So youre ready to make a dent in the universe.
You have great ideas to share with the world, and blogging is how youre going to do it.
Of course, theres more to starting a blog than just having great ideas, but youve already made an important decision.
After all, Internet bigwigs like Jon Morrow, Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, Amy Porterfield, Marie Forleo, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mari Smith, Michael Hyatt and Darren Rowse all use WordPress.
In fact, the more you read, the more it seems like youd be a total idiot to go with anything else.
There are hundreds of professional themes to make your blog look gorgeous. Thousands of clever plugins to add a myriad of different features. And countless experienced WordPress professionals who can help if you get out of your depth.
So youre certain its a WordPress blog you need, but the big question is:
The easiest way to get your own WordPress blog hands down is to create one for free over at m.
And at first it seems like a no-brainer.
Firstly, youre getting WordPress from the guys who originally created WordPress. Thats got to be good, right?
Secondly, they handle all behind-the-scenes technical stuff you really dont want to have to worry about yourself. Which is a huge relief.
And thirdly, its free! (Did I mention its free?)
But while its an undeniably sweet deal for some, shall we say, less serious bloggers, there are a few things you should know before choosing to host your universe-denting blog at WordPress.com.
Credit where credits due, WordPress.com is an awesome option for some people. Its great for personal blogs, community websites and low-key blogging experiments.
But the reality is that to provide a reliable service for free to a wide range of people with different needs and skill levels, you have to lock things down a bit. You just cant offer fully fledged WordPress to everyone.
So the flavor of WordPress you get at WordPress.com is kind of like a dumbed down WordPress. Its the blogging equivalent of those safety scissors with rounded tips they give you as a kid. They dont cut so great, but at least no-ones getting hurt.
And if you want to un-dumb it, theres often a cost attached. But hey, the guys at WordPress.com need to put food on the table like everyone else.
So that you can start yourblogging journeywith eyes wide open, here are some surprising restrictions you should know about WordPress.com before hosting your blog there.
If youve already been thinking about the design of your blog, youve probably been salivating at the huge selection of professionally designed WordPress themes available to you.
Gorgeous themes from trusted sources like:
If you had your heart set on one of these, too bad so sad. Youre out of luck.
WordPress.com doesnt support the vast majority of themes available from 3rd-party developers. So youre just going to have to get the closest match possible from the much smaller selection of themes that WordPress.com does offer.
And while they do allow a few minor modifications to their themes such as changing the background color, the header or the navigation menu, thats about it. So your blog will end up looking like a lot of other blogs out there.
Of course, you could take advantage of the premium theme upgrades (starting at $50) that give you a more sophisticated design, but you still have the same customization restrictions as with their free themes.
Unless you want to spend another $30/year, because WordPress.com offers a Custom Design Upgrade that allows you to modify your fonts and use your own CSS code for additional styling.
As you grow and evolve, youll want your blog to evolve, too.
Problem is, WordPress.com probably wont let you.
For example, lets say you go with free hosting over at WordPress.com and you like everything about the theme you picked, except youre just not crazy about the placement of your social media icons. Perhaps you want them to appear in your header rather than in the sidebar.
If thats the case, youre kind of stuck because WordPress.com does not allow you to alter the underlying structure of any of their themes.
Although WordPress.com allows you to get started for free, its a profit-making business and deep down theyre hoping that youll soon outgrow the limited functionality of your free blog and upgrade to some of their paid features.
Ive already mentioned premium themes but here are some other paid upgrades that WordPress.com offers:
For $13/year you can host your site on your own domain instead of a subdomain of WordPress.com, i.e.
Need a little more space for your blog?
Starting at $20/year you can add more space to the 3GB you get for free. 3GB might sound like a lot but youre only allowed to upload images, documents, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations.
You may not upload audio files without the space upgrade.
(So thats your podcast out of the window.)
Want to host videos directly on your blog?
Thatll cost you an extra $60/year and you cant upload any video files without the upgrade even if youve paid for extra space. Without the upgrade youll need to host your videos on an external site like YouTube or Vimeo, then embed those videos onto your blog. Which might be fine, but it doesnt look at professional as using your own video player.
WordPress.com reserves the right to display ads on your site. But for an extra $30/year you can get the No Ads option and keep your blog ad-free.
even with this upgrade, you still have to keep copyright links such as Blog at WordPress.com on your site. Per WordPress.com,
All WordPress.com bloggers are required to maintain the credit links, even our VIP bloggers.
For the serious blogger, many of these paid upgrades arenotoptional at all. You really do need them if youre to avoid looking like a total amateur.
