How to Choose the Right Hosting for Your Podcast Website – TAP254

Your podcast needs its own website in order to be successful. Here's how to choose the right Internet home for your podcasting needs.

1. Figure out your needs and goals

How you host your website should really be determined by what you need in order to accomplish your goals.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • Do you need to sell anything from your website?
  • Do you need freedom and flexibility to do whatever you want on your site?
  • Do you want to manage everything about your podcast in the same place?
  • How much can you afford to spend each month?
  • If you're moving hosts, what do you need that your old host didn't provide?

Choosing your hosting isn't a lifelong commitment, but you'll be more likely to make the right choice when you think about these and other things before you choose the solution.

2. Choose your content-management system (CMS)

The content-management system (CMS) you choose can make it easy or impossible to meet your goals. The best answer is not always “WordPress”!

If you don't want to manage plugins and updates, but you want the familiarity of WordPress, consider PowerPress Sites or Rainmaker Platform. These are both built on WordPress and offer most of the features you could use, but they're backed with professionally optimized and managed hosting. If you need something cheaper, consider WordPress.com, but it lacks podcasting optimizations.

If you would rather try a different CMS, Squarespace has drastically improved in its podcasting support.

I can't recommend any other hosted CMS provides (Wix, Weebly, etc.), but if you must use them, manage your podcast feed with third-party hosting from Libsyn or Spreaker (and use promo code “noodle” for a free month).

If you want total freedom with your podcast website, then I recommend “self-hosted” WordPress on a shared server or better.

3. Know your “budgets”

Everything costs; if it doesn't cost money, it costs time or skill.

If you have no time, skill, or desire to manage your website backend, then consider managed WordPress hosting or another professionally hosted CMS.

If you can't afford the higher costs of professionally managed options, but you need better performance, consider running your own virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated server.

And if you simply need to get started and you're okay digging into technical stuff a little, then WordPress on shared hosting may be right for you, and at the lowest costs of anything.

When you consider your budgets, remember that it's not only money. Some hosting solutions could cost $150 per month, but they provide amazing performance and support, which might be worth it to you. Other solutions could be only $5 per month, but you have to manage some things (or everything) yourself.

4. Ask others for recommendations

When you know what you need, I recommend staying away from hosting review websites. These are often ranked based on affiliate deals. And it's usually the disgruntled customers who speak up.

Ask people you trust for their recommendations. And here's something else other people will love: ask for someone's affiliate link.

Here are my recommendations as of February, 2016*:

*Subject to change without notice.

5. Be patient

Starting a new website or migrating an existing one can be a tedious process. Plus, it may take a little time to become comfortable with your new hosting platform, or for the managers to get everything optimized for your site.

Please be patient with whomever you're working with. If there's a problem, give as many details as possible: steps to reproduce, expected results, errors, your technology environment, your skills, etc.

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    About the Author
    As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.

    24 comments on “How to Choose the Right Hosting for Your Podcast Website – TAP254

    1. this was helpful. i always assumed i would use WP but lately ive been hearing about squarespace. i might check it out.

      1. I still love and highly recommend WordPress. I do really think it is the best solution and gives podcasters the most ownership and flexibility.

        1. I strongly agree. The problem with ‘out of the box’ type services like Squarespace, is that at some point in your business, you’ll likely encounter something you need to do that they don’t, or something you’d rather do in a different way than they do it.

          At that point, you either have to A) talk Squarespace into changing or adding to, etc. or B) you’ll have to move your operation between platforms. With a simple site, that’s pretty easy (so, I do recommend them as a good starting alternative in certain cases). But, if your site has hit a complexity where you’re running into that kind of problem, it’s also going to likely be a bit more complex to move, change workflows, and deal with the disruption. That probably won’t be fun, and might be fairly expensive.

          If that’s what you have to do, then so be it. But, just take that into consideration, as the long-term costs might be higher.

