James W.D. Stewart

James W.D. Stewart

Embrace "The Suck"

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So, you're ready to make a dent in the universe, eh?  You have great ideas to share with the world and blogging's how you’re going to get it done.  Good for you.

Of course, there's more to starting a blog than simply having great ideas.  However, you've already made an important decision…  You're going with WordPress.

After all, Internet big-wigs — Chris Brogan, Brian Clark, Marie Forleo, Michael Hyatt, Jon Morrow, Amy Porterfield, Darren Rowse, Mari Smith, Gary Vaynerchuk, etc. — all use WordPress.



Not WordPress.com for Serious Bloggers

Count Words — Reading Time
by James Stewart
Updated:  N/A
Location:  Tim Hortons, 1373 Martindale Rd., Sudbury, Ontario, P3E 4J7, Canada


So, you're ready to make a dent in the universe, eh?  You have great ideas to share with the world and blogging's how you’re going to get it done.  Good for you.

Of course, there's more to starting a blog than simply having great ideas.  However, you've already made an important decision…  You're going with WordPress.

After all, Internet big-wigs — Chris Brogan, Brian Clark, Marie Forleo, Michael Hyatt, Jon Morrow, Amy Porterfield, Darren Rowse, Mari Smith, Gary Vaynerchuk, etc. — all use WordPress.

In fact, the more that you read, the more that it seems like you'd be a total idiot if you went with anything else.  There are hundreds of professional themes to make your blog look absolutely stunning.  Thousands of clever plugins to add a myriad of different features.  And, countless experienced WordPress professionals who can help should you find yourself out of your depth.

So, you're certain that it's a WordPress blog that you need.  But, the big question, is where do you get one?


The Seductive Lure of WordPress.com

The easiest way to get your own WordPress blog — hands down — is to create one for free, over at WordPress.com.  And, at first, it seems like a no-brainer too.

Firstly, you're getting WordPress directly from the guys who originally created WordPress.  That's got to be good, eh?  Secondly, they handle all of the behind-the-scenes technical stuff which you really don't want to have to worry about yourself.  What a huge relief.  And, thirdly, it's free!  Did I mention that it's free?

But, while it's an undeniably sweet deal for some less serious bloggers, there are a few things that you should know before choosing to host your universe-denting blog at WordPress.com.


Think Twice Before Choosing WordPress.com

Credit where credit's due…  WordPress.com's an awesome option for some people.  It's great for personal blogs, community Web sites, 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 can't offer fully fledged WordPress to everyone.

So, the flavour of WordPress you get at WordPress.com's kind of like a dumbed-down WordPress.  It's the blogging equivalent of those safety scissors with rounded tips that they give you as a kid.  They don't cut so great, but at least no-one's getting hurt.

And, if you want to "un-dumb" it, there's 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 your blogging journey with eyes wide open, here are some surprising restrictions that you should know about WordPress.com before hosting your blog there.

