When I decided to self-host my blog in early 2021, it felt like I was moving to another state. I was going into an uncharted territory that I knew instinctively was a better one for me. And now, two years later, I cannot even consider going back.

It has been TWO YEARS since thewordyhabitat dot com was born (I was on .wordpress.com for a couple of years and then on .in for a year) but it lowkey feels like forever. I had been blogging for five years before going self-hosted and yet, it feels like I did the most as a blogger in the last two years.

Although I did a Q&A last year to celebrate one year of self-hosting and 6 years of blogging, I don't think I spoke about self-hosting or the overall blogging experience. And now that it has been even longer, I have a lot to say.

This is going to be a rambly and personal post about my experience as a blogger over the last 7 years, how self-hosting changed things, how blogging has been lately, and what I'm looking forward to. Get a drink and settle down to catch up with me!

looking back on 7 years of blogging

I was in high school when I started blogging and I now have been working in a corporate job for over two years. I've blogged through some of the biggest events and some of the best years of my life (so far). I've written about the highlights and disappeared during the lows.

Although my blog is not a traditional diary, it has documented a lot about my life. And with seven years of data, it has become a different kind of diary.

I can easily go through my old posts to find out what books I enjoyed during different years, what books comforted me during hard times, and what books impacted my life significantly. I have recorded my favourite Kdramas, songs, and memories. My old blog has proof of my very brief period as a writer and poet. The other day, I wanted to find a poem that I used to love and I went through my blog archives to find the name.

People (me included) talk about how they've grown or changed recently often. I have such conversations with different people often. The one thing that differentiates me from most people is that I have proof. I can say that I've been reading much more non-fiction lately and I can literally show it on my blog. If I say that going back to working in the office has affected my hobbies, anyone can see it on the blog.

It is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I don't have my life documented like kids who grew up on YouTube or Instagram (mainly because videos of me aren't out there and I've been in control of what I share) so my experience is very different. I don't have everything documented but it is interesting to see how talking mostly about my passions for years documents life in a new way. My moods and maturity come through even if I'm talking about a neutral subject.

We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.

Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist

The same applies to all the bloggers I know. I started following other bloggers for the content they publish but I become invested in the little glimpses of their lives that come through. I get a sense of where they are in life through their monthly reading wrap-ups. If they've read lesser books, it's generally because their real life is chaos and I'll be rooting for things to ease up for them. If they've been hosting a challenge or doing a series, it shows that they're at a good point in life where they have the time and energy for it.

If I've known the blogger for over a year, I am heavily invested in their well-being and achievements as I would be with my friends in real life. Kate recently got engaged and has started posting wedding-themed content! Seeing her be so happy to talk about her wedding makes me happy. Fadwa quit blogging (which I was sad about) but they've moved to a new place and are starting a new chapter in life and I'm rooting for them from across the world. Lay recently graduated (and I thought their thesis was over but I'm seeing more thesis updates on IG and I don't want to disturb her by asking them to explain, lol). Shealea didn't post on her blog for a LONG time and recently returned after a big life change. I am waiting for the day Nicole is a published author. And I always love hearing about what's on Marie's mind.

I may not talk to any of these bloggers regularly but in my mind, they are a part of my circle. They are people that I choose to surround myself with. And whether they know it or not, they have an impact on me too! I mean, I literally did not like Cdramas but I watched and loved one because of Clo and now I will only listen to her recommendations. My blog and the bloggers I interact with are a big part of my life.

illustration of a green typewriter surrounded by a partial wreath with dots and stars making the illustration look magical

The "older" bloggers often talk about how blogging has changed over the years or how we've made lifelong friends through this hobby. But one thing I haven't seen anyone talk about is how, after so many years, blogging has become an integral part of our lives.

I may have blogging slumps twice a year and run out of content ideas at random times but I genuinely cannot fathom a life without my blog anymore. It is not just a part of my life, it is a part of who I am. This content, this platform, and the people I've come to know through it have impacted me just as much as my real life has. I sometimes feel like the people who don't know this blog don't know the real me (although this discussion is for another day.)

When I introduce myself, I say that I'm a software engineer and a blogger. Yes, I enjoy reading books and I'm a reader. But personally, I see blogging as a bigger part of me than reading because it involves so much more effort and requires more passion and dedication.

It's just like playing an instrument as a hobby. Blogging may be a hobby but we have to learn a lot and we are constantly improving. It makes us hone several skills that can be applied elsewhere in life.* Reading is a good hobby but blogging is much more of an active hobby than reading. And if one has been blogging for years, it says a lot about who they are.