    2. Byron Lee says:

      Daniel, I was the one who asked a question at the end of the show. I was the one who had the custom script that would allow me to be lazy and just upload a show and have it automatically add the show to my RSS feed. While this was nice in one respect, it didn’t allow me to have the same kind of control of my podcast that I would have on Powerpress. I spent the day re-working things and now http://www.byronlee.com uses Powerpress rather than my old feed. I had a few problems though. Firstly I don’t have podcast artwork and I wanna fix that before I submit my feed to iTunes. How much would you charge for two podcasts? Also, since I do have two podcasts, I had to figure out category casting. While I did figure it out… I ran into an issue where the archive pages now have a lot of cruft on them that wasn’t there before, such as a Written By, and a Comments Are Off, and a bunch of other junk. How can I hide that stuff on my podcast posts? Thanks!

      1. I’ll email you about the cover art.

        I recommend that you use Custom Channels instead of category podcasting. Channels are superior and have better features.

        Hiding the other stuff you mentioned is a matter of your theme.

        1. Byron Lee says:

          Ah… Oopsie, earlier videos you did explained that Channels were for different format types and category casting was for individual podcasts. If this is the case I need to figure out how to make each podcast show up in its own archive page on my site. Currently I told the menu system to put category pages for the two podcasts on the menu. I’ll investigate Custom Channels today but any guidance you can give would be phenomenal.

          1. You can still use categories for different podcasts, but use the Channel Feeds for the RSS.

            So keep your posts and categories the way you have them. Only enable the custom channels and then move the media from one channel “Podcast Episode” widget in the post editor to the other channel’s widget.

            1. Byron Lee says:

              Sorry to be taxing on your time and resources, but that last part has me a little perplexed, I added the two feeds, The Talk Zone and The Fun Zone… now I need to get the media into the RSS feed but I can’t see where to do it. What I did for the categories is go to posts, then select all, bulk actions, edit, and then check the Fun Zone or Talk Zone category. Now with these channels I have feeds for them but they’re blank.

              Here are my category feeds:

              http://www.byronlee.com/?feed=rss2&cat=22

              http://www.byronlee.com/?feed=rss2&cat=23

              Here are my Custom Channel Feeds:

              http://www.byronlee.com/?feed=podcast

              http://www.byronlee.com/?feed=funzone

              http://www.byronlee.com/?feed=talkzone

              And here are my archive pages, which are also category pages:

              http://www.byronlee.com/?cat=23

              http://www.byronlee.com/?cat=22

            2. Byron Lee says:

              Uh-oh, I see the widget you are talking about but I only see it when I edit 1 show at a time 🙁 Any way to import this data in bulk? If not, is it a problem to stick with category casting?

            3. Unfortunately, you’ll need to edit each post manually.

              The main downsides of using category podcasting is that you don’t get Feed Episode Maximizer to fit more episodes in your feeds, and third-party stats can be tricky.

    3. Brad says:

      Hi Daniel,

      I am using Squarespace for my website and podcast and I find that it is really easy for me to use. I had a website on wordpress and struggled with it.

      I have had such a good experience as they have great customer service also.

      Thanks for your show and all the information you give.

      Brad
      http://89days.net/podcasts/

      1. Thanks for sharing your experience! Which RSS feed do you give to iTunes?

        1. Brad says:

          i give the RSS feed that comes from Squarespace – they have a really easy system to use. I was able to get it to work on the first try- with no problems – going on a few months now. It is a daily podcast also. Thanks for everything you do!

          1. Hi Brad, I’m curious where you host your actual mp3 files with Squarespace. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the only options were, directly, Sound Cloud or using something like Libsyn and pasting in media links into articles. I didn’t like the sound of the former at all, and the latter, while it would work, seemed a bit too manual.

            While I also recommend WordPress in the long-run (disclosure, it’s what I do for a living), I’ve often recommended Squarespace as a starting point for people who weren’t quite ready to make the jump. However, that didn’t apply to podcasting, but maybe that has changed now. 🙂
            Thanks

            1. Brad says:

              For me – the mp3 is stored on Squarespace. They have created a simple way designed for podcasts.
              I cannot be happier with it -it was so easy and just works.
              You could still use Libsyn also with Squarespace also if you want.

            2. Thanks for the response, Brad. Is that the way Squarespace is now handling podcasts officially? (i.e.: you can put your mp3 files on the website hosting for any service, but most technically don’t allow it, so once the downloads grow, they won’t allow it). Do they place any limits on it?

