WordPress is by leaps and bounds the strongest blogging platform out there — WordPress is intuitive and easy to use, robust, regularly updated, infinitely expandable, and best of all WordPress is entirely free. There are, however, two different ways to start a WordPress blog: you can host it yourself, which requires you to have web hosting somewhere, or you can let WordPress.com host it for you.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both, though the advantages skew heavily in favor of self hosting if it’s at all an option for you. Furthermore, if your blog is business-related, or something that you want to make money from, then self-hosted is definitely the way to go.
Let’s run down what you can and cannot do with the free WordPress.com hosted blog vs the self-hosted WordPress blog.
WordPress.com Free Hosting
You can sign up and start a blog in minutes and it won’t cost you a penny if you let WordPress.com host it. However, WordPress.com hosting comes with some limitations, and some things that you will, in fact, have to pay for.
- If you want to use your own domain name, you’ll have to pay WordPress.com a yearly fee (in addition to what you’re paying for your domain name).
- You are limited to only the standard themes WordPress.com allows. You cannot make your own theme, or use any of the thousands of themes out there on the web.
- You cannot modify the CSS of your theme unless you pay for an upgrade to do so, which then gives you only limited (visual) customization ability.
- You cannot add custom scripts to a WordPress.com site.
- You cannot install plugins — the WordPress community has thousands of plugins that add to the functionality of your site, but you are not able to take advantage of these with the WordPress.com blog.
- You cannot put ads on your site — so if you plan to monetize your site, WordPress.com hosting is not for you.
On the plus side for WordPress.com hosting:
- It’s free (unless you want a domain name or CSS editing).
- It requires absolutely zero technical knowledge.
Self-Hosted WordPress Blog
On the other side, you have a self-hosted WordPress blog. WordPress is still free, but you have to pay for web hosting just like with any other website. The cost of hosting varies wildly depending on what kind of traffic and server resources you need, ranging from under $10 per month to thousands per month.
Many hosting programs now include admin features that will automatically install WordPress for you with the click of a button. A self-hosted WordPress blog gives you full access to all of the WordPress features, from themes to plugins to the ability to customize your code in any way you want. You are also free to monetize your site however you want, have your own domain name.
The downsides of a self-hosted WordPress blog are:
- You must pay for your web hosting
- Some technical knowledge may be needed, depending on what you want to do with your site.
On the technical side, the amount of knowledge you need depends entirely on what you want to do with your WordPress blog. With many hosts, you can just push a couple of buttons and have WordPress installed automatically in minutes, and start blogging away. But if you want to start adding plugins and custom themes, you may need a very minimal amount of knowledge — perhaps as much as how to upload a file via FTP.
On the other hand, if you want to build a custom theme yourself, or other customized functionality, then you might need a great deal more technical knowledge, including PHP and HTML.
Who should use WordPress.com and who should use self-hosted
The limitations of a WordPress.com hosted WordPress blog give us a pretty simple breakdown of which WordPress solution is best for you:
- WordPress.com hosting is good for personal blogs, small blogs not intended to generate money through ads, or people just testing the water with their blog.
- Self-hosted WordPress is appropriate for company or business blogs, blogs that plan to have ads, or blogs that want greater functionality and user options.
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