Recently, I’ve had experience-after-experience with a variety of businesses asking the same question: Can I host JUST my blog with a site like WordPress without losing any SEO value?
The immediate answer? Sure! That can absolutely be done and your SEO will still love you for it so long as it is done right!
Let’s go over a few basics. Feel free to browse to the Q&A that best suits you.
Q: Why would I want to host only my blog elsewhere?
There are a variety of reasons why this question seems to come up again-and-again.
For some businesses, their webistes are simply too intense and require a lot more security than any custom WordPress template can offer them – their ecommerce, learning management, or lead generation tactics go beyond your standard set of plugins that small business websites can usually get away with.
For small businesses, some already have an established website with only their blog capabiltiies missing and others have web developers that do all their on-site content design and optimizations, they only want access to easy blog creation without getting involved with the core details of the website.
Q: Why have a blog?
There’s one thing that rings true for all: Blogging is good for your business.
Having a blog helps you demonstrate your authority not only with search engines, but with your website visitors. Blogs help you to create fresh, new content that encourages website visitors to come back for more which helps you to determine the success of marketing campaigns and measure the level of interest your followers have in your business. Through a blog, you can engage prospects, build up trust, and raise your credibility with consumers – all good things for any business, right? Right!
Most importantly, however, blogging helps boost your search results. When your blog is optimized correctly for SEO, it helps you increase the organic traffic to your site and boosts your website higher up in the SERPs for your given keywords. In fact, companies that blog see 55% more visitors to their websites than companies that don’t.
This creates a cycle that continues to improve your SEO. The more fresh content you write, the greater your credibility and authority. The greater your credibility and authority, the more people will seek out your wisdom on your blog. The more people that look for you, the more traffic your site will receive. Well-traveled sites continue to move upward in search results all the time — so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by investing your time and energy into a blog.
Q: Should I use my own website, Blogger, Medium, or WordPress?
The digital world is split on the pros-and-cons of where to host your website content. But one thing rings true regardless of where your site is located, manually programming a SEO-friendly blog is a lot more work than most companies want to do! That means you should probably go ahead and render the “program my blog manually” option as not even an option. You’ll end up putting a lot of work into organizing and linking in ways that blog hosts will automatically do for you.
So, what third-party blog host should you use for your website’s blog?
Here’s the catch: you can’t just set up a blog out there through one of those free blogging platforms, like Medium, Blogger or WordPress.com, and link to it from your existing website. That won’t do anything for your SEO.
Why? Third-party sites such as Blogger, Squarespace, Medium, and TypePad, are not the best way to go if your goal is search engine optimization. Instead, you want to properly integrate your blog with your website so the traffic to either makes both rise in Google’s ranking system. This helps you reap the benefits not only from your content, but from the URL as well.
Consider this, when someone searches “best SEO content in the Universe” you want them to see a link to your website right? But if you have a blog ranking elsewhere, such as on Medium or Blogger, that link-juice will go to them rather than to your site. Get those first-click benefits by hosting your blog directly as part of your website.
Q: Now what? Where can I host my blog without all the hassle and SEO loveloss?
Now that you know you want to host your blog directly as part of your website and not use Medium, Blogger, or WordPress.com, and you’ve decided you don’t want to manually program each new blog post into your website like a caveman, the new question is: now what?
We recommend WordPress.org.
WordPress.org is not to be confused with what would be a third-party website, WordPress.com. Even if you buy your own domain on WordPress.com, unless you’re hosting your entire website in the same place, this is not going to work for you and your SEO strategy.
Q: Why use WordPress.org to host your blog?
WordPress.org is a content management system (CMS) that is free to use when applying to your own, existing website template. That makes it an economical and friendly choice for most small businesses.
Do not get WordPress.com and WordPress.org confused. There are actually two different programs you can use — WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The confusion between the two trips up a lot of small business owners when they first get started blogging.
What’s the difference? Both are free and both have their uses, but for hosting just your blog on an existing website programmed and/or hosted outside of WordPress.com, WordPress.org is what you need to use.