              If so, that is good news, and certainly simplifies things if it works well…. and then kudos to Squarespace. The last time I talked to a Squarespace-based podcaster (and it doesn’t seem that long ago), it had to be done externally, and this guy was using Sound Cloud. That’s not a solution I was crazy about.

            3. Brad says:

              This is how I have been doing my daily podcast now for 5 months -with no errors or downtime. It is really simple.

            4. Sorry, I meant is that a recommended way to do it by Squarespace that is allowed by their terms of service? (The reason I ask is that most ISPs or hosting providers don’t allow it, so people do it and get away with it until they get popular, and then the hosting provider puts a stop to it.)

            5. Brad says:

              Yes, the way I do it is the way Squarespace provides.

    4. John Dunn says:

      Another free tool for multimedia files that is totally reliable is archive.org with formats and embedding codes etc
      As an example I have my own mp3 documentary of my life in Foster care at archive.org/details/subwayride

      1. Yes, but that’s only intended for archiving, not for high-demand storage of podcasting.

    5. Great show Daniel, and I mostly agree. I think my main addition to what you’ve said might be to put a bit more stress on not underestimating the value of managed hosting (or professional help) and/or better hosting (i.e.: VPS rather than shared, etc.).

      Over the years of listening to podcasts, even the best and brightest entrepreneurs, I’ve always been a bit shocked at how they go about their websites and hosting. It seems they nearly all take this path of trying each level and suffering problems before eventually ending up on managed hosting or a VPS (often with tech help). I could understand if the cost difference were staggering, but until traffic gets fairly high, we’re talking the difference between like $10/mo and $40-70/mo, which while considerable, is probably less than their cell phone plan. In other words, in the big picture of business, it’s minimal cost, yet so critical to their success.

      Maybe it’s my IT operations background recognizing the value (or being overly cautious?), or that we all have to learn our own lessons, or something like that. Hosting for only $7.99/mo is alluring for sure, but you gotta think for a minute how much you really end up getting in return for the cost of a Starbucks or McD’s trip. In fact, since I have a good realization of what is involved, I’m kind of surprised the managed hosting places can deliver the service they do for as low of cost as they do (even though most people think of them as crazy expensive)!

      I’m also a really big advocate of, IMO, ‘doing it correctly right from the start’ and going with WordPress, even though it certainly will be more complex and possibly more expensive than some other solutions. But, yes, if the budget won’t allow, then other options have to be considered.

    6. I thought I should also answer the question you asked at the end…

      I’m currently hosted with WP Engine, and am quite happy there. I know you’ve tried (and liked) that in the past as well. Also note, since you tried them out, they’ve changed their model of counting ‘visits/visitors’ which has reduced my billable traffic to about 2/3 of what it was. (Sorry, kind of an inside discussion referring to some past podcast episodes and comment discussions w/ Daniel here… others will have to read WP Engine’s page on how they count visits to understand, if interested.)

      I have an IT operations and consulting background (nearly 25 years of experience now), so when I started blogging, I took a DIY approach. It helped that a good friend had a monster server (quad Xeon with like 16 GB of RAM and very fast RAID and SSD-like storage, before most people had even heard of SSD… i.e. very fast, even by today’s standards) co-located at a good ISP for his business that was mostly used to stream client backups to, and hosting his own website (he had previously used it internally as a workstation… it was WAY overkill as a web server). He traded website hosting for assistance with managing the server. It was a great deal, and I might not have got started in doing this stuff if that weren’t the case, but there were some big downsides as well.

      Performance was never one of the downsides. The sites I still have hosted there, aside from initial connection time (the server is now at his home-office, instead of the ISP) and pure front-end performance, are faster than my WP Engine sites. Backend speed is WAY faster than WP Engine (a weakness of WP Engine). And, it’s hard to beat free… except that maybe it is, on a closer look.

      As time went on, I started to help other friends host their blogs and websites. We had some downtime now and then when something went wrong (hacked, drive failure, ISP issue, etc.) but since most of the sites were personal or in trade of some sort, people just took the downtime in stride, for the most part. However, one of my ‘clients’ (I wasn’t charging yet then, as I was in grad-school) grew pretty big and their uptime became critical. Suddenly, everything became way more serious.