I do not see a future where I quit blogging. One day, I might change enough to quit or my life may not allow it anymore. But after 7 years, it's just something I do no matter what is going on. And deciding to self-host my blog cemented blogging in my life. I have now put money into it and that's when you know that I have committed to this.

*I've been told that I write good emails at work and it is truly because I've honed my writing through blogging. I know how to write and what to highlight in order to put across exactly what I want.

zooming in on the last two years

My main motivation for going self-hosted was to have more control over the blog and to have flexibility. I got what I wanted but it feels like I also got much more.

Self-hosting my blog allowed me to:

  • Have a blog layout that I LOVE and don't want to change quickly. Earlier, I used to change blog themes every six months or so. There was never a look that I was satisfied with. I would quickly become annoyed or bored with them. Now that I can buy themes and customize them further, I am satisfied with how my blog looks. I didn't change anything significant for two years!
  • Expand my content to more than just blog posts. I started a newsletter and plugged it into the blog! I created a resource library that (I believe) is actually helpful. I never truly considered these as options before self-hosting.
  • Earn from the blog. I got a sponsored post and a couple of link inserts opportunities but they honestly don't come by often enough to rely on. Last year, I enabled blog ads and although the revenue isn't very significant, I did get a few payouts. Through them, this blog has paid for itself! In fact, I bought the new theme from the last ads revenue.
  • Be prouder of my blog because it is a domain and site that I fully own.

Including this post, there are currently 92 published posts on this blog. A few of them were brought over from my previous blog but most of them have been written since self-hosting. And I am proud of every single post.

In the last two years, I have been wordier and more ambitious with my content than ever. My posts have become longer (with reason) and I have been applying everything I learnt so far in them. From drafting and writing to formatting and SEO—all my knowledge has been applied. And they have turned out well.

flatlay illustration of a wooden table with a potted plant, open book, sticky tabs, a phone, coffee, and airpods on it.

Before self-hosting, I focused on publishing blog posts thrice a week. I focused on being consistent and frequent instead of curating my content. Now, I prioritize publishing content that I'm proud of over publishing frequently. That was a huge mindset change that came with self-hosting and it made all the difference.

One of the many things I've learnt as a blogger is that passion is attractive. When I write about a topic that I'm passionate about, it is engaging and interesting. The post may be long but each sentence is worth it.

In my previous blog, I didn't love every post that I published. Because I was posting thrice a week, it simply wasn't possible to write each one with love and come up with great ideas all the time. I focused on having something up. While that practice helped me grow tremendously as a blogger in the initial years, it did not help me anymore. Especially since my to-do list for each blog post got longer (formatting, SEO, marketing, etc.)

Deciding to self-host my blog allowed me to start over with my content. While I was disappointed about losing my SEO ranking and traffic, I made it back in no time because I posted much better content. I also stopped posting as frequently as before. I started with posting once a week on this blog and now it has come down to "whenever possible." I am aiming for at least twice a month, though.

I will admit, blogging consistently with good content is hard with a full-time job, a social life, and personal responsibilities. It's not surprising when a week goes by before I even consider the next blog post. Becoming a working adult gave me the money to go self-hosted without worrying too much but it took a lot of my blogging time. Especially after I started going to the office regularly instead of working from home.

SEO keeps my blog thriving when I don't post regularly or take an impromptu hiatus. Unfortunately, I took a few hiatuses in the last couple of years due to stress and burnout. It was nice to see that my blog received views when I was absent, though. My newsletter continued to grow as well.

illustration of a person typing on a pink keyboard with a pink mouse kept next to the keyboard

The last two years haven't been all sunshine and rainbows, though. There have been a few downsides.

Posting less frequently led to fewer comments. It's expected since there are fewer posts to comment on but it is still disappointing to look at. I used to get almost 200 comments a month in the initial few months after going self-hosted but lately, I'm lucky if the number hits 50. I see some bloggers post frequently and get tons of comments on each blog post but it's just not working out for me. I wish I could spend more time blogging but I can't and it looks like I'll be able to do it even lesser starting next month (due to work changes).

My main issue after self-hosting is subscriber growth. Since I had a WordPress blog earlier and it was integrated fully with WordPress, one could subscribe to my blog easily and keep up with my posts. Since this blog is self-hosted, it is not as easy to subscribe and follow. I need to add a custom HTML block to add the WordPress follow button but it doesn't look great and cannot be formatted. I've put it in the footer where it can easily get ignored but I also don't want to put it elsewhere and ruin the blog look.

