Developers April 7, 2020

What's a low-touch/cheap way to maintain a blog for SEO purposes?

Blake Ellison @blakerson

I love Wordpress for blogging targeting SEO, but I have a project where my favorite $15/month managed hosting (Flywheel) feels high as an ongoing cost because traffic will only be noticeable 1-2 months out of the year.

Is there an easy-to-run option using a cloud machine option like AWS Lightsail or DigitalOcean? $5/mo sounds good, if I don't have to spend time on configuration at the host, DNS or worker levels.

Or is there an alternative system with a strong SEO component? Maybe a static site generator? In that case I'd also want to ensure I have a nice-enough UI, using something like Tailwind or Bootstrap.

It's super important to me that this have near-zero upkeep needs. I just need to get some content out and have it be relatively presentable. And if it's not Wordpress, I need to scan content like the Yoast SEO plugin does, to ensure I'm following all best practices.

  1. 11

    Never Pay for hosting static sites, especially blogs, here's your options.

    1. Netlify
    2. Render
    3. Zeit
    4. Github Pages
    5. Dropbox
    6. Firebase

    They are in order of preference. All of them can host static sites / blogs with over 100k users /mo

    If you want some free static blog generators

    1. Gatsby
    2. Hugo
    3. Ghost + Gatsby
    4. Jekyll

    There are a lot of them and you will always find a lot of free themes, just get all your posts in Markdown.

    My static sites have been on netlify and gh-pages for 3 years no issues at all
    I've even deployed some react apps on these no issues at all

    1. 6

      I'd put at #1. It's been a joy hosting my VuePress blog there.

      1. 2

        I agree, hadn't used before but after looking at it, i see its a solid choice,
        i'll update my comment

    2. 3

      I agree. My personal stack is Netlify + Gatsby + Wordpress. You can host Wordpress on the cheapest hosting possible because speed doesn't really matter because your site is being built and deployed to Netlify. There's no way a traditional Wordpress site can beat the speed of a Gatsby site.

    3. 1

      Very interested in netflify. But how can a static site interact with a database?

      And if you don’t use a database then how does a CMS / blog work?

      1. 2

        The "static" in "static sites" means the webpage doesn't fetch data dynamically from a server while you browse it.

        Instead the posts are contained in html/css files (e.g. one file per post that contains the post without having to fetch it from another database) that you simply put on the server (e.g. netlify) and users can browse them and navigate them.

        A static site generator is a program that takes a "recipe" (e.g. structure of your site + theme of a blog post page), the "data" (that's your blog posts, the generator can read your markdown files or fetch them from your CMS if they're stored there),
        and then assembles the html/css file that will be your site.

        In practice, after editing a blog post, you'll want to re-run that build step (netlify does that for you if you configure your CMS to somehow notify netlify). A few secs/ mins later your html/css files are ready and if your refresh your blog's webpage you should see the new content.

      2. 2

        You consume the content via an API in your application. With Gatsby it's via GraphQL using a number of source plugins, for example:

        Gatsby is still creating a React application at the end of the day, so you can fetch data from a database dynamically just like you would in any other React application. My database is using Hasura and I consume it via Apollo.

        1. 1

          Thanks for the info... it sounds pretty complex. Much easier to just use square space or something similar for a blog.

          I keep hearing great things about netlify but I just don’t get it.

          What’s so great about a static site generator if in order to do anything cool you need to setup APIs and hook into third party systems?

          1. 4

            Gatsby + Netlify + NetlifyCMS You can have a blog deployed in 5 min, with no database and no hosting costs ever. It will be faster and more customizable as well. If you or your client value price, flexibility, no vendor lock in, page speed and total control, static on Netlify is by far a superior choice. Other clients want square space and that's okay too.

            Try it out below. All you need is a GitHub account and you're live in minutes.


  2. 10

    I don't know why the top responses are digital ocean. Run a static site for absolutely free on netlify or, which will give you the maintenance-free experience you want. They even have one click deploys for setting up.

    My blog is run this way and it's super simple.

    1. 5

      I'm a big fan of both DO and Render. DO is much better for the money if you can devops, while Render is very easy and free for static sites.

      1. 1

        I'd also love to hear your opinion on Render for elixir. Any issues / hiccups with it?