Web-based email providers like Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail are fine for your personal emails. But for your professional email communication, youre going to want a company-branded email like yuauoicm to show people youre serious.
Unfortunately WordPress.com does not offer email hosting of any kind. Therefore, youre going to have to set up your email hosting outside of WordPress.com.
To give you an example of pricing,GoDaddyoffers email hosting for $7/month for up to 10 emails. If you need more email accounts, additional fees will apply.
If you choose to host your blog somewhere other than WordPress.com, email hosting usually comes as part of your web hosting package. Theres no additional charge. You can set up an unlimited number of company-branded emails, quickly and easily, from within your web hosting dashboard. Its one-stop shopping.
If you plan on making money byplacing affiliate links on your blog, youre out of luck because WordPress.com doesnt allow them.
As stated on WordPress.com, the exception would be if you write an original book, movie or game review and link to Amazon or link to your own products on ETSY. But thats pretty restrictive.
If WordPress.com catches you placing affiliate links on your blog, even if you think youre playing by the rules, your penalty could be any of following: (a) they could disable your links, (b) they could issue a warning advising you to remove the affiliate links or (c) they could just suspend your account and shut you down.
Apluginis a software module that you plug in to WordPress to give your blog added functionality. No knowledge of coding is necessary to install and use a plugin it simply takes a few clicks.
You can get plugins to help you with SEO, plugins for backing up your blog, plugins for creating custom forms, plugins to improve the speed of your blog, plugins to create membership sites. The list is huge. Right now the number ofWordPress pluginsavailable from independent developers is 27,000 and counting.
But for security reasons youre not allowed to use any third-party plugins when you host your site for free on WordPress.com.
The ability to use custom plugins for added functionality is one of the great strengths of WordPress. Without custom plugins, youve essentially crippled WordPress.
You do have the option, however, of upgrading to WordPress.coms VIP hosting package which starts at a mere $3,750 / month (not a misprint). Then theyll be happy to let you use plugins. Which is good of them.
If you host your blog at WordPress.com, their Terms Of Service (TOS) very clearly states that WordPress.com may terminate your access to all or any part of the Website at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately.
You might think you run a squeaky-clean blog and that youd never come close to a TOS violation, but do you really want to give someone that much control over your livelihood?
Mistakes get made. Accidents happen. And your blog could get shut down as a result. Fair or not, its part of the agreement when you host your site on WordPress.com.
For most serious bloggers, the possibility of an unintentional TOS violation (however remote) and sudden shutdown is reason enough to look elsewhere. Why leave the door open even just a crack? Its just not worth it.
While WordPress.com certainly makes is easy to get a WordPress blog up and running, you have to ask yourself if you can put up with the compromises that come along with it.
Its like having a brand new Ferrari and being told you can only drive it 30 mph. And only on weekends.
But fortunately there is an alternative:self-hosted WordPress.
And its not as scary as some people would have you believe.
Self-hosted WordPress simply means that you install the free WordPress software on your own web server rather than having WordPress.com host your blog for you.
And when I say your own web server, Im not talking about buying some supercomputer and hiding it away in your garage. Im just talking about buying hosting services from one of the hundreds of reputable web hosts out there.
So dont freak out if youre not a techie. Its really not that hard to self-host.
There are tons of tutorials on the web to assist you with self-hosting your blog. And if you ever encounter an obstacle, there are plenty of affordable WordPress specialists available online.
To self-host your blog, all you need to do is get a hosting account from a company likeSiteGround(affiliate link 60% off all WordPress plans), which costs less than $10/month.
And because WordPress is so popular, many hosts have pre-configured 1-click installs that enable you to install WordPress on your web server in less than 10 minutes.
What you want to do with your blog and what kind of blogger you want to be?
If all you want is a place to express yourself on the web, then a free blog at WordPress.com is probably just fine.
But if your goal is to be taken seriously as a blogger and eventually make money with your blog, youre going to need free rein to do whatever you want with your blog. That means having the ability to change the page layout, add custom plugins or install email opt-in boxes on your site.
And the only way youre going to accomplish these things is by self-hosting your blog.
But dont just take my word for it.
WordPress founder, Matt Mullenweg, sums up the difference between WordPress.com and a self-hosted WordPress blog like this:
Hosting your site on WordPress.com is like renting an apartment, as opposed to a self-hosted WordPress blog that you own outright.
With a self-hosted WordPress blog, you can do anything you want. Knock down walls. Redecorate it any way you want. But youre responsible for the upkeep as well. (i.e. security update, backups, feature upgrades)
Whereas with WordPress.com everything is done for you. But you lose some control. Cant have a yard. Cant tear down walls, etc.