The blog's follower count has grown minimally since self-hosting and I'm sure that this is the issue. Keeping the form to subscribe via email on the homepage didn't help much either. After reading posts by other self-hosted bloggers, I've realized that it is a common problem and it's not just me. It's still disappointing, though.

Another downside is the number of technical issues the blog faces. In order to keep self-hosting affordable, I went with BlueHost instead of the more praised hosting providers because the latter charge way more and it is nowhere in my budget. My site has gone down multiple times because of internal issues at BlueHost and it once broke when the BlueHost plugin automatically updated and caused a critical error. Thankfully, WordPress and Jetpack monitor and send email updates ASAP but it does require me to get to the blog immediately and fix it or contact BlueHost to report it. WordPress now provides a "safe mode" in case of critical errors so that we can deactivate problematic plugins as well.

Having a stable site is a requirement since I am making my little revenue through blog ads. Any downtime directly affects it. Switching to another provider might make my site more stable such that I don't have to frequently contact the BlueHost support team. Am I okay with shelling out those fees, though? That's a decision to make next year when I have to renew my plans. Adsense revenue covers my current plan pricing but it definitely won't cover that of SiteGround or LyricalHost.

illustration of a person blogging in a cafe with an open book next to them and a cup of coffee

celebrating two years of twh dot com with a blog revamp!

I have grown a lot in the past two years and my writing and content have grown along with me. While my old blog theme was perfect at that time, it simply didn't fit well enough anymore. I started looking at blog themes on various shops in September 2022. I didn't want to rush into a blog theme so I idly browsed for months. I made sure to look up the themes of new blogs that I came across and the shops of those designers as well.

I had a small list of points as I looked at new blog themes which helped me sort through them and make the right choices:

  • The theme had to have featured images in the portrait orientation. My old blog theme used portrait images and many of my illustrations were in portrait orientation to work with the theme. I didn't want to have to update a ton of my posts with new images after changing the theme.
  • The theme had to be flexible. I liked the amount of flexibility that my old theme gave but I would have preferred more. I will customize the blog theme and I would prefer if I didn't have to edit the source pages and accidentally mess things up. I wanted to be able to work on top of them. By flexibility, I mean things like the different places where I could easily add blocks using widgets, the different blog post view options, and the menu options.
  • If possible, the theme should have shapes other than regular rectangles. Although there is nothing wrong with rectangular images (that is the classic), I wanted something different. I came across a blog that had circular options and wanted different shapes since then.

Soon, I had a list of blog themes that I liked and might go for. However, none spoke to me enough for me to go back to them multiple times. In January, I had enough and was seriously hunting for a good blog theme. I found several themes that I liked but they turned out to be Blogger themes and not WordPress themes. I almost bought a theme off my initial list when I found Fairchild (my current theme) on Etsy.

When I saw the demo, I instantly fell in love with the theme. I loved that it had an arch-shaped image right at the top and the transition between the first section (highlighted posts) and the second section (the subscription form) was nice. I liked how the about section was on the homepage with another arch-style image. And the part that sold me—the circles at the bottom.

The more I explored the theme, the more I loved it. The demo did not show everything possible but the publicly available theme documentation gave a ton of details. It especially spoke about the customization options which showed me that the theme is highly flexible.

Despite loving it immediately, I didn't immediately buy it. I decided to wait for my next Adsense payout and continue to search for more themes till then. After I got the payout, I hesitated because "what if there is a better one out there?" I was visiting the demo site twice every day, though. The more I saw it, the more I wanted it. I finally bought it a few days into February and don't regret it.

illustration art of laptop, mug and a plant

I considered waiting a couple of weeks to revamp almost exactly on the day the blog turns two but I couldn't wait that long with my excitement. I decided to get started on it ASAP, especially if I had to do the changes slowly over time.

I didn't want to put my blog behind a screen while revamping it. I've seen other bloggers put up a "coming up" page while changing things but I didn't want to. Mainly because my SEO traffic would be affected and I didn't want to lose any of it.

While I was worrying about it, I mentioned my concerns on the Blog & Chill Discord channel one day and Sophia suggested using a staging site if I can. I thought that staging environments were provided on extra payments only but looked it up and it turned out that BlueHost provided one for free through Softaculous. I created a staging site within minutes and started working on the changes.

It's a good thing that I used a staging site because my blog completely broke after installing the new theme. Seeing "there has been a critical error on this website" on the homepage was not amusing. The entire setup honestly didn't take too long because I wanted the theme almost as it was in the demo (at least for now). I only had to work out the colours, fonts, and newsletter form, and add a few additional CSS.

