In last Wednesday’s post, I covered the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Today I want to go over some pros and cons for WordPress.com. When you’re first starting out as a blogger or an entrepreneur, you’ll be inundated with people who tell you that you absolutely must use self hosted WordPress if you want to have a professional website. This is plain dumb and snobbisih. I’ve blogged for about 12 years on every platform from LiveJournal to Blogger to WordPress, and it’s possible to have a professional website on any platform you want. Which one you use depends on your budget, the type of business you want to run, and what business model you’re using.
Here’s a rundown on WordPress.com.
- Bloggers can start for free. This is super helpful if you’ve never had a blog or website before and you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t want to shell out $100 or more to start a website and then try to learn how to use it while you’re also trying to promote yourself and your business. This is why so many startup entrepreneurs get frustrated and overwhelmed. You can learn how WordPress works and build a following for free when you’re just starting out, and then “go Pro” later if that’s what you decide to do.
- Requires no technical knowledge. This goes along with #1. If you’re just starting out and don’t know much about the technical side of running a website (or, like me, you studied website design and hate it now) you can build a site on WordPress.com without any prior knowledge.
- Has a built-in community and lots of ways to get your blog seen by other people. If you go to The Daily Post you’ll find WordPress staffers running a community pool where you can share your blog, posts, and pages every week to ask for feedback. (Just make sure you genuinely asking for feedback, either on your site formatting or post content, rather than just posting for a traffic boost.) You’ll also find blogging prompts, challenges, free courses, and lots of helpful information for new bloggers. There’s an event listing where you can post announcements for any kind of challenge you decide to run or group activity with other bloggers. The WordPress tag cloud makes it super easy to search within your WordPress reader for interesting content on topics you enjoy.
- Has built in SEO. Most of the new bloggers that I met struggle with search engine optimization and getting traffic to their sites. The most common question I hear from bloggers first starting out is “how do I get traffic?” It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with SEO best practices, but if you’re just starting out and have no idea what you’re doing, chances are you’ll get more traffic on the WordPress.com site.
- Organization features. It’s a lot easier to organize a WordPress.com blog. There’s a standard image gallery feature, a way to generate lists of posts by tags and categories (Useful if you’re running a weekly feature or a Blog Series) and a built-in calendar view in the post scheduler. (Yes, there are ways to do all that on self-hosted sites, but having the features come standard is a big plus in my book.)
- Limited customizations. This is one of the biggest complaints I hear with WordPress.com sites. Bloggers can’t buy and install their own themes, and you have to pay extra to be able to customize your css. There are free themes you can choose, and there are some paid themes available in the gallery, but you can’t install one from a third party designer or vendor. There are some ways to customize a WordPress.com blog, but features are limited.
- Limited ability to monetize. If you’re planning to make money with ads or affiliate marketing, WordPress.com isn’t right for you. You won’t have control over your ads and you can’t link to affiliate marketers (much.) WordPress doesn’t mind an occasional link out to a product you’re referencing (such as book reviews or in tutorials) or your own books if you’re an author but they will hit you with a TOS violation if you’re consistently linking to other brands/products.
- The cost of their Ecommerce plan is ridiculous. If you have a product line or want to take payments on your site, you need the business plan, which is totally not worth it. You could build your own store on a self-hosted site for far less. A quick note though, for my author bloggers and artists: WordPress doesn’t mind if you’re an author linking to your own books on Amazon or a crafter with a few products to sell as long as the majority of posts on your site are value-driven rather than links to external sites. You can’t build an on-site store, and you’ll be hit with a TOS violation if you try to build a blog based around selling products or services, though.
So, to wrap up, WordPress.com is good if:
- You’re a new blogger without much technical knowledge
- You’re more interested in building your platform and getting your name out there than in making quick profits.
- You’re an author or artist who lacks a big budget to spend on a website and your site isn’t the way you plan to make money.
It’s not so good if you’re looking to build an e-commerce store or you want to monetize your website directly.
In next Wednesday’s Blog Smarter post, I’ll be looking at the pros and cons of self-hosted WordPress. If you want to make sure you don’t miss the post, you can like my Facebook page to get a notification when the post goes live.