So, do you want to rent your blog, or own it?
If youre serious about blogging youre going to need to have the freedom and control to do whatever you want, however you want, without worrying that youll suddenly hit a brick wall or that the rug might someday be arbitrarily pulled out from beneath you.
And the only way to ensure that is to self-host your WordPress blog.
So thats another decision made.
Time to get on with making that dent in the universe.
:Mark Brinker is the CEO of Mark Brinker & Associates, a web development firm helping small business owners project a stylish & modern image online by redesigning stale, outdated websites. Download your free copy of his book,The Modern Website Makeover
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When I first started with my blog (about 3 years about), I stumbled onto and figured this was it thank goodness I did not set my eye on it or Ive wouldve been disappointed.
Your reasons are taken from a different angle, great points.
Hi Jesse. Yes, the difference between and can be very confusing especially when youre first starting out. Each form of WordPress has its purpose. 🙂
This cant be true. Big wigs, like Techcrunch etc. host on . And, its quite awesome anyways.
Although I use it now, I wish itll become awesome enough that Ill swhitch to self hosted wordpress or m VIP. Anyways, nice to know others thoughts. 🙂
Hi Jotpreet. Its true that Techcrunch uses , but theyre using the m VIP Hosting option. You can confirm this in the footer of the Techcrunch site. If you follow that VIP hosting link in the footer, youll be taken to the WP.com pricing page. I think youll agree that the price for VIP hosting is going to be out of the range of most bloggers. 🙂
I absolutely agree, Mark. When I put up my fiction writing course three years ago I had a choice between WordPress and Yola. Yola was, at that time, just three steps up from Blogger but its support was awesome. To step up from a free Yola platform to a fee-paid one, and get rid of the ads, cost very little.
Ive never regretted going with Yola because, as I pay for the service, I get great support. True, its themes and plug-ins are somewhat limited but you can tweak the HTML to do anything you like.
Problem is, Yola has just today succumbed to Geek-itis, the compulsion much akin to Microsofts to fix what isnt broke. It has introduced a new text editing bar. Which doesnt work. As a fee-paying customer, Ive complained and Yola has listened. The moral is: be prepared to pay for a blogging platform. Because when it goes wrong (and it will), somebody just might listen
Excellent point, John. In most cases, free is not sustainable. Besides, in the end, you usually get what you pay for.
Do they host on the site or they have blogs with WP backends? There is a big, big difference.
I love wordpress, so Boooo to this article. I know the 7 ways wordpress was for SEO purposes but Im a proud customer of WordPress and love my site.
The question is will you love it later?
I dunno, but why are we talking about lateras prescient as we all think we are, we simply are projecting. It works fine for nowwhich is the only time there is.
Heres the part that, more than anything, caught my attention in this article:
But youre responsible for the upkeep as well (i.e. security updates, backups, feature upgrades).
It confirms the pitfalls a friend (an IT professional who does work for a leading bank) warned of when he advised me to stick with free .
With free m, I can blog without the distraction of upkeep issues (which my friend warns can be time-consuming and, in some cases, expensive).
And with reference to: 7. Your blog could be shut down at any time (This one trumps all the others). My IT friend tells me that a self-hosted blog can also be shut down arbitrarily.
On principal, I prefer to pay something at least for the privilege of blogging. So right now I have an own domain (the premium version will be an option should I feel that my (new) blog has long-term prospects).
Of course, self-hosting is the way to go if you intend to monetize your blog. I dont.
The key point for me is that with , you dont own the blog.
If Im going to spend countless hours of my life blogging, and well, I do.
Id want to actually own my blog.
And sure a self hosted blog can be shut down but providing you dont steal content, avoid paying your hosting bills, use the server to send out masses of spam, talk about naughty things that involve breaking the law and a few other reasonable things then you should be ok.
Very well explained, Mark! One of the best articles Ive seen that explains the differences between a site and self-hosted wordpress site. I used to have an old blog on Blogger (similar to m) a while back, but I felt like I was blogging perpetually with one hand tied behind my back I wish I had an article like this to guide me back then. Needless to say, for my new site, Im going with self-hosted wordpress!
Hi Justin. As mentioned in the post, theres a time and a place for a free WP blog vs a self-hosted blog. All just depends on what the ultimate goal of a persons blog is. For some, might be just fine.
What is the sites main purpose, Justin? And what capabilities do you feel you reach with your current platform, I prefer knowing I have that flexibility of venturing out to bigger streams of opportunity then just locking myself up to something less feasible.