Pushing the changes from the staging site live was nerve-wracking but it was very smooth and I couldn't be happier with the process and the output. The only issue I faced was losing a couple of comments because the staging site's database replaced the live database. Since those two comments had come after I created the staging site and I didn't sync the database before going live, I lose them. But they're not that important overall so it was alright. I would have lost more if I hadn't completed the revamp ASAP in my excitement and pushed the changes live later on.

If you're on a self-hosted blog and want to revamp your site, definitely try for a staging site! Check if your provider has one. It will make things super easy for you. The best part is that you can play around with the new theme and new plugins without worrying about breaking the live blog.

a cafe table with an open laptop and snacks. a wall print says "change is growth"

I absolutely love the new blog look, especially because of the different shapes. I feel like the arch shapes and the circles set my blog apart. It's something rare in WordPress blogs and is a small detail that changes the entire vibe of the blog. I love that the circles at the bottom show the blog post title on hover (or on tap on mobile browsers).

This is also a more sophisticated blog look compared to the old one which, in my opinion, matches my current content and blogging voice. Although the theme came with a different combination of fonts, it works really well with my preferred combination (carried over from the old look).

A major plus point is that this theme showcases my illustrations well. The main slider at the homepage especially flatters the featured images. Throughout the home page, images are artfully spaced out while also being prominent. The colours set in the blog theme complement the colours in the images really well. It makes all of the efforts to use a specific colour palette for years worth it. The fact that this theme has the same image size ratio as the previous theme is another huge plus because I didn't have to change anything.

Sometime last year, I started liking the full-width blog posts (with no sidebar) on other blogs and really wanted to try the same. When I did, the old theme didn't look great on the homepage so I added the sidebar back. This theme looks amazing without the sidebar so I didn't add it. I really like how the individual blog posts look on the desktop/laptop screen.

As with any blog, I like how this setup looks on the desktop/laptop screen more than the mobile screen. The style and detailing aren't as apparent on mobile browsers for any blog theme. It's one of the reasons I generally read other blogs on my laptop or on my iPad. If you're reading this on your phone, I highly suggest checking out my new blog look on a bigger screen.

an illustration drawing of a girl using her laptop

what's next?

On the blog theme changes, I don't think that this is the final look. There is at least one thing that I want to implement on the homepage. I decided to go live without it for now because I'll take time to learn how to make it look and work how I want it to. The fact that I can create an entire customized section is a blessing, though, and I love that this theme allows me to do it.

This theme is built on the Kadence framework (vs the Genesis framework that the old theme was built on) and it looks like a godsend so far. Kadence blocks are much more customizable and easy to use. With the old theme, I had to install the Elementor plugin as an extra for some functionality but Kadence provides them in-built. Over the coming weeks, I will be converting all my Elementor pages to use Kadence blocks and will uninstall Elementor.

Although the theme switch was pretty smooth, there are some small broken things across posts that I need to fix. I have a list of the things I've noticed so far but I'm sure that I'm missing more and will find them only when I go through every post. I need to slowly go through them all and fix them.

As I go through the posts, I might do some overdue blog maintenance along with the fixes. I want to update images, change the formatting to match my current style, and possibly update the content as well. I have a list of blog maintenance to-dos on my Notion dashboard that has been waiting for months.

The blog look is pretty similar to the theme's demo right now and while I like it for now, I think I will make small changes over time based on my imagination and schedule. Now that I know how to use a staging site, I might keep tinkering there before applying changes on the live site. I already have a few ideas that I want to try out.

I also want to learn Kadence blocks and become a pro at them. From what I saw so far, they look fantastic and provide a lot of customization and control. Before I use them to break and remake things, I should learn how they work. And since they're usable in individual posts as well, I can take my blog posts to a whole new level if I learn how to use them.

illustration of a typewriter with paper loaded in it.

From a content perspective, I don't have any hard goals for the future. Like I mentioned in my 2022 wrap-up, I just want to have fun with blogging. I'm not holding myself to a specific schedule or aiming for any milestones. I want to keep doing what I do well and have fun with new tools like Kadence.

I want to get back into writing discussion posts, though. It's been a long time since I wrote one and I always loved writing them. I just haven't been in the mood to deep dive into a topic lately because don't find the time or energy for it. I don't know how I will carve out time for it with new routine changes coming up but I'll try. Fingers crossed that I muster up some discipline to wake up early and use those extra hours for blogging and other hobbies.

