to retain some of the content, but to refer to the primary location of the post.

Increased Flexibility

When you self host, you have the flexibility to adjust almost any aspect of blog. As you might expect, you can tune the layout and style aspects. You can work with tools such as WebPageTest to understand and tune the performance of the site.

But, you can also include additional sections. For example, I have a series of posts related to Electric Vehicles. I have been including the links to the other EV posts at the bottom of each post. On Medium, this has been rather time consuming, and also rather error prone (due the changing of the URLs from the syndicated posts).

With the new self hosted blog, I have been able to assign a category to each post. I now programatically, link to the related posts, thus avoiding a cumbersome and time consuming manual operation.

Avoiding increasing Commercialisation

When I publish a post with Medium, I am given an option to allow curators to recommend my story to interested readers.

The implication of agreeing, is that the post then becomes part of Medium’s metered paywall. This means that the post in then subject to reading limits - and these limits are subject to change. Readers are required to subscribe to Medium, and possibly pay to read my article.

https://help.medium.com/hc/en-us/articles/360017581433-About-the-metered-paywall

I understand that someone has to cover the costs of running the Medium service. Medium have decided that the costs will be covered by the readers, rather than by the writers. I would have been happy to subscribe to a paid blogging service, but this option is not currently available.

Summary

I have seen many benefits from taking control of my blog by self hosting.

The main benefit being the ownership of my own URL, my own brand on the Internet. The secondary benefits of increased flexibility and avoiding commericalisation are also very valuable.

My challenge now is to re-grow the blog’s status with Google and other search engines. Time will tell how effective this is.