Its easier to maneuver a sailboat right out gate, rather than a cruise ship in the middle of the sea Jesse
Thanks so much, Sumitha! Yes, with self-hosted WP, the skys the limit and you can do whatever you want with your blog. And the technical aspect of setting up and managing your blog really isnt that bad. If you ever get stuck theres always tons of resources and people that can help you. Thats one of the advantages in working with a platform thats as widely accepted as WordPress.
That may be a key difference. If you want to use your blog as a business in anyway, you want control and ownership.
As for maintaining the WP backend. I have two websites. One is my business site. The other an NGO I run. I learned how to handle the basics on my own. There is also a huge repository of information online to study, learn and fix.
They key, though, is Ive hires someone to do the maintenance. That mainly means regular updates, keeping a backup of my site in case there is a problem and helping me with plugins and little things I dont know how to do yet and dont have time to learn right now.
It costs me 50USD/month. Some services are a bit more and is totally worth it.
HA! love the analogy of the safety scissors.
Im pretty biased. I only build websites on the wordpress platform for my clients.
My clients want something that looks bespoke and unique and heck they want to choose where those social media icons go. They also want the security of their site being hosted somewhere that puts security as its number 1 priority.
WordPress is used by top companies such as eBay, Forbes and Sony its good to remain in prosperous company. And I liken WordPress in exactly the same way as you; I tell people WordPress is a Ferrari, but self hosted means you get the engine to move your site forward 😉
Hi Rachelle. As soon as I saw the word bespoke I knew you were from the UK. Thats such a great word. 🙂
Youre right about customization of even little things like where social media icons go. With you cant move them around, but when you host your own WP blog you can do as you wish. For some people, that granular level of customization is a big deal, for others its not. Everyones different.
This is great and so true. One thing Id add: if youre intimidated by the techie side of self-hosting, youre better off starting with and upgrading to self-hosted when you get the hang of it than starting anywhere else. I tried to start on self-hosted, got overwhelmed, and started with Weebly instead. BIIIIIG mistake switching later meant I had to repost every single blog post by hand. Switching from free WordPress to self-hosted WordPress is easy just a few clicks. And youll already know how to use your professional WordPress site if youve been using the free version. So when people want to blog seriously but just cant fathom hosting yet, I tell them to start free and transfer later.
Totally valid point, Lisa, about starting out with , then graduating to self-hosted WP when you feel ready. Thanks!
Heres another consideration when choosing a webhosting company. Find out how familiar they are with WordPress. BlueHost, for example, is listed by WordPress as a preferred WordPress host. They know the platform and will work with you to set it up.
I dont find managing that difficult. I manage or admin three self-hosted sites and two free sites. A lot of the duties can run on autopilot, if you get the right plugins.
Im a lucky blogger. Just as I decided to start a blog as part of my freelance editing business, my son got his server up and running. That means he hosts my blog for me. Tech service is always available!!
I used a premium WordPress theme that I really like, and have continually tweaked it since then. Im learning HTML5 and CSS3 so that I can continue to customize it as I see fit. If I had gone with a free WP site, I wouldnt be happy with it I like to have the control to do what I want with my site. Ive put a lot of time and effort into it, so hate the idea that someone else can nix my ideas at any time.
Hi Rhonda. Yes, its a nice bonus to have techies in the family, isnt it. 🙂 You can really do some cool things with CSS. When I come across an interesting effect on a website, I just have to explore with Firebug to see how they did it. Yes, Im a nerd like that.
Ditto on the safety scissors and Ferrari analogies.
And yes, now that I have the self-hosted wordpress up and running when does the money come out?
Were working on a plugin for that right now. The money keeps getting jammed in the DVD drive, though. Will let you know when we have that worked out. 🙂
I switched. Im glad I did. Great post and thanks, Beth Havey
Thanks, Beth. Im curious what aspect(s) motivated you to switch of to self-hosted WP.
Ive always thought was for people who wanted a quick way to setup a blog and didnt have any interest in true customization. Nowadays I can see more and more people getting lured by ms charm. Its easier than ever to setup and start, but in the long run I cant stand the thought of someone else having the power to shutdown my site whenever THEY feel like it.
That happened to a friend of mine. He setup a WordPress.com site and like 95% of the people out there didnt read the Terms of Service very well and decided to post some affiliate links. Next thing he knew his site was shut down. He had no power to get it back up. He emailed them twice and finally got a reply after 3 weeks. He apologized and they still didnt allow him to restore his site. He was totally bummed out because he had just started to get regular commenters and some seo trafficall of it gone in an instant. A years worth of effort and hard work gone in the blink of an eye.