The main goal is to not stop blogging, honestly. While it seems easy on some days, it seems very hard on other days. Keeping up with my blog and social media and with other blogs for years to come is the ultimate goal.

chat with me!

How do you like the new blog look? Do you prefer the old one or the current one? If you had to revamp your blog, what would be on your list of must-haves? Share with me in the comments!

photo of Sumedha

Sumedha spends her days reading books, bingeing Kdramas, drawing illustrations, and blogging while listening to Lo-Fi music. Read more ➔

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  • Yasmine @ YassReads says:

    Congrats on 7 years!! I love your new theme - the other one was gorgeous too, but I love the arches and all the different shapes in this one. I'm trying to decide if I should go self-hosted or not. I'm terrified that I'll spend a bunch of money on a theme and hosting, then I'll stop blogging and will have 'wasted' that money (even though I'm not planning on stopping anytime soon or ever)...

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      Thank you so much, Yasmine!! I love the shapes too hehe.
      Just seeing the way you speak about it, I think self-hosting would be great for you and wouldn’t be a problem for you. I had the same doubts as you about spending money and giving up but it actually motivated me to do even better and I think the same will apply to you as well.

      Reply ➔
  • Veronica @ Little Corner Reads says:

    Seven years?! Congrats ??

    Reply ➔
  • Clo @ Cuppa Clo says:

    *prepares a list of cdramas to toss your way* not but seriously the fact you loved Falling Into Your Smile as much as you did and are willing to take my recs means so much to me ? As you know I adore the new blog look, it's very you and I love it so much! Can't believe TWH is already 2 years old, feels like last month you were planning to go self hosted. Ah if I had to revamp my blog I'd probably take the time to figure out how I want to do featured images on the posts sksksk. I removed featured images and graphics on the banner a while back as it just caused me stress. Things were never quite 'perfect' for me so I decided to remove the elements which bothered me with the intention I'd come back to it later. It's much later and I've definitely thought of different ways to go about with the featured images but....I don't know if I'm ready to revisit that headache just yet xD

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      i started Lighter & Princess btw! only watched one ep so far because i haven’t had the time but i started it.

      thank youu ? same here, haha. can’t believe that it’s been two years.

      yeah, featured images are a little annoying. if your theme works without them, why not just ditch them altogether? if you really want them in the future you can put them in.

      Reply ➔
      • Clo @ Cuppa Clo says:

        aaaah yayyy, my post for that drama is finally finished and scheduled for next week! If you know, you need an entire post of me shrieking over it to further convince you xD

        Yeah I mean my theme works fine without them so I've just not bothered. I can revisit it in the future when I'm ready.

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  • thecritiquesofafangirl says:

    Congratulations on 7 years of blogging and these 2 years of going self-hosted ? This was such a great post to read and thank you so much for being honest about all of your experiences!

    You have been such an inspiration to me and honestly you deserve the entire credit for making me starting to think about going self-hosted and I love how you highlight the quality over quantity aspect, coz I remember when I started blogging, I was terrified to miss a posting day and that fear took years to forget!

    The first part of this post really highlights why I love blogging too, the friends I have made along the way and the book blogging community in general is one of my favourites things about blogging and I love how safe this community makes me feel too, I have never once regretted sharing any part of my life online!

    Also I am LOVING the new theme, the old one was pretty af but this one takes things up a notch! The arch photo highlighter thingies ? are so damn pretty to look at!

    I hope you have an amazing year ahead both in general and blogging wise too ?

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      thank you so much, Mek!!

      Oh yeah, I was the same. I blogged every single day for months and resorted to 50 page blog posts somedays so that I don’t miss posting. It was too much but I do think it was a good learning curve to find my blogging voice. I can’t do it anymore though, haha.

      Ahh thank you! I love the arches too haha, they and the circles are my fav.

      Hope you have an amazing year ahead as well! Looking forward to seeing what you have in store for us ?

      Reply ➔
  • Stephanie | The Espresso Edition says:

    Reading this made me so happy that it's hard to express in words. I've been following along with your blog for a couple of years now - I think since you switched to self hosting - and it was love at first read! You're one of my favorite bloggers to follow and I've loved watching how your page and blogging style has evolved over time. It was wonderful to find out more about your theme change and learn about how blogging has become such an integral part of your life over the years. Here's to many, many more years of TWH! xx

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      thank you so much, Stephanie! your support means so much to me and i’m glad to have met you through the blogging world! ??

      Reply ➔