      But, the problems didn’t relent. Once we got hacked, and aside from nearly a day of downtime, I also didn’t get any sleep for that time, nor any of my other responsibilities done (and took a hit in my school responsibilities), while we cleaned up the mess. We had some kind of RAID drive corruption at another point, which took us down for nearly two days… and likewise, I pretty much worked at it much of that time too. That was rough. (Imagine the fun of going to backups and putting a site and web server back together, and having to manually figure out all the file-rights and privileges, as that was part of what got lost in the incident… we had the raw data files, fortunately.)

      To make a long story short, I was spending WAY too much time managing the technical details of the sites, and still getting burned now and then. (For example, I don’t know how many days, overall, I spent reading articles about WordPress security and testing plugins and techniques before I *mostly* eliminated getting hacked.) We also had to deal with DoS attacks on a regular basis, and if you don’t have the proper hardware to deal with that, it is a HUGE pain. It was a constant cat-and-mouse game, and while easy to fix each time, made us look bad in terms of up-time. And, that’s not even getting into having WordPress properly be able to handle big spikes in traffic, which fortunately, we didn’t *yet* have to deal with, as the sites weren’t getting hit that hard.

      So, at that point, I just skipped all the middle options and went right to what I considered the best, WP Engine. I’ve also heard Pagely is quite good, but wasn’t at the time. Some other managed services have started too, since, so might be worth looking into.

      IMO, VPS and even dedicated servers (in the non-managed sense) suffer from some of my problems above. While you’re not responsible for the hardware, and possibly will be shielded from DoS attacks, most of the rest of managing and making WordPress perform well will be on your shoulders. And, when things are going well, that is often perfectly fine. But, when problems arise, you have to consider what your time is worth. If managed hosting is, say $50/mo, how many hours do you spend in that month doing things the managed hosting does? For most people, you’re losing money after an hour, possibly two. And, do you even have the expertise to deal with the problem that crop up? With 25+ years in IS/IT, I found out that I don’t. I can certainly learn, but that takes time.

      A managed host also does a lot of things that aren’t necessary, but nice and save time and additional costs. For example, you *HAVE* to backup your site. They take care of it. You’ll have to do it manually or use some other service to do that yourself (i.e.: time/money). They make the processes of making an instant snap-shot before you do anything risky (even updating a plugin) so simple and fast (as well as the restore) that you can’t help but take that safety step (and, that’s saved me a number of times over the last couple of years!). They have very advanced performance enhancements that would take you days of frustration and testing to replicate, if ever. They have way more advanced *hardware* systems in place to protect the site and help end-to-end performance that you simply can’t replicate with a VPS or dedicated server without additional services (if even possible). They often offer simple ‘one-click’ type staging so you can test things first or have an alternate development environment. And, then there are a bunch of other higher-end geeky, developer kind of stuff that they make available for you to grow into as your skills and team increase (like GIT).

      And, that’s not even getting into their level of support. When you do run into troubles, they respond quickly and with *WordPress* expertise that very few can match. Later last year, a couple of my sites got hacked due to a plugin I was using for captcha. I’d have spent hours even trying to find the problem. I simply opened a ticket, and within like 30 minutes, had an identification and temporary solution… and within a day, a whole Sucuri investigation and published article on the problem (which ended up helping other website owners and quickly got the problem addressed in the WordPress space). How much is that worth? They’ve quickly helped me track down and solve some pretty complex plugin conflict issues as well.

      Remember, this is coming from someone who has the technical background to more quickly figure out and deal with this stuff than most. But, it isn’t worth my time to do otherwise.

      My advice, unless you’re completely strapped for cash, or have a really popular website/podcast with no ability to monetize, just do it right from the start and strongly consider managed hosting. (Note: with my abilities, I could make a lot more profit in my business if I used a VPS or dedicated, non-managed server for my client’s sites… but I’d rather focus on much more important stuff, like solving actual web-related business problems and leave the hosting tech to the true specialists.)

      1. “… with my abilities, I could make a lot more profit in my business if I used a VPS or dedicated, non-managed server for my client’s sites… but I’d rather focus on much more important stuff …”

        And that’s the crisis for many people.

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