When you use WordPress.org, you can make use of the free blogging software, but you download it onto the website you already own. If you are creating a WordPress.com blog to link to an existing website, you are creating a third-party link that will not benefit your website SEO. Be very, very careful that you are doing this correctly. This is a complicated technical set up that can be very confusing for new website owners!
Q: Should I publish my blog as a folder or subdomain?
Before getting started with your blog set up, you’ll want to determine if you’ll be using a subdomain or a folder.
You can set up a subdomain for your website and use a blogging platform like Blogger to host your blog. The URL for that would look something like “subdomain.website.com.” Or, you can put your blog in a subfolder on your site. The URL for that would read something like “www.website.com/blog.”
The subfolder option is vastly preferable to the first in terms of SEO.
Why? Because subdomains are essentially separate websites with two separate identities similar to having two separate websites. They are hosted together, but not necessarily of the same root-family like a sub folder is. While Google will find and index both of them, you lose the benefit of their combined SEO punch when you force them to stand on their own. Traffic to you’re your /blog folder counts as supreme SEO content and helps to increase your website’s rankings. It’s that simple.
Consumers may come to your website to shop, but they’re visiting your blog to learn. When your blog is in a subfolder, the trust equity and the other metrics used in SEO that are applied to your blog also benefit the rest of your site!
Q: How To Integrate WordPress.org With Your Business Website
Now for the nitty gritty how-to.
Warning: This is an intense process for most people and you should work with your web developer to set up your blog to be hosted by WordPress.org. Now that you have an understanding of the what and why of hosting a blog seprately from your website, the how should be turned over to a WordPress.org Developer. And here are the steps specifically for your WordPress expert.
- Download the WordPress package.
- Install a “LAMP” server (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP 7.2+) – ideally your existing site is already running on this, but if not it’ll need to be moved.
- Create your database with the command: mysqladmin -uADMINUSERNAME -p create databasename [enter your admin username MySQL password when prompted]
- Now enter an interface shell mySQL –uADMINUSERNAME –p mysql [enter your admin username MySQL password when prompted]
- You are now in an interactive MySQL shell, not the Linux shell. You’ll use this to create a username with permissions to a new database for WordPress to use with the following commands (remember to replace the username and password with choices of your own): create user ‘blogusername’@’localhost’ identified by ‘passwordtouse’; grant all on databasename.* to ‘blogusername’@’localhost’;
- Type “exit” to exist the mySQL shell and return to Linux shell
- Test your access using your newly created user by doing this at Linux command-line interface: MySQL –ublogusername –p databasename [enter passwordtouse when prompted]
If it works, you’ll be back in a MySQL shell, if it fails it will tell you if you why. If you got into the MySQL shell, type exist again to leave MySQL.
From here you’ll want to:
- Download wordpress tar .gz file to the website directory (eg /www/website). In this example, we use the “wget” command to do it directly, but you can download/upload it however you want. Then extract the file using the command: tar zxvf wordpress.tar.gz
- If that’s successful, you should now have a “wordpress” folder created which you’ll see via the “ls” command at the Linux prompt. Rename the “wordpress” directory to blog with the command: “mv wordpress blog”
- Now change directories into “blog” which contains the WordPress software, using the command: cd blog
- Rename the sample config file WordPress provided to one you can modify using the command: mv wp-config-sample.php to wp-config.php
- Edit the wp-config-php using your favorite Linux editor (or via your computer by downloading it e.g. over FTP) file replacing the databasename, username, and password with those you used in previous steps.
- Visit the blog with a web browser (website.com/blog/) and fill out the information to create separate web-based usernames and passwords (not the same as the MySQL ones you’ve created)
That’s it! If everything went right, you’ve successfully installed WordPress and you can login to begin making changes to customize your blog — and write your first post — from the WordPress Dashboard. It should look something like this:
The customization features of WordPress are important because consumers value consistency. Take the time to make your blog look and feel as similar as possible to the rest of your website.
