If you’re serious about extending your influence and increasing your impact, I recommend blogging with WordPress. There are two ways to go.
WordPress.com is great for beginners. It’s free, easy to use, and WordPress hosts your site. But if you really want to maximize your message, you’ll want to upgrade to self-hosted WordPress, also known as WordPress.org.
With self-hosted WordPress, you download the software for free and install it on your own server or one you lease. Modern hosting services like Bluehost let you do this with just a couple of clicks.
Bluehost is WordPress’ own top hosting recommendation. They host over a million WordPress blogs with 24-7 customer support.
WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress) provides seven advantages over WordPress.com (hosted WordPress):
- You can use a custom domain name. Nothing is worse when it comes to online branding than a domain name that is long and includes someone else’s brand attached to it. MichaelHyatt.WordPress.com is an example of what not to do.
With self-hosted WordPress, you can buy your own domain and then connect it to your blog for free. Yes, you can do this with WordPress.com, too. It’s one of their premium services, but you have to pay $13 per year—every year—for the privilege.
- You have access to more themes. Because WordPress.com runs in a closed system, they are very selective about which themes they let you install. At this writing, you have your choice of 194 free themes and 184 premium themes (starting at $19).
While this may sound like plenty of options, compare it to the thousands of themes—both free and premium—that are available for self-hosted WordPress. I am admittedly biased, but I don’t think you can do better than the Get Noticed! Theme™ for WordPress. This is the premium theme Andrew Buckman and I developed for me. It is the perfect theme for anyone wanting to build a personal brand.
- You can install third-party plugins. These add additional functionality to WordPress. Unfortunately, WordPress.com does not allow this. You are stuck with the standard WordPress implementation.
Just to give you an idea of what you can do with plugins, here are five of my favorites:
- Yoast SEO—Optimizes your WordPress blog for search engines (SEO). It allows you to customize the meta data for each post.
- OptinMonster—Adds simple drop-down banners, popups, and other forms for email optins, announcements, or ads.
- Blubrry PowerPress—Embeds my podcast into specific blog posts (show notes). You can pick from a variety of player styles and display the one you want in your post.
- Disqus Commenting System—Replaces the native WordPress commenting system. It has a number of features that I like better. It is arguably the most popular commenting plugin available.
- VaultPress—Allows us to backup and synchronize every post, comment, media file, revision and dashboard setting on our servers.
- You can customize and tweak the code. This might not be important to you, but it is critically important to me. I am constantly wanting to make “improvements” to the site.
This could be as simple as adjusting the spacing between bulleted text (which requires modifying the site’s style.css file) to moving the post date from the top of the post to the bottom (which requires modifying the single.php file).
WordPress.com does allow you to modify the CSS, but only with a $30 per year upgrade. You can’t modify the PHP files at all.
- You can run your own advertising. WordPress.com runs its own ads on your site. This is one way they pay for your “free” site. For $30 per year, you can remove these ads entirely.
However, you still can’t run your own ads like I describe here. This requires the ability to ad plugins or embedded code—something WordPress.com doesn’t permit.
- You can setup a web store. Eventually, you will want to monetize your site—especially if you are thinking of going pro. Selling ads is one way to do it. But there are other, more lucrative ways to turn your blog into a cash machine.
One way is via a web store. This gives you the opportunity to sell your digital wares or your physical ones. Unfortunately, WordPress.com doesn’t provide any mechanism for doing this, since all the WordPress e-commerce solutions require self-hosted WordPress.
- You own and control your home base. In my book, Platform, I define a “home base” as a place online you own and control. This is distinct from an “embassy,” which you don’t own or control but where you have credentials and a presence.
Clearly, a self-hosted WordPress site qualifies as a home base. You own it. You control it. But a WordPress.com site? That’s a little iffy. It’s fine for hobby bloggers, but I would not run a business or pro site on it. It simply doesn’t provide enough control.
Ready to step up to self-hosted WordPress?
I am an affiliate partner of Bluehost, which means I get a small commission when people sign up using my link. However, I would happily promote and recommend them even if I weren’t an affiliate. They are that good.
Question: What advantages have you experienced with self-hosted WordPress as compared to WordPress.com?