        1. 1

          It's great for Elixir. The hiccups have pretty much all been dealt with and the support is great. The only issues are cost and a lack of lower-level control (thus my interest in DO).

          If you're not too comfortable with devops, definitely use something like Render. If you want low-level control or you're doing something where you need cost-efficiency, then go with something like Digital Ocean.

      2. 1

        Care to elaborate on what's better for digital ocean and dev-ops? Currently building CoderNotes on Render, and I just do all my ci/cd via github integration and actions

  3. 3

    One time setup of Ghost blog on DO droplet. $5/mo
    Works like a charm. Only one time setup is required.

    1. 1

      Another way is run ghost cms on DO and the actual blog on AWS (where all my other sites reside. Push with git)

      1. 1


  4. 2

    Zeit is awesome. I have four sites on there and haven't paid a dime. It's also dead simple to use. Can't recommend it enough.

  5. 2

    Try Gatsby, it has good SEO support provided by blazing fast perfomance, gatsby-helmet-plugin and gatsby-plugin-sitemap.
    For hosting - (free)
    For themes - (this one is mine, free and paid)

  6. 2

    DO is cheap to host blogs. You can also consider Heroku free tier.

  7. 2

    I used to have my blog static with jekyll, disqus for comments and dreamhost for hosting. I will give it a try to Gatsby now I will start blogging again.

  8. 2

    Firebase + static site = free

    1. 2

      +1 for Firebase + static site. I'm using Gatsby + Firebase.

      To be clear, Firebase has a nice free tier with 1GB storage and 10GB/month in transfer. If you exceed the free tier, then it's $0.026/GB storage and $0.15/GB transfer.

  9. 1

    A couple of options for completeness - my dh runs his Wordpress based site on a home server. It’s pretty niche but works fine and ranks high. Also some hosting companies let you host multiple sites on their medium tier plans (eg Siteground) so if you have a site already you can add extras essentially for ‘free’.

  10. 1

    Man, this is a killer set of responses. Shout out to this entire community <3

  11. 1

    Hey Blake! I founded as my indie project. It's perfect for hosting static sites and blogs too. Let me know if you have any questions!

  12. 1

    Minus the domain cost, Netlify + Hugo is free.

  13. 1

    I host my blog using GitHub Pages and Jekyll. It is 100% free and gives you complete control over the appearance of your website. You also benefit from the version control capabilities of git/GitHub.

    If you are interested in reading about how I set this up, I wrote a blog about it:

  14. 1

    In no way do I think it's good for SEO, but I've been running my blogs/inbound content marketing channels on public notion pages:

    Notion allows for these pages to be indexed on Google Search, so what matters then is backlinking and driving traffic to the site I believe.

  15. 1

    Gatsby + Zeit is what I use.

  16. 1

    Just find out that namecheap also provides managed wordpress hosting. Look cheap ($3.88 / m) and promising: No server setup required.

  17. 1

    ghost and digital ocean for $5/m seems popular

  18. 1

    I use Hugo and Firebase Hosting for my blog The only expense I have is $10 a year for a Namecheap domain.

  19. 1

    Any decent suggestions that integrate well with Gatsby?

    1. 1

      Try Zeit, Gatsby Cloud. Both free

    2. 1

      Gatsby's a static site generator, so just about anything.

    3. 1

      Netlify, GitHub Pages, Firebase Hosting

      1. 1

        Heroku also gels nicely with gatsby, there is a plugin that spawns static page server for you, so no coding.

  20. 1

    I have used Firebase for 2 years. Just today tried Ghost. You use this AMI

    I am running it on medium instance type in AWS which is free.

    I will tell this, Ghost is so simple to publish (similar to medium)

  21. 0

    There are several ways to maintain the blog under low cost.
    1.Get freelancer
    2. Outsource your content work
    3. Hire SEO company

    I can suggest you this as I have used their service recently and at the time of this world epidemci they provided me great and responsive services.

  22. 1

    This comment was deleted 17 days ago.

    1. 1

      +1 for Netlify. I've got mine running with Forestry (headless cms) + github + netlify. All free!

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        This comment was deleted 17 days ago.

        1. 1

          i use netlify cms, its really bare. does the job but bare minimum