  1. You're forced to choose from a limited selection of "approved" themes.
    • If you've already been thinking about the design of your blog, you've probably been salivating at the huge selection of professionally designed WordPress themes available to you.
      If you had your heart set on one of these, too bad, so sad.  You're out of luck.
      WordPress.com doesn't support the vast majority of themes available from 3rd-party developers.  So, you're 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 — changing the background colour, the header, and/or the navigation menu — that's 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 that give you a more sophisticated design, but you'll have the same customization restrictions as with their free themes though.
      Unless you want to spend another $99 USD per year.  WordPress.com offers a Custom Design upgrade that allows you to modify your fonts and to use your own CSS code for additional styling.
  2. You can't change your Web site's layout.
    • As you grow and evolve, you'll want for your blog to evolve as well.
      The problem though, is that WordPress.com more than likely won't let you.
      For example, let's assume that you go with free hosting at WordPress.com, and you like everything about the theme that you picked.  Except, you're just not too crazy about the placement of your social media icons.  Perhaps, you want them to appear in your header rather than in the sidebar.
      If that's the case, you're kind of stuck.  WordPress.com doesn't permit you to alter the underlying structure of any of their themes.
      Or, perhaps, you've seen a neat little countdown timer on another Web site that would be perfect for your sales page.  The only problem, is that many custom widgets like that use JavaScript…  JavaScript isn't permitted on your theme at WordPress.com.
      Fun timers aren't the only place where JavaScript's useful.
      E-mail opt-in forms from services like Aweber and MailChimp contain JavaScript.  Therefore, you can't use them on your blog at WordPress.com.  Instead, you'd have to link to an off-site e-mail opt-in form — which, may cause your opt-in rates to plummet.
  3. You'll have to pay for various "optional" extras.
    • Although WordPress.com allows you to get started for free, it's a profit-making business — deep down, they're hoping that you'll soon outgrow the limited functionality of your free blog, and upgrade to some of their paid features.
      I've already mentioned premium themes, but here are some other paid upgrades that WordPress.com offers:
      • Don't want 3rd-party advertisements appearing on your blog?
        • WordPress.com reserves the right to display ads on your Web site.  But, for an extra fee, you can get the "No Ads" option and keep your blog ad-free.  However, even with this upgrade, you still have to keep copyright links such as "Blog at WordPress.com" on your Web site — exception being, WordPress.com Business.  As per WordPress.com:
          The footer credit can be hidden if WordPress.com Business is active on a site.  Please do not use CSS to hide or alter the credits if you do not have the Business plan.
          All WordPress.com users can choose among several options for the footer credit, from a minimalist WordPress.com logo to text options like "A WordPress.com Website" or "Powered by WordPress.com."
      • Need a little more Web space for your blog?
        • For a fee, you can add more Web space to the 3GB that you get for free.  3GB may sound like a lot, but you're only allowed to upload documents, images, PowerPoint presentations, and spreadsheets.  You may not upload audio files without the Web space upgrade…  So, that's your podcast out of the window.
      • Want a custom domain name?
        • For a fee, you can host your Web site on your own domain (i.e. yourblog.com) rather than a sub-domain (i.e. yourblog.wordpress.com) of WordPress.com.
      • Want to host videos directly on your blog?
        • You can't upload any video files without the upgrade — even if you've paid for extra space.  Without the upgrade, you'll need to host your videos on an external Web site such as Vimeo and/or YouTube — embedding those videos into your blog.  Which may be fine, but it doesn't look as professional as using your own video player though.
    For the serious blogger, many of these paid upgrades aren't optional at all.  If you're to avoid looking like a total amateur, you really do need them.
  4. You'll have to manage your own domain e-mail.
    • Web-based e-mail providers like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. are fine for your personal e-mails.  But, for your professional e-mail communication, you're going to want a company-branded e-mail like "[email protected]" to show people that you're serious.
      Unfortunately, WordPress.com doesn't offer e-mail hosting of any kind.  Therefore, you're going to have to set-up your e-mail hosting outside of WordPress.com.
      To give you an example of pricing, GoDaddy offers professional e-mail hosting.
      If you choose to host your blog somewhere other than WordPress.com, e-mail hosting usually comes as part of your Web hosting package — there's no additional charge.  You can set-up an unlimited number of company-branded e-mails, quickly and easily, from within your Web hosting dashboard.  It's one-stop shopping.
  5. You can't earn money from other people's products.
    • If you plan on making money by placing affiliate links on your blog, you're out of luck because WordPress.com doesn't 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" and/or "link to your own products on Etsy".  But that's pretty restrictive though.
      If WordPress.com catches you placing affiliate links on your blog, even if you think that you're playing by the rules, your penalty could be any of following:
      1. They could disable your links.
      2. They could issue a warning, advising you to remove the affiliate links.
      3. They could simply suspend your account — effectively, shutting you down.
  6. You're banned from using custom plugins.
    • A plugin is 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, etc.  The list is huge.  At the last check, the number of WordPress plugins available from independent developers is 27,000 and counting.
      But, for security reasons, you're not permitted to use any 3rd-party plugins when you host your Web site on WordPress.com.
      The ability to use custom plugins, for added functionality, is one of the great strengths of WordPress.  Essentially, without custom plugins, you've effectively crippled it.
      However, you do have the option of upgrading to WordPress.com's VIP hosting package which starts at a mere $3,750 USD per month.  And, no — not a misprint.  Then, they'll be happy to let you utilize custom plugins.  How generous of them, eh?
  7. Your blog could be shut-down at any given time.
    • This one trumps all of the others.
      If you host your blog at WordPress.com, their Terms of Service (ToS) very clearly states that they "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 may think that you run a squeaky-clean blog and that you'd 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, it's 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 shut-down is reason enough to look elsewhere.  Why leave the door open even just a crack?  It's just not worth it.


The Smart Alternative for Bloggers Who Really Mean Business

While WordPress.com certainly makes it 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.

It's like having a brand new Ferrari and being told that you can only drive it 30 km/h.  And, only on weekends.

But, fortunately, there's an alternative…  Self-hosted WordPress.  It's not as scary as some people would have you believe.


What the Hell's "Self-Hosted" WordPress

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.

When I say your own Web server, I'm not talking about buying some super-computer and hiding it away in your garage.  I'm simply talking about buying Web hosting services from one of the hundreds of reputable Web hosts out there.

So, don't freak out if you're not a techie.  It's really not that hard to self-host.

There are a lot 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 that you need to do, is to get a Web hosting account from a company such as Bluehost, which costs less than $3 USD per month.

Because WordPress is so popular, many Web hosts (i.e. Bluehost) have pre-configured "1-click installs" that enable you to install WordPress on your Web server within 10 minutes or less.


The Kind of Blogger

If all that you want is a place to express yourself on the Web, then a free blog at WordPress.com's more than likely just fine.

But, if your goal is to be taken seriously as a blogger and eventually make money with your blog, you're going to need free-rein to do whatever you want with your blog.  That means having the ability to change the Web page layout, add custom plugins, and/or install e-mail opt-in boxes on your Web site.  And, the only way that you're going to accomplish these things, is by self-hosting your blog.

But, don't just take my word for it though.  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 you're responsible for the upkeep (i.e. security update, backups, feature upgrades) as well.
Whereas with WordPress.com everything is done for you.  But you lose some control.  Can't have a yard.  Can't tear down walls, etc.

So, do you want to rent your blog or own it?


The Bottom Line

If you're serious about blogging, you're going to need to have the freedom and control to do whatever you want, however you want, without worrying that you'll suddenly hit a brick wall and/or that the rug might someday be arbitrarily pulled-out from beneath you.

The only way to ensure that, is to self-host your WordPress blog.  So, that's another decision made.  Time to get on with making that dent in the universe.

Categories:  Business, Career, Lifestyle, Marketing, SEO, Social Media, Technology  
Tags:  How to, Opinionated, Writing

Syndicated to:


  1. Adding Storage Space :: Support :: WordPress.com
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  2. Amy Porterfield | Online Marketing Expert
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  5. Blog Tool, Publishing Platform, and CMS :: WordPress
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