Q: How do I make my WordPress.org blog look like my website?
In this example, a website already exists and has its own look and feel. WordPress will provide templates that may have a similar look and feel, and choosing one of those is probably your best bet.
If you’re quite intent on your blog looking identical, you can create your own custom theme using the elements used in your standard website. This process can be quite involved and requires knowledge of PHP in addition to understanding your site’s design (HTML and CSS).
We can give you a quick primer here, you may want to also leverage WordPress theming resources to really get to the final result.
We’re also assuming that you want the blog to look fully cohesive. If you are okay with just finding a good looking theme and using it, there’s no need to read the rest of this answer.
You essentially have two options:
- Find a WordPress theme that sort of fits your site and modify the HTML design around it
- Take your site’s layout framework and insert the PHP code as needed
If you can make your site design generally fit in an existing theme, that is probably a bit easier, as it requires you understand less of the WordPress PHP and get a fully functional theme supporting widgets and all. WordPress comes with a few themes already, such as “twenty fifteen”, “twenty sixteen”, and “twenty seventeen” and if any of those seems like they’ll fit, that will be your best route.
For option 1, copy a theme to a newly named folder like this:
For option 2, just create a folder of any name in the wp-content/themes directory.
While themes can be complicated, they essentially only have two required files: style.css and index.php.
If you’re going the route of option 1, the files will already be there, so just modify the existing files as needed. For option 2, create the files and refer to examples in existing themes to understand how they look – the header at the top of style.css will define the author and name, which once modified will show up in the WordPress GUI as a selectable theme. Either way, the top of style.css will look something like this:
One you’ve got these new files in a new directory, you should see the new theme appear in your blog’s GUI as selectable. Click the “Activate” button to enable it.
At this point, your blog will look just like the original “twenty seventeen” blog for option 1, but you can now pick it apart to design it. If you’re going down the option 2 route, you’ll have a blank blog as index.php is blank and style.css only has some metadata.
At this point, for option 1 you really just need to dig around and understand the code and rip-and-replace the CSS and HTML. On option 2, you’ll need to use your existing framework and insert the WordPress php functions.
In either case, the essential data to know is the following:
- css – primary CSS styling file, and also theme metadata location
- php – the primary file being executed when people browse the blog
- php – optional file loaded/executed when get_sidebar() is executed
- php – optional file loaded/executed when get_header() is executed
- php – optional file loaded/executed when get_footer() is executed
- wp_head() – function that typically is executed in header.php providing WordPress programmatic header content
- wp_footer() – function that typically is executed in footer.php providing WordPress programmatic footer content
- get_bloginfo() – function that returns blog-specific data, such as the name or description of the blog
- the_post() – a function that prints out actual post content
- “The Loop” – how WordPress developers describe the programmatic loop that prints content in some way or another. In simple form: if ( have_posts() ) : while ( have_posts() ) : the_post();
Armed with that information, you should be able to make a simple functional blog theme from scratch, or dig around the existing theme to modify it for your own uses. Again, you may want to leverage WordPress theme creation resources if you get stuck.
The Ultimate Question: Will It Effect My SEO If I Host Only My Blog With WordPress.org?
No. Not if you set up your blog correctly.
If you decide (for whatever reason) to host your blog with a third-party website separate from the rest of your website, WordPress.org is the way to go. If you set up your WordPress.org account (and don’t get that confused with WordPress.com) to be hosted in the same place as your website and publish to your /blog folder, you’re on your way to SEO success!
You put a lot of hard work into your blog to make it the best representation of your business possible. You should get the full SEO benefit of your labor — and you won’t get that through Blogger or any other third-party platform.
Integrating your blog to your website may take a few steps, but it’s absolutely worth the effort in terms of what you gain from combining the search engine optimization power of both your blog and your website. More importantly, doing so lets you avoid all the SEO drawbacks of having two distinct entities for Google to map — including the possibility that Google could interpret your blog and your business site as competitors!