Thanks, Jared. And thanks for sharing your story about your friend that got shut down. Poof. Gone in a flash. That really stinks. But theres nothing you can do about it. Thats why, for me, point 7 in my post trumps all the others.
To prevent that from happening, install and activate the Akismet plugin (comes preinstalled on every WordPress self-hosted option). It has various options to filter out spam messages. Non-spam or approved commenters can get comments posted immediately. Spammy stuff gets caught and must be moderated before its posted. You get an email letting you know there are posts that need moderated.
Its only after reading two thirds of your post that one realizes its not a rant against WordPress, but an informative post about an easy to correct mistake you might have made when starting out as a serious blogger (whatever that is). What it shows, its a fine line between a great headline and a sensationalist one at least thats the impression left here.
Serious or not, if in your own mind the best-known reason you suck as a successful blogger is a wrong choice of blogging platform when you started out celebrate! because you have the best problem in the word. I hear what youre saying and think the arguments are sound and convincing, still, in the overall context of blogging success its kinda like saying if only I had a different racket, Id win Wimbledon.
Youre right. Not intended to be a rant at all. Just want to make people aware of the differences between and self-hosted WP. And yes, youre correct, theres more to success than where you host your blog. But if youre planning to do certain things with your blog, m could be problematic.
I tell my friends and clients to start out with a website set to private. They can treat it as a scrapbook before they go live. Most folks starting out dont know if they can or want to do this thing long haul so it does give them a chance to play around with it at no cost.
I also tell them that they should go self-hosted when they are ready for their launch. Hands down. No comparison. You need to be self-hosted. But how to choose a host?
I was all prepared to take my blogs/websites out of mothballs and set up for reals again. I had a great experience with BlueHost before an accident sidelined me. But I had also heard good things about HostGator. Unfortunately, I had a nightmare experience with them as they are changing their way of doing business to give the customer service folks little leverage to actually help out. It may be growing pains, but Im still waiting for my refund a month later. I cant recommend them at all.
So my current decision is whether to go back to the tried and true of BlueHost or level up to the big boys with Synthesis.
Note: our original site at BlueHost is still active, but our relationship with the sites official owner is not. Since BlueHost requires we create another site and doesnt allow transfer of ownership, we went shopping.
We have about 7 domains through GoDaddy! Ive got as many dark sites parked at m gathering content. Only one is mapped with the $13 option listed above. It is also under a complete rehaul. I hope to start the relaunch process early in 2014.
One thing for sure. Its StudioPress all of the way. I am a Copyblogger fangirl. Just dont know if Im ready for the big girl panties of Synthesis just yet.
Hi Lori. For the past 10 years Ive used BlueHost and HostGator exclusively, and Ive been very happy with bothin terms of reliability and customer service. Sorry to hear about your experience with HostGator. Knock on wood, Ive had no problems with them. But as you say, they might be going through some growing pains. And youre right about StudioPress. Great themes. Very well-coded. Good support, too. Studio Press and WooThemes are my top two places for themes at the moment, but Ive heard good things about Elegant Themes, too. Thanks for your comment, Lori.
As I mention elsewhere, am a non-techie, but one of my go-to men just a few days ago posted Why I No Longer Recommend HostGator, supporting the view HostGator might have taken a wrong turn.
Some people mentioned that is a good way to start out if you are not techie enough to setup your own wordpress elsewhere. There are companies that sell hosting that will actually set wordpress up for you. This is what I would recommend over going with the m option.
Its not just about being a technophobe. Most people dont know what their needs are. Having a dark site where the bots dont crawl is a great option for learners and pros alike. It gives one room to experiment. It also helps for communication purposes when and if they do go for a pro to help design. They have added information about their own needs. And content ready-made to plug in.
Aaron, you bring up a subtle, but important point. Dont let technology get in your way. If you cant figure it out, just pay someone to do it for you! There are tons of very qualified and very affordable technicians (WP and otherwise) you can find on the Internet. A lot of us, myself included, we feel like we have to know every aspect of our blog/website. And I still have to remind myself to not take 8 hours to figure something out, when instead I can pay someone and theyll be done in 45 min. Thanks for bringing up this point, Aaron.
I do confess that I am a graphic designer and build websites for a living, although my mentioning of easy setup of wordpress is a solution that *I think* most people can do without hiring someone like me at least to just get something up and running.
Godaddy has a one click wordpress setup. Purchase your url and hos